Should You Keep Your Pond Running During The Winter?
Whether you should leave your pond pump running in winter or turn it off depends on your climate and the needs of the aquatic life, if any, in your pond. If you are in a region that does not get below-freezing temperatures very often, you safely can leave the pond pump running all winter. If you live in a region in which the temperature drops below freezing, most people shut down their water feature for the winter season.
Check for Ice Dams
Keeping your pond running during the frozen months of winter will allow you to enjoy the beautiful ice sculptures that form in the stream and waterfall. Although beautiful, it’s possible that the ice buildup can form dams that could divert your pond water out of the pond. Check on the waterfall and stream and monitor the water level periodically throughout the winter. If you see an ice dam forming or the water level dropping at a high rate, your pond might be losing water because of the frozen sculpture and it might be time to turn off the pump for the winter. If you decide to leave the pond running until warmer weather however, your main concern is to ensure there is enough water for the pump(s) to operate properly.
Add Water to Your Pond
During the winter months, the usual water supply options are not available. Outdoor water spigots and automatic water fill valves should be turned off to prevent pipes from freezing and cracking. Therefore, pond owners who run their systems during the winter will have to find an alternate water source to replenish their pond. Water can be supplied via a hose run from inside the house or by making multiple trips with a five-gallon bucket. Generally speaking, it’s not uncommon to have to go out a few times a month during the winter to “top off” the pond.
Check the Circulation of Water
Pump size is important when determining a waterfall’s ability to operate during the winter. A pump that provides at least 2,000 gph can be operated throughout the winter without a problem, as long as it runs continuously. Moving water will usually keep a hole open in the ice around the waterfalls and in front of the circulation system. However, repeated days in sub-zero temperatures may lead to excessive ice build-up and can cause the system to operate improperly. If the flow of water into the circulation system is unable to keep up with the pump because of ice build-up, it may be necessary to shut the system down. The system can be run again once the ice is melted and normal water flow is restored.
Be Assured of Filters and Pipes
Most good filters are constructed out of rotational-molded polyethylene, and are designed to bow and bend with the freezing and thawing effects of winter. The PVC flex pipe is reinforced and will also not crack unless water is left in the pipe over the winter and allowed to freeze. If you decide to keep the pump running all winter long, there will still be a constant flow of water traveling through the pipe, and the moving water will not freeze.
Pond Heater or Deicer
When keeping fish over the winter in pond water that will freeze, place a pond heater or deicer in the pond. It will keep a breathing hole open at the water’s surface, preventing toxic gas buildup, and it can help keep water flowing to prevent damage to the pump.
If you leave the pond pump running, watch for ice buildup where the water flows. The ice can create a dam and divert water out of the pond. If you see the ice building up, melt it by pouring warm, dechlorinated water over the ice.
The Bottom Line for Winter Pond Keeping
The bottom line for winter pond keeping is maintenance. Roughly 70 percent of pond owners in the colder climates decide to shut down their system because they don’t enjoy tending to their water garden during the bitter months of the winter. The aesthetic rewards of the winter pond are absolutely worthwhile, so by all means; don’t be afraid to keep the system running as long as possible. Shutting down a pond during winter is also an option. Just be sure you take precautionary measures to preserve fish, plant, and pump life.