How to Keep Your Fish Warm in the Winter

In Aquaponic Aquatic by Aquaponic GuruLeave a Comment

There are several methods one can do to keep your aquaponic fish warm while maintaining an affordable electric bill. Using our DIY system will help secure liveable conditions for fish in aquaponics. 

Fish Anatomy vs. the Chill of Winter

Fish are cold-blooded animals; not all of them are.

Nevertheless, the cold-blooded species have no problem staying in the water for during hot or cold seasons.  When the water is warm fish are comfortable and active. However, they grow less active when temperatures drop. This depends on whether the fish in question is warm or cold-blooded.

As explained above, fish tend to be mostly cold-blooded. That is, their bodies grow warm or cold, depending on the surrounding temperatures. For this reason, they will absorb heat from the sun during the day to become warm. At night, surrounding temperatures drop, the bodies of the fish will also grow cooler. This way, they can survive even the harshest conditions.

Nonetheless, a scientist recently discovered that a warm-blooded species of fish exist. That species is the Moonfish, also known as Opah. Even in the cold temperatures found in the deep-sea where it loves, Opah will remain warm.

However, most of the other species are cold-blooded. In this, fish share a few similarities with reptiles and amphibians, which are also cold-blooded; hence, unable to regulate their own body temperatures. Some species of fish prefer living in salt water (Not the best for aquaponics.) Fish began living on the earth long before dinosaurs, which means they survived the different periods of the ice age. Fish have adapted to their surroundings. They need no help of any kind to withstand the harsh effects of winter in the wild.

Where do fish disappear to in the wild during freezing temperatures?

It is a well-documented fact that some lakes and rivers freeze in the winter. Ice forms on top of these lakes and rivers. The surface of the water in the frozen lakes and rivers is extremely cold for any fish to find comfort there. However, below the surface, the conditions can be a bit more comfortable. In freshwater lakes, warm water tends to sink deeper. At or near the bottom of the frozen lakes and river, freshwater fish will gather in groups to keep themselves warm. They are less active as the temperatures drop.

While some species can burrow their way through soft sediments before going dormant other fish don’t have this luxury.

How do fish in controlled environments survive these harsh conditions?

Aquaponic fish in such surrounding are not able to rely on their own capabilities. Instead, they are left to rely on human actions to keep themselves warm. Failure by humans to help may leave the fish on the verge of freezing to death.

Often, fish make their way rooted to the bottom of the pond or aquaponic to try to escape the freezing temperatures. It is imperative for the person keeping the fish to find a way of keeping the tank warm and well insulated. It’s not enough to assume that the cold temperatures are only outside.

Yes, the extremely low temperatures may not be inside the house, but that offers little comfort to the fish in the tank. The first thing you need to do is check the condition the fish tank heater is in. Ensure the heater works properly at all times. Inspect it thoroughly before the onset of the cold season. Fish kept in ponds and tank of any kind need warm water to make it through winter in good health. However, certain fish species will do well even in extremely cold temperatures.

Apart from checking if the heater work, you can also generate heat for the tank manually.

Absolute Worst Way to Keep your Aquaponic Fish Warm!

First, try to retain the heat within the tank as much as possible. You can do this even when the power goes off. This tip is not limited to the winter when temperatures drop to highly uncomfortable levels. You can wrap the outside of the tank with layers of newspapers, which are renowned for their fantastic insulation properties. While at it block the hood vents by covering the top as well as the bottom of the tank. This way, you will ensure heat does not rise and escape from the fish tank; thus keeping fish warm.

Feel Free to use towels or blankets instead of newspapers.

The old-fashioned way of keeping the tank – and the fish therein – warm involves:

  1. Boiling Water
  2. Pouring the boiled water into a tightly sealed container
  3. Placing the tightly sealed container filled with boiled water into the tank.

Ensure the container remains floating inside the tank. Check the container repeatedly to find out if the water is cooling. If it is and you can confirm this by simply touching the outside of the container, take it out and refill it with freshly boiled water. Do this repeatedly. Alternatively, you may need more than one container. Replace them inside the tank once they grow cold. This way, there is no time wasted between taking one container out of the tank before replacing it with a new one.

Keeping fish warm in the winter is all about guaranteeing their safety and wellbeing.

Do whatever it takes to keep the fish away from danger.

The worst way to keep the water warm is by warming and pouring it directly in the tank. Whoever does this had terrible intentions. This method of keeping the tank warm will only lead to one outcome – fish falling sick. The fish will most probably come down with a bout of parasitic infestation. The drastic change in water temperatures forms cold to warm, which happens as you pour boiled water directly into the tank.

Below are the signs and symptoms you should watch out for

  • Damages to the skin
  • Injuries to the gills
  • Formation of sores and ulcers
  • Little bleeding spots in different parts of the body.

In most cases, temperatures do not drop overnight from one season to the next. Instead, the fall in temperatures takes place gradually; hence, not a danger to the fish.

Effects of Freezing Temperatures on Fish

Cold temperatures are bad for the fish; hence, the need to prepare for winter adequately. You can prepare by cleaning the bottom of the tank. Eliminate all the loose organic debris from the container. Check the tank’s bottom portion for this debris. The waste is mostly made up of plant materials, algae, and leaves. Avoid pressure washing or brushing the sides of the tank, as this would make it lose its insulations properties. Furthermore, microscopic algae attached on the side of the tank is healthy, thus suitable for the fish.

Water in the tank is likely to be full of microorganisms, which are not entirely hazardous to the fish. However, some of the dissolved organisms can be bad for the survival and health of your fish. The harmful organics need removal. Therefore, dilute them by changing 15 percent of the water regularly. The more you do this, the more you will have rebalanced the minerals in the tank water. Depending on your gallons to fish ratio and water flow to grow beds, you might get away with skipping this step.

Other measures you can apply to prepare the fish (and the tank they live in)

  • Covering the pond to keep wind-blown trash and leaves out
  • Inspecting the fish thoroughly for wounds and sores

Can Feeding help to keep fish warm?

Feeding is an excellent way of ensuring that fish enjoy warm temperatures in the face of the biting winter temperatures. Be careful with the kind of food you are feeding the fish. The type of food to use depends on the temperature. For example, if you are feeding them four-season foods, the normal growth foods when the temperatures drop below 68 degrees. At these levels, you will be better off reducing the volume of food you feed the fish and keep monitoring the temperatures closely.

When temperatures drop below 58 degrees, reduce the volume of food significantly. At this level, restrict yourself to deeding the fish only once a day. When the temperatures fall below 55, you will have to feed the fish once every 2 or 3 days.

Prevent water from icing over

In winter, the water might ice over. You can avoid this by keeping at least one breathing hole opened. Never allow the water on your pond or tank to freeze over. Solid ice covers are a danger to the fish below. All that the ice cover does is to trap and dissolved gases underneath. Trapped dissolved gases are capable of killing all the fish, which would mean huge losses for you. Avoid feeling tempted to walk on the ice. Keep children and dogs away from the ice.

However, there are times when ice can be useful for fish. When it helps insulation, the formation of ice on the surface can be great for the fish as it keeps them warm. The ice provides adequate insulation (and warmth) during the coldest days of winter. What is good for the goose should be good for the gander. However, that does not always hold true about the pond fish. Ice cover is good for the fish, as stated above. However, that ice cover is terrible news for the pond, as you will learn below.

The entire pond – not just the fish – needs plenty of sunlight, which is a rarity in winter. For this reason, the pond can d with the little sunlight it gets during this period of the year. That is not possible when the surface is covered in ice. The pond is home to several living things, not fish only. All living thing ins the pond need plenty of oxygen. Where do they get this? They get this from planktons and living organisms, which perform photosynthesis. If the ice cover blocks the pond completely, thus preventing it from accessing sunlight, oxygen will run out.

Can fish survive in a pond or tank that lacks adequate oxygen?

Fish can survive without the much-needed oxygen, but only for a short period. The Carp and catfish are good at the technique. To increase their chances of survival, you should transfer them into a smaller tank. However, keep them away from feeding until you return them to the larger container. Fish can survive for up to a week without food. Feeding should be the last of your worries at this point. Prolonged ice cover prevents planktons and other living organisms from accessing sunlight, thus making it impossible for them to perform photosynthesis. Eventually, this depletes oxygen in the tank.

Energy free DIY Aeration and Heater trick

Keeping the fish warm is not the only job you have to do in the winter. You also have to find ways of keeping the tank properly aerated and filtered. Aeration is one of the simplest tasks you can do. Simply collect the tank water in buckets. Climb to a height of around 6 inches and then pour the water back into the tank. Aerate the water or tank at least once every hour. Increase the frequency of aerating the tank if the fish to need more.  This way is a good work out, but it takes forever.

Some of the measures you employ depend on whether the tank is outside or inside the house.

You may have to look at the size and depth of the pond before applying any measure too.

Generally, deep ponds do not require additional heating measures. The deeper the portions of the pond provide the perfect haven for fish that need to escape the cold temperatures near the surface. Shallow ponds, on the other hand, need all the emergency measures you can provide to keep the fish warm during the winter. Before winter, you may have to consider digging the pond deeper. A depth of around 3-5 ft. for ponds is suitable.

How to create a DIY energy free Aeration and Heater while maintaining your budget!

We will teach you how to create your own DIY energy free aeration and heater! Not only will this system help with oxygen levels 24/7 it will help produce heat. As a bonus, this DIY energy free system will help release gases that are harmful to our fish.

  1. Spray paint a sheet of metal black and let it dry
  2. Wrap a silicone pipe around the metal
  3.  Put one end of the pipe in the water while the other end 6 to 8 inches above the surface
  4. Elevate the sheet of metal to maximize the exposure to the sun.

If the silicone pipe never exits the water, the circuit should never break. It’s best to weigh this side down to ensure the success of this cheap DIY project. This is my favorite trick, it’s affordable,“` easy and efficient.

The pipe that never enters the water will shoot out hotter and more oxygen-filled water.

This can boil your fish during the summer months!! So don’t forget to disassemble this project and pack it away for next fall.

Interested in making the energy free aeration and heater system click here.

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