Distractions happen, and things fall to the wayside. This year we were in the process of getting a new 2-acre pond ready for prime time, and we didn’t get things in our koi pond ready to go for the cold months nearly as early as we normally try to. So, it’s nearly December and you haven’t gotten everything ready to ensure an easy Spring. There’s still plenty that you can do now to make sure that you haven’t done too much damage to your pond ecosystem.
- Get some of those leaves and debris out
Assuming that you haven’t put up your net yet, you should definitely grab your skimming net and get to work. Clean out everything that you can without risking hypothermia. All of that organic debris will decompose slowly when it’s cold, but once things warm up it will go fast, adding tannins to your water (which leads to the dreaded tea-colored water), throwing off all of your pond’s water health balances, and adding to your sludge layer.
- Balance your levels carefully
Even in winter, partial water changes can help to provide healthier, less polluted water for your be-finned friends. Do this very carefully, though, changing water much less aggressively than you would in warmer times. Slower winter metabolisms potentially means that your pond recovers from water changes less quickly. Don’t change out more than 5% of your water a week, preferably less, and be sure that the temperature of the water your adding is equalized to that in the pond before you add it.
- Add cold water bacteria
Slower winter metabolisms don’t just affect larger animals and plants. Even bacteria slow way down, and that means that the beneficial bacteria in your pond aren’t cleaning it the way they do in warm months. Supplementing your system with special cold water adapted bacteria will go a long way toward making your Spring a happier experience.
- Switch to cold water fish food
Cold Water Fish Food is a key part of keeping your fish healthy through the winter. The slower metabolisms of the fish can mean that the richer normal fish food can cause major health problems. If your pond water is below 55 degrees, switch to cold water food, and once it is below 42 degrees stop feeding altogether. The slowed metabolisms mean that they’ll be fine without the added food.
- Get that net up
Unless you’re unusually scrupulous about cleaning up the rest of your yard, chances are that there are still leaves and other organic debris waiting to fall or in a position to be blown into your pond. The right pond net can save you considerable problems.
- Keep the ice from closing the surface off
A pond surface that’s completely covered with ice closes off gas exchange between the pond and the surrounding air, which can cause buildup of all kinds of things in the pond and lead to oxygen deficiency. Keep the water at least partially open using an aerator (my preferred method) or a heat source. if your pond does ice over, DO NOT break up the ice by hitting it with anything. Because water resists compression and therefore transmits kinetic energy very efficiently, the shock from the hit, even a relatively mild one, can hurt or even kill your fish, even if they’re nowhere near where you hit the ice. Just don’t do it. Use mild heat or a drill to get through the ice.
Header image by Martin Schmidt.