Fall Maintenance

Quick Look

Water Temperature Guide

70 degrees (21°C) and above: Business as usual
This is your “normal” fish feeding routine for warmer weather. Feed your fish up to four times a day, with their regular high protein food.

60-70 degrees (15.5°C-21°C): Slowing down
It’s time to start feeding a little less as fish metabolisms begin to slow down. Feed only one to two times a day, making sure there is no leftover food. Trim any brown leaves on plants.

50 to 60 degrees (10°C - 15.5°C): Get ready for cold water
Start to incorporate cold water fish food, or add in wheat germ. Wheat germ is easily digestible and full of nutrients and will help with the transition. It might be time to cut back your plants for overwintering.

Under 50 degrees (10°C): Getting ready
Fish do not require food when the water temperatures go below 50 degrees, as their bodies will no longer metabolize it. It's time to remove cold-sensitive plants and move them indoors, or dispose of them properly.

Under 40 degrees (10°C): Winter time!
Any water features that circulate the water should be removed before the pond's water temperature drops to 40°F. If your system freezes with water inside, your pump can be damaged and tubing can crack. You can choose to overwinter fish in the pond as long as there is a hole for air and your pond isn't at risk of freezing solid. All plants should be stored underwater, indoors, or disposed of.


Keeping your pond aerated in the fall and winter is essential. The beneficial bacteria that break down debris in your pond need oxygen to survive. When there's not enough aeration, the bottom of the pond tends to lose oxygen first, killing off the good bacteria. The bacteria cannot break down the debris and sludge that sinks to the bottom of the pond, and the bad bacteria (that don't need oxygen) take over and release harmful gases in the process. 

During the winter, an aerator keeps the water oxygenated and also keeps a section of the ice open so that the harmful gases can escape. If your pond is deep enough not to freeze all the way through, you can overwinter your fish in the pond if using an aerator. Move the aerator to the edge of the pond and monitor it during the freezing temperatures to make sure a section of the ice is kept open and unfrozen.


Pond filtration systems are designed to filter out small pieces of debris like fish waste, not leaves. Mechanical filtration uses filter pads to catch the bits of debris as they pass by. Leaves are too big to pass through and end up clogging the filter and possibly stopping water from passing through. This can put a strain on the pump, which can cause the pump to wear faster. If the leaves clog the filter entirely and no water passes through, it can cause damage to the pump.

smartpond® pond pumps have pre-filtration built-in to protect the pumps from large debris like leaves, which is extra important in the fall. Pre-filtration stops the leaves from clogging the pump, acting as a barrier between the debris and the filter. You can easily clean out the pre-filtration as needed, removing the debris. Having prefiltration on your pond pumps during the fall protects your pumps from debris and helps the pump last longer. smartpond® premium pumps include pre-filtration filter boxes.

TIP! Perform regular cleaning and maintenance, and replace filter pads yearly for best results.

Fish Care

During the fall, you should plan your winter strategy. If your pond is deep enough, you can overwinter your fish in the pond, shutting it down and letting the surface ice freeze over (but always keeping a section of the ice open). Fish can alternatively be relocated indoors in temporary tanks during the winter. 

Fish metabolisms and digestive systems slow down in the late fall and during the winter, almost stop completely. They barely swim and do not need to eat during the peak time of winter.

Fish become more vulnerable to stress and illness during the fall and winter as their immune systems are less active. Water quality is important for fish health, especially during this time of the year. Keeping debris from decaying and forming a layer of sludge at the bottom of the pond will help the water stay oxygenated and free of harmful byproducts of decomposing leaves like ammonia and nitrites.

General care

Test Water – Always test the water to see what water treatments, if any, are required.

Feeding – When water temperatures drop below 50°F, stop feeding fish.

Water Treatments – Use Sludge Remover to help clear sludge at the bottom of the pond to help keep fish healthy.

TIP! If only one fish has any symptoms of a serious illness, you can always isolate the fish and treat it separately, so the illness doesn’t spread.

Nutrient Loads

In the fall, your pond must be as clean and debris-free as possible to get ready for overwintering and winter shutdown. The bacteria are less active in the winter and do not break down debris as efficiently. The poor water quality makes it easier for fish to get sick, as their immune systems are already weakened. When you reopen your pond, high nutrient loads in fall create the perfect conditions for spring algae blooms. 

It's important to remove debris that enters the pond before it can settle to the bottom. Remove leaves daily or install your own DIY pond net. If leaves settle to the bottom of your pond, you can remove them manually or use a water treatment like a sludge remover.

Sources of Nutrients in the Fall

• Leaves

• Uneaten Fish Food

• Lawn and Plant Clippings

TIP! If you’re disposing plants, make sure they’re not invasive or prohibited in your area.

Winter Maintenance

Continue learning about seasonal maintenance.

Learn More

Fall Pond Maintenance

Once the weather starts getting crisp, the leaves begin to change color, and you know that fall has arrived. Fall leaves are beautiful, but they can wreak havoc on your pond if they sink to the bottom.