Winterizing Your Pond in 10 Steps

Backyard pond in winter with openings on frozen surface, indicating pond has been winterized correctly

Although the winter months mean temporarily leaving beloved gardens and backyard escapes behind, it’s important to take some time to winterize your pond. Set aside some time over a fall weekend before the weather turns chilly. When the warmer weather returns, you’ll be happy you did! Winterizing your pond guarantees a healthy environment for both plants and fish. Here are 10 steps to follow.

Step 1: Drain your pond

Drain your pond down to just below the shelf (approximately half the depth of your pond). This allows for easier access to plants, especially lilies and oxygenators on the bottom of the pond. At Aquatic & Garden Decor, we carry a utility pump to which you can attach a garden hose. This works very well for this step.

Step 2: Remove all oxygenating plants

Remove the oxygenating plants from the bottom of the pond. Lay these plants in your yard and rinse with fresh water to clean them up. Then, store them in a bucket of clean water until plants are ready to be returned to the pond.

Step 3: Remove all potted plants

Remove all potted plants, including water lilies, from the pond. Clean the pots by trimming the roots that have grown out of the pots and pull away all debris that has collected around each pot. Please refer to our plants page for winterizing instructions for specific plants.

Step 4: Turn off the drain pump and remove

When the water has drained to just below the shelf (approximately 1/2 the depth), turn off the drain pump and remove it from the pond. Remove any loose debris, leaves, sludge, etc. from pond shelves and hose down the sides and shelves of the pond. Do not scrub and scour. Hose any muck or debris from your pump.

Step 5: Drag pond net slowly across the bottom of the pond

Using a pond net, slowly drag it across the bottom of the pond to remove as much thick debris, leaves and sludge as possible. If you move the net slowly enough, your fish will naturally swim away from it. If you accidentally catch one, simply pull it out of the net and place it back in the pond.

Step 6: Place clean and winterized plants in the correct location

After the pond is cleaned, place cleaned and winterized plants in the correct location per our plants page (link to plants page). Trim all of the nicest, greenest oxygenators (discarding the rest) and bunch all of the stems together. Place them on the bottom of the pond tied to a rock or weights.

Step 7: Refill pond with fresh water

Now begin refilling the pond with fresh water. While your pond is filling, clean your water pump. Larger waterfall pumps that are deeper in the pond where the water will not freeze can remain in the pond for winter. Smaller pumps located on shelves or in shallow water should be removed and stored inside for the winter in a container of water. The water prevents the seals from drying out.

Please remember: We do not recommend running your pump in the winter if you do not have fish. The water could freeze and break the pump. Also, as the perimeter of the pond and/or waterfall freezes, the ice can divert the moving water in the center out of the pond, thus draining it! Pumps should remain off during the winter months unless you have aquatic life. If that is the case, keep a hole in the center of your pond to allow for toxic gasses to escape.

Step 8: De-chlorinate the water (fish ponds only)

As you continue filling the pond, if you have fish, you must use a de-chlorinator to remove all chlorine and chloramine from the water. The de-chlorinator available at Aquatic & Garden Decor is safe for aquatic plants. Always read and follow the directions on the package.

Step 9: Maintain an opening on the surface of the pond during winter months

During the winter months, it is recommended that an opening on the surface of the pond is maintained. This will allow gases harmful to fish to escape and oxygen to enter. The best way to accomplish this is by using a water garden aeration kit. They are extremely energy efficient and offer year-round benefits to your pond and its inhabitants. A thermostatically controlled floating pond deicer can also be used. Please be advised that an aerator or deicer is not a substitute for properly cleaning and winterizing your pond.

Step 10: Place netting or a screen over the surface

In order to keep falling leaves and other debris out of your pond during the winter, place a piece of netting or a screen over the pond. Stretch it tightly and anchor the edges with rocks, bricks, etc. It is also a good idea to place a few pieces of wood, rigid PVC pipe, etc. across the pond, under the netting, to prevent the netting from sagging into the pond.

Your pond is now winterized! Rest easy knowing your plants and fish are happy and healthy, and your pumps are operating efficiently. In the meantime, stay warm and dream of the warm spring months ahead.

All products and accessories discussed in this tip sheet are available at Aquatic & Garden Decor. Stop by or contact us today!

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