Winter Water Gardening: North and South


The winter months bring colder, harsher weather throughout the United States, and with them come challenges for caring for your water garden. As the season manifests itself differently in each area of the country, knowing what climate zone you inhabit helps determine what steps are necessary for winterizing and maintaining your pond. The northern half of the U.S is generally considered to extend from roughly the top border of the country through Nevada, Colorado, Kansas, Kentucky, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania. The states south of these areas will traditionally have a less harsh winter climate, and are able to follow a separate set of guidelines. No matter where you live, you can keep your pond perfectly healthy through the winter by cleaning it and monitoring your equipment.

In the northern zones, winter temperatures tend to be much cooler than in the south. In addition, the area often receives more snow, ice, and wind. The cold, dry air at this time of year can evaporate some of your pond water, supercool it, or create instability in its temperature. The best way to prevent this is to build the pond away from the prevailing wind direction. If the pond is already built, add fencing or build a wall to protect it from the wind. This also keeps debris from blowing into the pond, for less organic waste. In the southern zones, the warmer temperatures affect the water much less. However, as the leaves of the trees remain viable longer, ridding the water feature of leaf litter and other organic debris is much more important.

Preparing your fish for their dormancy and ensuring they are healthy will help them thrive for another year. As the water cools in all regions, the fishes' metabolism begins to slow. When the water temperature drops between 60 and 55 Fahrenheit, fish should be fed a low protein diet. Once the water temperature reaches between 45 and 40 Fahrenheit, no matter your zone, stop feeding your fish. At this temperature, their body processes slow drastically, making it difficult for them to digest food or swim. Even in the southern zones, the fish will slow naturally, and thus require a break from their normal feeding routine.

In southern zones, the surface of a pond will likely not freeze. In these cases, running your pump year round is a fantastic way to keep the water aerated. Disconnecting the pump from your clarifier or filter and placing it at the bottom of the pond can keep your water moving without stressing the equipment too much. This is also a great time to check other equipment, such as the filter, skimmer, clarifier, and particularly the UV bulbs. As this climate requires running the instruments longer, monitoring their use and wear will ensure your pond is in great condition. For northern climates, where the pond surface is likely to freeze, disconnecting the pump and removing it from the feature is often suggested. Ice can be a hazard in the north for both the fish and for the pond itself. Ice shifting can cause holes to form in your liner, and a frozen over pond will seal toxic gasses in with your fish. A pond deicer or breather can help keep your fish healthy by releasing those gasses without the danger of trying to keep a pond pump in the water. The time your equipment spends out of the pond is a great opportunity to examine it for any wear or damage. Inspecting your tubing, plumbing, and liner at the end of the season will help ensure an easier spring as well.

Each area of the United States faces different weather challenges. By monitoring your pond and adequately caring for it each season, no matter your climate, you can easily keep it beautiful and functional for years. BestNest has a wide selection of pond maintenance products available in our Water Gardens department. For more personalized assistance, please call one of our customer service representatives toll free at 1-877-562-1818 or internationally at 1-513-232-4225 from 9 AM to 5 PM Eastern Standard Time Monday through Friday.