A: This time of year, aquatic plants are tough to find in backyard ponds. Cold temperatures and fewer hours of sunlight make all the lush greenery die off or go dormant for the winter -- and that leaves your fish high and dry and without any protection from hungry predators, like raccoons, herons and passing coyotes.
The lack of lily pads, hyacinth leaves and other plant cover also means more sunlight will penetrate the water. All those rays can lead to algae blooms and poor water quality, which is not something your hibernating fish will appreciate.
So how do you protect your finned friends from hungry bad guys during the sparse winter months? Here's what we recommend.
- Create fish habitats: Because fish will naturally hide in crevices between rocks and other sunken debris, replicate that environment by creating fish habitats and caves. Prop up some slate slabs to make a fabricated lean-to. Build extra hiding places with clever rock placement. Provide an ecosystem that will encourage them to do what's natural.
- Install fish shelters: In the winter, fish will intuitively head to deeper water where it's warmer and safe from claws, paws and beaks. But to add another layer of protection -- particularly if your pond isn't that deep -- give them plenty of sheltering options. Install a Koi Kastle or two. Lay down some empty flower pots or short lengths of 4-inch PVC pipe. Give your finned pals plenty of options to hide, just in case predators stop by the pond.
- Crank on your aeration system: As your aeration system bubbles and infuses oxygen throughout the water, it creates water surface movement that can help camouflage your fish from overhead predators. The aerator will also keep the water churning, and create a hole in the ice for gas exchange. If it's not running already, now's the time to crank it on!
Until your plants start growing again, keep your fish safe and sound with these simple steps – and do it before the frigid temperatures really kick in.