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Thread: Covering Your Pond Where Winter Is COLD

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    Dale is offline
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    Covering Your Pond Where Winter Is COLD

    Those of us that live in colder climates with freezing winters hate for our koi to suffer from bitter cold temperatures. JR can scare you with his tales of how fish that 'live under the ice' in northern zones can have their health drastically compromised as they recover from winter in the spring.

    I built our 2 ponds 5 years ago. For the first 3 winters the ponds would freeze over. It was all I could do to keep a hole open in the ice. Three winters of this made me want to try to get a cover over the pond and devise a way to keep the water temperatures up in at least the mid 40's for the winter.

    Here is a picture of our koi pond from one of those early winters. The ice is about 3" to 4" thick. Water temperature was probably not much above freezing, maybe mid 30's F.

    Dale
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    In 2003 I put in 3 bottom drains and built a filter building to house the filtration about 60' from the ponds. I shut the waterfalls down and kept the filters running in the heated building. That winter there was never any ice on the pond, but with no cover over it there was so much heat loss that the water still made it down to 36 or 37 degrees F when we had below zero and single digit temperatures in January & February.

    Last year for our 4th winter, I decided to cover the pond with a big sheet of greenhouse plastic. The plan was to run the filters fed from the bottom drains to the filters in the heated filter building. As the water had a pretty good dwell time in the filters, it would pick up warmth from the heated air surrounding the filters, then return to the pond. I was hoping the plastic cover would prevent heat loss and keep the temperatures up.

    With no plan for a frame to support the plastic, I simply used every long board and some pieces of PVC pipe to make a flat framework over the pond to stretch the plastic over.

    It wasn't very pretty. Here is what it looked like for the winter of 2004.
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    With this set-up last winter, even with temperatures below zero outside, the water temperature was held in the mid 40's and for much of the winter near 50 degrees.

    I had some problems with the cover that required a lot of attention. There was no fall or slope to the plastic, so when rain or snow fell on it, it weighed down the plastic. Water and ice would accumulate between the boards I had used to spread the plastic over. There would be big 'puddles' of water accumulate in the areas between the cross pieces. I would have to use a broom to sweep it off the cover regularly. Or the water would freeze into solid ice and I'd have to get out there and get the weight off it before it ripped through the plastic. Also, when we had some of that fierce winter wind blow, the plastic would flap up and down so much I feared it would be ripped. I had to weigh it down with bricks laying on top of boards to keep it from ripping it off the pond.

    Here's what it looked like last January.
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    This winter I was determined to come up with a better design. A cover with a dome shape that would not let water and ice accumulate on it. Something I could stretch the plastic over that would not allow the wind to cause the problems I had with it flapping and billowing last year.

    It's getting pretty cold here, so last weekend I bought a supply of 1 1/" and 3/4" PVC pipe and a big box of T's, elbows and fittings with the dome idea in mind.

    Here's what we started with.
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    My friend Randy Fisher came over to help me last Sunday. He really helped come up with the design we finally decided on. You can see that we used two long 2" X 12" boards to stretch across the pond as walk boards so we could get out there to work on the frame.

    We put a 'T' fitting to make a foot support on a 10' piece of the 1 1/2" PVC pipe. Then another 'T' fitting on the top to run long supports out to either side of the pond.

    The idea was to then place the 20' long lengths of 3/4" PVC over this as ribs to support the plastic.
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    Here you can see the 'T' fitting with extensions we put on the bottom of the vertical support in the center of the pond. The smaller PVC was easy to bend into a dome shape across this support.
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    Looking great so far , in the Uk it is possible to purchase builders tarpauline, Ideal for wht you are planning as it comes with ringed eyelets every 4ft, ideal for pegging down.
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    We saved a lot of time by not using fittings where the 3/4" pipe crossed the center support. We drilled a 1/4" hole through the larger pipe where each 3/4" PVC rib would cross it, then put a plastic tie through the holes to secure the pieces together. Then for extra good measure, we used a 2nd plastic tie. It worked really great.
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    Here are a couple pictures taken after we had the framework finished out over the pond and could remove the walk boards.
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    Great post,Dale.I really appreciate all the "then and now" shots.Hows about a pic of the pumphouse?

    Bill

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    It started to snow as we were working. You can see snow on the rockwork around the pond and on the waterfall rocks.

    To secure the frame around the outside of the pond, we used 'T' fittings and inserted cross pieces between the ribs to keep them spaced right and to have something we could secure down. I hope you can see the baling rope we used to tie each piece down by wrapping it around the PVC pipe, then securing the rope around the large, heavy cap stones that go around the edge of the pond. The rope was wrapped and pulled down so tight that the frame won't budge.

    On the waterfall side of the pond, we were able to wedge the pipe up under and against the waterfall rocks so it wouldn't move. The pond is kidney shaped, so we were able to shorten the cross pieces at the narrow section of the pond and use longer ones at the widest point.
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    At last!!!! Time to stretch some plastic over the frame.
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    Good luck. I hope it works.

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    Here's the plastic cover all tucked in around the edges under the rocks. We're ready for winter.

    Dale
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    This view was taken from a 2nd floor window of our house after we finished. The lower pond will not be covered. This picture was taken last weekend.

    The lower pond is now 50% frozen over today. Yesterday I checked the water temperature of the uncovered pond. It was 36.6 degrees. It was 17 degrees outside this morning when I checked the water temperature in the covered pond - it was 48 degrees.

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    Cool! Reminds me of one of those dinosaur skeleton museum exhibits

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    Thanks Dale for this great thread. How many GPH are you running to your filters, and how warm is the pump house?

    Lisa
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    Koi under Kover

    Dale,

    Y'all done good!!!


    Having a semiraised, rectangular pond makes it a little easier for us to do a cover. We can do it with 2x4s in 8' and 10' lengths without cutting them. We just put simply build two covers and sit them side by side over the pond. Here are some shots.
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    Last edited by MCA; 12-10-2005 at 01:11 PM.
    MCA
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    Dale, looks good. Hope it holds. Water and ice get heavy so the only concern is with those tie-wraps. Please continue to post your temperatures measured since this is a great experimental setup. You have both a covered and an uncovered pond side by side to compare water temps. To be clear, is the filtered water only going to the covered pond, or is the uncovered pond also being filtered through the pump house? And what temp is the pump house?

    MCA, cool. Have you used this system before, or is this the first year with it? Just wondering if the pitch with one 2x4 across the center is enough to slough off the water and ice. The run off can get into the pond, but that probably isn't a problem, right?

    - Wayne, looking for more cover ideas.
    Wayne - Ohio, USA - Koiphen MVP.

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    The drop is 3.5" over 4'. If the plastic does not sag much, no problem. I could have gone with a taller central ridge...but of course it adds weight.

    As you guessed, I have no problem with water getting in as there is a 2" overflow in the wall of the pond. It is all about keeping off the wind chill.

    As for ice and snow....what are they?
    MCA
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