Pond Heaters? Only for Rich Koi Keepers
Page Summary: By far the majority of koi pond keepers and fish pond keepers in general will not need or want a sophisticated pond water heater. Heating pond water is an expensive exercise and the only justifiable reason for heating a koi pond is if the koi pond owner wants to maximise fish condition, and growth opportunities and if the owner cant bear the thought of his or her fish lying motionless on the pond bottom in a complete state of inactivity. Koi and goldfish prefer a period of hibernation and in so doing they prepare themselves for the onset of Spring when longer days, more sunlight and higher temperature promote the breeding urge of the koi and goldfish kept in ponds.
Need a Pond Heater? No
One of the best things you can do for your pond koi or gold fish is to build up their immune systems by providing high quality food.
Wheatgerm is a great food for use in the autumn months and for those days in winter when the sun shines, conditions are windless, the pond water warms and the fish start to move.
Koi in breeding ponds undergo extreme winter conditions and few koi keeping locations have more severe winter conditions than the koi breeding capital of the world... Japan.
Anyway just in case you still fancy a heater here are some important considerations.
By the way dont confuse a pond heater with a heating device designed to keep ice from forming on the pond surface.
Every koi keeper buys food. All koi foods are not the same. Bradshaws Koi Food (and Wheatgerm) is as good as the best for quality and fantastic value for money in great sensible koi food packaging.
Keep that pond bottom clean with reliable Pond Vacuum
There are simple low cost devices that allow a hole in the koi pond water ice surface to be maintained to allow these noxious gases to escape from the pond.
This spring get a spawning brush. Breed your own koi.
In the case of pond heating we mean applying heat to increase or maintain the whole water body at a controlled temperature.
Installation of large capacity gas fired or oil fired pond water heating systems are complex and potentially dangerous installations and should only ever be carried out by experienced and qualified companies.
I remember seeing Nigel Caddocks koi and its pond water heating system in the UK some years ago and even as a chemical engineer I was fantastically impressed by the engineering and control complexity built into the oil fired water heating system he had installed.
The whole outdoor koi pond water heating and filtration plant (for that is what it was) was in a large underground chamber into which you descended by a vertical steel ladder. In addition to the gas fired heating system there was also an array of vortex filters and complex flow control loops. If I remember correctly the whole installation cost more than Pds100,000. Thermostatic temperature control was sophisticated
Do You Really Need a Fish Pond Water Heater?
Quite simply no but...
If you want to enter koi competitions at the highest level then there is no doubt that year round control of koi growth rates and koi conditioning is required.
There are simple low cost pond water heating devices that allow a hole in the koi pond water ice surface to be maintained to allow these noxious gases to escape from pond water. These low wattage (100 Watts) "pond heaters" maintain a hole in the ice surface. This picture is of an even simpler device that just floats on the water and keeps a hole open.
Koi will literally stop eating at about 10 degrees C or thereabouts and this is the major factor that determines whether serious koi keepers in colder climates heat their pond water or not.
By heating pond water and maintaining temperature conditions such that koi and other pond fish swim around as in warmer weather then a feeding regime can be used to maintain or improve a kois condition.
There is another reason for favouring warmer pond water and that is the biological filtration process efficiency is significantly enhanced at higher temperatures.
When pond water cools to very low levels pathogen activity becomes slow and this can create a problem as seasons change from winter to spring and if the pond environment is suited to pathogen activity then the weakened state of the koi or gold fish my well result in infections. So it pays to be vigilant.
What Happens When the Whole Pond Freezes Solid?
The good news is that your pond wont freeze solid except in the most extreme conditions of prolonged freezing conditions and if your pond is relatively shallow. The reasons why the fish pond will not freeze solid are explained in depth in one of my other articles and the reason is quite fascinating and is to do with water having an unique relationship between its density and temperature. You can read about this cold water property and its importance to koi and fish pond keepers here... Pond Care in Freezing Winter Weather
If You Do Go for a Koi Pond Heating System
Be aware that it will be very expensive in terms of capital and running costs when done properly where the intent is to heat the water and them maintain a water temperature irrespective of the ambient conditions.
The importance of pond water design from a safety perspective cannot be overstressed. The use of hydrocarbon fuels to heat circulating water in a pond environment is potentially very dangerous.
Solar heating of koi fish ponds in climates such as those we experience in South Africa can be very effectively used and at a lower cost and within an improved safety regime
Frankly my advice is forget about heating your pond... just enjoy the seasons that come and go and which your koi and other pond fish are happy to experience