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DIY Pond Cover For Winter

October 09, 2021

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How do you winterize a backyard goldfish pond? Well for us, it's easy.

We don't do much more than add a DIY screened cover.

It's simple to construct and inexpensive if you use old materials. Here are the DIY plans.

Frog fountain near backyard pond

Would you be surprised if I told you that cottage living was never really in my plans?

Probably not.

I mean how many little girls run around saying, When I grow up, I want to live in the smallest house I can find...

Not many. Including me. 

And yet that's exactly what happened.

A year after we were married, on my birthday, as a matter of fact, we made an offer on the teeniest two bedroom cottage located on a 40 x100 lot of land. And boom.

I became that little girl. 

Of course, after seven years, one cat and two children later, we decided it was time to find a slightly larger cottage.

It wasn't the walls that began to close in on our 900 square foot abode, but rather the fence. 

So when this house and its quarter acre showed up for sale, we jumped on it. 

The house was lovely, but the much space. We had room for a pool, a playground, a painted patio and a pond. An actual pond.

Goldfish In The Pond

In my cottage style garden.

It was like a dream.

In reality, it was a Kmart special, a black tub with a pump, that my husband lowered into a hole he dug in the ground. Then we landscaped around it, bought plants and a bag full of fifteen cent feeder fish from the pet store.

They brought so much life into our yard, we all just adored them.

From April until October we named them, admired them, fed them and protected them from hungry visitors by placing floating plants in the water.

Unfortunately, when winter rolled around, the plants died and the fish were exposed to predators, falling leaves that would rot in the pond and snow.

None of those were good for our swarm of swimmers.

So Why Don't We Bring Them Inside?

Well, honestly, if we only had a two or three, maybe we would. 

However, bringing 20- 30 big fish inside for the winter would require a very, very large tank. 

Goldfish are messy. Even with a filter, we'd need to clean it out and change the water often to keep everyone healthy. 

Tank life is much different that pond life...between the shock of being moved and the chemicals required to ward off disease and purify the water, it'd be a massive undertaking.

Keeping them in familiar surroundings all year is a much better solution. For everyone. 

So what do we do to take care of them in winter in a rough climate?

That is a question I get asked a lot.  

And the simple answer is...not much, beside cover them. 

At the end of each October, my husband places a screened frame cover he built over the top of the pond and problem solved.

Winterizing A Pond Cover

It keeps the fish safe from any animals that try to show up for a buffet and it keeps heavy snow and leafy debris out.

We've been doing it for years now and those tiny feeder fish are bigger than my hand at this point. 

Hidden in their little lagoon during the cold months, they eat the algae off the sides of the pond and, during the really cold months, chill out (no pun intended) under a block of ice. 

A lot of people use a pond de-icer or a pond heater or chemicals. We do not. The fish manage to adjust to the water temp as it slowly cools over the course of several weeks. 

As long as there is unfrozen water for them to swim in, and there always is, even in our rather shallow pond, they're good. 

When the spring rolls around again, we pop the cover off and start feeding them again. 

How awesome is that?

Here's how he built it.

How To Build A DIY Pond Cover For Winter

His cover was constructed with a combo of store bought and curbside finds.

Lumber For Pond Cover on a patio

The frame itself is built from 2x4's. He bought enough wood to create a rectangle frame, large enough to cover the entire pond.

Building A Cover For A Pond.

Then he screwed it all together.

Wood Frame For Pond Cover

Next, he took old window screens that he found at the curb and mounted them on the frame.

Old Window Screens

He screwed directly into the screen frame. The screens he found were a great size, so he built the frame to fit them perfectly.

However, you can overlap smaller screens to fill the frame space, if necessary.

Screwing Pond Cover Frame Together

He also could've used screening, purchased at the store, like we did for our covered porch, and you can too, but the screens were free and very stable. 

Window screening has been mechanically stretched, very taut and supports the weight of any animal that might walk across it. 

Or several inches of heavy snow.

Fastening Screens To Lumber Frame

He just drilled straight through the frames, overlapping them when necessary, which added a double layer of protection.

DIY Pond Cover For Winter

Every few seasons he needs to replace the screens, but he just finds new ones in his travels.

These photos are from last fall when he replaced the original wooden frame after more than a decade of use.

It's a relatively quick and simple project but well worth the time.

Winterizing A Pond Cover

It's not the prettiest accessory, but in winter, nothing around here looks that great.

Hence the addition of the pumpkin planter in the bird bath this year.

But it does the job.

It's light enough to lift, to toss a handful of food into the pond as we slowly stop feeding them, yet sturdy enough to remain in place when challenged by the elements or a raccoon. 

And it keeps my little friends tucked in, safe and warm, all winter long.

How do you over winter your pond?

How To Build An Inexpensive DIY  Pond Cover For Winter

Kim Signature

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  1. That is such a smart idea. I'm glad that your little friends are safe.

    1. Thanks Mary! It works really well, which is great, because we do get attached!

  2. That is great that it does not freeze the water completely and the fish can survive the winter. The cover is such a great idea. How cool is this pond to have in your yard. Happy Weekend sweet friend. xoxo Kris

    1. I love that silly little pond, Kris. It’s tiny, but we’ve had frogs, turtles and other friends visit along with the fish. It adds a little life to the place. The cover keeps other, less welcome visitors out!! Enjoy the weekend!! xo

  3. Kim, the pond is such a beautiful addition to your garden and I just took it for granted that it would be the same all year long. I'm glad you are smarter than me or those poor little fishies might not have the great life that they do. It is funny how when you live in a different climate that you don't think of things the same as those that do. I notice you drain you pool too. We have never had a fish pond, but when we lived in Santa Cruz we had a pool and we never thought to drain it. No wonder you like summer so well, winter is a lot of work for you, but you do it well!..Happy Fall my friend..xxoJudy

    1. Hi Judy! Yes, different climates call for a different approaches I suppose. The picture of the pool probably isn’t all that clear. We don’t drain it, but we do lower the water about a 1/3 of the way and cover it for the winter. It gets too cold to swim here during mid- September, so the boring winter doldrums kick in months earlier than the calendar lists. My yard is barren and boring pretty early into the fall and remains that way until May…so yes, summer, summer, summer!! Enjoy the weekend!! xo

  4. Never knew you needed something like that . Your yard is pretty!

    1. Thanks Maria! Yes, they need a little help during the colder months, but it's easy enough. Thank goodness!!

  5. That's a good idea! Our neighbors also have a little pond, and goldfish in it. I don't know what they do in the winter, but I know those goldfish do fine, even in Michigan!

    1. I think they're hearty little suckers. Now koi are a different story, but we're happy to stick with our hearty fifteen cent feeders!

  6. I had no idea it was that easy to take care of a fish pond over the winter. Now that I do, maybe I'll have one some day!

    1. Well…I guess easy is a relative term. My husband was away for a few days and I passed that pond like 4 times in 2 days taking the garbage out. Add to that the fact that I was writing a post about how to care for the fish, so they should’ve been front and center in my thoughts. Yet it didn’t dawn on me until 48 hours in that someone needed to feed them. 🙄 Thankfully everyone was fine, if a little hungry, but I think this is exactly why I can’t keep plants alive. Oh boy!!

  7. Very good solution for fish and humans! I've always thought it would be fun to have a fish pond, but I never even thought about what that would mean in winter! Doubt that one is is my future, but good to know just in case!

    1. Thanks Amy. My husband is a very creative guy and the brains behind this one. Like you, I had no idea what a commitment this would be!

  8. call me crazy, but I too LOVE my fish! We recycle the water from our lake so that makes the water stay clean. But my problem is the critters...We lose several gold fish every year, and maybe we need to make a cover for the winter. It never freezes over since the water is moving, but the fish get slower as the water gets colder and the raccoons ( I guess) are eating well at times. I used to buy expensive koi but lost too many so the goldfish make me happy. There is something about a water garden that is just so soothing. Loved your post and will rethink a cover! sending you a hug! Alda

    1. Alda, I'm so happy to meet another fish lover! Those little suckers have completely stolen my heart...and as one who has been a mama to cats, dogs, rabbits and birds, I wouldn't have thought that possible, but they have. Glad to hear someone else gets it!! Hugs to you, too!!

  9. We are winterizing our pond as well. We have to drain ours.. so the fish and plants come inside and winter in our downstairs bathroom. ;-) I guess they are snowfish instead of snowbirds? LOL

    1. I love that, Carla, snowfish! I bet you enjoy having them in the house, too. I miss visiting with them once the ice sets in.

  10. Great idea to keep your fish protected. We have a koi pond, built in and deep so no critters can get our fish. We have Koi and gold fish. We also have a filter. During the winter months, they adapt to the water temps and do not eat. They swim at the bottom. We feed them as long as they rise to the top. It's relaxing to have a Koi pond.

    1. Thanks Linda! I've often wondered how cold it gets in your neck of the woods..and Koi are lovely. We always watch them at the pond shop. They're mesmerizing.

  11. I still miss ours. I live through you with the fish.

    Because we lived where there was bear, Heron and coyotes we had to build ours extra deep.

    Also the winters were very cold because we lived at the highest point in NJ

    1. Bears!?! Yikes. That sounds terrifying. I can say for sure, if we had bears around here, we would not have fish in this teeny pond…it would just be an invitation to lunch. And I’m sorry about your fish…❤️

  12. How wonderful to have a fish pond! I can only imagine the joy it brings you, Kim. Great cover idea. I always wondered what people do with fish ponds in cold climates. Now I know! Hugs.

    1. It really does make me smile, Nancy. There’s just something about listening to the water trickle and watching those little guys swim around. Very peaceful. Thanks for the visit!! Hugs!

  13. You know I never even considered what little fishies would do when it gets freezing cold. Ours stay outside unprotected all year round, but then again our temps hardly ever drop below 0 degrees Celsius. I'll have to share your tutorial with my daughter since she's always talked about putting a fish pond in their new home in Canada

    1. Your weather sounds dreamy, Michelle. It's just too cold here for fish...and for me!