Winter is closing in on us, the temperatures are beginning to drop, and the days are shortening. This brings up one of our most frequently received questions at this time of year, when should I stop feeding my fish? Firstly, it is important to understand what happens to your fish in these winter months and why it is important to reduce, stop or change your feeding programme.

What happens to fish in winter?

Fish are ectothermic animals, meaning that their body temperatures are controlled through environmental sources. This means that when the water temperatures drop, subsequently the body temperature of the fish drops too resulting in a reduction of their metabolic rates. Your fish will become lethargic using as little energy as possible to keep warm. Warm water is denser than cold and as such will sink to the bottom, the fish will also drop to the bottom of the pond to stay that bit warmer.

How should I change my feeding?

Now we know why our fish begin to slow down in the winter and the effect that has on them, in terms of reduction in metabolism, it shows the need for a dietary change. This change is dependent on the temperature drop and as such could mean a reduction in volume of food, a complete stop or a change in what food is given.

As the colder temperatures begin and the fish become less active it is always worth reducing the amount of food that is given as the fish will naturally eat less. This will save you from scooping out uneaten food and keep your water clearer with less waste produced.

Deeper into winter the air temperatures are likely to get below freezing, and water temperatures will drop below 5C. It is at this stage that you should consider stopping feeding altogether because the fish will not be able to process the food, leading to complications as the food will rot away in their stomachs.

What else can we do?

Finally, if your fish are still seemingly hungry throughout the winter you should consider changing the food provided to wheat germ. This is essentially easier for them to digest during these colder months providing essential nutrition for their survival. However, even this should only be fed if the temperatures are above 5C, therefore it is worth buying a thermometer for precise temperature readings.

The Pond Guys are a pond installation and maintenance business based in Surrey, with teams covering London and the South East.

We are specialists in all types of ponds from ‘state of the art’ Koi ponds through to tranquil water gardens and water features.

Do get in contact for any help and advice, or indeed if you need help with any aspect of your pond or feature.

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