Reopening your pond in the spring is an exciting time. After a long cold winter, gardeners and pond owners can barely wait for spring to get here! After the ice starts to melt, the ground thaws and the cold snaps are over, outdoor gardening can start back up again! Once the pond water temperature consistently stays above 50°F, you can begin water gardening again. Follow this spring prep checklist to make sure you're ready to open your pond and prepare for a routine water gardening schedule.
Before opening up your pond for the spring, take inventory of your pond supplies, tools, and equipment to ensure you have everything you need. First, clean your pond filter and check if it needs new filter pads or UV bulbs. After, test the pump by filling a bucket with water and turning it on to ensure everything is working correctly. Then check the tubing, looking for any possible cracks or damage. You want to find any issues before spring reopening, so you have time to resolve them without risking water quality.
Tip: If you notice that the pump or filter are not functioning as usual, you may need to inspect the O-ring.
A lot of debris in the pond during the winter shutdown leads to a few potential issues in the spring when your pond life becomes more active. During the fall and winter, the goal is to make sure the pond is as clean as possible, and the fish are healthy. The good bacteria are less active during the wintertime, and any debris that enters the pond will be broken down more slowly than usual. Once springtime arrives and the weather warms up, the leftover winter debris can lead to algae blooms, poor water clarity, low oxygen levels, sick fish, and sludge.
When you reopen your pond in the spring, relocate the less hardy pond plants that were overwintering indoors. Pond plants help absorb nutrients that contribute to algae blooms. Prune any plants that have dead leaves or flowers, so the debris will not sink to the bottom and decompose. Move the plants that you overwinter in the deeper part of the pond back to their original places in the pond where they usually live.
Water quality can be an issue once the water temperature gradually warms back up. The nutrients in the pond created by the slow breakdown of debris can lead to algae blooms, cloudy water, and other water quality issues. Once the temperature is consistently above 50°F, add beneficial bacteria to jumpstart the pond's nitrogen cycle and good bacteria colonies.
You can also use a UV clarifier to help kill algae and other microorganisms in the water. Perform a water quality test to check and make sure there are no underlying water quality issues, even if the water is clear. If your pond is cloudy or has sludge buildup, follow this water treatment guide to help rebalance your pond and make it crystal clear again. If your pond has reached the point of no return and the water treatments aren't making a big difference, you can perform a total water change.
Turn the Pumps On
Once the water stays at or above 50°F, and there are no cold snaps in the forecast, you can resume normal operation of your pump and filtration system. The pumps will help keep the water circulating and help maintain the water quality. Fish are cold-blooded and become more active as the pond water temperature rises, and they'll need more oxygen in the spring than they did in the winter.
If you moved your pond aerator to the pond's edge during the winter, move it back to the deepest part of the pond. It's essential to wait until the water temperature steadily rises above 50°F before normal operation of all water features to avoid overcooling the water. If the temperatures drop again, the pond pumps and features can cause the water to circulate too quickly, and the overall temperature of the pond can drop fast, shocking the pond fish.
You can start feeding your fish again once the pond temperature is above 50°F too. During the winter, the fish's digestive systems come to a halt until the weather warms up again. They barely move, seemingly hibernating at the bottom of the pond. They'll become more active when the weather warms up and start eating more.
It's important to wait until the cold snaps are over because a sudden drop in temperature can affect the fish's digestive system. If your fish eat normally during the week but the temperature drops the following week, the food is unable to digest and can make your fish sick. There will be plenty of algae on the pond liner for the fish to snack on until the weather is consistently warming up. Follow this guide to feeding your fish in the winter.
If you had your fish overwinter indoors, they can be carefully re-introduced back into the pond once the water spring weather comes around. Adding fish to an existing pond is similar to adding new fish. Always check the water quality first and then make sure they adjust to the new water temperature. Follow this guide for help adding your fish back into your pond.
Keep your eye out for any sick fish. During the winter, a fish's metabolism and immune systems run more slowly than during the warmer months. They're more vulnerable to parasites and other illnesses. If only one or two fish are sick, you can treat them individually in a quarantine tank, but if multiple fish show symptoms, the whole pond may need to be treated.
Spring is a beautiful time of the year, full of new life and new beginnings. After the winter, we can't wait for the ground to thaw and the ice to melt on the pond so we can return to our favorite outdoor activities. When you reopen your pond in the spring, take your time and make sure you follow your checklist to minimize water quality issues and keep your fish healthy. Sometimes spring can be tricky. We think the warm weather is here, then a cold snap hits, and it's winter again. Check the weather and make sure there are no cold spells coming your way before opening your pond.