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Dont let my fish sleep with the fishes
December 10, 2010 2:23 PM   Subscribe

How do I maintain a fish pond in freezing weather?

I moved into a house with a fishpond. There are 14 fish, a pump at one end of the pond that feeds a waterfall at the other end. The waterfall has begun to freeze over, and the water outtake is faster than the intake. I don't know what to do. The pump is making a lot of noise, and I have read that if it is not submerged, I could damage the motor. This is NJ.

Please help! Thanks in advance.
posted by MrMulan to Home & Garden (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
There are heaters that you can get to keep the water unfrozen, at least in a portion of it. It usually floats on the surface, and is plugged into the same outlet as a pump. Something like, for instance, this (not trying to say to buy that one specifically, just something I could find quickly for illustration.)
posted by Stormfeather at 2:41 PM on December 10, 2010


What kind of fish are in there? If it's just goldfish or koi, they're fine for the winter. You could just submerge that pump, or another pump, into the pond and let it go all winter. It should keep the ice open.

I don't know how cold your winters are out there, but in Minneapolis we can get 3 ft of solid ice every winter. It would freeze the pond solid without some moving water.
posted by sanka at 2:42 PM on December 10, 2010


Hmm... have you tried calling a local fish & shop in your area? They are usually a wealth of information on this topic. I used to work at a florist/pond shop in high school and we constantly had people calling in the winter asking for advice & instruction. I worked in the floral part of the shop and it was quite a while ago, so I don't have any advice, unfortunately. But if no one else here chimes in, I would definitely call around and ask!
posted by bahama mama at 2:43 PM on December 10, 2010


I meant to say fish & pond shop...
posted by bahama mama at 2:44 PM on December 10, 2010


My dad has a Fish pond in suburban long island. Shop said let it ice over in the winter since the pond is 6 feet long and 4 feet deep and the fish will hang out under this ice when its frozen. Goldfish FWIW.
posted by Brian Puccio at 2:46 PM on December 10, 2010


Turn the pump off IMMEDIATELY. You are damaging the motor right now.

If the pond is too shallow, the fish will freeze, or suffocate if the entirety of the pond freezes over.

That waterfall isn't just ornamental; it oxygenates the water through constant agitation.

So don't let the pond completely freeze over. Throw hot water on it. Break up the ice as much as possible. Consider a pond heater, as mentioned above. Submerge that pump and keep the waterfall flowing.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 2:48 PM on December 10, 2010


I moved into a house with a fishpond.

Contact the previous owners and ask what worked best.
posted by pracowity at 2:51 PM on December 10, 2010


Call Lilypons and ask which de-icer would be best for your situation. It's a reputable, experienced outfit that's VERY familiar with pond maintenance and koi care.
posted by MonkeyToes at 3:00 PM on December 10, 2010


DO NOT break up the ice as BitterOldPunk advises. You will kill the fish due to the sound. I know this all too well. Hot water will quickly become cold water. Call a local pond shop right away and ask them to come out ASAP.

I was left with a bubbler, a submerged pump and a heater. The second winter the breaker tripped to that outlet while I was away for two weeks during a heinous cold snap. I came back to a frozen pond from edge to edge, but not all the way to the bottom. Had I left well enough alone the fish may have survived. But I didn't. I had the same thought - get oxygen in there. The problem? Nothing I did A) got through the foot+ of ice and 2) I killed ALL of the 20+ fish in the pond due to the banging and whirring and pounding on the ice.

It was a very smelly spring when I had to have someone come out and completely clean the pond.
posted by FlamingBore at 3:17 PM on December 10, 2010


My colleagues w/a fish pond remove the mechanicals during the winter & let the pond freeze over. The goldfish just chill out during the winter. Literally.
posted by thomas j wise at 3:20 PM on December 10, 2010


Three ways: sufficient depth for your local conditions so that the bottom of the pond does not freeze, an airstone and air pump to agitate and oxygenate the water, and a submersible heater.

I know a guy here in Buffalo (where it get very cold) who uses these three methods. He keeps his heater on a timer, so it is only running in the wee morning hours when air temps are coldest. The only real problem he has keeping koi is getting them to grow big enough and quick enough so that the raccoons can't pull them out of the water.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 4:17 PM on December 10, 2010


How deep is it? as long as it doesn't freeze down to the bottom, the fish will be fine with it frozen over. Turn the pump off and let' em be. I had a 55 gal tank on my deck with fish in it, which froze over with an inch and a half of ice, and the fish were fine even after three weeks of that.
posted by The otter lady at 4:54 PM on December 10, 2010


From the sounds of it, it's a submerged pump? If yes, you can let it run all winter or shut it off, your choice. The advantages of leaving it running is it will (hopefully) keep an air hole open in the pond, which the fish do need. Add some water (talk to your local fish store to determine what you'll need to treat your tap water to make it fish friendly) to keep the pump submerged. The disadvantage is you'll want to check every morning to make sure an ice dam hasn't formed and inadvertently diverting water out of the pond.

If it's an out-of-the-water pump, you'll need to shut it off and drain it (also an excellent time to clean it) before it gets freeze damage. Ditto for exposed hose lines.

Whatever kind of pump you have, you'll need to keep an air hole open for the fish. If the pond is deep enough to not freeze solid, you can get away with just a de-icer intended for pasture tanks. If it's a shallow pond, you'll want a bigger or second heater. The goal isn't to keep the pond completely de-iced, but to keep a pocket of liquid water available for your fish to live in. As mentioned above, avoid banging on accumulated ice, it just traumatizes and kills the fish.

Your fish, which I'm assuming are goldfish and/or koi, will go into a state of semi-dormancy when the water temp drops to ~40F. You might have noticed that they are settling toward the bottom in the deep end and swimming slowly, if at all. They do not need much aeration in this state, a 6" wide hole through the ice will be more than enough for oxygen exchange. You don't have to feed them until the water starts to warm up again (+50F or when they come to the surface and gawp hungrily at you).

If the pond has any aquatic plants in pots, trim off whatever vegetation might be poking above the water line and move the pots to the deeper end of the pond. Some plants, especially surface floaters common to decorative ponds, are not cold hardy so don't be surprised if they die off. Consider them the annuals of the water garden and plan on bringing in a few replacements next spring.

Most cities have active pond or koi societies, their members are your best source of local advice. Here's 1, 2 that cover NJ.
posted by jamaro at 6:02 PM on December 10, 2010


From the sounds of it, it's a submerged pump? If yes, you can let it run all winter or shut it off, your choice.

At the momentt pumping water "out" to the waterfall, which is freezing and not refilling the pond. It should be shut off now, and a pond expert should come visit.

Ideally, a pond set up has a separate filter for just running the waterfall, and another pump/filter set up just for the pond itself. If you have this, you'll be okay with buying a pond heater to keep one area ice free, and turn the waterfall pump off for the winter. But call an expert at this point for a visit, so they can tell you what equipment you have and what you need to do.
posted by oneirodynia at 6:41 PM on December 10, 2010


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