How to Drain Your Pond for Winter
To Drain or Not to Drain?
Whether or not you need to drain your pond depends on a few different factors. The depth of your pond will be the difference between your pond freezing all the way through, or only accumulating surface ice. This depends on where you live, of course. Another determining factor is if you are overwintering fish and plants in your pond.
If your pond is deep and only the surface freezes, the bottom will stay warm enough for your fish and hardier plants to overwinter, as long as you keep a portion of the ice open for oxygenation. Shallow ponds may freeze completely, making the pond uninhabitable for your fish and pond plants. You'll want to drain your pond and move the fish and plants to an indoor tank instead.
How to Drain Fish Ponds
If you have fish in your pond, it's essential to take extra care when relocating them to avoid any stress. Start draining the pond before moving the fish, and use the pond water for the indoor tank. Tap water has high chlorine levels and other contaminants and may be a different temperature than your pond.
Drain the water until the fish have just enough room to swim. This will make catching your fish with a net easier, preventing injury and stress from chasing them around the pond.
The indoor tank home will need aeration and filtration to maintain oxygen levels and water quality. After you use the pond pump to drain the pond, lightly clean it with water and a brush if needed and move it to the indoor tank. Add beneficial bacteria and perform routine water quality checks to regulate levels of ammonia and nitrites.
Water quality issues can quickly pop up in this temporary winter home due to excess food and waste in the smaller environment. You may need to use a cover for the indoor tank, too. Koi, in particular, are good jumpers and may try to escape due to the stress of being in a new environment.
The pond water is nutritious and healthy for your garden and other plants. You can drain the pond into barrels and use them for watering your plants throughout the week or discharge the pump water into different points in the garden. Ideally, place the discharge hose downhill from the pond to make the pump work less hard. Remember to change the discharge locations in the yard to prevent flooding.
Draining with a Submersible Pump
When using a submersible pump to drain your pond, place it at the deepest point of the pond. Add a discharge hose to the pump and place the outtake in the garden, where you want the pond water to flow. When the water level reaches the top of the submerged pump, turn the pump off and scoop out the rest of the water and debris with a bucket.
Draining with an External Pond Pump
You can use an external pond pump to drain your pond by placing the intake hose at the deepest part (you may need to add an extension to the hose) and the outtake hose outside the pond where you want the water to discharge. Once just a few inches of water are left, use a bucket or pond vacuum to scoop out the rest of the water and debris to prevent clogging. Make sure you've caught all of your fish beforehand.
Pond vacuums are designed to remove sludge and debris from the bottom of the pond. They're great for cleaning a pond and also draining it. The pond vacuum sits outside the pond, efficiently removing the water and debris. It filters debris into sludge canisters that you'll need to empty. Add a discharge hose and place the outtake in the garden or a water barrel. Use the suction wand to remove debris and water from your pond, starting at the deepest point.
When to Manually Scoop
If you don't have a pond vacuum or wet-dry vacuum, once the pond is down to just a few inches of water, if there is debris and sludge, it's best to use a bucket to scoop out the rest of the water. Leaves and debris can clog pond pumps.
Storing Water Features and Pumps
It's essential to store your water features like your fountain and waterfall pumps, tubing, and pond pump indoors for the winter. If your fish are overwintering in your pond, you only need an aerator and possibly a de-icer.
Remove the pumps and tubing before the first freeze. When water freezes, it expands. The expanding ice can cause damage to your pumps and tubing. Clean and perform regular maintenance on the pumps, filters, and tubing, and store them indoors for the winter. Storing your pumps in bucks of clean water will help maintain seal quality.
Deciding whether or not to close down your pond for winter depends on where you live and how extreme your winters can be. If you live in an area that doesn't snow, you may be able to keep your water garden active all year round. Larger ponds may only freeze on the surface and can overwinter pond fish and aquatic plants. You may need to drain your smaller ponds for winter because the pond will freeze completely. You can move your pond fish and plants into an indoor tank until the outdoor pond is ready to be reopened in the spring.