Should I Run My Aerator In The Winter?

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Written By Mark Washburn

Mark has 20 years of experience as a professional pond management consultant.

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Tom from Wisconsin, a traditionally cold state in the winter time, wrote in and asked if it’s a good idea to use a pond aerator even in the cold months of winter? In addition, his pond is very shallow (around 4 feet deep and about 1/3 of an acre in size) so the particular aerator that would be used might be a bit different than a typical farm pond.

Answer: Tom, thank you for your timely question and it’s one that many people wonder about. The base answer is yes, it’s a good idea to aerate a pond all year round.

Many people know the value of aeration during the hotter summer months, and sometimes they end up learning the hard way that oxygen can get depleted in very warm weather and they lose a large number of big fish as a result. However it’s also a good idea to use aeration if you live in cold weather climates.

Winter Pond Aeration

Cold water aeration isn’t quite as much for maintaining oxygen but to keep an area that’s open from ice. If the pond surface is covered for an extended period of time, and particularly if the pond bottom has some organic build up, or a heavy fish load, some toxic gases can build up and get trapped in the pond, to the potential detriment of any fish.

If an ice hole is maintained, then these gases can be released into the environment and fresh oxygen can be brought in so this is an ideal transfer that keeps a pond and it’s inhabitants a good bit healthier.

Aerators are a good choice for this work because they are generally pretty cheap to operate and if you get a good quality system it should provide years of dependable service. Pond aerators tend to be very discreet in how they operate. They don’t shoot a column of water into the air, but release very fine bubbles into the water, at the bottom of the pond, and these rise up in a column and agitate the surface area just a bit to keep ice from forming.

Shallow Pond Aerators

So with the basics of winter aeration out of the way, let’s discuss more specifically the best type of system for your particular pond Tom.

Over the years a typical pond aerator would have a single compressor that sits on the shore and an airline that runs to a diffuser that sits on the bottom of the pond. Usually if a pond has something like 10 feet of depth or so, you can expect this single diffuser to work well in a pond up to about 1 acre in size. The compressors are usually around 1/4 horsepower. Then as ponds get bigger, you’ll see the compressor get a bit more powerful and additional diffusers will be used to cover the increased area.

This changes though in a shallower pond. Ponds of say 6 to 8 feet or less don’t benefit as much from a single diffuser package. The area this single release point of air would help is diminished somewhat. In other words, the deeper the pond, the more area a single release point will help with.

So the answer to this is to use some smaller diffusers, and usually a bit smaller compressor (stronger compression isn’t as necessary in shallow water) and spread the release points of air out a bit more. Something like a 1/2 acre size pond that’s 6 feet deep might have four small diffusers working in it, rather than one large one. And the coverage and total aeration will be much better with the specially designed system.

Using Shallow Pond Aeration Kits In The Winter

The final part of this answer is fairly important because we want to make sure we keep that spot of ice open in the water. This is less likely to be achieved if we keep the diffusers spread out a great deal, such as we would in the warmer months. So my suggestion is to move these diffusers into a tighter pattern in order to concentrate the agitation caused by the released air at the surface. This is particularly important when you run into really cold weather such as you’ll often seen in northern states like Wisconsin.

In the end, the tighter you make the pattern of released air, the colder the conditions it should be able to help with. In climates that have more moderate conditions, the diffusers could either be spaced a bit wider just as a precaution to any icing that might occur.

Simply put, pond aeration is one of the most powerful tools that a pond owner can use to keep a pond in a better looking and healthier condition. And although you don’t have to do so, using it year round can be very helpful to maintaining fish health and vitality, no matter what season you’re in.

Here’s a helpful video from our sister site at Pond Algae Solutions that discusses shallow pond aeration in more detail.

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