While pondkeepers may not be thinking about cleaning and closing their pond yet, a retailer’s job is to gently remind them that temperatures are going to drop. And, as the fall weather approaches, retailers should encourage pondkeepers to consider what they will do to care for their pond, plants and the fish as it gets colder.
In the fall, it is very important to protect fish from their changing surroundings, including falling debris and decaying leaves. The best time to clean the pond is before temperatures fall below 50?F–fish are still active and will not sustain injury during the cleaning. Using a net, pondkeepers should remove all debris and leaves from the water surface, as well as the bottom and sides of the pond. If there are a lot of falling leaves, consider placing leaf netting over the pond to avoid further debris from collecting.
Next, pondkeepers should ensure that all pond plants are being protected from the elements. Early in the fall, prune dead stems and leaves from plants. This will prevent them from decaying in the winter. In late fall, remove non-hardy aquatic plants like Water Hyacinths or tropical lilies and store them in warm, frost-free conditions indoors until next year.
Marginal plants in baskets around the perimeter of the pond should be moved to deeper water to prevent them from freezing in pond ice. Hardy water lilies can be left in the deep end of the pond over the winter. In very cold areas, bog plants should be insulated with straw or a commercial insulation material.
Closing the Pond
Once the pond is clean and plants have been cared for and removed, it is time to shut down the pond. In warmer and moderate climates, pondkeepers can continue to run their pump to ensure the pond surface does not freeze. Further north, where temperatures are more extreme, turn off the pump, filter and UV clarifier. By continuing to run the pump, colder surface water will mix with warmer, more stable temperatures in the pond bottom where fish take comfort and hibernate.
Recommend that pondkeepers store equipment indoors, safe from the elements. It’s also a good idea to clean and inspect the equipment and replace any broken components.
Next, recommend customers purchase and install a pond de-icer. Gases, which are produced by decomposing organic material, are toxic to fish when they are trapped beneath ice covering the pond’s surface. De-icer’s are designed to keep an area of the pond ice-free during the winter, allowing harmful gases to escape through the opening. For fish safety, it is extremely important to never break ice on the pond because the shock waves can be detrimental, and sometimes fatal.
As an alternative, advise customers to melt a hole daily by setting a heated pan of warm water on the surface. Either method of creating an ice-free opening will let pond inhabitants breathe, maintaining their health and longevity.
If the pump is turned off and there is no water circulation, most fish can remain in the pond for the winter. Fish will hibernate in the warmer water found at the bottom of the pond. However, some types of fish, such as fancy goldfish with ornate tails, bubble eyes and lionheads, are sensitive to cold weather and should be brought indoors.
While it is never fun to say goodbye to the pond for the winter, in most of the country it is inevitable. Therefore, make the transition simple and worry-free for pondkeepers. This way, as soon as spring returns, they will too.
Curt Nuenighoff is TetraPond brand director.