Retailers are very busy now buying in stocks of winter products for pond owners in order to help them prepare their water gardens for the winter.
It is extremely important that pond owners check their pond equipment in order for it to last throughout the coldest months.
Fish must be prepared in order to over-winter well so they should be in the best of health to start with, so now is the time to start your preparations.
Start to monitor your pond’s water quality so that when you leave it over winter you will know that it is healthy and will be in good shape to last until the spring.
Poor water quality will lead to sick fish and pond problems and come the spring, your fish may not be alive.
Check out the quality of your water by purchasing and using a water test kit regularly, which can be bought at most aquatic stores, garden centers or local pond suppliers.
Your test kit should test the pH, KH, ammonia (NH3), nitrite (NO2) and nitrate (NO3) of your pond and you should be prepared to test every other week or whenever you become suspicious there might be a problem with your pond.
Your garden pond should have a pH reading of between 7 and 7.5 and the other levels you measure should be as low as possible. The test kit will tell you what to do if your levels are too high and you should follow this advice.
Don’t leave dead or dying plants in your pond over the winter months as this can affect water quality, which will in turn, affect your fishes’ health.
Use a net to remove anything you see lying on the water’s surface, especially leaves as they begin to shed.
Remove any vulnerable and frost sensitive plants or make sure you protect them adequately. Also remove plants that you think are past their best and as much blanket weed as you can at this time of the year.
Using a scoop net, remove uneaten food, leaves and other debris from the surface of your pond. Don’t leave uneaten food or rotting leaves on the surface; remove them as quickly as you can.
Some leaves are poisonous and all of them can adversely affect the pH level of your pond if left on top too long. Leaves left to rot will also adversely affect your ponds’ oxygen levels.
Your pond needs as much oxygen as possible over winter, especially if it starts to freeze, so you must do everything you can to help oxygen levels stay high.
The biological part of the pond filter slows down over the winter months so there is really no need to keep it running; disconnect it and at the same time remove your UV sterilizer if you keep one.
Clean everything thoroughly and store it for the spring. You may want to replace the UV light in the spring ready to run again for the whole year.
As the temperature drops your fish will need less food, but pay attention to the quality of the food you feed them. They should be fed a high quality but low protein diet as low temperatures mean that fishes’ metabolisms slow down and high amounts of protein cannot be digested well.
Undigested food ends up being left in the water and will cause problems with your water quality over the winter. Use a wheat germ based food for your fish once winter draws near and the temperatures are between 10 and 12 degrees centigrade.
One the temperature plummets to below 4 degrees centigrade fish will start to semi-hibernate and will stop eating completely, so no food should be offered at this time.
A pond thermometer will help you monitor temperature but only use one with a scale on its head in order to stop your hands getting wet and frozen.
Pond pumps should be well maintained and should be cleaned thoroughly at this time of year. Replace your filter sponges if they seem too old and floppy, but only replace one sponge at a time, never all of them.
The sponges should only be washed in pond water so the colonies of beneficial bacteria are not compromised and killed off. Be sure to read the pump’s instruction manual before you turn it off for the winter too.
You can clean the actual pump and filter carcass with tap water or a specialist aquatic pump cleaner. Never ever use disinfectants or detergents on pond equipment. When finished with cleaning the pump, run it for as long as possible before turning it off.
You can still use the filter over the winter but you should insulate it first before placing it in the pond to leave it. At the first signs of frost turn the pump off and store it until the spring, it must not become frozen as it will almost certainly break. You will have the cost of buying a new pump in the spring.
To make sure you are able to maintain the gaseous exchanges your pond produces over winter, fit an air pump in your pond. These are very easy to install and will help your pond to maintain a good amount of oxygen in cold weather.
In order to help your fish survive the winter months you should try to prevent the surface of your pond from freezing. Buying an ice-free kit with a built in aeration tool will help, and install it before any frost occurs.
This will make a hole in the surface of your pond, which lasts throughout the winter and will prevent your pond from freezing over completely. This will allow oxygen to enter and hazardous gases to escape. You could also install a pond heater over the winter months to prevent a frozen pond and for gases to exchange safely.
If you wish you could place a cover over your pond for the winter, for example a net, which will prevent debris from falling into your pond, affecting its water quality. This will also protect your fish from predators, for example, herons and domestic cats.
Fit an alarm if you are worried about theft. Some alarms will spray water at the thief; others will emit a loud, high-pitched noise. Decide which one you prefer.
Now you should be ready to tackle the upcoming winter and prepare your garden pond for the coldest months of the year. If you follow this advice your pond and occupants will have the best chance of survival over the next few months.