Frozen pond

It’s that time of year here in the Northeast US that pond owners need to keep an eye on their ponds. Typically when January hits, this area will receive some sustained below freezing weather that will surely create ice on unheated ponds. Pond heaters are a pretty costly approach to controlling temperatures in the pond but they do work well. I usually recommend to my pond customers that the use of at least a de-icer should be employed by those who are not able to swing the costs of a pond heating system; this recommendation applies to pretty much ALL my customers, myself included.

Pond heating system vs. de-icer…..what’s the difference?

Check out The Pond Hunter Radio Broadcast on “Winter Pond Care Tips”

A pond heating system will actually heat the entire body of water, usually to about 52+ degrees. It is a large and pricey piece of equipment and usually used by those who are aficionados and breeders of koi.

The de-icer is meant to just keep a hole in the icy covering of a frozen pond to allow for the escape of ammonia from the pond, which escapes as a gas; and for the introduction of oxygen to the pond. De-icers can range from floating disc heaters, to submerged water pumps with a strong upward flow to the surface of the pond, or the use of an aerator. The goal of any of these is to keep an area of the ice open! If your floating disc is stuck in the ice it is time for a new one.

My personal preference for a de-icer is the pond aerator; by using an aerator you are circulating the water from bottom to top very slowly, this does not create any dramatic or sudden changes in water conditions. The bubbles that are bursting at the surface are releasing ammonia from the pond while at the same time agitating the surface of the pond to allow oxygen to enter back into the pond and keep a nice opening in the pond. The aerator is also the most economical piece of equipment to use as well, from purchase price to cost of running the pump it makes the most sense to me.

The submerged water pump works well but still will allow for complete formation of ice over the surface of the pond, and often times will move water too quickly from bottom to top which can increase the risk of supercooling your pond, or water loss during winter months.

The floating de-icer usually works well, but provides no circulation benefit, and does have a higher failure rate than the others. Also, the cost to run a floating de-icer, which uses about 1250 watts, can be as much as $30.00-$40.00 monthly…ouch!

Any submerged de-icer should not actually be installed at the deepest portion of the pond but about 10” below the surface of the water would be ideal. The floating de-icer should FLOAT!!

OK, pond owners keep your eyes peeled and don’t forget to check your pond this time of year, and enjoy it, take some winter photos; a pond with snow and ice around it is really a beautiful sight!


Click HERE for a Pond Hunter video on “Winter Care for your Pond”



I agree with you that aerators are the best deicing / gas release solution for ponds over the winter. I would mention to homeowners to never break the ice with some object by banging on the ice. undoubtably every winter fish loss occurs when someone notices the pond is iced over and uses something like a spud bar to create a hole for fish to breath.

Have you ever seen someone tap their finger on a fish tank and the fish jump like crazy, well multiply that by many times for breaking ice by slamming it with an object. The shock will cause fish stress leading to disease & death.

If a areator or deicer fails and you want to go put a quick hole in the ice until you can buy a new unit just warm some water in a pot ot tea kettle and pour it on the ice, a small hole is all you need.



Hey Zac, thanks for the comments and insight. In the area that you’re from how bad does the winter weather get? I have a part 2 of this blog and it covers the methods you described for melting holes in the ice, and dealing with some other winter pond issues. Hope you can check out that part 2 and give some commentary. thanks Mike

Marion Cronen

I live in North Eastern Oregon and i have a 6,200 gallon pond and this was our first winter with it and we used 2 deicers for ours and it worked great, all 8 of our Koi made it through the winter and im so happy that i didnt lose any .. i had ice thick enough that the mule deer were walking across it .. probably about 5 or 6 inches thick ..


Wow Marion! That sounds amazing! This year was the first time that I was able to see a deer (white tail deer) using my pond as a water source during winter, it was awesome; but a MULE deer!! wow! Thanks for commenting and reading the blog.

James Martin Pearson

I find if i have a pop bottle on string and have it on top of the air stone on the surface you can make a large opening from the bobing bottle.Works for me and we have alot of frozen ponds here at this time of year.Jims Pond service.


Hey Jim, that is a great tip! Thanks for sharing that, and thanks for commenting.

Armen H

Hi All,
I have a 30′ x 30′ pond (approx 15,000 gal) with a shallow area at about 2′ deep and the deeper side at about 4′. To be extra safe, I intend to use both types de-icing systems utilizing 2 floating pond heater and an aerator with 2 stones. Does anyone know if I should place the aerating stones in the shallow or deeper section of the pond since I’ve heard that the air pump could introduce colder air thru the system thus super cooling the water? My gut tells me to put the air stones in the shallow area and the heaters on the deeper side but wodering if the oxygenenated water will reach the deeper column of water where my fish are hibernating??? Armen


Hello Armen,
your gut is right! The aerators should be placed in a shallow area during the colder winter months, and moved deeper during the hotter months. You would run the possibility of super cooling your pond but that would be a pretty extreme condition which is easily avoided by moving the aerators to the shallows! Thanks for commenting.


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