What do you really mean when you say fish are “dormant” for the winter? Do they sleep? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

10 Feb

Q: What do you really mean when you say fish are “dormant” for the winter? Do they sleep?

Q: What do you really mean when you say fish are “dormant” for the winter? Do they sleep?

Diane – Wells, ME

A:  When the days shorten and temperatures drop, koi and other pond fish enter into what’s called torpor, or a period of decreased physiological activity that allows them to save energy. They don’t sleep the winter away, but they do essentially hibernate—their metabolism slows, they require less food, their activity level drops and their body temperatures reduce.

How do they know they need to hibernate, and what can hobbyists do to make their finned friends’ winter torpor restful? Read on to learn more.

Mother Nature’s in Charge
Fish don’t use calendars to decide when to take their winter snooze. Instead, they follow Mother Nature’s lead. Because fish are cold-blooded, their metabolism reacts to the external environment. When the water temperature falls, so does their activity level: Their appetite dwindles, they digest food more slowly, and they expend less energy. In the spring when temperatures warm back up, the fish will naturally come out of their torpor. They’ll start to seek out food as their metabolism increases, and they’ll become active once again.

Suspended Animation
You’ll know when your fish go dormant. They won’t lie down on the pond’s bottom or curl up in their cozy Koi Kastle, but they will float upright, tuck in their fins and remain suspended in the water. As the fish hover there, you may still see some super slow movement, and they may also wind up facing in the same direction as if they were heading somewhere at less than a snail’s speed.

Sweet Dreams, Koi!
Here are four ways to give your koi a peaceful winter rest:

  1. Set up an aeration system to keep the water pumped full of oxygen. Even though they’re hibernating, your fish will still need some fresh O2.
  2. Install a de-icer to keep a hole open in the ice and allow for gas exchange. If the pond freezes over, use warm water to reopen a hole; do not bang on the ice to crack it, as doing so can stress your fish.
  3. Keep as much debris out of the pond as possible to prevent muck buildup over the winter.
  4. Let the fish be. Don’t try to get them to move or swim or wake up from their slumber. Keep an eye on them, but leave them alone until they wake up on their own.

Pond Talk: Have your fish started hibernating yet?

Vent Harmful Gases All Winter - Airmax® PondAir™ & Thermo-Pond De-Icer Combo

 

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How large of a hole will an aeration system keep open in the ice? I like to keep open water for ducks. | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

16 Dec

Q: How large of a hole will an aeration system keep open in the ice? I like to keep open water for ducks.

Q: How large of a hole will an aeration system keep open in the ice? I like to keep open water for ducks.

Mark – Concord, VT

A: No doubt those ducks will appreciate some open water in the winter, and an aerator is the best way to keep that hole open for them. Many factors will affect the hole’s size and how long it will remain open, but here are three important points to consider:

  1. Size of the System: Larger aeration systems will move more water, and all that water movement will create a larger hole that will stay open longer. If you want a bigger open area, consider a beefier aeration system.
  2. Depth of Water: Water depth matters, too. An ice-free open area in deep water is more difficult to maintain than one in shallow water, where there will be more water movement at the surface. If possible, plan your open water in the shallow areas of your pond.
  3. Weather: Mother Nature has her say, too. When it’s cold and windy, it’ll be more difficult to keep that opening ice-free. In fact, frigid temperatures can restrict the hole down to a couple of feet or less! But when the weather warms up, the hole can open to areas of 10 feet or more.

Ideally an aeration system should be matched to your pond’s size and shape, and run all season. Diffusers can then be moved to shallow water for the ducks during winter. Simply place the diffusers evenly across a small area in the shallow part of your pond so they can work together to keep a larger area open. Watch the video below for tips on installing Airmax® Aeration Systems:

This winter, those lucky ducks will have a place to float!

Pond Talk: What kinds of birds visit your pond in the winter?

Maximum Shallow Water Circulation - Airmax® Shallow Water Series™ Aeration Systems

 

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