Autumn Pond Care
As the days get shorter and the weather gets colder, you know autumn is upon us. This can be a critical time for a pond to ensure it is prepared for the winter months and is in perfect order for when spring comes back around. It is important to start this work as soon as possible, just in case the weather turns unexpectedly.
As the weather changes, the pond plants begin to die back. It is important to remove this dead vegetation as soon as possible to stop a build up of organic matter in the pond. This is also true of marginal plants and it is a good idea to cut these back to ensure nothing falls from these into the water. If this is overlooked then it can cause massive problems later on as it will cause a large chemical imbalance in the pond water, as well as create a large layer of sludge at the bottom of the pond. This removal of organic matter also goes for any leaves that have fallen in from the surrounding trees. It can be a good idea at this time of year to temporarily put a cover net over the pond to catch most of the leaves. You can also use a pond skimmer to remove debris from the surface of your pond. The last consideration is to ensure any non-hardy plants are looked after and either taken inside or covered appropriately.
As the temperature begins to drop it is important to prepare the fish in the pond to survive the winter. Once the water temperature drops below 10-12 degrees you should start to feed the fish a low protein diet. This is commonly done with a winter wheatgerm food. This is because, as the water gets colder, the fish start to shut down and hibernate. This causes the fish's metabolism to slow down and reduces their ability to digest high protein foods. They will however continue to eat any food that is given to them throughout this period. This food left undigested in the body can have harmful effects, as well as adding contaminates to the water which increase the chances of catching a disease. Once the temperature drops below 6-8 degrees then feeding should stop completely as the fish will very rarely come to the surface and have basically shut down for the winter.
Equipment: Cleaning and Maintenance
As we have discussed previously, during this period the activity of plants and fish slows down. This means that the pumps and filters used throughout the summer can also be taken off line. Once the water temperature reaches around 8-10 degrees the filters and UV units can be switched off completely, removed, cleaned and stored for use next season. As well as being a perfect opportunity to give all the equipment an annual deep clean and service, by removing them from the system, drying them and storing indoors you also prevent any frost or freeze damage.
With regards to pumps, it is common practice to raise the level of the pump within the pond so as to avoid mixing the warm pocket of water at the bottom of the pond that the fish hibernate in with the cold water at the top of the pond. When this is done it is also a great time to do the general maintenance to the pumps as per the specific manufacturer's instructions. If you do not have fish, it is a good idea to completely remove the pump, to clean, dry and store like the filter and UV units.
The final pre-winter check to do is the water quality. You can get an all in one water test kit from most aquatic shops and it only takes a few minutes. However a few minutes now will potentially save you a lot of time come the spring. An imbalance in either the nitrate, nitrite, or ammonia levels can cause a massive algae bloom in the spring when the water temperatures start to rise. There are plenty of affordable treatments for ponds which will address all of these issues.