Winter pond care is not complicated but there are essential tasks to look after to ensure your fish and plants survive the cold, winter months.
I’ll show you what you need for a small garden pond like mine here in Canada. This advice is for ponds up to 1000 gallons.
This is my popular tip for keeping pond water sparkling clear during the warm seasons.
The Secret to Keeping Fish Alive Year-Round
When I got my first pond, I kept hearing that there was no way I could keep the fish alive (and happy) all year round in a cold climate in a pond that was less than 2 feet deep. Turns out that was entirely wrong.
The basic principle for winter pond care is, as long as the water is circulating and there is an air hole, fish and plants should be fine.
It doesn’t matter how deep the pond is, it just matters that the water is moving and not frozen.
The fish we’re talking about are cold water fish such as goldfish. You would not keep tropical fish in a garden pond in a cold climate.
In the fall
1. Place the plants and recirculating pump lower down in the pond.
Hardy plants (not tropical) and cold water fish can survive in a cold pond so long as they don’t freeze. The fish will go dormant, gathering near the bottom of the pond. The pump will keep the water moving, preventing it from freezing up. On warmer, sunny days, the fish may be more active near the surface.
Tropical pond plants should be removed and stored indoors.
During the winter
2. Check the pond daily.
Make sure the pump is running and there is always a hole in any ice surface that forms over the pond. Unhealthy gases can form under pond ice and poison the fish. Plus, the wildlife in your garden will rely on this fresh, moving water for hydration. It’s amazing how many animals come to drink at my pond on a cold, winter day!
3. Buy an additional recirculating pump so you have a backup in case your main pump stops working. If the temperature is below freezing, you won’t have much time to swap out pumps so always have a spare on hand.
4. Optional – You can also use a floating pond heater.
Pond heaters are electric-powered, floating plastic disks with heat coils inside.
The first time I used one, it worked really well during the winter months but I didn’t think to remove it during the spring thaw. This extra warmth caused algae to form in the water. Since then I have been more attentive (removing it as soon as the temperatures are staying above freezing in the spring) and have had no problems. My floating pond heater is at least ten years old and still going strong. Knock wood.
In the spring
When the risk of freezing temperatures is over, raise the plants back up to their usual positions, clear out any algae (I used a forked hoe), clean the pump filter (see my trick here), and the fish will take care of themselves.
Very Popular Clean Pond Trick
Winter pond care is pretty simple. If you take care to keep the water running, your fish and hardy plants should be fine when spring returns.