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Winter EcoSystem Pond & Fish Care

Winter is not a time to sit back and do nothing with your pond. The beauty we appreciate across Spring, Summer, and Fall starts with proper winter care. It doesn't have to be complicated. Following are the basic steps along with some other relevant common questions. There is always more science to explore but this is enough to safely carry you and your fish through a MidSouth winter.


  • Trim all water plants’ foliage back to the crown after the first killing frost. 

  • Clean the skimmer basket and pump screening filter of debris.

  • Cover pond with pond netting during the leaf drop

  • Switch to cold water fish food when water temperatures reach 60F, then stop feeding once water temperatures fall below 50F. 

  • Empty your Automatic Dosing System refill into the pond and transition to cold water beneficial bacteria (manual pump bottle). 

  • Install a bottom aerator or floating deicer heater to keep the pond from freezing over. 

  • Install predator prevention after the leaf netting is removed. 

Koi and goldfish prefer tropical temperatures but they are fully capable of thriving in even more northern climates if properly cared for. Following are some basic practices to help take care of those slimy babies through the short, cold days of winter.


  • Do I feed fish in winter?


Throughout the year we recommend feeding your scaley friends 1-3 times per week with only as much as they will consume in 5 minutes. It is important to always use a high quality, balanced fish feed; we recommend and carry Aquascape Standard and Cold Water Fish Foods as well as Color-Enhancing feed. Once water temperatures hit 60 you should transition to a cold water fish food to meet their changing metabolisms as air temperatures continue to drop. After water temperatures dip below 50 you should stop feeding altogether until water begins warming again in the Spring. 

Cold, clear and moving waters often develop string algae. This algae is nature’s built-in cleaning agent for ponds but it is also the perfect food for fish as Spring water temperatures begin to rise. If you have heavy string algae in your pond we recommend reducing fish feeding to encourage grazing by the fish and reduce nutrients available to the algae due to increased fish waste from the feeding. 


  • Is your pond deep enough for fish in winter?


We install our ponds with a minimum of 24” depth which is adequate for over-wintering fish in our climate. If your pond is more shallow than this we would recommend a consultation with one of our team to evaluate your pond and ensure you have the best setup to reduce maintenance and maximize enjoyment. 


  • Should I break ice on my pond in winter? 


The short answer is “no”, this will encourage the pond to refreeze and leaves the ice even thicker. We recommend keeping the waterfall flowing as well as the use of bottom aerators and/or a floating heater to keep the pond ice open. We have also heard where a large jug of salt water floated in the pond will keep a hole open - this is effective only as long as temperatures don’t get too low.


If the pond freezes from side to side your fish will experience a buildup of harmful gases that could easily kill them. If a small hole remains open this allows those gasses to escape. Therefore, it’s best to keep your waterfall running along with an aerator or deicer through the winter in the Mid-South. 


  • Are my fish safe from predators during winter?


During winter, flying predators - herons, hawks, and owls have an increased visibility of those beautiful orange, red, and yellow fish we treasure. Trees have lost their leaves and aquatic plants have died back to their crowns, leaving fish exposed to hungry eyes flying overhead. While we do install leaf netting to catch the falling leaf litter it is not the most attractive thing to leave on until Spring. We recommend providing a protective fish cave as a hideaway and we have found the installation of a few strings of fishing line over the pond to be highly effective at deterring aerial predation. There are a few nuances to making this effective so give us a call if you want to know more. 

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