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Autumn Pond Maintenance Guide

Fish

In cold climates, autumn begins the slowing of fish and plant activity. When the water temperature drops below 60o F, switch to spring/fall cold weather fish food and reduce feedings to about every third day. Gradually decrease feeding, ultimately stopping feeding your fish when the water temperature drops below 50o F until spring.

Plants

  • When floating pond plants become unsightly due to frost kill, remove them. Don’t let them decompose in the water.
  • Tropical water plants and lilies can be overwintered indoors in a small tub of water. Make sure plants brought indoors have adequate light exposure (placing them near a window will be sufficient) and the temperature stays at or near normal room temperatures and does not fluctuate widely (like in an uninsulated garage). These plants can then be enjoyed as houseplants during the gloomy winter months.
  • Remove the foliage of hardy water lilies and hardy shallow water/bog pond plants as they display frost damage. Cut upright plant stalks 1-2 inches above the water surface (wait until spring to cut cattails and grasses as they will provide some winter interest). Cut submerged/oxygenating pond plants to about 6 inches long. The greater the bio-load (the more fish you have) the greater the importance is on removing decaying foliage. As organic matter decomposes in water it consumes oxygen and releases sulfur dioxide. It will also make algae control in the next season much more difficult, as algae feeds off of the decomposed matter.
  • Don't let your hardy water lilies freeze through the pot! Transfer them to deeper water after removing foliage or remove foliage, wrap plants in moist newspaper, wrap loosely in plastic bags, and store in a cool, dark area, such as a cellar or old, working refrigerator (at ~45o F).

Pond

  • Install pond leaf netting over the pond before leaves begin to fall. This will prevent them from landing in your pond, clogging your skimmer and making headaches for you come spring. Support the netting with wood, PVC or beach balls to prevent a pileup of leaves in the center of the pond on top of the net and to protect the stalks of water plants. Another option is domed netting structure that will support itself.
  • If you don't install netting, use a skimming net daily to remove leaves. Use a vacuum or a skimming net to remove leaves from the bottom of the pond. If an inch or more of debris has accumulated on the bottom, clean the pond before the weather makes it too cold to do the job. Be diligent! The less organic debris that settles in your pond over the winter, the better for your ecosystem and fish.

Equipment

  • If your water flow is less than 2000 GPH, turn off water supply and remove the pump until spring. Drain pipes by disconnecting the check valve to prevent freezing and bursting.
  • If your water flow is more than 2000 GPH, you may decide to run your waterfall year round. If you choose this option, be sure to watch for ice dams that may form on your waterfall or stream, which could cause the pond to drain itself. Also, watch the waterfall as freezing temperatures dominate to make sure the water movement actually keeps a hole open in the pond. Securely seal any bottom drains. Also it might be prudent to have a low-water shutoff on your pump.
  • In either case above, it is always recommended to install some sort of supplementary de-icing and aeration equipment to the pond. You can use a floating heater to keep a hole in the ice, an air pump to keep the water oxygenated and cause surface water movement, or a small pump submerged onto a shallow shelf of the pond. If using a de-icing fountain, leave the output open, i.e. no fountain head, and sink the pump so that the outlet of the pump is 1-2 inches beneath the water surface. The turbulence created at the outlet will oxygenate the water and prevent freezing around the fountain.
  • When water temperature drops into the 40's F, remove, clean and store any external filters and pumps.