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How to Shut Down Your Pond or Water Feature for the Fall and Winter

Pond Shut Down

It's that unfortunate time of year again; time to shut down your pond or water feature in preparation for the winter.

We all dread this day because it means that winter has come again and the time for enjoying warm outdoor living has come to an end.

We'll go over how to shut down a pond or water feature properly and painlessly. A pond shut down is a straight forward and easy process. Ensuring a proper shut down will help your system last longer, reduce future maintenance and keep everything functioning properly.

Here's Your Guide to Shutting Down Your Pond or Water Feature for the Winter

Step 1: Remove Debris, Leaves and Dead Plant Materials

You'll want to start by skimming the water for leaves and picking up debris around the perimeter of the pond. This will help ensure the leaves and debris don't decay over the winter, causing more maintenance in the spring. You'll also want to remove as much debris and leaves in the water as possible.

Empty any skimmer baskets, filter mats, etc. ensuring all debris is removed.

Debris can build up over the course of the winter, once the debris has decayed it can cause a thick layer of muck to form at the bottom of the pond or water feature. If this happens to your feature, you'll want to rinse/pressure wash your feature continuously while pumping it out, do this until the pond is clean.

Now is also a great time to trim dead plant materials and trim back aquatic plants to just above the water line. Remove any floating plant materials once the pruning is complete to ensure it doesn't decay.

Step 2: Drain Water to Remove Fish (if applicable)

Once the surface debris and surrounding debris are cleared, you'll want to remove any fish (if you have them) from the pond. The easiest way to do this is by draining the water until there is only about 6 - 8 inches of water left. This will make catching the fish with a fish net a lot easier, saving you a lot of frustration.

Draining the water feature will also help you reach any electronics inside the feature such as pumps, lighting or powerheads, etc.

Step 3: Test & Remove Electronics

Once the pond is drained, you'll want to test all your electronic components to ensure they're functioning properly. Doing this now will allow you to know what to expect come spring so you can save for the products and order them ahead of time. Now is a good time to check any Auto Doser, IonGen, etc. to ensure they don't need replacement product come spring.

Once testing is complete, you'll want to remove all electronics. Water expands and contracts throughout the winter months and freeze thaw cycle. If you leave the electronics in your water feature, there's a good chance they'll be damaged come spring when you go to start your water feature up for the season.

Removing electronics will ensure they last longer and avoid voiding any warranty your products carry.

Step 4: Clean Electrical Components and Filters

Once the electronics are removed, it's good practice to pressure wash and clean off all components that were removed. You'll want to do this now instead of spring for a few reasons.

  1. When you store your products inside, if they aren't clean, they can start to smell.

  2. Your products will have bacteria film on them which helps make the cleaning process easier. If you wait until spring, this film will be dry and any debris or hardened film will be a lot harder to remove, if you can remove it at all.

  3. It will keep your products functioning properly and ensure they stay looking new longer.

Clean the Pumps

You'll want to pressure wash any pumps to ensure they're clean for winter. You'll also want to open up the impeller chamber and clean the chamber to ensure it's clean, free from debris, stays working properly and ready for use come spring. A good pump cleaner will help you clean your pump effectively and easily.

Clean Skimmer, Biofalls or Vault

It's good practice to do a quick pressure wash of your filtration system to ensure it stays clean for the next season.


If at all possible, drain all plumbing/pipes and bring them indoors for the winter to help them last longer, winter can be harsh on external plumbing. If your plumbing is buried below grade with burst proof pipes such as the flexible PVC pipe, get as much water out of it as possible.

Step 5: Pressure Wash Your Water Feature and Pump it Out Until it's Clean (Optional)

This step is optional, you'll be doing a clean out in the spring.

When should you do a clean out during the shut down?

You'll want to consider doing a clean out if you have a build up of debris on the bottom of your pond/water feature or if there's excess debris, slime, algae built up.

If you think you should do a clean out, you'll want to pressure wash all surfaces as needed, starting at the top and working your way to the lower portions, while pumping out the water multiple times throughout the process.

Completing a clean out now will help make the spring start up and clean out a quicker and easier process.

Streams & Fountains

It's best practice to thoroughly clean or pressure wash any streams or fountains that aren't covered in water throughout the winter. Scale, algae and debris will harden on these surfaces throughout the winter and can be tricky and time consuming to clean come spring.

Step 6: Lower Water Level Slightly

You'll want to leave water in the pond to ensure any water trapped below the liner doesn't create liner bubbles that can potentially damage your pond. We typically drain ponds about 10 - 15% to avoid this issue.

Draining your pond 10 - 15% will also leave enough room for ice expansion, and will prevent damage to the structure. It also allows for added water storage when the ice melts to help prevent water from flooding the area.

Step 7: Store Electrical Components Indoors

You're almost done! All that's left is cleaning up and storing the equipment. You'll want to store your equipment in large plastic bins to ensure the equipment stays safe and is stored properly.

Products to Store Indoors Include:

  • Pumps

  • Lighting

  • Auto Dose Controller

  • Ion Gen Probe and Controller

  • Skimmer Basket

  • Filter Pads

  • Filter Media

  • Powerheads

  • Any other electronics or items that may be damaged by the harsh winter conditions

Pro - Tip: Cover your Biofalls and Skimmer for the winter to ensure they stay free from interior ice build up. Not only will this prolong their life, you won't have to wait for them to thaw while starting your system up in the spring.

While storing your equipment in the bins, you'll want to leave air flow so any water inside the products can dry up, leaving the stored products dry and free from smells. The electronics should be stored indoors where temperatures stay above freezing. If your garage isn't heated, you'll want to store your products somewhere else.

Storing your products in freezing temperatures will allow any water left inside to expand and contract, leading to potential damage.

How Do I Avoid Leaves From Filling Up My Pond?

For those with trees nearby, the best way to avoid the constant need to remove falling leaves is to install a Protective Pond Net cover. These are mesh nets that cover the pond and are staked to the ground surrounding the pond. When the leaves fall the net captures them; every few days or weeks, you simply remove a few pins and flip the net over to remove the leaves on the ground instead of the pond. Protective pond nets come in a variety of different sizes to fit different ponds and are a great way to reduce maintenance and keep your pond going longer in the fall.

What Do I do With My Fish?

Koi, Goldfish and some other hardy fish varieties can potentially stay in the pond throughout the winter. If your local frost line doesn't freeze to the bottom of your pond, and there is enough room below the ice for the fish to swim, you may be able to leave them in the pond throughout the winter. Please note: this can be a risky process and fish loss can happen when leaving them outdoors over winter.

Example: in our climate, the frost line is 3.2 feet. In order to leave fish in the pond, the pond needs to be at least 5ft deep to give the fish enough room below the ice.

If your pond freezes to the point that there's no room for fish, you'll need to bring them in for the winter. In their new indoor environment, ensure they have adequate space to swim with lots of filtration and a high quality diet. Keep a mesh cover over Koi tanks as Koi tend to jump and may jump out of the tank.

If you leave fish in your pond throughout the winter:

Health and Feeding: Ensure they are healthy going into the winter. Feed them high-quality food as temperatures drop to help them build up energy reserves. Stop feeding them when the water temperature drops below 50°F (10°C) as their metabolism slows down.

Setup: The water will need a constant hole for gas exchange; using a pond heater can help keep a hole in the ice to ensure there is a constant opening to allow for gas exchange.

Aeration: Fish will need oxygen, adding an aerator to your pond will give them the oxygen they need.

Maintenance: Throughout the winter, evaporation still occurs, ensure there is enough water in the pond.

For more information on leaving your fish outdoors over winter - Click HERE

That's it! You've successfully completed your water feature shut down. Your system is now ready to take on the harsh winter that's on it's way.

In summary, a proper shut down will ensure your system lasts longer with less risk of damage throughout the harsh winter. Following these steps will ensure your system stays safe, giving you years of enjoyment.


Q: If you have any questions about this process, feel free to leave a comment below!

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