Pond Maintenance in Winter: Preparation for the Cold Season

Pond maintenance in winter means adapting the biotope to the changed cool conditions. You can find out here what exactly you should pay attention to.

Lower Activity Level

As active as pond fish are when the temperature is sufficiently warm, they become inactive when the days get shorter and the pond is slowly quiet. The metabolism decreases less markedly with every degree of temperature so that the heart rate of the pond fish can drop to a few beats per hour. In this state, the organism is of course very vulnerable – especially to parasites, which remain active even in cool weather conditions and are looking for a host. If you do not make any preparations to make it easier for the fish to “winterize”, there is a high risk that the animals will wake up physically weakened in spring and be even more susceptible to the typical spring diseases. Therefore, pond maintenance is particularly important in winter.

Prepare Pond Maintenance in Winter

Preparations for pond maintenance in winter are simple and plausible. With little expense and effort, you can set the course for a stable immune system and sufficient energy reserves, even when the winter is hard and long.

Fat Reserves

Good fat reserves in the animals protect against external cold and physical weakness. You should already consciously carry out the feeding again, preferably several times a day in small portions. However, only if the fish accept everything with thanks and do not allow any leftover food to swim. The feed should preferably consist of fine granules. It can be digested quickly and is high in energy at the same time. You should now also add vitamins and minerals to the food or pond water from time to time. They invigorate the metabolism and support the organism in creating fat reserves. If the water temperature is below 10 ° C, you should use wheat germ-based food, as it is easier to digest. If the fish show hardly any activity, you should stop feeding completely.

Temperature Control

Temperature fluctuations are perceived very intensively in our regions. A fish is even more sensitive than a human. A drop in temperature of more than 4 ° C within 24 hours is extreme physical stress and the most common trigger for aggressive spot disease or other ectoparasites. The pathogens that attack the fish via the outer mucous membrane can be recognized by the fact that the fish often rub against objects, jump out of the water, make jerky swimming movements or stagger apathetically on the pond floor with flippers on. If this condition is already recognizable, it is almost no longer possible to treat the animals with medication in the pond, because temperatures below 12 ° C slow down the animals’ metabolism to such an extent that the medication can no longer work sufficiently; the ingredients can even be toxic in the cold.

It is all the more important to control the drop in temperature using a thermometer. If the fluctuations are too extreme, you should actively heat the pond water with instantaneous water heaters. They are simply connected to the filter circuit and controlled with an integrated thermostat. The animals can be gently “cooled down” within 4 weeks. A floating heater can – in small ponds – have the same effect, but it must be operated with an additional thermostat.

If the pond is big enough, these measures are only necessary for extreme weather situations. With volumes of around 30,000 liters or more, the pond has a higher heat storage capacity and the cooling process is measurably slowed down, which is positive for the animals.
However, once the pond has completely frozen over, you must never force the ice surface with hammer blows or the like. to open. Sound waves are distributed much more strongly underwater and penetrate the body of the animals, whose sluggish blood vessels can be damaged by hard shock waves. To open the ice surface, it is sufficient to run hot water slowly onto a small area. In this opening, you can then put a heating element (swimming heater, etc.) so that at least one small opening remains, which enables the vital gas exchange of the water.

If a pond is still in the planning stage, consider tapping into the residential building’s heating system and running additional piping through part of the pond. Heating with house heating (oil, gas, wood) is significantly cheaper than using electrical systems. If sufficient heating is possible, a continuous winter temperature of 6 ° C is recommended. In the optimal case, the enthusiast has a large room (basement/garage) in which the animals can be kept. For this purpose, mobile holding basins are available in stores. This is the easiest way to achieve stable temperatures well above freezing point.

Minor Maintenance Work

You shouldn’t do any major work on the pond during winter. However, you should check the water values at least once a month. The carbonate hardness should be between 5 ° and 8 ° dKh, the total hardness should be around 20-100% higher than the carbonate hardness. These parameters are necessary so that the pH value, which provides information about the acids and bases in the pond, remains stable and does not have additional damaging effects on the fish due to fluctuations.

Strong temperature and pH value fluctuations at the same time would mean high failure rates or at least many fish become sick, at the latest in spring.

Fish can withstand a lot, but only with the correct approach to pond maintenance in winter.

Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

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