Closing Your Pond in Fall
Things that I need to know, but nobody told me what to do!
These are the topics that we talk about in our fall seminars on pond closings ( By Joe Barson)
Clean, clean, and clean. A little cleaning in the fall makes for a healthy, fun pond next year. What we suggest is that you remove your plants out of the pond so that you can take a "muck vac", "pond vac", or a wet and dry vac to clean the debris from the bottom of the pond. All three units work fine if you go slowly so you don't plume the debris. You may want to shut off the waterfalls the night before so the debris settles on the bottom. You will want to take as much debris out of the pond as possible, BUT you DO NOT want to take off the slime coat that is growing on the liner. Leave that, it's all GOOD stuff.
The plants that you have taken out, you can split or transplant into larger pots. We have found here at Barson's that the use of aquatic soil gets us the best roots. It's basically an inert product that doesn't add organic debris in the water which forces the plant to take the nutrients from the pond. You can trim back your water lilies back to the crown or just above the pot. Leave the very small leaves that are right against the tuber, as these are growth indicators for next spring. Bog plants can be trimmed back just below the water surface with the exception of the cattails. You can tie the cattails into a bunch so they aren't falling over, but the stems need to be above the surface of the water. We are also finding out that if you don't trim your iris they will bloom next year. The floater plants (e.g. lettuce, hyacinth, salvinia, etc.) can be put into the compost pile. Your oxygenators can be left in the pond. These are all hardy plants. Tropical plants can either be brought into the house to grow as houseplants with as much light as you can give them, or pitch them in the compost pile. If you overwinter tropical plants as houseplants, keep them a little moist, not wet, so that the roots remain as water roots and don't transform to land roots.
When the temperatures in the water reach 55 Degrees, your bio filter basically shuts down. There is biological activity going on, but it's very, very slow. So, keeping that in mind, what you want to do is take the filter media (if your filter media is one of ours, take the lava rock), or other media and rinse them in a 5 gallon bucket of pond water. Take that bucket and water your flower beds with the water (great fertilizer!) and put them (the media that is), in the pond on the 1st shelf. This keeps the colonies of bacteria wet and they don't dry out, they just go to sleep so to speak. There is a little activity at temperatures just above 35 Degrees. What this does, is that, in the spring they wake up and the warmer the water gets, the more it detoxifies the water, so when the water temperature is at 55 Degrees it is up and running. Remember, it's not running at full speed until the water temperature is at 72 Degrees.
You want to do a 50% water change. That is, you want your pump at the bottom of the pond, at the deepest part, and pump the water out. This is where the toxins are at in the pond. Once you do this, refill the pond and add dechlorinator to the pond.
Adding salt to the pond helps the fish make it through the winter. The immune system is at its lowest point in the winter. Salt helps the fish and kills 8 out of 10 pathogens that attack the fish. The rate is 3 lbs. per 100 gallons of water. The side effect is that it kills string algae. It will also kill your oxygenators.So if you want to save the oxygenators. Put them in an aquarium. Your fish can take more salt, the plants in the pond can't so you need to KNOW how many gallons you have. If you are close by we will check your salt levels for you.
As the water gets colder, the fish metabolism slows down. As it slows down they digest slower and slower. At 42 Degrees, you stop feeding altogether. Prior to the 42 Degrees and between 72 Degrees to 55 Degrees, the fish are fed as much as they want. You want them to bulk up for the winter before the temperature cools down and they stop feeding. This way, in the winter they are feeding on their fat stores. They will eat the algae that grows on the walls all winter. That is why they come out of the winter bigger than they went in.
Fish loading means the amount of fish you have in the pond. The recommendations are 1" of fish for every 10 gallons of water. that means a 1,000 gallon pond should have 100" of fish. The pond should have 10 10-inch fish or 20 5-inch fish, get my meaning. All the little baby fishes all those inches add up and add to the fish load. The fall of the year is the time to get rid of any extra fish, not in the spring. All those fish add to the pollution in the pond with no filtration going on. So get the excess fish out.
Aerators move water very, very slowly. That is what you want. You want the fish to move if they want to move, not because the current in the water makes them move. That's what happens when you run your pumps all winter. Remember, the fish aren't being fed. So if they are moving because of a pump running, they are burning calories. They (the fish) usually make it all the way to late winter or real early spring and then die. They die because they burned all their food stores in them. So DON'T run your pumps. The aerators are a lot cheaper to operate also, big, big, big savings. One of our aerators uses 28 watts, which is about $28 a year to operate. A pond heater uses anywhere from 1000 watts to 1500 watts. This is about $1000 to $1500 a year to run. The aerators have a 3 year warranty and the heaters have a 1 year warranty. This is one of the easiest choices you have to make in your pond department.
Water, when moving doesn't freeze, to a point. Pond fish are cold water fish. They don't mind being in the pond in the winter. My opinion is that the fish are healthier if they're left in the pond, keeping in mind that the water doesn't freeze. If you run your waterfall pump in the winter you can get the water down below 32 Degrees. If if gets below 30 Degrees, you can lose your fish due to freezing. So, the recommendations are to shut your pumps off and use aerators.
1) Feeding - Stop at 42 Degrees
2) Bio filters - Basically shuts down at 55 Degrees
3) Salt - 3 lbs. per 100 gallons
4) Organic debris - Remove all debris at bottom of pond
5) Fish load - 1" of fish for every 10 gallons of water
6) Plants - See Plant Section
7) Water changes - 20%-30% water change from bottom of pond
8) Aerator vs. heater - See Aerator vs. heater section above
9) Supercooling - Shut down waterfall pumps and turn aerators on.