A warm cup of cocoa while you relax beside your flowing waterfall can help take the edge off the frosty winter chill, but it may cause more stress for you – and your fish – in the long run. Before you decide to run or shut down your water garden for winter, here are a few points to consider.
- Ice Dams: In northern climates with near- or sub-freezing conditions, ice can develop and cause water to be redirected out of the pond. Ice also expands, taking up more space in the pond and making it difficult to see changes in your water level. Pumps need a constant supply of water, so if your water level drops too much and damages your pump, you will have to replace it.
- Overstrained Pump: On the topic of replacing pumps, double-check your manual on recommendations for winter use or storage, as some pumps are not designed to be used during freezing conditions.
- Big Energy Bill: Waterfall pumps can easily top $100 per month to operate. The de-icer keeping the hole open in your ice is not much better since larger wattage units can cost up to $75 a month. In contrast, aeration kits cost less than $2 per month to operate 24/7. An aerator efficiently circulates the water, allowing you to use a smaller de-icer to keep a hole open in the ice. Additionally, properly aerating a pond throughout the year will help keep your ecosystem more balanced.
- Oxygen Starved: Even in their semi-dormant state, fish need oxygen. During winter, some pond owners only use their pumps a few hours per day to cut down on the cost of running a pump. Depending on your location conditions, this practice may not be able to keep a hole open in the ice or infuse enough oxygen into the pond. Additionally, in water gardens deeper than 2', waterfalls alone will not provide aeration to the deepest depths. Lack of fresh oxygen can cause your fish to become stressed and more susceptible to disease.
Store Until Spring
We recommend storing your pump for the winter to prevent the risk of damaging your pump and not providing enough oxygen for your fish. To winterize your pump, submerge it in a 5-gallon bucket filled with water to keep the seals lubricated. Store the bucket where it will not freeze (e.g., basement, heated garage, etc.).