Cold weather can prove to be problematic for pond enthusiasts. Here at Myhills, we want to provide you with crucial information that will help you care for your pond and its inhabitants though the winter.
Fish are very well adapted to our cold British winters. Be sure that you feed them less frequently whilst its cold – two to three times a week is ideal – as their metabolism slows when the temperature drops, so it can take them up to three days to digest food. If you give them too much, uneaten food can affect your water quality.
It is also important to change the type of food that you feed them over the colder months. Try feeding a wheatgerm-based food which are specifically designed to aid digestion when temperatures are lower. Ideally suited to when the water temperature is between 4°C and 10°C as they contain less protein as well as garlic for protection from parasites over the colder months, making it easier for the fish to digest with a slower metabolism. If the water temperature drops to below 4°C, you shouldn’t feed them at all until spring arrives.
As the temperature drops and the metabolism of your fish slows, so does their movement, which puts them at risk from predators as they cannot hide in weeds/plants. It is advisable to install appropriate pond netting to protect them.
What If My Pond Freezes?
It is vital that you make sure there is a small area that is free of ice to allow toxic gases to escape and let oxygen in. As the gases, if kept contained in the water for only a couple of days, can cause harm to your fish.
To help combat this issue you could install a pond heater, which would be the most effective way to prevent freezing. You could also use a pond skimmer if temperatures are not too extreme. By simply circulating the water, it can prevent ice from forming, and means you can clear any debris at the same time. You can purchase a fish food ball too, which provides constant movement on the surface and a slow stream of food for your fish.
Top Winter Tip: Do not break the ice if you find your pond has frozen over. Breaking it will lead to uncomfortable vibrations for the fish, which causes unnecessary stress. They are also very sensitive to extreme temperatures changes, so it is also unadvisable to pour hot water over the ice either.
Plants provide a natural filtration system that help remove toxic chemicals from the water such as ammonia, nitrogen and nitrates; whilst providing shade and shelter to reduce the stress of your fish. As plants begin to lose their leaves, their decaying leaves pose a risk to your fish through reduced oxygen in the water. This can be avoided by removing floating debris from the surface.
It’s important that you do not turn your pump off completely. Pond pumps allow the warm area at the bottom of the pond to be recirculated and offset the freezing of the water surface. This will increase aeration by allowing noxious or toxic gases to be expelled, rather than being trapped in the water. Without a pump, this process cannot happen and the helpful bacteria will die, leading to poor water quality.