How To Winterize Your Garden Pond

How To Winterize Your Garden Pond


If you have an external biological filter on your pond, let it continue to run until there is the chance that the outlet water flow might freeze. If you shut the filter down, let the water drain from it either via siphon effect or from the drain plug. Do not clean it other than to remove any dead plant life, leaves etc. An in-pond filter should be removed for winter. You can leave your pump (if non-oil filled) in the pond so long as it is well under the point to where the ice will form. Remove as much debris as you can from the pond. Net out dead plant material, leaves, waste, sludge etc., but a deep cleaning is not necessary. Try not to stir up the water too much. You can do a partial water change if you want, but no more than a quarter inch, and never after the fish have begun their hibernation. During the winter check on your pond often to make sure all is going well. If the pond has completely frozen over NEVER break through by pounding on it, as this may aggitate the fish, and may harm your pond liner. Do not panic, remember if an Aerator/Circulator Decontaminator unit is being used, it’s still working bringing in oxygen and absorbing toxicants. Now would be the time to plug in the deicer, but just until the ice opens. Another quick trick you can do, is too pour some hot water until the hole opens again.


You can help your pond fish survive winter by doing the following: Add vitamins and mineral supplements to their diet to help them build up their immune systems and add the needed stored fat to get through the hibernation cycle. Once the water temperature drops to 55 degrees or so, only feed them when they are actively up and roaming around. If they are hanging around at the bottom of the pond, do not feed. Only feed them what they will eat in a few minutes (5 minutes or less) and remove as much of the uneaten food as possible. When the water temperature is below 45 degrees, do not feed at all. Even on warm days where the nighttime water temperature will return to 45 degrees, refrain from feeding.

Ammonia is the number one fish killer. During the winter months, your fish will not die from the cold, but could actually succumb to suffocation do to the water becoming too toxic. Ammonia builds up at the bottom of the pond, which is the very place your fish want to spend their winter, while carbon dioxide builds up near the surface under the ice. A pond deicer (heater) may helps some with the carbon dioxide problem, but does nothing to prevent ammonia build up. Ammonia forms because of several main reasons. Ammonia is part of the natural biological process, and occurs when organic matter, like dead plant life, fish waste and excess food starts to decay. The bodily functions of the fish will greatly contribute to ammonia in the pond. Visible fish waste is only part of the problem. Much of the waste will come from the fishes gill function. As the fish breathe they give off ammonia and carbon dioxide. During the winter hibernation, most of the fishes systems slow down, but they still breathe and produce waste matter. It is very important to allow dissolved oxygen into the pond and do something to prevent the ammonia and carbon dioxide build up. A deicer (heater) can be marginally effective, but some thought should be given to an Aerator/Circulator Decontaminator Unit. Using one of these units and a deicer as a back up is the best solution. An Aerator/Circulator Decontaminator can be used year round in your pond, as it greatly enhances the overall biological process helping to prevent algae and such. But these units prove to be extremely effective in the winter season, and should be added to the pond in early Fall to provide a clean, clear and healthy environment for your fish. The explosion of the multitute of bubbles will constantly add dissolved oxygen to the depths of the pond, while helping to keep a hole open in the ice. Even if your pond froze completely over the unit would continue to work bringing a fresh supply of oxygen, while absorbing toxicants. Again a deicer (heater) will supplement this attempt to rid your pond of ammonia.


Tropical plants generally will not make it through the winter if left in your pond. They should be removed as soon as the water temperature drops below 60 degrees or so. Depending on the variety you have, some may be used as house plants. Water hyacinth and lettuce take a lot of effort and money to keep alive all winter, so it is best to consider them annuals and just replace each spring. Your hardy plants need to be cut down to about an inch above the root stem and sink them to the lowest part of your pond. However, keep your fish in mind, as they need a place to hibernate. Give your fish top priority, as far as room at the bottom of the pond is concerned. Best time to cut the hardy plants back is long before there is a chance of frost. While removing the hardy plants to cut them back, take the time to remove any debris and string algae from the pots and stems.

Steven Sannan is currently a member of the staff, with 35+ years of fishkeeping experience. Experience that includes extensive freshwater, saltwater and pond keeping knowledge.

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