Monday, 27 October 2014 00:00

Wintering Your Pond in Central Texas

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 by Shane Stefek, President - Water Garden Gems

winter pond



Winterizing your pond can be critical to the health of your fish during the winter and during the warming transition into Spring as well as your Pond Ecosystem will be cleaner and benefit from properly being "put away" at the end of the growing season.  How to winterize your pond depends on your climate.  I am going to focus this educational blog on central Texas...your fish and plants will go dormant to an extent for 2-3 months, your water temperatures will get into the 50's, and your pond is very unlikely to ever ice over more than 24 hours.  If you have never winterized before, you need to start!  If you have always done a "spring cleaning" of your pond where you empty it and clean out the muck and sludge and start the filter fresh every March, you need to stop!  Hopefully I can help you create and maintain a healthier pond year 'round...and it can start today with a good and proper "WINTERIZING".


First, let's list some MYTHS about the winter...some false myths:


-Your fish hibernate during the winter
-Your pond does not need maintenance during the winter
-Your pond has a healthy ecosystem naturally during the winter
-Spring is the best time to clean out your pond
-Spring is the best time to add Koi to your pond
-You should not add fish during the winter
-You need to heat your pond during the winter
-Your fish can die from cold water
-You should turn your pump off before each freeze
     >>>These are not if you have been living by these in the past, we can adjust our beliefs and knowledge now<<<
Pre-Winter Cleaning:
You want to complete a pre-winter cleaning of your pond for numerous the end of the growing season, you have a good amount of sludge on the bottom of your pond, algae on the sides that is about the die from the cold termperatures coming, fish waste and biowaste filling up your filter and pump lines, etc.  All of this will sit and toxify the water through the winter if it is left in the pond.  That does not mean the first winter you leave it all in there your fish are going to die...but we want our fish to be in living in high quality, clean water...and that requires a little work on our parts to give them that and keep their health and immune systems high.  The fish's immune system will be lowest during and coming out of winter so we want to avoid parasite, protozoans, fungus and bacterias as much as way to do this is a clean pond and good Oxygen levels.  So here is the simple Pre-winter cleaning regimen for our climate:

Ideally, 30 days or so before your water temperature drops to 60degrees…

-Remove all sludge, fish waste, and leaves from the bottom of the pond. You do want these going through biological breakdown over winter in your pond

-Do a 20-30% water change to remove excess Nitrates and add a good dechlorinator that deals with ammonia as well.

-Deep Clean your filter…pads, bio balls, etc. Replace with new media pads, etc to remove extra Nitrates

-Start slowing down the feeding routine to reduce fish waste going into winter and to prep your fish for further food reductions when temperatures drop

-Optional treating for Flukes and Parasites going into winter can protect your fish when their immune systems are low




Organic sediments (leaves, fish waste) on the bottom of your pond creates anaerobic zones that can have odors and worse create breeding grounds for parasites, fungus, and toxic gases. Poor water clarity and water quality will result from sludge build up and severe cases can lead to disease and fish loss due to the amount of toxins in the pond. Sludge digesters are packed with living enzymes and beneficial bacterias that breakdown and convert the sludge and nitrates to safe proteins, water and oxygen creating a win win for everything in the pond.

aut lvs fritz360 supersludge




Leaves can be your worst ENEMY in the fall and winter. As they fall to the bottom of your pond and decay into sludge, they take oxygen and add toxins into the water. Coupled with the decrease in beneficial bacteria during the winter, decaying leaves can create nightmare water quality issues for your Koi.  Nets for Sale

pond net float skimmer oase skimmer





Your aquatic plants need a little care in the fall as they go dormant, and then nothing until they return back in the Spring. The care they need is dependent on what kind of plants they are.


-Tropical plants…like tropical lilies, Papyrus, mint, and many taros, etc need to be protected in the winter so moving indoors or into the garage in a bucket is wise.


-Perennials are hardy and will most always be fine in our winters…Hardy Water Lilies, Iris, Palms, Rushes, etc. These need care by the plant type, but in general trimming the browning folage so it does not decay into the pond and making sure the pot is cleaned of String Algae, etc as needed so as not to seed winter algae varieties


Keep in mind while the plant top may go dormant, many plants grow roots in the winter so Spring repotting is always recommended.


It is not recommended to repot aquatic plants until Spring at which point new soil, fertilizer, and a root hair cut is recommended.


There are good plants to add to your pond for the winter...plants that grow in the cold water rather than go dormant.

hornwort Hornwort and Parrots Feather are our choices.

Call us for ordering details.  210-659-5841





There is a correct way to feeding your Koi this winter. Feeding is based on water temperature so a simple water thermometer is a great addition to have going into the colder months.


-You want to stop feeding when the water temperature drops to 55degrees


-You want to feed in warm water…above 60degrees and when you know the water will stay above 60 for 3-4 days.


-You want to feed a Wheat-Germ based food as it is easier and quicker to digest.


-Once your water temperature drops to 65, start slowing down how much you feed to work your fish onto a smaller diet over time



How you WINTERIZE your equipment depends on the equipment you have...correct protection will make a huge difference when it freezes.


External pumps should never be turned off during the winter unless you drain them completely of water or bring them inside. In water freezes inside the pump, it will expand and lead to probable breaking of parts internally…killing the pump.

Submersible pumps can be left on or turned off as the water in them is very unlikely to freeze. You may want to turn them off to prevent your water feature from icing over and loosing water out of your pond. This is safe with a submersible pump.

External filters need to be protected from freezing temperatures properly. Like your external pumps, still water can freeze and expand inside them, breaking seals and parts. It is best to leave water flowing through these or disconnecting and emptying completely.

Fountainheads and water features are more likely to ice over due to the surrounding air…this can be a problem so thought needs to be put into whether to shut off…if there is a submersible pump, turning off is the safest option. If you have an external pump leading to your water feature, you may want to divert the water back into the pond through piping and bypass the water feature on known freeze potentials.





The BLUE HERON is your primary predator during the winter. This migratory bird makes it’s home in Texas during the cold winter months so you need to protect your pond! They are more patient than your fish are smart so it is up to you to keep them from getting to your Koi and Goldfish.

Netting your pond with a fish-safe pond net is always the best option for winter protection. These nets come in several sizes and can be staked into the ground and hang over the pond in a non-invasive manner so you can still enjoy your fish, but the predators cannot.

Decoys are also great options...From Blue Heron to Crocodiles...decoys can add protection and character to your pond.

heron decoy pond net





Feeding, Fish Metabolism, Beneficial Bacteria, Ammonia control, Oxygen levels all work together



@65degrees - slow down feeding, plants start going dormant, algae growth stops


@60degrees - Feed occassionally when you see fish are active, beneficial bacteria   will become ineffective, metabolism slows way down, Ammonia   levels become a concern if fish get stressed, Tropical plants very   likely to die off.


@55degrees – Stop feeding your fish as their metabolism declines to nothing, most   Tropicals will not tolerate, Any ammonia and Nitrites in water will   not be consumed by bacterias.



Water Temperature is need to watch as winter is coming on and then again as Spring is nearing.  Don't jump from full feeding to no feeding, and back again...ease into changes and adjustments...but make sure you do.



Read 8767 times Last modified on Sunday, 28 December 2014 19:12

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