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Winterize Your Farm Pond

Autumn is beautiful as the leaves begin to change and people start pulling out their brightly colored sweaters. Unfortunately, all of those falling leaves can be a headache for anyone with large ponds on their property. Here are some steps you can take to winterize your pond to prevent problems this winter and next spring.

Rake up leaves and pick up limbs and any other debris. Inspect inlets and outlets for clumps of leaves or other items that can clog. Remove any sticks, leaves, brush, or dying aquatic plants from the pond. As they decompose, they contribute to the buildup of muck and nutrients, which can lead to excessive plant and algae growth in the spring. Also, when a pond freezes over and vegetation dies off under the ice cap, oxygen is depleted from the water column and may kill fish.

Aeration can prevent muck buildup, increase oxygen levels in the pond, allow toxic gases to escape, and prevent fish kills. If you decide to run your system in the winter, no winterization is needed. If you are interested in winter recreation like ice skating, ice fishing, snowmobiling, or riding ATVs on the ice, you should shut down your aeration system or fountain so that the pond freezes.

If you decide to shut a diffuse aerator down for the winter, unplug your system, disconnect the air lines, and cap the lines that lead into the pond with a plug or plastic bag. If you leave fewer diffusers in the bottom of the pond to run and keep a small hole open in the ice, move them to a shallower area so the fish can winter in the deepest area.

If you decide to remove your fountain for the winter, bring it and its power cord into a protected area. Inspect all power cords, props, and lights for damage, as rodents like to chew power cords. Don’t cover the unit, because this will make a cozy little home for these critters. Visit the Penn State Extension Water Quality website for more information on good pond management practices.

Dana Rizzo

Dana Rizzo is a water and natural resources extension educator working for Penn State Extension in Westmoreland County.