In Advance of Winter
The preparation for winter starts in the fall. As the weather gets colder you should stop fertilizing your plants, and start feeding your fish less. The plants and fish will both take this as a sign of the coming change of season, and they will both start using less nutrients and storing what they do get in their bodies for later use, and excess nutrients could cause algae blooms or chemical changes within the water. You should also switch your fish to a low protein food when temperatures reach between 50-60 °F. When temperatures are low enough the fish will stop coming to the surface to feed, and you should stop feeding them. The metabolism of goldfish and koi slows considerably in cold temperatures and they will be able to survive through the winter without feeding.
Cleaning the Pond
If it’s your first winter with the pond, or you do regular cleaning and maintenance then you might not need to clean. However, if your pond needs cleaning, you will have to move your fish into buckets, filled with your current pond water. Drain the pond as you would a pond without fish, and do the necessary cleaning. Remember to make sure the chemicals you use are safe for your fish and plants. Once the cleaning is done you can refill the pond and add the amount of chlorine remover recommended on the product label for your size pond. Do not add the chlorine remover all at once; instead add small doses in fifteen to twenty minute intervals. Check the chemical compositions of the water as you normally would and compare it to that of the water that the fish are currently, to ensure that it’s within the tolerable range for your fish.
Returning your Fish to the Pond
After you’ve finished cleaning, refilled the pond, and made sure the chemical balance is right, it is time to reintroduce the fish. To reintroduce the fish take the buckets with the fish float them in the pond water. This allows the fish to gradually acclimate to the change in temperature. Next mix some of the new pond water with the buckets contents, do this three or four times over the course of a couple hours to let the fish adjust. When done, you can remove the bucket and let the fish swim free.
Even though you’re not feeding your fish, and algae is not growing your pond still need regular care. Continue to check the chemical levels as you normally would, In addition, because the fish need air during the winter, you should consider a re-circulating pump, floating de-icer, or both to make sure the fish get the oxygen they need. A re-circulating pump makes bubbles, that oxygenate the water and agitates it slightly so that it is harder for ice to form. A floating de-icer has an internal thermostat that will turn on and heat the water if it gets to cold. If you do decide to get a de-icer and the re-circulating pump, place them away from each other, as the flow of water caused by the re-circulating pump will cause the de-icer to be more active then it needs to be.
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