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by Gregg Sawyer 

November 14, 2020

If you are like most people, you shut down your water feature for the winter season. While this is a perfectly viable option for most people, some of you opt to keep your water feature running. To ensure that your pond and waterfall provide all the pleasures of a winter wonderland, be sure to follow our handy winter pond keeping tips.

1. Check for Ice Dams

If you keep your pond running during the cold months of winter, you'll enjoy the beautiful ice sculptures that form in the stream and waterfall. Although stunning, it's essential to monitor for ice dams. These are ice accumulations that can occur at the base of your waterfall during freezing conditions. So, as the pump runs, water has the opportunity to roll over this ice and ultimately out of the pond or pondless waterfall, draining your pond or water feature. If this happens, it can cause loss of fish and eventually pump failure. If you decide to leave the pond running until warmer weather however, your main concern is to ensure there is enough water for the pump(s) to operate properly.

2. Add Water to Your Pond

During the winter months, the usual water supply options are not available. Outdoor water spigots and automatic water fill valves should be turned off to prevent pipes from freezing and cracking. Therefore, pond owners who run their systems during the winter will have to find an alternate water source to replenish their pond. Water can be supplied via a hose run from inside the house or by making multiple trips with a large bucket. Generally speaking, it's not uncommon to have to go out a few times a month during the winter to "top off" the pond.

3. Check the Circulation of Water

Pump size is important when determining a waterfall's ability to operate during the winter. A pump that provides at least 2,000 gph can be operated throughout the winter without a problem, as long as it runs continuously. Moving water will usually keep a hole open in the ice around the waterfalls and in front of the circulation system. However, repeated days in sub-zero temperatures may lead to excessive ice build-up. You can add a pond de-icer to help keep a hole in the ice, or incorporate a submersible pond pump such as the AquaForce Pump or the Pond Powerhead. Both provide agitation at the surface of the pond to keep a hole open.


4. Monitor Filters and Water Flow

Most good filters are constructed out of rotational-molded polyethylene, and are designed to bow and bend with the freezing and thawing effects of winter. The PVC flex pipe is reinforced and will also not crack unless water is left in the piping over the winter and allowed to freeze. If you decide to keep the pump running all winter long, there will still be a constant flow of water traveling through the pipe, and the moving water will not freeze. It is crucial to monitor the water flow, especially when the pond or waterfall is covered in snow and ice.


5. Don't Feed the Fish

Typically around 80 percent of pond owners in the colder climates do shut down their pond. They don't enjoy tending to their water garden during the bitter months of the winter. The aesthetic rewards of the winter pond can be very much worth the time and effort. So, don't be afraid to keep the system running as long as possible.  You should stop feeding the fish once the water temperature gets below 50 degrees. Essentially, their metabolism shuts down and they will not be able to process the food.


6. Protect Your Pond Against Predators

During the winter months, pond fish are incredibly vulnerable to all types of predators. With no plant coverage, it can be susceptible to predators, mainly blue herons. There are a few tactics to employ for their protection. Your standard decoy is always an option. Herons are territorial, so another in the area will generally deter one from entering the location of your pond. It's best to reposition the decoys every week as herons are smart birds and will likely figure out they are not real if in the same position for too long.

About the author 

Gregg Sawyer

Gregg is founder/partner of Sawyer Waterscaping in Cheyenne, Wyoming. He built his first pond in his parent's backyard at age 12 and has had a passion for designing and construction natural waterscapes ever since.

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