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Winter Pond Maintenance: How To Save Your Pond From Winter

Keeping Your Pond Safe And Secure As It Starts Freezing During Our Des Moines Winters

Winter pond maintenance for Des Moines and Iowa, in general, should be to clean and shut down your pond. This includes only feeding fish cold water food, removing leaves and debris, trimming plants, adding cold water bacteria, shutting down the waterfall, and installing an aerator and floating de-icer. You can leave your pond running over winter but you will need to keep a close eye on it to make sure ice dams don’t cause water to start flowing into your yard.

Winter pond maintenance keeps this pond alive during the freezing season
Winter pond maintenance keeps this pond alive during the freezing season

Winter pond maintenance for Des Moines and Iowa, in general, should be to clean and shut down your pond. This includes only feeding fish cold water food, removing leaves and debris, trimming plants, adding cold water bacteria, shutting down the waterfall, and installing an aerator and floating de-icer. You can leave your pond running over winter but you will need to keep a close eye on it to make sure ice dams don’t cause water to start flowing into your yard.

Let’s get a closer look as Nick and Nancy have their pond shut down for winter.

While this process is the real one we follow, the client characters and all dialogue are fictional and not meant to represent any person(s).

Protecting Your Pond From Winter’s Icy Fingers

“But if it freezes they’ll all die!”

Nancy looks at Nick worriedly, not sure how he’ll respond. She knows he likes the pond but maybe not enough to do more than the bare minimum to keep it looking nice.

Pond starting to freeze over during winter

“They won’t die Nan-” “Yes they will how could they not when the water’s going to freeze all the way through and turn them into fish-cicles and then we’ll have a bunch of poor dead fish unthawing in our backyard when spring starts warming up everything,” Nancy gushes with tears in her eyes.

“I looked it up, dear. This is your first year with pond fish so it makes sense why you’re so worried,” Nick begins. “I was worried about you so I looked up how to care for ponds and fish over winter.”

“You did,” Nancy sniffs, wiping tears from her eyes. Nick hands her a tissue as he wraps an arm around her, “Yes, and I’ll show you exactly what I found so you can relax, ok?”

You can see the steps to winter pond maintenance that Nick found in this video:

Nancy nods as Nick gently sits her down in front of their computer to show her the winter pond maintenance steps he found.

Winter Pond Maintenance In 7 Steps

  1. Stop Feeding Fish Unless Using Cold Water Food
  2. Remove Leaves And Debris
  3. Trim Aquatic Plants
  4. Add Cold Water Bacteria
  5. Clean And Remove Pump, Filter, and Skimmers
  6. Install Aerator/Recirculating Pump
  7. Add Floating De-icer
Pond protected due to winter pond maintenance

Winter Pond Maintenance In 7 Steps

Pond protected due to winter pond maintenance
  1. Stop Feeding Fish Unless Using Cold Water Food
  2. Remove Leaves And Debris
  3. Trim Aquatic Plants
  4. Add Cold Water Bacteria
  5. Clean And Remove Pump, Filter, and Skimmers
  6. Install Aerator/Recirculating Pump
  7. Add Floating De-icer

“But what does this have to do with caring for fish during winter, won’t they freeze with the water?” Nancy asks. 

If your pond is at least 2 feet deep your fish will be fine over the winter because only the top of the water will freeze. They basically start hibernating, which means they don’t need food, just a hole in the ice so they can get fresh air. 

“Oh, ok. I didn’t know that” Nancy admits, calming down. “What’s the importance of all these winter pond maintenance steps anyway?”

You want to basically stop feeding your fish around 50° Fahrenheit. Their digestive system slows down so much that if they eat, the food can get stuck in their digestive system and leave them with a bellyache for months.

“Oof,” Nick remarks, “I can’t imagine having my stomach hurting like that for that long. Stop feeding the fish at 50° F, check.”

Pond with leaves covering it looks in need of fall pond maintenance

The leaves and debris need removing because over winter they break down, releasing gases into the water. It also makes spring pond maintenance services easier. But these gases can be trapped with your fish unless you use a de-icer to form a hole in the water.

“Looks like we’ll need a de-icer for our fish then, hon” Nancy points out. “I’ll get right on it,” Nick replies.

Trimming aquatic plants helps keep their growth in check so your pond keeps looking good. The cold water bacteria help balance your pond water, keeping it clean, clear, and quality.

“Add that to the list too, please,” Nancy requests.

You have 2 options for the next step: shut down your pond or leave it running. Shutting it down involves turning off the water along with removing and cleaning pumps, filters, and skimmers. You will have to keep a close eye on your water feature if you leave it running over winter. Don’t want ice dams spraying water into your yard all winter.

“I vote for shutting it down,” Nick says decisively. “I don’t mind as long as my fish are going to be ok,” Nancy agrees.

Using aerators to form a hole in the ice for winter pond maintenance

The aerator and de-icer both serve an important function: keeping a hole in the ice. Breaking a hole in the ice can hurt your fish, like if you’re dead asleep and all of a sudden a giant fist crashes through your ceiling (scary, right?)

“Well it looks like our shopping list just got a little longer,” Nancy sighs. “Or,” Nick says, “or we can hire a pond contractor to winterize our pond.” Nancy pauses for a moment before saying “If you’re willing to pay for it then that would be amazing, honey!”

“We’re already on a pond contractors website, so let’s start with their winter pond maintenance services page and go from there.”

The couple continues to look for a pond contractor to come prepare their pond for winter so their fish and pond can stay healthy and protected.