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Pond maintenance is always on our minds during the warm months when everyone’s outside enjoying the pond, but when the temperatures dip that doesn’t mean you can stop taking care of it. Quite the opposite actually, especially in the Albany/Schenectady county areas where winters can often be brutal.

During the colder months, it is extremely important to maintain your pond, particularly if you have fish, but you need to care for it the right way. Here are 8 things you should NEVER do to your pond in the winter:

1. Bang on the ice – everyone knows you need a hole to allow harmful gasses to escape but if the surface of your pond fills in you should never bang on the ice to create a hole. That kind of activity can cause sound waves that are extremely harmful to fish. Instead of trying to crack the ice open, use a de-icer to burn through the surface or simply pour a kettle full of boiling water on it to melt it. And of course, always have a proper aerator working at all times in order to keep that hole open.

2. Use a cheap de-icer – As mentioned above, de-icing can be one of the keys to winter pond maintenance. For that reason, you need to be sure that you are using a good quality de-icer with at least 1200 watts. This will ensure that the all-important hole remains open throughout the winter, giving your fish the healthy environment they need.

3. Leave your de-icer going continuously – While it may be tempting to leave the de-icer on 24/7 this is actually not a good idea at all. De-icers can use a lot of energy. In areas like Albany & Schenectady counties, it’s tempting to leave the de-icer on all the time, but it’s really not necessary. Just keep an eye on the aeration hole and if it begins to close up, then turn on the de-icer for a day or two and shut it back down again.

4. Leave the de-icer off if you go away – While you don’t want the de-icer running all the time, an exception is if you are going to be away for a week or more. This is no time to forget about regular pond maintenance. If you’re leaving the frigid Northeast for a warmer climate, don’t forget your fish! Make sure they have what they need by turning on the de-icer before you leave. That way it can act as a backup for your aerator should it fail while you’re gone.

5. Unplug the waterfall pump without blowing out and capping your pipe –Everyone loves the beauty and relaxing sound of a waterfall, but to ensure that your waterfall continues to run properly you need to take the proper steps when shutting it down for the winter. When you do shut it down, make sure to remove the pump and store it in a bucket of water, then blow out the pipe and cap each end with a cleanout plug. This will prevent pipes from bursting if water left inside them freezes.

6. Forget water treatments – Water treatment is not just for warm weather. Water quality is just as important a part of pond maintenance, if not more so, in winter as in the warmer months. A good quality fall/winter bacteria blend applied once a month can help to prevent a buildup of debris that collects in the water during the winter. Adding winter bacteria breaks down debris means healthier and happier fish.

7. Feed your fish – It may sound counter-intuitive to avoid feeding living things, but it is important to remember that fish will naturally slow down their systems during the winter months, which means they can’t properly digest food. You may be tempted to throw them a bite here and there but food will get lodged in their system and can kill them, so better to err on the side of caution. Even if the weather should temporarily warm up and your fish become more active, don’t give in to temptation. They won’t starve as their bodies are meant to go through a dormant winter cycle.

8. Let your fish freeze – we can’t stress strongly enough how important proper aeration is to pond maintenance. Without the creation of a small hole to allow for air circulation, your fish will freeze. Some smaller species of goldfish can withstand freezing, but most fish will not tolerate it, and it is particularly lethal for koi. The larger the koi, the more oxygen they need so, please be sure that you have a bubbler pump or airstones to prevent your fish from freezing.

There is nothing more relaxing and peaceful than a beautiful backyard pond, but enjoying the pond in the summer means taking proper care of it in the cold weather too. Don’t forget the basics of proper pond maintenance during the winter…that way you and your fish can get the most out of your pond all year long!