In response to yesterday's column about pond and koi care, John DeFabio, owner of Long Island Pond Supplies in Massapequa Park, has written in with a few good tips picked up over his 14 years in the business. Here's his advice:
If you need to make a hole in the pond, instead of breaking through the ice, get a 2- to 3-quart size sauce pan with a handle, boil water then hold the pot on the surface of the pond ice. It will melt the ice very quickly and make a nice hole. Of course don't do this against the side on the liner.
It's even better to purchase a heater. They are thermostatically controlled
so they only come on when the temperature drops to 32 degrees. Anyone with a pond with fish, especially koi, should use a floating heater, large air pump, or even a submersible pump close to the surface and shoot the water up. This will keep the section free from ice.
Heaters on a large pond work fine, because all you are concerned with is keeping a hole open for gas exchange, not keeping the whole pond from freezing. What really works well is a large air pump, which hardly uses any electricity to run. It would keep a nice hole opened and oxygenate the water in the winter.
Nets are good to put on the pond in the fall to check the leaves, but always remove them when all the leaves are down, Why? because what happens a lot is that when they are left on the pond in the winter, snow and ice weigh them down, and most of the time they will wind up in the water and usually get large holes and rips in them and then sink a few inches down. What happens next -- and believe me this is one of the biggest causes of fish death over the winter going into spring -- you get a sunny nice day in the winter and sometimes the fish will get a little active and swim to the top, getting caught in the net. Then the top of the pond freezes and they die. This is a very common problem, so remove the net when the leaves are done.
Having a small pump or air pump running -- or both -- is better than having stagnant water. You can add a small dose of live bacteria to the pond weekly, which will eat organic debris and keeps the pond clean all winter. It is very inexpensive and works great and keeps the fish healthy.
Photo: Koi from Japan -- some as long as 32 inches -- in John DeFabio's Massapequa Park pond.