Saturday, November 5, 2011

Fall Pond

Fall means time for the fish to go to "bed" for the winter. People are always amazed to learn that the koi and comets remain in the pond all winter long without food until spring when the ice melts and the water warms up. As long as your pond is deep enough to not freeze all the way to the bottom, your fish will sleep away the winter months, requiring little care during that time. Keeping them healthy requires a only few key components.

1. Netting ~ Covering the pond with a fine net keeps out most of the leaves and debris which if allowed to settle in the water will change the balance of your pond, so the net goes on as soon as any leaves start to fall. Through experience I have learned that crisscrossing a few 2x4s will keep the net elevated above the water surface even if some leaves, ice and snow settle on it.

2. Food ~ Once the water temperature begins to drop, it is time to switch the fish food to a fall/spring blend which is formulated for cold water feeding. They get fed less and less often, and eventually the feedings stop entirely. I put a thermometer in the pond to keep track of the temperature, but I have found that the level of fish activity is an excellent indicator. As it gets colder, they become less active and they swim more slowly. Instead of leaving wakes as they race to beg for food, they approach more slowly, looking like they really. want. to. eat. but. are. having. diffficulltyyy reachiiiiing meeeeeeeee. Once it get's really cold, they stop coming over and just sort of hang out at the bottom, moving very slowly, if at all.

3. Running Water ~ It is imperative that a hole in the ice is maintained throughout the winter, and this can be the most challenging part of keeping a healthy pond during the blustery winter months. I remove my powerful pump and I drain the external filter, putting both away in the garage. Then I hook up a smaller pump and my Pondmaster low-profile filter, minus the fuzzy stuff that goes inside. Since the algae has ceased growing there's no need for the fine mesh, but the large debris is still blocked. I attach a piece of rubber hose that is then hooked up and over one of the 2x4s so that the water is running continually. This works like a miracle. There are times the pond is completely encased in snow drifts, and the temperature goes down to 0F, and I can still hear the water running underneath it all. The small splashes of water create an ice cone going down to and connecting with the surface ice on the pond, keeping the snow out. The first winter I tried using a little donut-shaped heater that is designed to keep a hole melted and open, but snow would blow in the middle and it would freeze up. My girlfriend who has a pond suggests using a pot of boiling water and setting it on the surface to gently melt a hole, if necessary, but I have never tried it. REALLY IMPORTANT: never ever chip away at the ice because the sound waves can hurt your fish friends that are trying to sleep.

I am not an expert by any means, but I have also never lost a fish to the changing seasons. I suggest you research many of the educational sites available on line, and then through trial and error find out what works best for you and your pond.

Here are a few views of the winterized pond ... 
... the water is running through the hose that is up and over a board ....

... the these boards keep the net elevated regardless of leaves and snow which land on top.

The fall pond garden is as pretty as the summer version, in my opinion.

The Japanese Maple turns a brilliant orangey color, and drops its leaves fairy late in the season.

How can you not love Sedum this time of year? The way the sun was hitting this it looks illuminated from within.

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