I have found that hot water in a saucepan does work, you just need to keep at it for a while.
My rough guide would be to fill the pan with hot water and place it on the ice. Come back in around 15 minutes and the pan will have sunk a little bit into the ice. Refill the saucepan with hot water and put it back on the ice in the same place as before. Repeat this a few times and you will eventually melt a hole all the way through the ice.
During the recent cold spell it took me about an hour (4 or 5 refills of the pan) to get through about 3 inches of ice.
Hope that adds to all the good advice given so far, and good luck during this imminent cold snap!
When the temperature is below 10c you should think about feeding them wheatgerm based foods. The wheatgerm pellets I have say to stop feeding altogether when the temperature goes below 6c.
Last winter my fish simply stopped being interested in food once it got below about 6c.
Right now the pond is at 6c and the fish are eating a little of the wheatgerm pellets I give them, but their appetite has gone right down. They are massive porkers this year compared to their timid and tiny selves last year, so they might be hungry for longer this winter.
After seeing the fish exhibit spawning behavior this spring, I removed some of the hopefully egg covered pond plants from the pond and put them into an old bathtub so that any resulting fry would be saved from hungry mouths...
During the summer we only saw a few darting glimpses of fry, they really are good at hiding in the depths!
I wanted to keep the fry in the bathtub on their own for as long as possible, so they had the best chance of surviving, but winter was approaching so last weekend we decided to catch the fry and introduce them into the pond.
To cut a long story short, we caught 23 fry who are all now hiding very effectively in the main pond. I have even seen one dart around since, so the big fish definitely haven't managed to eat them all!
I've included a picture of all 23 of them. The container is around 12cm/5in wide if that helps give you a feel for just how small they are.
Ten of them look to be coloured/seethrough, the others are dark with silver bellies.
If even half of these make it through the winter and start to grow as fast as the other 12 fish in the pond, I will soon have to start thinking of making a new/bigger pond
There is still at least one fry left in the bathtub, the little blighters sure can hide!
For last winter I just cut all dying lilly pads away, but left any pads that looked healthy. Once winter started nothing seemed to happen to the plants, so I left them alone until spring.
I have 2 water lillys, some elodea crispa, and some water soliders. They all came back very well this year, even after the severe ice last winter. In fact I have had to regularly remove elodea crispa and water soldiers this year, as they have been growing like topsy.
New for this year, I have two hyacinth pickerel that are ~3ft down. They shot up a good three foot above the water line and both plants flowered. I have cut all the leaves back below the surface now as they were starting to turn. I hope they survive the winter!
As for gravel, the gravel that you see was put in last August/September. The pond is almost 2m long, and I can easily see the gravel on the floor at the far end.
Just after setting up the pond and after I realized just how good the filter was at keeping the water clear, I decided I would try and treat the pond as an outdoor fish tank, i.e. nice and colorful and you can see the fish easily. To see the fish clearly (they were brown fry at the time, and I could never see them as they were well camouflaged with the green pond sides) I put down some white and coral colored aquarium grade gravel.
It works a treat. The pond looks interesting and the fish are easily visible. Any string algae or vegetation that starts to spread onto the gravel is easily spotted and removed. I have only had to do that twice though, and only on very small parts of the gravel.
As for harming the fish, I never really thought about that. I just figured that it was destined for a goldfish tank anyway, why not at the bottom of my pond
I also suspect that the constant and massive growth of string algae on the sides of the pond has been helping to suck out much of the nitrates and possibly stop the over-algaefication of the pond. Pretty much every month I take out buckets full of string algae.
I agree with Suey2, the Ammonia in the pond is a good thing. You need a supply of ammonia to start the nitrogen cycle, and you already have it
In a fishless pond I would suspect that decomposing vegetation is your source of ammonia. If all your plants are new then I would hope they aren't decomposing just yet, but something in there might be (including debris that has fallen into the pond that you have missed).
Re: Just bought a house with a pond - advice please!
Hi Graham, welcome to FK
Your filter (TetraPond PF4000) and the pump supplying it need to be running all the time, exactly as Jellybean says.
If the fountain gets it's water from a different pump (or has its own pump built in) then you can turn that on and off to your liking. It helps increase aeration on hot days when the pond will need all the help it can get, but on a normal day it is not so important.
If there is plenty of mature, well established vegetation in the pond (including green "stuff" on the sides of the pond) then the fish will be fine foodwise for a good few days while you are away. You dont seem to have that many fish so they should be fine grazing the plants for a week.
The last time I was away I was tempted by some holiday "blocks" from the supermarket that dissolve slowly over time releasing food. I think my fish would have been fine without them.
The water testing kits are fine for ponds, and it is very important that you test regularly to catch any water quality changes as soon as possible. As the pond is new to you, and your filter has not been operational all the time, you need to keep a good eye on the Amonia/Nitrate/Nitrite levels while things settle down.
You don't need to replace water much unless you identify problems via your test kit, and any water you do add should be dechlorinated (there are various ways to do this to your tap water).
You will also need to regularly clean your filter. I need to clean mine weekly. Always clean your filter with pond water, never tap water. Don't replace the filter media, it will be full of bacteria etc that is vital to your pond's well being.
Hope that helps, Rub-a-dub dub three fish in a tub.
The pond is right next to a wooden panel fence, and the stripes you mention are I think the reflection of the fence in the water.
I always find it hard to take photos without the reflections spoiling the shot, the water is very clear and you can easily see the bottom of the opposite end of the pond (almost 3 meters away), but that never comes out in photos.
That is a full length shot of the pond. It has the latest addition of a very focused fountain that sprays water halfway over the pond to help aeration during the hot weather.
And for the complete picture, here is the pond when I first got it at the end of last summer.
It is a raised pond that I originally put a wall around but then had to move the pond because of other building work. The pond is now back to its original position but I will build a wooden wall around it instead of brick this time.
I am already thinking of adding a second higher pond that will cascade down into this one, where will this all stop!