Looking After A Pond In The Winter
As the weather changes, the plants in and around the pond will "die back". If the debris from this "die back" is allowed to remain in the pond over winter, it will start to decompose, this decomposition will release a variety of undesirable chemicals in to the pond. As such your pond should be covered with a net (to catch falling leaves etc.) and the plants in and round the pond should be cut back. The one exception to this is the Gunnera plant, whose leaves should be used to cover the core of the plant to help protect it from the frosts. In certain area's more protection may be required.
Following the same line it is also a good idea to remove any silt and sediment, which may have built up over the Summer so that it to does not decompose. This can be done using a manual or pump operated Pond Vacuum. If you are a keen gardener then this silt and sediment does not need to thrown away, as it is full of Nitrates and is therefore a superb plant fertilizer.
Should I Run My Pump & Filter During The Winter?
This is a question that we are frequently asked at this time of year, the answer is very dependent on how severe a winter you experience. As a general guideline it is better to keep filtration running during the winter months. However, if you are in any doubt, switch the system off, clean and drain. The advantage of keeping your system running is that it is able to react to the change of temperature with the fish, and also, moving water freezes at a lower temperature. The disadvantage is that circulating the water through your system, exposes the pond to the extreme temperature changes, which occur in the air. To minimise the impact of this on the pond, any waterfall or fountain should be switched off or bypassed, the pump should be moved closer to the water that is returning to the pond and should be lifted up into the top 1/3rd of the pond. Should you choose to switch your system off, then you should wait until two weeks after the fish have stopped feeding before doing so. Do not feed them whilst the system is off. Most makes of filter pumps can be left in situ. The filter should be cleaned and drained. The Ultra Violet should be drained and removed and stored indoors. Removing electrical equipment can be tricky, particularly if the cable is routed through conduit, a simple solution to this is the Waterproof Cable Connector we offer. This is provided with a blanking cap and as such the cable can be cut at a convenient location the connector wired in and the cap closed.
Pond Surface Freezing Over
Unfortunately, the old wives tale of putting a tennis ball into your pond to create an air hole is not particularly effective, as the ball can easily become frozen in place. However, there are several options available depending on your requirements and budget. The simplest involve the continuation of circulation, the insertion of a Pool Heater or simply covering a proportion of the pond.
Moving water will freeze at lower temperatures than still water, so any circulation during the winter months will help prevent freezing. It is important to minimise air contact and not to drag cold surface water down to the base of the pond where the fish will want to rest. The pump should be re-located away from any deep water, a shelf is an ideal location and it can be left to run, without any fittings designed to create surface disturbance.
A pool heater can be inserted into the pond possibly utilising the electrical supply for the pond pump. The heater simply floats on the surface of the pond with the heater element hanging down below water level.
Covering a proportion of the pond can also be very simple particularly if you already have a sturdy wooden frame for a net, (if not you will need one). The idea is to cover 1/3 - 1/2 of the pond with a frame on to which you can attach polystyrene or bubble wrap. The frame when in place should not touch the surface of the pond, otherwise this could seal the pond up as effectively as the ice. By creating this cover you are able to trap in some of the heat given off by the pond and keep ice at bay. It is important to remember that the above measures will be effective in most of the UK mainland ponds. However, if conditions become very severe then the ice will build up and breathe holes will need to be made. DO NOT smash or crack the ice, as this can send shock waves through the pond that could seriously affect your fish. The best way is using boiling water to melt holes.
Fishes metabolisms alters with the pond water temperature, so does the nutrient requirement of the fish. If the temperature drops and the fishes metabolism slows down then any food left in their digestive system will remain there and could start to literally rot inside them. Feeding fish during the winter months can therefore be a very tricky business. If you choose to feed your fish you must be confident that the water temperature will remain suitably warm enough for several days. You should use Wheatgerm foods, which are specifically designed to meet the fishes requirements at this time of year. If you are in any doubt it is better not to feed.
If the pond has been tidied up well for the winter then the fish will hopefully look after themselves during the cooler months. However, the winter months are a common time for fish to become ill and many of the treatments readily available will not be effective in cooler temperatures.
Winter Health Problems
One of the most common health issues we here of at this time of year is Carp Pox. This takes the appearance of smooth greyish waxy area's/droplets (unlike fungus which is normally fluffy). Carp Pox becomes apparent as the temperature of the pond drops, but may be with the fish all year round. It is a viral infection, which as far as we are aware can not be treated at the moment. Despite it's horrible name, it is harmless to the fish provided it does not interfere with the functions of the mouth, eyes and gills. As the warm weather returns the symptoms of Carp Pox should clear up, but it may return again next winter.