The pond winterization process actually begins in fall. Once the season starts to change and leaves and needles begin to fall, pond owners should be proactive in removing or preventing as much of this debris from entering the pond as possible. Smaller ponds can benefit from applying pond netting to catch debris before it enters the pond, while lake rakes and pond sweepers such as the AquaSweep can be useful for larger ponds to help remove leaves and debris from the pond water surface.
Continued use of beneficial pond bacteria throughout the fall and winter can also help to keep water clean by naturally breaking down organic waste such as leaves, pine needles, grass clippings, fish waste and excess fish food. The bacteria remain aggressive and active in water temps above 50 degrees. As the water cools and the ponds natural biological activity slows, so do the microbes to the point of becoming dormant. Because the microbes in Pond Keeper are in a spore state, they have the ability to tolerate extreme water temperatures to the point of even freezing. Thus giving them the ability to survive throughout the winter months and provide and early boost in the spring. Throughout the fall and into the winter, feeding habits of fish must be changed as well. The cooling of water temps means the slowing of the metabolism in fish to the point where they require no food at all in the middle of winter. Fish should be fed less often throughout the fall in addition to being fed special food formulated for the fall season. The reason for this change in feeding is two fold. First reason is to prevent un-eaten fish food from settling to the bottom and breaking down causing water quality problems. The other reason is that with a slow metabolism, too much food or improper food can cause digestive problems in the fish. A good rule of thumb is that once the water temp gets below 50 degrees, you should stop feeding the fish.
In certain parts of the country freezing pond water is a major concern and an area to plan for in the pond winterizing process. If a pond is allowed to freeze over, the pond is not allowed to expel noxious gases that accumulate due to the degradation of pond waste and can lead to pollution of the pond and even fish kills. Many people will recommend you continue to run a pond aeration unit or some other means to keep water moving. This can actually lead to other problems as additional oxygen and moving water can cause hypercooling and eliminate the warmer layers of water near the pond bottom where fish congregate in the winter. If an aerator is to be used, the air pump should be insulated or housed outside of the pond so that the air pumped in is a bit warmer than the water. For ponds subject to possible freeze overs, a pond de-icer is recommended to allow for an opening in the ice where oxygen transfer can occur without disturbing the natural thermal layers in the pond.
While pond winterizing may require less effort for one pond owner than another, eliminating excess debris in the fall, reduce/ stop fish feeding and preventing pond freeze overs will help any pond owner make it though the winter and have a good start in the spring.