What Happens to My Fish in the Winter?

Probably the number one question a prospective pond owner will ask is “what happens to to my fish in the winter? The quick answer is “not much”, but there is a little more to it than that. Truth is they really just slow down, some will say they hibernate, others will say that they go dormant, but it is more of a torpid state. Their body temperature is regulated by their surroundings, so as temperatures drop, so does their activity. On the coldest of days you will see them sitting on the bottom of the pond with their fins tucked in. If they could talk they would simply say they are waiting on spring.

“Should I do anything for my fish?”,absolutely, but it’s probably not what you are thinking. Your fish are tough and can handle the elements on their own very well. But they do need you to help out in a minimal way.

Feeding FishFirst thing is to feed them a good quality high fiber fall/spring fish food. Your fish do not handle food the way we do. They continually graze and eat to fill the pipeline. When temperatures drop, that food is stuck there to decay and cause issues in your fish. They can not empty their digestive tract after temperatures have dropped. Feeding should be stopped when water temperatures reach 55 degrees. Keep an eye on the weather, quit feeding at the 60 degree mark to be safe. If you live areas of the country that get big swings in temperature as fall approches, use your best judgement erroring on the side of caution.

Next thing to consider is your fish really need is consistency. They can handle the lower temps but they really need it to be consistent. Make sure your pond is at the very least 2 feet deep. This will give them a safe zone to be in for the winter. The warmest water is the deepest and should not be disturbed. If you have a waterfall make sure that where it enters the pond is somewhat shallow. If the waterfall drops into the deepest section of the pond it will “mix” cooler water into the “safe” zone your fish are living in. Leaving your waterfall running in winter is fine to do as long as that cooler water is being pulled from the surface zone (using a pond skimmer) and being returned to the surface zone. Big temperature swings in your pond will stress your fish and lead to health issues.

Hole In IceLastly, is to make sure there is an open hole in the surface of the pond. If you live in the colder climates, your ponds surface may freeze over completely. Even though our finned friends are not breathing as much as they normally do, they are still breathing. If the surface is completely covered in ice, harmful gasses can not escape and the pond can not re oxygenate as it normally does. Use a small pump or and air system to keep a hole open in the ice. Place the small pump on the upper shelf of the pond pointed to the surface. It should “bubble” above the surface. If you elect to use an air system (preferred), Place the air stones on the upper shelf of the pond. Both ways will help in keeping a hole in the ice. But do not put either the airstone or pump down in the safe zone. That would mix the warm water your fish are enjoying with the rest of the pond, thus leading to health issues.

If you follow these simple ideas this winter your fish will do great and be ready for spring. As mentioned before, no feeding at 55 degrees and below. As spring starts to show, be sure temperatures are consistent before you start feeding again.

Enjoy your pond this winter!


About the Author:
Sean is the Regional Sales Manager for the Southeast for Atlantic Water Gardens. Fish Geek and water feature enthusiast, Sean has managed one of the largest aquarium stores in the Southeast while running his own pond maintenance company.SEAN BELL

Sean is the Regional Sales Manager for the Southeast for Atlantic Water Gardens. Fish Geek and water feature enthusiast, Sean has managed one of the largest aquarium stores in the Southeast while running his own pond maintenance company. When it comes to water features, Sean is your guy!

How Does My Pond Work Anyway?

This is the number one question I hear as I travel around the country helping people with their water features. Usually there is a problem that brought me to the pond in the first place, but after a few minutes of talking, that question comes up. It is also accompanied with, “I thought this thing was supposed to be low maintenance!” Very quickly I can see that expectations have not been met and a little education is in order.

To many times, during the sales process of a water feature, too much time is spent going over flashy marketing brochures instead of just having an honest conversation about what to expect over the first three years of owning a water feature. Many installers shy away from what the maintenance will be due to a fear of scaring off the potential owner. The truth is, there is maintenance to be done, but it’s not any more than anything else in your back yard.

balanced ecosystemSo how does your pond work? Your pond works the same way any body of water works whether it’s a 1 gallon goldfish bowl or a seven acre lake. All bodies of water work off of the same basic biology, waste products are created, and bacteria consumes these waste products and converts them into nutrients for plants to consume. With a little maintenance everything will stay in balance and look like a perfect slice of nature. If it is out of balance you will have issues that need addressing.

Pond with plants and fishFirst and foremost Plants are the answer. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. If you have things growing in your water feature that are green and you didn’t plant them and you don’t like them. It’s because you didn’t plant enough green things you do like. Your grass is the same way, if you don’t re seed the yard, “other” green species will start to grow year after year. So the first thing to remember is plants, plants, plants.

Secondly, how many fish do you have? What size are they now compared to when you bought them? Fish grow and as they do their new size creates issues in the water feature. If your fish load doubles in size after the first two years but your plant base stays the same, you are out of balance and will have more maintenance to correct the issue.

Last of all, water flow and filter size. When your feature was created what fish load was use to size the bio filter, do you have enough water flow to filter the feature at least every hour, preferably much more if you have a heavy fish load.

Any of the above can create an out of balance situation for your water feature. There are a multitude of manufactured solutions on the market to aid in this as well. Water clarifiers, automatic dispensers for bacteria, and copper dosing units. Each have their place, and all of them are band aids and not real solutions except for one. Clarifiers only mask the issue, they do clear water, but string algae uses the nutrients and clear water to run out of control. Automatic bacteria dispensers simply take away the need to add bacteria once a week. Truthfully, once the system is in balance this need is reduced as well (more on that in a future blog post).

Then there is the copper system (triton ionizer), it works very good, but is a solution for a specific problem and not for every water feature. Some systems have water issues coming out of the tap and are going to be prone to issues not matter how many plants we add. Others are in an area of the yard where sunlight is great for algae but not plants. So it is a great addition if you find yourself dealing with buckets of algae.

Atlantic Water Gardens University

This is just a quick overview of how your water feature works, for a more detailed look please visit Atlantic Water Gardens University.


About the Author:
Sean is the Regional Sales Manager for the Southeast for Atlantic Water Gardens. Fish Geek and water feature enthusiast, Sean has managed one of the largest aquarium stores in the Southeast while running his own pond maintenance company.SEAN BELL

Sean is the Regional Sales Manager for the Southeast for Atlantic Water Gardens. Fish Geek and water feature enthusiast, Sean has managed one of the largest aquarium stores in the Southeast while running his own pond maintenance company. When it comes to water features, Sean is your guy!

Spring is in the Air, Algae’s in your pond…

For most of the country, spring has sprung. People have started opening their water features and Mother Nature is now beginning to wreak havoc on your creations.

Cleaning out your water feature at the beginning of the season can be a daunting task, but with these helpful tips, your feature will be up and running in no time, and will be as beautiful as ever.

Pond in the SpringtimeBetween the months of March and May, ponds need tender loving care depending on which part of the country you are located in.

For pond owners, this time of the year can be a bit complicated, but with a little more attention, it can be easily managed. When opening your pond, be sure to remove all the left over fall debris to give your pond a fresh start to the season.

Although unlikely, some ponds may need to be completely drained and cleaned, this is costly and may be unnecessary. A good clean up with netting out leaves, debris, and string algae may do the job.

Once you’ve done some clean up and your skimmer, pump and biological filter are running, you will need to begin beneficial bacteria treatments which should continue until you close your pond in the Fall.

You may be wondering why you have string algae in your pond after the winter months, this is due to the amount of nutrients in the water being greater than the things that consume them, like plants, fish and beneficial bacteria.

Once it becomes balanced again, the string algae should clear itself up. Liquid and granular algaecides can help reduce growth, but your main goal should be to have your filter system and plants with the aid of beneficial bacteria, remove algae, naturally.

Adding aeration to your pond is another way to enhance the water clarity and quality.

When it comes to Pond-free applications or Fountains, although they will be easier to maintain, will still need your attention from March through May. Like opening a pond, you will need to clean up any leftover fall debris, and re-connect your pump to get the stagnant water moving again.

You may have a slight rotten egg smell, but once you turn on the feature, this should pass after about 24 hours of water circulation.

Mother Nature takes its toll on these types of water features also! Algae will start to form in the streambed of a waterfall and on a decorative piece.

Liquid and granular algaecides can help reduce the growth and keep the feature clear. Another great option for these features is a copper ionizer, which releases a small dose of copper ions into the water to ward off algae.

Remember, very small doses are all that would be needed (around .02ppm), so make sure you are testing your copper levels if you are using an ionizer.

Feel free to add your tips and suggestions about what you do to get your water features up and running for the Spring season!

 

How do you work with Mother Nature versus fighting Mother Nature?

 

 


About the Author:
Jim is the National Sales Manager for Atlantic Water Gardens.
JIM CHUBB

Jim is the National Sales Manager for Atlantic Water Gardens. With 26 years of sales experience and 16 years in the water garden industry, Jim is your go-to guy for selling water features.