Don’t Break the Ice : What to Do When Your Water Feature Freezes

The past few weeks here in the Knoxville, TN area have brought us some interesting weather. We aren’t used to freezing temperatures hanging around for so long. We have had a lot of ice in our water features, and with that ice came a lot of calls from panicked pond owners worried about water features and fish. This blog will give you list what to do and what not to do when you pond freezes over. Just don’t break the ice!

It is common routine to winterize your water spigots by making sure the spigot is covered, the water is turned off, and the hose is detached. Because of this it is a common misconception that you should turn your water feature off when expecting freezing weather. Whatever you do, do not turn your water feature off unless necessary. It takes a lot more to freeze running water than it does standing water. Keeping your pump running protects it from the water in and around it freezing and busting your pump, your check valve, and/or your plumbing. If your feel it is necessary to shut it off, make sure you remove the pump and check valve from your feature and store it in a dry place away from the elements. If you have fish, you will have to compensate for the lack of running water by putting in a large aerator.

Waterfalls & Streams

The first thing you want to avoid is breaking the ice around your stream or waterfall. I know it will be your first instinct, but don’t break the ice. The ice that forms on the surface of the water creates an insulating barrier, protecting the rest of the water from the freezing air. If you break the surface ice the air will continue to form thicker ice until it is blocking the water in your stream or waterfall from reaching your pond. This will in turn cause your water to run over the ice instead of under creating a massive leak. A good rule of thumb is that if you can see and/hear water moving under the sheet of ice, your water feature is safe.


You do want to keep a break in the surface of your pond where water is not running to allow for gas exchange. It is possible for your fish to suffocate if there is no place for oxygen to get under the ice. You can do this by using a floating deicer, a pump with a jet feature, or an large aerator. If you are really concerned about your pondless water feature freezing you can drop a de-icer in the vault housing your pump.

Lastly, keep a close eye of your water feature through out freezing weather. The formation of ice means depletion of running water. So, you need to check the water level under the ice and fill it frequently to avoid your pump running without water and getting damaged.  So remember, don’t break the ice without taking these things into consideration.  If you have questions or concern, please call us. We are happy to help in any way we can. Catch you downstream.

Should I Shut My Water Feature Down During Cold Weather?