How Much Snow is Too Much Snow on a Pond?
Ponds require a bit of preparation in the fall to prepare for the wintertime, but once winter comes in cold climates, there is much less to do. The main pond task for the winter is making sure everything is running smoothly, and there are no major changes. When your pond shuts down for the winter, all of the pumps and fountains are stored away until spring, your fish do not need feeding, and everything seems to quiet down. When you're checking on your pond during the winter, it's important to make sure there's not too much snow stacking on top of the pond. How much snow is too much snow? Let's find out!
When properly prepared in the fall and early winter, overwintering a pond can be a relatively easy and straightforward process. The main focal points are your fish feeding schedule, closing down your pond, and aeration.
Feeding Your Fish During Winter
Fish are cold-blooded creatures, so as the pond cools down, so do their metabolisms. In the coldest part of winter, they will barely swim, appearing to be sleeping and feeding off their fat reserves. You can follow this fish-feeding schedule to keep your fish healthy during the winter. Read more tips for taking care of your fish during the wintertime.
Closing Down Your Pond
If the temperatures drop below freezing where you live, you may need to close your pond until spring. What does "closing your pond" mean? When you close your pond, you're shutting it down for the winter. The pumps, fountains, and other hardware are removed and stored away until the spring. The majority of the surface water is allowed to freeze. Fish can ride out the winter in deeper ponds, staying in the warmer water at the deepest parts of the pond (if the pond is deep enough not to freeze all of the way through).
Aeration in the Winter
Even though a fish's metabolism slows down in the wintertime and they're less active compared to the spring and summertime, proper aeration is still a primary focal point. Two of the most common reasons for a winter fish kill are overcooling and poor oxygenation. Overcooling is when pumps and fountains are left running during the winter, causing the warm water at the bottom of the pond to be quickly mixed with the colder water at the surface. The overall water temperature drops and causes fish to become stressed.
When the pond's surface completely freezes over, there is no way for the water to oxygenate. Normally, the gases that are a byproduct of the pond's natural nitrogen cycle are released into the air as the water circulates. This gives the pond fresh oxygen and allows these gases that are harmful to the fish to escape. If the pond is completely frozen, the gases are trapped, and no fresh oxygen enters the pond. An aerator can be moved to the edge of the pond and used (with a de-icer if necessary) to keep a section of the pond's surface unfrozen.
The Problem with Snow
Plants need sunlight to photosynthesize. The microscopic organisms and other plants in the water are essential for producing oxygen during the wintertime. When the snow starts blanketing the pond's surface, as it thickens, the sunlight cannot penetrate the water.
It's important to safely remove the snow from the pond's surface to prevent it from piling up. Ice less than four inches thick is generally unsafe to walk on. If your pond is covered with snow, it can become hard to see. People and animals can accidentally fall in and get injured.
How Much Snow is Too Much?
If you can't see the ice beneath the snow, it's unlikely the sunlight can pass through. You only need about 25 percent of the pond clear of snow for enough sunlight to allow the plant organisms to photosynthesize. Cold water holds more oxygen than warm water, so a little bit goes a long way in the winter.
When deciding if you need to get rid of the snow, look and see if at least a quarter of the pond's surface is visible. If you can't see the surface of the pond at all, or if your pond has suddenly become invisible under a blanket of snow, you need to remove the snow. As spring comes around, it's a good idea to clear as much snow as possible, as it will melt with the warmer weather and can cause the pond to become too cold or overflow.
How to Remove the Snow
There are a few ways to remove the snow from the surface of your pond. Never walk on the ice unless you're sure it can support your weight. Ice can have a different thickness along the surface of the pond. You can use a snow blower to clear the snow from the pond's surface. If you don't have a snow blower, you can manually remove the snow with a shovel, rake, or even a broom handle. Be careful not to cause too much impact on the surface ice, as the loud noises and vibrations can hurt the fish.
Once the temperatures drop and the snow starts to fall, many pond owners shut down their ponds until the spring. It's important to keep an eye on your pond and its fish to make sure everything is running smoothly. As it gets cold, make sure the aerator can keep some of the surface ice thawed, and add a de-icer if it needs a little help. When the snow falls, make sure it doesn't pile up too much on your pond. The snow blocks the sunlight, which is essential for the pond's oxygenation. If you can't see the surface ice, sunlight will likely be blocked. Giving your pond a little TLC during the winter will help keep your fish healthy and make it easier to re-open your pond in the springtime.