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How to Keep Pond Fish Alive in the Wintertime

American Underwater Services works on ponds and lakes nationwide. Many HOAs and golf course have beautiful ponds to enhance their appearance and in many cases those ponds have fish. HOA and golf course managers understand the added value these fish ponds bring to the property and each winter they get concerned about how to make sure their fish survive. As experts in pond cleaning, here is American Underwater Services’ advice.

Winter can be a tough time for pond owners and those tasked with their maintenance. Snow, freezing temps, and dead vegetation can make it seem like a winter wasteland. This holds especially true if your HOA, golf course, or backyard pond is stocked with fish.

It’s natural to wonder—or even worry—if your scaly underwater friends are completely dead or just hibernating for a few months. We’re going to show you what happens in a pond during the winter months and things you can do to help keep your fish happy and healthy throughout the cold season.

Fish and Winter

No matter if your pond is stocked with game fish, decorative fish (Koi), or fish to help keep nuisance insects and invasive plants in check, your pond needs to be able to maintain their life support systems.

Once the temperatures drop below 50F, your fish will start to slow down, reduce their food consumption, and essentially become dormant. This is their way of preserving energy during the cold winter months ahead.

However, just because your fish are hibernating, it doesn’t mean that they don’t need to breathe. A layer of ice across your pond can block the air/gas exchange that is so critical to supporting aquatic life. This is why you should cut a hole in the ice so that the water can receive the life-supporting oxygen the fish need to survive.

Parasites and Muck

Parasites are a fish’s worst enemy. They can cause infections, disease, and in some cases, death. During the warmer months, fish have natural defenses that help protect against parasitic outbreaks. But in the colder months, things change dramatically.

Cold and even freezing water doesn’t affect parasites as it does fish. If your pond hasn’t been dredged in a while, there is likely a massive pile of organic muck at the bottom. While your fish are comfortably resting in the water column, there’s an enormous block party of parasites living in that muck—and reproducing rapidly.

Eventually, the parasites will get tired of their dirt buffet and get a craving for some fresh seafood. A hibernating fish can’t defend itself against parasites, and they tend to accumulate rapidly during the winter months. This is why in the springtime you’ll see so many fish jumping around as they try to dislodge the parasites.

Contact us for more information on dredging your pond annually to keep this from happening.

Feeding Your Fish

You should stop feeding your fish when the water temperature reaches 55 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s at this point that they start to enter hibernation. Any food pellets thrown into the water will not be eaten and instead fall directly into the pile of organic muck at the bottom.

Even if the temperatures warm up for a couple of days, resist the urge to feed them. This is because they might start to eat, but if another freeze occurs, their bodies will go right back into hibernation. Any leftover food inside their digestive tracts will putrefy, and that could kill them.

Another reason you shouldn’t feed your fish during the wintertime is that the uneaten food can cause the nitrite and nitrate levels in your pond to explode out of control. This can lead to a big ammonia spike, which is lethal to aquatic animals and fish.

Protect Your Plants

If you have decorative plants in the pond, such as lilies and lotus, try to move them to the deepest part of the water to help prevent them from getting frozen in the water. Try to remove any floating water plants as well, as they will die when the water freezes over.

Trim any dead foliage from the plants with a pair of pruning tools. Even though they are in a dormant state, it will help prevent their systems from sending the necessary life-supporting nutrients to dead leaves and branches. Finally, try to remove as much debris from the surrounding banks and water columns as you can. This will help prevent a spike in harmful nutrients from occurring during the wintertime.

Nationwide Pond Dredging Experts

The best way to ensure the health of both your fish and your pond is to schedule a pond dredging to remove the organic debris at the bottom of your pond after the first thaw. In addition to improving the water color and quality, it can help prevent nuisance algae outbreaks from occurring during the warm summer months.

If you’d like to learn more about the benefits of dredging your pond or would like to schedule an appointment, give us a call at (817) 377-8512. At American Underwater Services, we have over 20 years of experience helping HOA’s, golf courses, and homeowners improve the health and looks of their ponds through our expert dredging services.




Anthony Di Iulio the founder, president and co-owner of American Underwater Services, Inc., started his business in 1999 with only three employees. Today this commercial diving company employs nearly 30 people and handles over 500 projects annually. Anthony moved to Fort Worth from Louisiana with his family in 1976. He worked summers during high school welding underwater for a marina on Benbrook Lake. Eventually he took scuba lessons after almost drowning on the job. Those lessons led him to training at a deep sea diving school in Houston, which included training on offshore oil rigs. Anthony spent several years in Louisiana working on offshore rigs and on inland jobs at power plants and dams before starting American Underwater Services, Inc.


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