Fall and Winter Care for Your Koi and Ponds

Winter scene at Brenda and Charlie Atwell's home in the Atlanta area.
Winter scene at Brenda and Charlie Atwell’s home in the Atlanta area.

As the leaves start to drop and the temperature begins to fall, it’s time to think about how to care for your koi and koi pond.

Preparing the Pond for Fall

Leaves are one of the biggest nuisances for a koi pond in fall. To keep the leaves from getting into the pond, a useful tool is a pond net. Cover the entire pond with this net to catch any falling leaves. Leaves in the pond can be troublesome. If the pond has a bottom drain, the leaves could clog the drain. If the leaves make it to the filter, then there will need to be an increase in filter cleaning to remove the leaf matter. For ponds without bottom drains the leaves need to be manually removed. If the leaves are not removed from the bottom of the pond, as the leaf matter decomposes the water will be toxic to the koi.

Preparing the Koi for Fall

An important tool for your pond is a thermometer. Every pond will cool down and warm up at a different rate. The gallons of the pond, the surface area of the pond, the amount of shading around the pond are a few factors that take part in the ponds temperature.

At this time, if you do not heat your pond, we do not recommend adding new koi to your pond this season. For those must have Koi, we offer winter boarding for your Koi until your pond is ready to receive them in spring.

As your pond falls to around 60°F, you should change your koi food from their summer growing to a fall wheat germ food. This food will help clean out the koi’s digestive system in preparing them for their winter dormancy.

By having healthy koi and a healthy pond as winter approaches, you will be more likely to have healthy koi when spring arrives next year.

Winter Care for Your Koi

Winter time can be a stressful time for a koi owner. The pond is “closed” down for the season, feeding has stopped and the koi are dormant. The owner has to wait until spring to verify that all their koi are happy and health. But, a few simple steps can help assure that the koi will have a nice, easy winter.

Preparing Your Koi for Winter

An important tool for your pond is a thermometer. Every pond will cool down and warm up at a different rate. The gallons of the pond, the surface area of the pond, the amount of shading around the pond are a few factors affect the ponds temperature

Thru the fall, you koi should have been moved onto a wheat germ based food to clear their digestive system for the winter. Once your pond water reaches 50°F, feeding of the koi should stop. As the water continues to cool, the koi goes into dormant phase. Dormancy is when a koi run on a low metabolic rate. Due to the koi is a cold blooded species, when in cold temperature they have a low energy need. To support their energy need during this time, they use their stored fat they gained over their summer feeding.

Warm winter days may cause your pond to warm up and the koi start to show activity. Do not be tempted to feed. Their bodies are still running at a low metabolic rate and they are unable to digest any food they would eat. Wait until spring to begin feeding the koi.

”Closing” Your Pond Down for the Winter

There are many have different preferences when it comes to shutting the pond down completely for the winter or to let it stay running. It really comes down to the individual pond.

If you have plumbing exposed to freezing, the best thing is to shut the filter down and empty the pipes. If your pipes are frost proof, then it is possible to keep the pond circulating thru the winter.

If you have a waterfall, running the water over the fall can chill the water further as it enters into the pond. As well, ice build up on the falls can cause diversion of the water as it flows down the fall over the side and possibly drain the pond. The best option is to bypass the waterfall for the winter and have the water enter the pond just above the surface to agitate the surface of the water. This will help keep the surface of the pond from freezing.

To keep the surface of the pond from freezing, keep the surface water moving by the incoming water, using air stones or a floating deicer. By keeping an opening in the surface is important for exchange of gases, releasing toxic gases and taking in oxygen.

Most important is to have your koi go into winter in good health, with good body weight and parasite free. It is the best way to ensure that they come out of the winter season happy and healthy.

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