Feeding during a mild winter?


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Quick question. I have prepped our pond for the winter. I've got the waterfall running 24/7 with the skimmer doing it's job. Winter has definitely been hanging around for about a month. However, here in Oklahoma, the temps have been all over the place. As low as 20F and as high as 68F over the last month. I stopped feeding the goldfish when the first really cold spell came through and they disappeared for about a week. Then as things warmed up slightly, I have seen them out and about. So my question is, should I be feeding them if we have several days above 50F (but nights are in the 30's)? Thanks in advance!!
 

addy1

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Go by your water temperature, not air temps. We are bouncing from 26 at night to almost 60 during the day, but the pond water is 42f. I see the fish eating the plants in the pond (hornwort) swimming around some, but I do not feed them.
 
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Agree with @addy1 - it's water temps that matter, not the air. And water warms slowly. And if they're hungry, they'll find plenty to snack on in the pond!
 
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I've been feeding my fish, much less than normal but feeding them nonetheless. I skip lots of days, but whenever I feed them, as soon as they realize what I've done, they swarm. They're clearly hungry, and their energy level perks up noticeably after they eat. After they finish the food, they spend a lot of time searching for more, so they clearly want to keep eating for the time being. I'll stop once and for all when they show almost no interest in the food. That's probably when I'll turn off the pumps, too, or at least one of them.
 
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As a follow-up to my previous post, I did not feed the fish the first two winters of my pond, stopping somewhere between Thanksgiving and early December both times. It's pretty much the "rule" to not feed when the water gets cold. However, the longer I've had my pond, the more I go on instinct. I spend more time than is healthy watching my pond, and while a lot of the "watching" is just relaxation, I'm always observing it on many levels, too. I can't help it. Consequently, I intuitively respond to what I'm seeing and respond accordingly, with less and less regard for the rules. My pond is flourishing. And I do expect to stop feeding eventually. Maybe.

My pond instincts are definitely informed by the rules, I should add, because I was hyper-vigilant about them until about May of this year. My approach is now akin to an experienced cook working with a recipe: you act consistently with the measurements and steps but take liberties with everything to personalize the final product. I think I only feel comfortable freelancing with my pond because I first internalized how things work and why. I'm guessing most experienced ponders here operate in a similar fashion.
 
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We have mild winters here. I've been to lazy to check the water temperature lately, but on the "warmer" days, where we've managed to have some sunshine, my fish perk up and chase me as I walk by. So I go ahead and toss them a small amount of Spring/Fall formula food, that I've broken up into smaller pieces. They eagerly eat it. I see no harm in feeding them if they want it.
 

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I see them on the cam eating plants, but they don't come out of the deep area when I am down there. The hot tub fish I have not seen at all. Took my go pro and did a look and found them down at the bottom of the tub.

We have not been cold enough to have the pond breather running. All the cords/wires belong to the breather. Just a light coating of ice off and on. The big pond is 43f, hot tub pond is 40f
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They're clearly hungry, and their energy level perks up noticeably after they eat
I agree with your approach @Spartamets especially when you combine it with observation and an understanding of the biological needs of pond fish. The only thing I would add is that while your fish ENJOY being fed, they don't NEED to be fed as evidenced by many who stop feeding like you used to when the water got cold and don't resume until spring and the fish do just fine. As @addy1 observes in her pond, fish will find things to eat in the pond even in the colder months.
 
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I like the pictures @addy1 posted, very cool. I probably feel more inclined to feed the fish than I otherwise would because I really clean my pond thoroughly in the Fall so there's not much in there. It's almost too sterile. I know April me will hate December me for saying this, but I almost wish there was a little algae in the pond right now. I only feed the fish maybe 10% of what I feed them in a typical feeding during the warmer months, and I only feed them every day or two (or three), so it works out to a lot less than even 10% of normal months. During peak feeding season, I feed them about 3 times a day, so I'm at 10% of one third of one day's feeding, every second or third day--not much food--a token amount really. But they like it.

We got to 60 degrees on Sunday and haven't gotten close to ice yet, so I think the fish aren't all the way to "hibernation" yet. One benefit of the cold months is the absence of plant growth makes it so much easier to see the fish. So I'm probably being a little selfish in my choices, since I like seeing them eat maybe more than they like eating right now. There's that other thread about what we are doing with our time now that winter is here. My answer is, "nothing different." Just being colder while I spend time with my pond, I guess.
 

addy1

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My pond dropped to 38 recently, then climbed back up to 41. I, one year, cleaned the pond really well, not scrubbing the liner but removing plant matter etc. Pulled the lilies out stuck them in the 1000 gallon pond for the winter. Left just liner algae, no lilies, minimal plants in the big pond.

That spring I put the lilies back in, think it was in early March. The fish went crazy attacking the plants eating every tiny bit of algae on the plants, it took maybe a minute per plant to strip them clean and the plants were covered with algae from winter storage.
Wish I could find the pictures, it was a swarm of fish inhaling every bit of food they could find.

I never cleaned the pond that way again. Now just groom the lilies remove falling leaves. Leave algae, hornwort, lilies for them to eat over winter.
 
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I'll never scrub the liner, but I did a fair amount of vacuuming. There's no real shade for my pond once the water lilies are done, which I think keeps the water temperature higher than it otherwise would be.

I hope everyone had a good Christmas. Now that it's over, I'm looking forward to Spring. While I like the unobstructed view of the fish that happens when the plant life is pruned away or removed, I prefer everything else about Spring. Ponds are addictive. They require understanding spouses and families. A second, small front yard pond has been vetoed, but I'm working on the three-year persuasion plan. I already have the liner and tubing for it.
 
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Thank you for the suggestions. The water temp is definitely warmer than I expected. Hanging around 50 degrees. As long as the fish are out, I will go ahead and keep feeding them some fall formula until the temps drop some more. I feel bad now, as we had basically stopped feeding them for almost a month. There is some algae growth going on, so I'm sure they've got something to eat, but it still makes me feel like a bad pet owner, lol.
 
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If you're going to feed them, I'd suggest that you feed very little, and infrequently. Take days off--and watch how the fish are behaving. If the fish are somewhat disinterested in eating, stop, at least for a while, and if they stay nonchalant about the food, I'd stop altogether. (My fish still get excited by occasional flakes, but I haven't fed them since Christmas Eve and I'm not sure when I'll feed them next.) Too much food fouls the water, and in winter, there is no plant life to "clean" it up. Of course, if the fish are hungry and eating, there won't be any extra floating around. Just be careful with it. Clean winter water is key, because the most dangerous time for a pond is early spring, when there is a short period of time when dangerous bacteria come to life before the fish's immune system kicks back on. A dirty winter pond heightens the chance of illnesses spreading in that very early spring period. Clean(ish) water at least keeps it to a minimum.

You did nothing wrong by not feeding the fish for a month; most pond owners stopped about that time, except in the warmer climates. Especially given that you have algae, I'm sure the fish were fine, though it can be hard to believe that. On the other hand, if you are very judicious, I don't think you're doing anything wrong by feeding them a little here and there, either. Cold blooded animals are different than other pets, that's for sure. Some pond owners never feed their fish at all. I couldn't fathom that myself, but we all do it our own way.
 
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Thank you for the suggestions. The water temp is definitely warmer than I expected. Hanging around 50 degrees. As long as the fish are out, I will go ahead and keep feeding them some fall formula until the temps drop some more. I feel bad now, as we had basically stopped feeding them for almost a month. There is some algae growth going on, so I'm sure they've got something to eat, but it still makes me feel like a bad pet owner, lol.
Nah, I feed mine only when they act hungry. We had ice for a while, got warm, and are back to cooler temps. I still have mine in the mini pond on the porch, so I made sure I had a few plants in there for them, just in case. I have my shubinkin inside, so they do get fed, but not the outside ones.
 

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