What Happens to Turtles and Frogs in the Winter?

Today was a reminder of just how brutal Winter can be – the car said it was a balmy 1° this morning on my way into work. Add in the wind chill and my freezer at home would feel positively comfy in comparison. When temperatures drop this low, some may wonder what happens to fish, turtles and frogs in the winter?

The cold is bad enough for us, and we have the equipment and technology to keep ourselves from freezing. Other warm blooded animals cope with the lack of warmth and food by hibernating. A bear will store up enough calories in fat to stoke her inner fire for months, find suitable shelter then go into suspended animation, lowering her temperature and metabolic functions to the very minimum needed to stay alive. She will ‘sleep’ thus until she runs out of stored fuel. She’s bet the farm that it will be warmer by then.

Cold blooded critters don’t generate inner heat. Their core is going to be the same as the temperature outside. So what happens to the various crawling, hopping and swimming critters in your pond when temps drop below freezing? They have to deal with freezing temperatures very differently than us warmbloods.

Frozen pond in the winter
Photo by Monica Malave on Unsplash

Fully aquatic animals and fish can hibernate in much the same way as warmbloods if the water is deep enough that it doesn’t freeze solid around them and there is sufficient oxygen. They take advantage of water’s unique properties. First, water can hold a lot more oxygen the colder it gets, so they can simply absorb it through gills and skin without physically moving to breathe. Then, the water at the bottom of the pond is always warmer than the ice on top, because unlike every other compound on the planet, frozen water is less dense than liquid water. Ice floats, right? Water is actually at its densest, and therefore heaviest, at a balmy 39 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s cold enough to slow the metabolism of fish, frogs and aquatic turtles way down, decreasing oxygen demand, but warm enough for them to simply hang out under the ice.

I watch my Koi just float, mostly motionless, through the icy window covering my pond. Turtles need so little oxygen they can sleep burrowed in the muck. Native Leopard Frogs need their skin exposed to absorb oxygen; they just sit on the bottom staring, waiting for Spring.

But how do terrestrial cold bloods deal with cold winters? They can’t take advantage of those ‘warm’ bottom waters insulated under ice and snow, they’d drown. They can’t hibernate because they don’t produce any inner heat to keep from freezing. These guys have to ‘brumate’. Their metabolism drops to near zero, they don’t breathe, their hearts may even stop beating and they partially freeze – then revive themselves in the Spring.

The challenge they face is to keep ice from forming inside the cells of their organs when temps drop. Ice crystals are sharp, and water expands when freezing, which would damage or destroy cell structures and burst cell membranes, killing the animal. Frogs, turtles and a number of other animals can partially freeze without damage the same way you winterize an RV – by filling the most critical structures with antifreeze.

Turtle with head sticking out of pond
Turtle Photo by Chris F from Pexels

As temps drop, they dump excess water inside their cells, expelling it into the spaces between the cells. Then they flood the cells with glucose, creating a concentrated sugar solution that resists freezing well below 32 degrees F. At the same time, special proteins bond to ice crystals in the water around the cells, blocking the individual crystals from attaching to each other. The water around the cell can freeze but the ice crystals stay in suspension instead of clumping together, keeping the ice from solidifying and harming the animal.

Frog sitting in pond
Photo by Fatih Sağlambilen from Pexels

In this way, frogs can literally be 70% frozen, cocooned in mud all winter, not breathing, heart stopped, looking dead to the world. When Spring arrives they defrost, their lungs and hearts resume activity and they pop out of the mud unharmed. In fact, the sight of frogs and toads emerging from the ground as it thawed gave rise to the ancient notion that they were literally made of mud, a myth that wasn’t dispelled until the 18th century.

So, don’t worry about that frogsicle you thought croaked – chances are he will rise to croak again.  


DEMI FORTUNA

Demi has been in water garden construction since 1986. As Atlantic’s Director of Product Information, if he’s not building water features, he’s writing or talking about them. If you have a design or construction question, he’s the one to ask.

A-O Pro Tip – Koi Pond Layout, How to Improve Circulation with Art of the Yard

We’re back with another video for our Learn From The A-O Pro’s series! Today’s video features Shane Hemphill from Art of the Yard showing us a cool koi pond layout and how to improve circulation in your pond!

Contractor, Shane Hemphill, showing the build site and plans for a koi pond

This tip comes from a dedicated koi pond project in Colorado Springs done by Atlantic-OASE Professional Contractors from Art of the Yard. We had Atlantic-OASE staff visit Art of the Yard during their build to catch some awesome A-O Pro Tips!

A-O Pro Tip #13 – Koi Pond Layout, How to Improve Circulation with Art of the Yard

In our 13th A-O Pro Tip, Shane Hemphill, owner of Art of the Yard shows us what his team installs to help keep water moving and circulating in their koi ponds.

Watch the video here!

In the video Shane explains that to eliminate the stagnant area the pond previously had, they installed bottom drains, skimmers and jets. The plan for the pond was to install two bottom drains and two skimmers on opposite sides of the pond.

Skimmer installed into the side of a pond
Skimmer installed into the side of a pond

With the help of a Demi Fortuna’s A-O Pro Tip from an earlier video, Shane shows us how they installed the two skimmers to the side to help pull the water around the pond. Both skimmers are placed in different directions to keep the water flowing. Watch Demi’s tip here: A-O Pro Tip – Hiding a Skimmer with Demi Fortuna.

Shane also notes that good circulation and no stagnant areas are key to a healthy environment for koi fish so, make sure you get your water moving!

Want to be featured in the next A-O Pro Video?

We’re looking for contractors with awesome tips and tricks for our A-O Pro Tips videos and we want to visit you at your builds! Want to be the star of our next tip video? Tell us what upcoming water feature builds you have planned and what A-O Pro tips you have for us and we’ll send someone from the Atlantic-OASE team out to video you and your work!

Contact your Regional Sales Manager to learn more on the A-O Pro Series. Not sure who your Regional Sales Manager is? Contact us at marketing@atlantic-oase.com

Stay tuned for more A-O Pro Tips here on the blog and don’t forget to follow us on Instagram and subscribe to our YouTube so you don’t miss out on all the Learn From The A-O Pro’s videos!


About the Author:

Caitlyn Winkle

After graduating from the University of Akron, Caitlyn joined Atlantic-OASE in the fall of 2019. Caitlyn manages the social media and online content for the company. She also supports the Atlantic-OASE Professional Contractor (APC) Program and Marketing Departments in creating marketing and advertising strategies and plans.

A-O Pro Tip – Installing a Skimmer with Pond Professors Inc. & Whitaker Waterscapes LLC

It’s our favorite day of the week, Tip Tuesday that is, and we have another A-O Pro Tip for you! This week, Rex McCaskill and Travis Whitaker give us some helpful tips when installing a Skimmer. Let’s dive right in and see what tips they have for us!

Contractor installing a skimmer into the side of a pond

This tip comes from a demonstration build at Smith Turf Irrigation in Colfax, North Carolina. Contractors from Pond Professors Inc., Whitaker Waterscapes LLC, Atlantic-OASE staff and more all came to Smith Turf Irrigation to teach and learn some water feature installation techniques. During this 1-day training, the contractors installed an awesome pond and waterfall with Atlantic Spouts, a Copper Spillway and a Copper Bowl flowing into the pond!

A-O Pro Tip #7 – Installing a Skimmer with Pond Professors Inc. & Whitaker Waterscapes LLC

Pond with waterfall, copper spillway bowl, wall spouts and copper spillway

For the 7th A-O Pro Tip in our Learn From The A-O Pro’s series, Rex McCaskill from Pond Professors Inc. and Travis Whitaker from Whitaker Waterscapes LLC, show us some helpful tips to consider when installing a skimmer into your pond.

Watch the A-O Pro Tip here!

Both Rex and Travis explain how important it is to make sure your skimmer is level when installing. Travis also explains that you make sure the skimmer is installed on the opposite side of your waterfall for good circulation.

Skimmer installed into the side of a pond

Travis and Rex also teach the contractors how to install their pond liner and rocks higher than the overflow of the skimmer.

Want to be featured in the next A-O Pro Video?

Do you have some unique and help tips and tricks on installing water features? We’re looking for the next A-O Pro to be featured in our video series and we want to visit you! Tell us what upcoming water feature builds you have planned and what A-O Pro tips you have for us and we’ll send someone from the Atlantic-OASE team out to video you and your work!

Contact your Regional Sales Manager to learn more on the A-O Pro Series. Not sure who your Regional Sales Manager is? Contact us at marketing@atlantic-oase.com

Stay tuned for more A-O Pro Tips here on the blog and don’t forget to follow us on Instagramand subscribe to our YouTube so you don’t miss out on all the Learn From The A-O Pro’s videos!

Comment below for more questions on installing a skimmer or email us at info@atlantic-oase.com


About the Author:

Caitlyn Winkle

After graduating from the University of Akron, Caitlyn joined Atlantic-OASE in the fall of 2019. Caitlyn manages the social media and online content for the company. She also supports the Atlantic-OASE Professional Contractor (APC) Program and Marketing Departments in creating marketing and advertising strategies and plans.

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8 Water Features to Give Your Dad for Father’s Day This Year

Happy Father’s Day AND happy Summer Solstice, aka the first day of summer! What better way to kick off the summer than to give your dad a new water feature to enjoy all summer long? Here are 8 great water feature options to gift your dad this year!

A Formal Spillway to add to your patio or existing hardscape

Stainless Steel Spillway Project Bundle

Check out Atlantic’s new Formal Spillway Project Bundles to create your very own formal spillway. Project Bundles include everything you need but the stone to create awesome water features!

His own custom fountain bowl or vase

Blue Fountain Vase in a backyard with a patio

Use our Fountain Systems to make any fountain come to life. Pick out a fountain topper of your liking (bowl, vase or pot) to put on an Atlantic Fountain Basin.

A Pond-free waterfall

Pond-free waterfall created by Art of the Yard

Waterfall by Art of the Yard, Colorado

Find a contractor near you to help bring the sights and sounds of a waterfall to your backyard. Click here to find a contractor in your area.

A classic koi pond

Koi fish pond

You can’t go wrong with a classic koi pond in your yard! Spend hours outside watching your gorgeous fish swim by. Keep it clean and clean with the OASE BioTec Screenmatic².

Add some pizzazz to your pool with some spillways

Pool with Stainless Steel Spillway flowing water into it by Designing with Elements

Spillway by Designing with Elements, New York

Make some additions to your pool this year with Atlantic’s 316 Stainless Steel Spillways that are specifically made for chlorinated pools.

Spruce up your water garden with a new fountain

Filtral UVC fountain and filtration set

Already have a water garden? Drop in a decorative fountain feature with the OASE Filtral UVC. Choose between 3 different nozzles and also get the added bonus of built in filtration to help keep your water nice and clear!

Go big with a pond and waterfall

Pond and waterfall by Bulone Brothers Landscaping

Pond and waterfall by Bulone Brothers Landscaping, Ohio

Go big or go home like dad always says and give him the pond of his dreams.

Or maybe he wants to give the furry member of the family somewhere to splash

Dog swimming in pond with small waterfall by Liquid Landscapes

Pond by Liquid Landscapes, North Carolina

It is the first day of summer after all. Give the Dad’s best friend the summer he’ll never forget with a pond to cool off in!

We’re wishing you a great Father’s Day and know good ole Dad will be so thrilled with his new water feature this year! Stay cool this summer!


About the Author:

Caitlyn Winkle

After graduating from the University of Akron, Caitlyn joined Atlantic-OASE in the fall of 2019. Caitlyn manages the social media and online content for the company. She also supports the Atlantic-OASE Professional Contractor (APC) Program and Marketing Departments in creating marketing and advertising strategies and plans.

Celebrating National Pet Day with Your Water Feature’s #1 Fans

April 11th is National Pet Day and we’re celebrating the best way we know how – by showing the internet the cutest furry friends loving their water features!

This pup parading through his new pond

Liquid Landscapes Inc. wrote an article in POND Trade Magazine about building a water feature for his client, Stella, to play in! Read it here.

Because who are we kidding? The real reason we install ponds are for our pets!

Art of the Yard creates ponds for all wildlife, pets included!

Hawksley loved visiting Atlantic’s water garden at the old building in Mantua!

Waterfall loving dogs

Big or small, all of our contractor’s dogs love their waterfalls!

Little white dog standing on a waterfall

American River Waterscapes‘ cutest mascot!

Our Atlantic-OASE Staff have some water feature loving pets too!

Tyson & Moose are some happy and hydrated hounds!

Cooper loves playing in his mini fountain and pond!

Bailey is always hanging by the pond!

Thor treats his fountains as his own personal drinking bowls!

Brewster loves his bubbling fountains!

We hope you celebrate National Pet Day with your furry family members! And if you don’t have a water feature for your pet, give your pet the best National Pet Day gift and install one for them!


About the Author:

Caitlyn Winkle

After graduating from the University of Akron, Caitlyn joined Atlantic-OASE in the fall of 2019. Caitlyn manages the social media and online content for the company. She also supports the Atlantic-OASE Professional Contractor (APC) Program and Marketing Departments in creating marketing and advertising strategies and plans.

OASE Filtral UVC

The OASE Filtral UVC is the ideal all-in-one solution for excellent water quality in smaller ponds and water features. Three sizes of Filtral UVC – 400, 800 and 1400 – clean and clear ponds and fountains up to 1400 gallons with a combination of mechanical and biological filtration paired with ultraviolet clarification. The units are so effective that they qualify for the OASE Clear Water Guarantee when sized as directed.

OASE Filtral UVC filter and fountain pump

The advanced pump, housed in the compact case, moves water silently and efficiently, using minimal wattage, and is thermally protected and grounded against stray current leaks.

Inside of the OASE Filtral UVC

Double filter foams coarse and fine, filter pebbles and bio-media in the case provide excellent mechanical and biological filtration that quickly clears ponds up to 1400 gallons and is easily cleaned. The ultraviolet clarifier operates at a frequency that keeps organics from building up in the water for a year at a time before needing to be replaced, and operation can be monitored via sight glass from outside the pond.

Closeup of diverter of OASE Filtral UVC

On the return side, water is circulated in one of two different ways – via fountain head or through a side outlet, which can divert water to an optional decorative spitter or spout.

Lava Nozzle

Lava Nozzle

Vulkan Nozzle

Vulkan Nozzle

Magma Nozzle

Magma Nozzle

The fountain head comes with three inserts that create different patterns in water from 10” to 24” deep. The Lava insert throws out a clear dome of water, the Vulkan a double tiered fleur de lis display and the Magma a directional arched spray of five individual streams. All can be adjusted via the ball joint on the telescoping tube that also varies the height of the fountain head. A valve shunts water between the upright tube and a separate side outlet, to accommodate a variety of water return options.

Watch the beautiful nozzles in action below or click here!

Setup is simple. Select the water return option you prefer, fountain head, hose or both, then drop the unit into the pond. The 15’ cord allows for a good deal of flexibility in location, and the swiveling ball joint allows perfect vertical alignment even on sloped bottoms.

Maintenance is as easy as setup. The sloped top of the case allows debris to slide off, keeping the intake holes clear. When the flow slows, just pull the unit from the water and rinse off the filters. A grounding plate protects from stray current, and the pumps are thermally protected for long service life.


About the Author:

DEMI FORTUNA

Demi has been in water garden construction since 1986. As Atlantic’s Director of Product Information, if he’s not building water features, he’s writing or talking about them. If you have a design or construction question, he’s the one to ask.

Spring May Have Sprung, but We’re Not Free of Winter Just Yet…

hungry koi fish

March came in like a lion this year – when it wasn’t snowing it was blowing, cold and hard. Things are finally starting to warm up, with temps above freezing here in Long Island, giving some hope for the month going out like a lamb. But Winter hasn’t let go its grip just yet. As the crocuses bloom and the buds start to swell, the thermometer in my pond tells a cold, cruel tale. The water is still closer to freezing than the minimum temperature my fish need to be able to digest their food.

Mind you, they are doing their best to convince me otherwise. They come over when I approach the feeding rock, hopefully blowing bubbles at the surface just in case I’ve thrown any food in. The Koi are hungry, and they should be. They haven’t eaten since before Thanksgiving. All they’ve lived on for the last four months is the fat they stored up for winter. They don’t look so fat now. They are at the last of their reserves. So, why not feed them? Not much, “joost a taste”, like Grandma use to say? 

Well, that kindness, done for all the right reasons, would quite possibly kill them. Fish are cold-blooded; their internal temperature matches that of the surrounding water. Their digestive processes involve the activity of bacteria, just as ours do, that help break down the food they eat into compounds that are readily absorbed by the gut. Those bacteria are sensitive to temperature; they slow waaaay down when temps are low. The food ferments and decomposes before it can be digested, and the byproducts of decomposition can be lethal. Ever had food poisoning? Excruciating pain, cramps, fever and worse? Well, that’s what happens when food rots inside you, or your koi. These last few weeks make me nervous. This is the time of year that I’ve lost fish in the past, once when a fish attacked by osprey couldn’t fight off an ensuing infection, once when a late snowfall-and-road-salt event washed salt into the pond as the piles on the nearby road melted, and once when well-wishers sneaked food into the pond. (Oh, they were sooo HUNGRY, the poor things.) Not anymore.

The beneficial bacteria that aid in digestion slowly come up to speed as temps warm. It’s generally accepted that over 55 degrees the chance of a fatality due to feeding drops to near zero. That said, please help your fishes’ awakening systems by feeding fish an easily digestible food based mainly on carbohydrates, usually labelled Spring-and-Fall mix. Bear in mind that their immune systems are at the lowest level all year; maybe a stressful cleanout can wait for a few weeks? A fish that bruises itself or loses scales when she is startled and slams into a wall is at higher risk now than at any other time. Resist the temptation, no matter how much they beg; Spring is right around the corner. 

Read more about spring and your pond in our blog: Spring Is For Sprucing!


About the Author:

DEMI FORTUNA

Demi has been in water garden construction since 1986. As Atlantic’s Director of Product Information, if he’s not building water features, he’s writing or talking about them. If you have a design or construction question, he’s the one to ask.

The Wearing of the Green – Algae in the Spring

Yesterday was Saint Patrick’s Day, when we mark the anniversary of his death by celebrating the Green Isle and all things green. What better time to talk about green water, right? Here are some interesting facts about that wonderful plant, algae, we all love to hate, and maybe even some more reasons to love the green!

pond algae

Algae are not plants. Many are single cells with a simple chloroplast, the machinery behind the magic of photosynthesis. They share that capacity with plants, that wondrous ability to turn carbon dioxide and water into sugar using the power of sunlight, but they don’t have stems, leaves, roots or organs. Neither are they bacteria, though it is thought it may have arisen when a bacterium stole a chloroplast from a cyanobacterium, creating the first algal cells over one BILLION years ago. The term ‘algae’ actually refers to many entirely different lineages of organisms, some of which are multicellular, others which thrive under the ice cap, or are red or purple in color, or live inside corals, or lichens or even the fur of polar bears.

This loose conglomeration of not-quite-plants is home to anywhere between 72,000 and 1 MILLION species, depending on who’s counting. Multicellular macroalgae come in three different colors – red, green and brown – and we know them mainly as seaweed, like kelp and sea lettuce. But the vast majority are microalgae, the little one-celled devils that make water green (or red or pink or brown), and there are tens of thousands of species of them.

Why do algae matter? Because the world runs on algae, in just about every sense. Need oxygen to live? Many of us do. Algae create 50% of all the oxygen in the atmosphere. Ever get hungry? You’d be a lot hungrier without algae. All seafood is ultimately sustained by it, the base of both marine and freshwater food pyramids. The Koi in your pond could live directly just on algae. And, since every land plant descended from algae, and every land animal depends on land plants for sustenance, either directly as an herbivore or omnivore, or indirectly as a predator of herbivores, you could say we all owe our existence to algae. On a more approachable level, the oil that powers our cars and industry is mainly the product of the decomposition of immensely deep beds of dead algae. And going forward, the biofuels of the future will be directly produced by – you guessed it – algae.

So the next time you see that tinge in the water, instead of shaking your shillelagh in frustration, maybe you should celebrate ‘the wearin’ of the green’!

Check out our blog for more articles on spring, algae and other helpful tips and tricks the water garden industry here!


About the Author:

DEMI FORTUNA

Demi has been in water garden construction since 1986. As Atlantic’s Director of Product Information, if he’s not building water features, he’s writing or talking about them. If you have a design or construction question, he’s the one to ask.

In Honor of World Book Day

I’m not quite sure where all of these World Celebration Days come from – I mean, do we really need a World Mosquito Day? Has anyone actually woken up on August 20th to purposefully celebrate mosquitoes? But I can’t help chuckling as I buy into the idea. March 5 is World Book Day, so I thought I might talk about some books that I’ve really enjoyed using, long before Google.

I’ve already mentioned Secret Teachings in the Art of Japanese Gardens, by David A. Slawson, a book I love for a number of reasons. I was always fascinated by Japanese folklore, and Slawson explains in great detail how myths and legends are honored and recreated in garden architecture. For example, there’s an ancient Asian folktale of a giant turtle that supported the island home of the immortals, their Mount Olympus. There are Turtle Islands in most classical Japanese gardens. Slawson’s excellent illustrations (the second reason I love the book) have helped me recreate them in my work. His explanations of how ancient masters used the shapes of stones to create movement are inspiring.

See the Turtle Island?

I have a couple of copies of Rick Bartel’s, The R.I.S.E Method, a How-to Guide for Designing Natural Appearing Ponds, Streams and Waterfalls. I’ve recommended his beautifully illustrated book to dozens of people who’ve attended my seminars over the years (including my eldest, who will listen to anyone except his old man.) Rick presents the concept of naturalistic rock placement as accessibly as anyone ever has. He combines well-expressed theory with step by step instruction that, properly followed, can make anyone’s work look good (including my eldest’s).

The third is one I haven’t carried as regularly lately, my Taylor’s Guide to Perennials, but when I was planting every week it never left my bag. It’s pretty sketchy – cover taped on, color plates loose – but it never needs a signal.

So my hope is, for World Book Day, I’ve helped folks remember how useful books are, even today. And as far as this silly “Day” stuff is concerned, just wait ‘til World Corgi Day.


About the Author:

DEMI FORTUNA

Demi has been in water garden construction since 1986. As Atlantic’s Director of Product Information, if he’s not building water features, he’s writing or talking about them. If you have a design or construction question, he’s the one to ask.

Spring Is For Sprucing!

It’s here! Spring! Well, meteorological Spring anyway. I personally can’t wait until the solstice, probably because it’s 23 degrees with a 40-mile-an-hour wind this morning. For those of us who endure winter without running water features, it’s time to start thinking about getting ponds started back up again.

Even if you don’t freeze for winter, Spring is the perfect time for seasonal maintenance. Pumps should be pulled, cleaned and serviced if needed. Diffusers in shallow water that kept ice from sealing the pond can be moved back into deeper water. Filter pads in pond systems can be cleaned if they weren’t in the fall. Remember to clean only half in chlorinated water. Rinse the others only in pond water, and don’t let them dry out, to preserve the bacteria living in them. Put the rinsed mats back into the bottom of upflow biofilters, to quickly reseed the cleaned mats above them.

Your plants will appreciate some attention too. They may just need pruning and feeding with Pondtabbs, or they might benefit from a replanting. If you’re careful, they may never realize they’ve been moved, but will reward you with better growth and blooms in season. To accelerate the growth of waterlilies, keep them close to the surface early in the season, so the leaves are in the warmest water. As the rest of the pond gradually warms, you can then drop them down into deeper water. 

Debris that builds up over winter is likely to contribute to nutrients in the water, just as water warms. Algae blooms can be common this time of year, before other plants wake up and compete for nutrients. Now is the perfect time to replace your ultraviolet lamps. They may still be emitting visible light, but they decline in UV output after a year and aren’t effective. A new bulb now keeps algae at bay, right when you need it most.

One thing I personally don’t like doing is a major cleanup in Spring. My fish have had to overwinter under ice. They started their fast fat and happy, but that was four months ago. They are thin and stressed and their immune systems are at low ebb – this is not the time to mess with them. We do our major cleanup in the fall, after the leaves are mostly down. I may go in with a PondoVac and pull out some lingering leaves, but it’s more likely we’ll wait until temps are higher and my fish are feeding again (above 55 degrees Fahrenheit).

Contractors, as for the spring major cleanup money that you may be giving up, there’s no shortage of work in the spring. A quick vacuuming in addition to the steps above can be quite satisfactory all around and a lot less time-consuming, at a time when all your customers want to see you. Set up a follow-up later in the spring for your needier jobs, and have your customers work on a wish list of extras. Two trips will be better than one.

Happy Spring! 


About the Author:

DEMI FORTUNA

Demi has been in water garden construction since 1986. As Atlantic’s Director of Product Information, if he’s not building water features, he’s writing or talking about them. If you have a design or construction question, he’s the one to ask.