Spring – March, April and May
Spring is the time when your garden pond starts to come back to life. Your garden fish will start to look for food, and your plants will start to reshoot. Garden fish are at their most vulnerable during the early part of Spring where the daytime and evening temperatures fluctuate the most. On milder Spring days, it is possible to remove parts of the pond cover, if you have one to allow the suns heat to warm up the pond naturally. Once the pond water has stabilised at between 12 to 14 degrees C, it is safe to start feeding the fish. Initially they may be fed with sinking wheat germ pellets, just once, early in the day. Once they have become accustomed to eating these, gradually wean them on to wheat germ floaters and then onto a staple pellet.
Spring is also the time to ensure the filters and pipework are sludge-free and that all your equipment is in good working order. Check the lamps in UV units, valves and cartridges on tap water purifiers. Is the test kit past its sell-by date, and do you have emergency pump spares? Frost may have loosened any rocks or edging slabs, and Spring is sometimes when your filter covers need a fresh coat of wood preservative.
Test the pond water for pH, ammonia and nitrite and nitrate (this is essential for the health of your garden fish) and, if necessary conduct large partial water changes to restore acceptable parameters. Zeolite in the filter is a good temporary ammonia-remover, but cannot be used in conjunction with salt. Remember to add a dechlorinator when using tap water. This will dilute any toxins.
Summer – June, July and August
As Summer approaches it is possible to increase feeding your garden fish and offer more high protein growth foods. An automatic feeder is a great idea for those who work away from home a lot. As the water warms up during the season, the dissolved oxygen content falls, however the fish need more oxygen, so it is advisable to activate aerators and surface skimmers. Filters and pumps should be left running twenty-four hours a day during Summer. A good purchase to make now is a dissolved oxygen measuring device. Changing 25% of the water once a month during the summer months can reduce high levels of nitrate which is one of the main causes of algae problems. If you wish to empty your pond and clean it out early summer is the perfect time to do it. A pond vacuum is the ideal way to remove debris from the bottom of the pond. The fish are active and healthy, and the plants will respond well to being pruned.
It is a good time to control your blanket weed during the summer months.
If you are intending going away on a summer holiday, your garden fish will happily survive on natural food items, but it is best to have someone who knows your pond to visit regularly to check that pumps and filter are working as they should. Leave the telephone number of your vet, and a note authorising any treatment that may be necessary for your fish while you are away.
Autumn – September, October and November
As the days become shorter, the garden fish will become less active, so it is important to ensure they eat all the food as uneaten food will decompose and cause water quality problems
Continue feeding a high-protein diet to your garden fish until the first spell of colder weather or once the water temperature drops to 10 degrees C, then reverse the Spring feeding routine so that by the time the food is slowly being withdrawn, the Koi are feeding on sinking wheat germs.
As the plants start to die, Autumn is a good time to cut back the aquatic and marginal plants. Do not do this too early as many plants continue to grow right up until frost appears.
A skimmer is a useful piece of equipment to have during the Autumn months as it will collect any falling leaves. You may wish to consider purchasing a pond net to catch the leaves, as well as protecting your garden fish from predators as their metabolism slows down.
Before the onset of Winter it is worthwhile changing 25% off the water which will help to remove as much of the sediment that has accumulated over the summer as is practical. If this is not removed, fish may lie in this during the winter causing health problems. Pond pumps should be checked for damage and cleaned along with your
filtration system. If your pond has a UV clarifier this should be drained and stored in a frost free area to prevent damage caused by the expansion of freezing water.
Pond vacuuming and the cleaning of drains and filters are important during the Autumn so that the pond is free of any organic waste. Before the water temperature drops to 12 degrees C it is also a good idea to medicate the pond against parasites and check that none of the fish have any unhealed wounds, as these will not heal during the Winter and will therefore leave the fish very vulnerable the following Spring.
Winter – December, January and February
Although a few warmer days may appear during the Winter months, do not feed your fish at all at this time. Ponds should be checked daily and part water changes continued -10 per cent weekly or fortnightly. You may decide to switch off your pump, this should be removed from the pond, cleaned, dried and stored in a dry frost free area. Lag the pipework from the water purifier to prevent it icing up. Be careful when approaching the pond so as not to disturb the garden fish. Be aware of herons especially if natural waters locally have frozen over as their food supply will have been restricted. In icy weather do not allow the whole pond surface to freeze. A clever way to ensure it does not totally freeze is to float a football on the surface of the pond. If ice covers the pond it can stop the water being oxygenated and can allow a build up of toxic gases
If the pond freezes over completely it is not advisable to break the ice, as this can harm the fish. Instead, a good idea is to stand a hot saucepan on the ice to melt a hole through it.
Spring or Summer are the ideal seasons if you are building a garden pond.