Fall is the perfect time to relax by your pond and appreciate the cool weather and warm autumn colors.
It's also time to decide how you'll get your pond life through the winter.
Most fish will survive a Pennsylvania or Maryland winter with few issues if you take the proper precautions. Your pond equipment - pump, biofilter and skimmer - will also make it through with proper planning.
Start getting your pond ready for the changing seasons in early to mid September. Your fish, plants and equipment will thank you come springtime.
At a Glance: Fall & Winter Pond Prep
- Clean In and Around the Pond
- Install a Leaf Net
- Remove the Leaf Net
- Decide If You Want to Shut Down the Pond for the Winter
1. Do a Fall Cleanup
You still need to perform regular maintenance tasks for your pond throughout the fall, much like you would during the spring or summer. That means cutting back plants - especially wilting summer-bloomers - netting out excess debris and cleaning your skimmer as needed.
Feel free to do this tidying on your own, or you can hire Splash to do it for you. We provide all these services and more during our Fall Service/Leaf Net Installation visit. If you sign up for this visit, our team will
- Net out excess debris.
- Cut back aquatic plants.
- Clean out your skimmer or pump vault.
- Rinse skimmer mats/nets/basket.
- Remove and clean your pump and check valve.
- Reinstall and turn the pump back on.
- Install netting. (We can put up a net that you've used in previous years, or provide you with a new one.)
Fall service visits generally range from $549 to $989, depending on the size of your pond and whether your already own a leaf net and frame.
2. Install a Leaf Net
Now that your pond is nice and clean, you'll want to keep it that way. A leaf net will come in handy here.
Your skimmer usually does a good job of clearing debris from the pond, but the sheer volume of dead leaves in the fall can overwhelm even the best equipment. And that's a problem.
Leaves that don't make it to the skimmer will sink to the bottom of your pond, creating a layer of unattractive sludge. As all this organic material decays, it will give off ammonia. Too much ammonia in your water quickly leads to sick or dead fish, especially if your pond freezes over and prevents proper oxygenation.
This situation leaves you with two choices: religiously skim your pond manually, or install a leaf net. A good leaf net will have mesh small enough to repel shriveling leaves and sit on a dome-shaped frame that spans your pond. Leaves will bounce off the net, making for easy cleanup with a rake or leaf blower.
If you decide to install a net yourself, expect to spend $10 to $50 on the net itself, depending on the size of your pond. You'll also need to figure out how you're going to secure the net over the pond, be it with a PVC frame or something else. Prices on frames vary.
At Splash, leaf net installation is part of our fall service visit. Let us do the work so you can sit back and enjoy the last weeks of nice weather by your pond.
3. Remove the Net
Your leaf net doesn't need to stay up long. We usually take ours down around late November, or as soon as the trees have shed most of their leaves.
If the Splash service team installed your leaf net, you can either take it down yourself or have us take it down for you. Our leaf net removal service usually costs between $289 and $389, depending on the size of your pond.
4. Decide Whether to Winterize Your Pond
Should you keep your pond running all winter? It depends.
At Splash, we usually keep our pond pumps running year-round. That's because running waterfalls help oxygenate water and keep a hole open in ponds that would otherwise completely ice over. This is important because your fish still need to breathe in the winter - even after they enter their semi-dormant state for the season.
Some people, however, prefer not to worry about their ponds in the winter, or are forced to shut down because of extreme cold. In either case, winterization might be your best option.
To winterize your pond, disconnect the pump and store it in the skimmer box or a container of water in your garage. Run water through it periodically to keep everything in working shape.
You'll also need to find a way to keep your water oxygenated now that your waterfalls are off. An aerator - also called a bubbler - will usually do the trick. Aeration kits start around $60 and go up in price from there depending on the size of your pond.
You might also want a deicer - essentially a small heater - to keep a hole open in the ice. Our 300W deicer costs around $130 and can melt through about one inch of ice per hour (Your ice could end up 2 to 6 inches thick in extreme cold.)
The Splash service team can help keep your pond looking great throughout the winter, whether you decide to keep it running or not.
During our winterization service, the team will disconnect your pump and check valve assembly and install an aerator to help your fish breathe easy. Costs for this service start around $189, plus the cost of a new aerator if you don't already have one. We can also store your pump for an additional cost.
If you decide not to winterize your pond, our winter service starts around $389 per visit.
Should I Bring My Koi Inside for the Winter?
If you follow the steps above, your fish do not need to come inside during the fall or winter.
Koi and goldfish go into a semi-dormant state called torpor in the cold months, during which their activity slows and they conserve enough energy to survive frigid water. Their biological processes slow down so much, in fact, that they can't digest much food. That's why you should stop feeding your fish once the water temperature consistently drops below about 55-60 degrees.
As long as your fish can still breathe - either thanks to a running waterfall or installed aerator - they should be fine outside all winter.