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Garden ponds can be a beautiful and enchanting addition to any garden and a relaxing retreat for the whole family to enjoy, but during winter it is important to make a few preparations for the cold.
Cleaning your pond
When preparing your pond for winter there are many benefits to cleaning your pond before the harsh weather begins. Remove dead plants, flowers, leaves and any other debris that can pollute your pond. As the temperature drops your pond is likely to freeze over, trapping any unwanted nasties in the water and poisoning your fish. Debris can also lead to algae which sucks all the oxygen out of the pond, suffocating your fish. Many pond owners recommend doing a partial water change at this stage too to introduce some fresh water and remove some sludge.
It can be best to remove delicate frost-sensitive plants such as tropical lilies from the pond so that they won’t freeze. Keep them indoors and well watered over the coming cold months and place them in pots without draining holes. For larger plants, place them in large bin bags and keep them damp. Place newspaper underneath the bags and regularly check that the plants are still wet without being drenched.
Clean the pond filter before moving it closer to the surface of the pond. The air bubbles will help to break the surface of the water, preventing the pond from freezing over completely. Once you’ve removed the plants, a pond vacuum can help to clear out any remaining debris in order to prevent toxic gases from being produced.
During the winter, your fish will enter a state of hibernation where they’re less active and eat a lot less as their metabolism slows. As the temperature decreases to 5-10C you should gradually feed the fish less and less, switching to a good quality wheatgerm-based food. Wheatgerm can be used as an easily digestible, low protein alternative to regular fish food. To find out more about how wheatgerm food can improve your fish’s health, take a look at our blog post on the benefits of wheatgerm fish food during winter. When the temperature drops below 5C it is best to stop feeding the fish completely to stop them from creating more waste than the remaining plants can handle. Their lack of activity can also cause the food to rot in their stomachs and cause health problems. At this stage there should still be enough nutrients in the pond for the fish to survive the winter.
Heating your pond
Pond heaters can vary in purpose so it is important to do your research to make sure that you know that you’re getting what you want. Some pond heaters will heat the vast majority of the water, while others will just keep a small section of the water warm to prevent the whole pond from freezing over and to allow air in and toxins to escape.
Removing your pond filter
It may come as a surprise but it is important to remove the pond filter from your pond during winter as the ice can cause it to freeze and break. Due to the decreased activity in your pond when the temperatures drop, a filter is less necessary anyway, as the fish produce less waste and therefore less ammonia is produced.