As the colder months draw closer and closer, many of you who are relatively new to pond keeping may be wondering "What can I do to take care of my pond during the winter months?" That's where we can help!
In the months between October and December each year lots of trees surrounding the pond will start to loose their leaves for the winter season. If these leaves drop into any ponds and start to decay this can encourage rapid algae growth (which in excessive amounts can potentially harm any fish that may be living in the pond). The best way to avoid this happening is to use a net to cover the pond during the autumn/winter season as this will catch any leaf litter and stop it falling into the water.
You should also be checking your pond plants for decaying leaves. Pond plants, like any other plants, will go through growth periods and can often lose leaves too. Giving these leaves a trim in the colder months can stop these leaves from falling into the pond as well and again stops excess debris and nutrients from feeding algae over the winter. At this point you can also look to split some of your larger pond plants to aid in fuller growth in the new season (you can also thin out your oxygenators too to enhance their growth as the lighter days come back in in the spring time).
Towards the frostier months more sensitive or tender pond plants should be brought into a greenhouse or other means of frost-free storage to keep them healthy over the winter period.
The autumn months are also a great time to try and remove as much pesky blanketweed and duckweed from the pond as possible as there will not be as much direct sunlight to help them grow. Blanketweed can be removed with a net or long pole, and then disposed of in a garden waste or compost bin. Duckweed can also be removed with a net and disposed of in the same way.
Barley straw bales (or pads within the pond's filter) which were added to the pond to help prevent algae growth can now be removed and composted. We would recommend doing this cautiously and leaving the bale out at the side of the pond for a day or two before composting to allow any water insects living within it to exit and find their way back to the pond safely.
In order to make sure your fish have the best chance at over wintering you'll need to make sure your water is kept topped up to a good level to provide plenty of depth for the fish to dive further down and keep themselves warm. During the warmer weather water can evaporate so as the weather starts to cool again you may find that you will need to top your pond up again with some conditioned water.
Once the colder weather hits we recommend to cut back on feeding your fish as they will be conserving energy by staying warm at the bottom of the pond. Using fish foods which contain wheatgerm during chillier months are recommended as they are easily digested by the fish as they are low in proteins.
Be cautious and watch the pond over the winter months as there can be birds such as heron waiting for their opportunity to catch themselves a tasty meal from your pond. You can prepare for this by setting up heron-deterrents to protect your fish. There are lots of different products available on the market nowadays to help keep the heron at bay such as lasers, rotating ornaments, nylon strings, and heron alarms. These are a worthwhile investment if you are housing larger, more expensive fish.
As with any body of water, ponds can freeze over. If this happens we recommend to create a hole for oxygen to get into the pond using the bottom of a hot saucepan to melt the ice. Do not smash the ice on the surface of the pond as this can stress or potentially harm your fish below. You can prevent your pond freezing over by adding a pond heater which can help keep the water at a stable temperature during the cold winter months (especially if you live in the highlands of Scotland).
There is so much to be getting up to around the pond during the winter season that it'll be summer again before you know it. If you have any questions or concerns over the winter period about your pond or outdoor fish please pop into your local store as our staff will be more than happy to help.