Caring for Pondfish and Water Garden Ponds in Winter
When you have finished building a water garden pond and everything in your pool has settled down and is being sensible, you can sit back and enjoy it, with merely the odd scattering of fish food to see to, and the removal of over enthusiastic inhabitants or unwelcome visitors, who have just ‘dropped in’, as it were.
Keeping Pondfish Healthy
However, in the winter, you will I have to take some steps to keep the pondfish healthy during periods of freezing weather (which can also damage the pool itself). A child’s rubber ball, or several of them, floating on the surface, will help, a will small pieces of wood. When thick ice does form, do not break it up as fish are very sensitive to vibrations and could be killed. Place a saucepan of boiling water to stand on the ice until it has made a hole right through. You will have to repeat this every day to allowto escape. This will be especially necessary if there are rotting leaves in the pool.
If the pondfish feel really at home, they may breed. Unfortunately, the parent fish are perfectly happy to devour their young and, when possible, should be removed to another pool or container for a few weeks after spawning, to give the fry a chance to grow. However, if you are making your own pool, you can provide a trough at the side with a sufficiently high side to make sure that only the fry, not the parent fish, can swim into it. This trough will also need some shade and shelter for the fry, provided by aquatic plants, stones and perhaps an artificial fish shelter of the sort sold for aquariums. A bit of old slate could be propped up by some stones or some cured bricks to provide a refuge for battered babies. These can also by installed in the main part of the pool, to give the adult pondfish a ‘hide’ before the plant life gives them sufficient cover.
You can provide a form of food for the fry called Infusoria. Place a lettuce leaf in water for a few days and the Infusoria will appear. A banana skin covered with rainwater and enriched with a couple of teaspoons of milk should also provide some. Other delicacies that the fish will appreciate are chopped earthworms and water-fleas which I feel you are unlikely to have about your person but which you could probably attract by providing a small container of fishless water, with some loam and bonemeal at the bottom. Once you have them, they will increase and multiply.
Pondfish should never be overfed, and any food left uneaten after about five minutes should be scooped out and removed. Spring and autumn are the most important times to feed; to build them up for, and to help them recover from, the lean winter months. If, on a hot day, you see the fish gulping for air at the surface, this means that they are short of oxygen. Stir the water a bit, run in some more and check that the pool is not overstocked.
Both fish andare sometimes available in bargain collections from garden centres; this can be a cheap way to stock up your pool, and then you can swap some of them with neighbours who have found different collections, when you have enough to spare.