Does Antifreeze Ruin a Water Feature?

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You really enjoy your water fountain, and are hoping to be able to keep it running all year long. Knowing that it runs the risk of freezing over, you begin to wonder if antifreeze would be able to help solve your problem. It works in cars, so why not in your fountain?

While you may want to run your fountain through the winter, adding antifreeze will not only not prevent your fountain from freezing over, it may also damage your lawn and surrounding plants. Adding antifreeze to your pond also runs the risk of poisoning your animals and children.

Antifreeze may cause more problems than it solves and might not be the solution to the problem. Winterizing your fountains and ponds might be your best option and a better solution.

Harmful Effects of Antifreeze

While antifreeze won’t prevent your fountain from freezing over, it can poison your beloved children and pets. Small children will get into anything and love to splash and play in the water.

After a few minutes of play, your toddler will inevitably put something in their mouth – their fingers, a rock from the bottom of the fountain, a leaf they found – and by so doing, unwittingly ingest some of the antifreeze within the water.

Similarly, your pets may take a sip of the water to quench their thirst after ten minutes of barking up the tree they saw your local squirrel run up. Not only is the water moving, but it’s way bigger than the bowl you’ve already set up for them and therefore a much better option to drink out of.

Move on over, toilet bowl, you have met your match. Your beloved Spot has now become poisoned by the very antifreeze you hoped would keep your fountain from freezing.

It may not become immediately apparent that your child or animal has become poisoned, and for several hours they may seem just fine. However, after a period of time they may begin to experience symptoms of poisoning, which include:

  • vomiting
  • nausea
  • grogginess
  • lack of coordination – in animals this may manifest in stumbling as they move around
  • rapid heart rate and breathing
  • convulsions

Your pets may also begin drinking more water than usual or act depressed. This may be a sign of kidney failure.

If you suspect your child or animal has ingested antifreeze, immediately call poison control at 1-800-222-1222 for your child or take your pet to the closest veterinarian. Without the proper care, antifreeze poisoning can cause organ failure and even death.

Antifreeze and Plants

Antifreeze is not only toxic to people and animals, but it can also be damaging to your plants and trees as well.

Fountain water will often splash out enough to wet the surrounding plants and lawn. If there is antifreeze in the water, you may be slowly killing off the plants surrounding your water feature. While fountains are pretty, surrounded by a bunch of dead plants it may look a tad bit less attractive.

Even if the antifreeze doesn’t kill the plants, it can slow down their growth up to 80% and cause the plants to yield fewer seeds.

Winterizing Your Water Feature

If you live in a region that frequently freezes in the winter, the best thing you can do for your outdoor water feature is to shut it down for the season and prep it for the months ahead.

  1. To begin winterizing your fountain, you will start by removing any plants that may live in or on it. Clean up any of the plant debris left behind. You’ll want to do this no later than the first frost of the season so as to not kill off these plants, but doing it sooner rather than later is always better.
  2. Clean out any algae that may have begun to grow in your water feature. To do this, use a water-activated algaecide.
  3. Now you will need to drain the water. This needs to take place before the first frost so that all the water can evaporate and the fountain can be properly dry when the frost comes.
  4. Take out the pump. If the pump is left in the pond, freezing can cause it to be severely damaged and need replacing come spring when you turn your feature back on.

If at all possible, bring your water feature into a garage or shed to protect it for the winter and prevent it from weathering. If it is too large to bring in, cover it with a tarp or a fountain cover to protect from the elements and keep water out.

Winterizing Your Pond

Not only does your water features need to be winterized, but so does your pond! If you keep fish in your pond, once the temperatures of the water drop below 65 degrees, you’ll want to start feeding your fish a cold-water fish food to prepare them for the upcoming months.

Once the temperatures drop below 50 degrees, you’ll stop feeding them all together. Below 50 degrees, the fish are unable to properly digest their food, and continuing to feed them can cause health problems later on.

During the fall months, install a net over the pond to prevent leaves from falling into the pond. When you are preparing the pond for the winter months, you will remove this net, for they were not made to withstand the weight of snow.

As you are winterizing your pond, remove as much organic debris from the bottom of the pond as possible. If necessary, do a full pond clean. This will prevent against parasites and other unwanted pond pests to take up residence.

Trim down any of your aquatic plants for the winter. They will be trimmed down to be about one to two inches in height.

Turn off any water features you may have and install some other form of aeration such as a bubbler pump or aeration system, as well as a floating de-icer. This will allow for their to be gas exchange for your fish during the winter months.

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We always wanted a fountain of some kind at our house, but professional installation was just too pricey. So, we decided to make our own little fountain and after learning how, we thought we should share our experiences to help people in our same situation.

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