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Winter Pond Maintenance: Heaters or Aerators?


Winter Pond MaintenanceIn the northern climates this is a question that I hear quite often. Do I need to install fish pond water heater or pond aeration equipment? Let me begin by saying if you don’t have fish in your water garden it is not necessary to install either one. An argument can be made that one is more important than the other, however both can keep an area of the pond surface free from ice.

During the winter months your fish are still producing waste and CO2. Decomposition of the fish waste and any organic material during the winter produces harmful compounds that will rob the water of oxygen causing stress to the fish. If water toxicity levels get too high the fish could die.  When the pond is not frozen the gasses escape through the surface. Thus it is essential to keep an area in your pond free from ice. Both a fish pond deicer and a pond aerator pump have positive and negative points, so let's take a closer look at both.

FISH POND DEICER: This is the easiest way to keep your pond free of ice. The electric pond heater is designed to heat the area around it, not the whole pond. It will not change the overall temperature of the pond water. Most electric pond heaters are thermostatically controlled therefore it can be plugged in and it will work. The negative side to heaters for a pond is if it gets really cold or windy the space around the fish pond water heater can freeze over creating a dome. It's important to protect the fish pond heater from the wind, and if it gets really cold, check it often to see if it is frozen.

AERATORS for PONDS: The pond air stones do a good job of keeping a space open in the ice. Exactly what is pond aeration? A pond aeration system adds oxygen to the water column. As the air is moving through the water it allows the organic compounds that are in the water to attach and when the bubble hits the surface the gasses break apart releasing them safely into the atmosphere. The negative to pond aerator pumps is the potential for the cool air to super cool the water. During winter months, keep the air stone a foot above the bottom of the pond keeping the warmer water just below the air.  If the air compressor is out in the cold air it is transferring that cold air to the pond water. This could cause the fish to die. Consider covering the winter pond aeration system with an insulated cover or put it in a heated building.

Some pond owners use a combination of both a winter pond heater and pond aerator. Just be sure to do one or the other.  Lastly, remember a pond aerator can be used for other maintenance projects. 


Do I need to winterize a pond without fish in it? If so, what should I do. We do experience cold temps and it will freeze over in the winter. Should I drain the pond below the skimmer? Thanks!
Posted @ Thursday, January 12, 2012 3:21 PM by Steve Mazer
I'm a new fish pond owner! 
I have some floating plants 
in my fish pond (small pond) 
Do I need to remove all the 
floating plants from the pond 
during the winter months? 
Thanks Paul...
Posted @ Thursday, November 01, 2012 10:51 AM by Paul
I have an aerator in my pond however, it doesn't always keep an hole open in the pond. I often have to chip away at the ice to recreate a hole. Is this a problem with my aerator? I'm considering buying a pond heater. Can I use both in the pond at the same time? 
Posted @ Sunday, February 10, 2013 9:10 PM by Lori
The aerator is working adequately however many times the aerator can not keep up with the freezing temperatures. A pond heater is a perfect resolution for this issue and I would suggest a Thermo-Pond De-Icer with a retail value of $59.99. The heater has a circular design and a hole in the center to allow for an aerator to properly exchange the gases. Please feel free to ask any further questions you may have. Thank you.
Posted @ Monday, February 11, 2013 7:22 AM by Brandt Reynolds
Does an aerator have to run all winter, or can it be turned on when oxygen levels start to drop?
Posted @ Wednesday, March 13, 2013 9:47 AM by david
Brrrr, I am sure glad I live where I don't have to think about iced over ponds!
Posted @ Wednesday, May 15, 2013 3:14 PM by Pond Service in South Florida
I have a homemade pond and water fall, a small stream connects an upper pond w/lower pond. There is a pump in the lower pond that returns the water to the falls. It can get to -15 deg. Will my pump in the lower pond keep the pond from freezing if it is left running?
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Posted @ Wednesday, October 23, 2013 1:30 AM by paid press release distribution
where can I buy a FISH POND DEICER 
I am in thornhill on
Posted @ Monday, November 18, 2013 11:12 AM by israel
I live in Indiana. It can get down  
to zero. Do I need to drain my  
pondless waterfall, or is it okay  
to let it run? 
Posted @ Sunday, December 01, 2013 5:21 PM by Jeff Whittern
Jeff- Indiana is similar to Michigan weather so up here we recommend turning your pondless waterfall off during the winter, pull the pump and store as directed, leaving the water in the basin area until next spring when you can pump it out and start with fresh water. Read more: http://www.pondbuilder.com/Portals/90957/docs/PBD%20Fountain%20Maint%20tips.pdf 
Posted @ Monday, December 02, 2013 10:43 AM by Aaron Scarlata
How many bubbles should be come out of a lot or only a few
Posted @ Wednesday, December 04, 2013 5:45 PM by Jeff
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Posted @ Monday, February 24, 2014 4:00 AM by Buying A Portable Heater
thank you for his info, good afternoon all
Posted @ Thursday, April 10, 2014 2:38 AM by Obat Herbal Kanker Testis
My pond freezes over for a few days at a time,but our weather turns milder and it thaws.Is this freezing thawing cycle O.K. for gas escape.
Posted @ Friday, August 08, 2014 6:38 AM by Randy
I have a 1350 gal pond in North Florida. Last year I lost all but 1 Koi due to cold weather. All the heaters I find are set to kick on at 35*. Is there a heater that will keep the pond at 70*. 
Please advise
Posted @ Sunday, October 05, 2014 7:12 AM by Nancie
Nancie I wouldn't look to keep your pond at 70 degrees but rather keep a hole in the ice and aerate the water to keep gases moving up through the hole. In most cases variable water temperatures throughout a season help your ecosystem. Having a true water trough heater which is designed to heat the water not keep a hole in the ice is the type of heater you are referencing. It is not the best for any rubber liner ponds, fish ponds or potentially the pond's ecosystem.
Posted @ Friday, November 14, 2014 8:17 AM by Aaron Scarlata
I have a 1400 gal pond & I have aerator on West side of pond w/tubes sitting on plant edge for bubbling air & on the East side of pond I have a floating 1500w deicer that stays right at pond edge along w/air bubler pump next to it - the aerator has a plastic looking stone dome covering - is that enough insulation for Milwaukee Wis weather?( today 8 degrees!!)
Posted @ Monday, November 17, 2014 7:32 AM by Chris N
I kept my pontoon boat in the lake til Nov 14 in order to give my granddaughter one last wintry boat ride on her birthday. the day of the "boat ride"... we awoke to find that the 660 acre lake, which had not a hint of ice when we went to bed Friday night, had flash frozen and my boat is now stuck at our dock. Question: what "terms" do I use in order to find reasonable cost aerators and or heaters to keep the area around my boat ice free.
Posted @ Friday, November 28, 2014 1:43 PM by Tom Petit
I have the aerator pump in the garage and the humidity is around 60%. The line keeps blocking with ice as soon as the temperature go below 20°F ( -5°C). I tried putting an extra length of line on the garage floor with a small filter for powertools, hoping the humidity would condense inside...I tried increasing the output of the pump so the air would move faster along the line but it was blocked again this morning...any idea? I have a deicer running but it is not keeping a big hole, I was hoping the aerator would work
Posted @ Saturday, November 29, 2014 7:31 AM by danielle
I have a large pond, live in windsor ontario right across from detroit michigan, we were extremely lucky last year, and only lost 2 small fish, my question is this, we have a de icer and a 2 line aerator,,,, shoyld I increase to a 4 stone aerator? we have really large koi, 5 large koi and about 10 med koi. Our pond is almost 40 inches deep??
Posted @ Saturday, November 29, 2014 3:59 PM by debbie
Will my pond plants die if I don't have a pond heater? I live in MN and have iris, lily pads.... I have never let it freeze completely but my heater isn't working and I am concerned. I do not have any fish. 
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Posted @ Monday, December 29, 2014 9:35 PM by sukimens doncky
When aerator pump works the bubbles under the ice does this release gases or should the ice be broken? I keep breaking the ice and I wonder if the air bubbles still help under the ice sheet? Toronto Ontario
Posted @ Wednesday, January 07, 2015 11:50 AM by Durante
I posted a comment about an aerator pump line that kept freezing. I contacted the cie and turns out I have to keep the pump outside but protected from the elements so that the temperature and humidity is the same in the pump and the line. It has worked well since, even throught a night at -28°C / -18°F.  
To Durante: the ice needs to be absent for the gases to be released, are you sure the air bubbles are still coming out of the stone? Mine stayed open during that very cold spell last week ( I am in Montreal). I was told breaking the ice by hitting it might cause injury and death to fishes, try boiling water to open up the hole.
Posted @ Friday, January 09, 2015 10:37 AM by danielle vigeant
I have my koi outside and the water is about 35-39 degrees. I'm assuming there hibernation because I'm not feeding them and it's wnter here. One of my goldfish is alive but floats with its stomach up and can't really swim. It's a round shaped fish. Could I take him out and bring him inside? I read that feeding him thawed green peas help but question is. Is it bad to get him out of cold water and bring him in to room water temperature?
Posted @ Saturday, February 07, 2015 2:02 PM by Favian
For the Canadian looking for a heater, I just got a ThermoPond De-Icer from a company in Vineland Ontario. Ordering and shipping was GREAT.... the tanking Loonie, however gives the double whammey... still a good deal though.
Posted @ Friday, February 27, 2015 2:28 PM by Freeman
Normally, all I need to keep my Nova Scotia (zone 5a) pond open is a venturi operated by my disconnected filter pump. THIS YEAR, however, the veturi froze solid, and the pond is now covered with four separate layers of ice and snow. NEXT YEAR, I will be using a COVER, as well as the heater, and venturi until I'm certain the arctic weather won't get ahead of me!
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