Welcome to a new year! Traditionally a time of resolutions and change, as well as freezing weather. After the usual feasting and merriment, those who make resolutions will be joining gyms, giving up smoking, trying to swear less (or at least only under due provocation!) and perhaps be better fish keepers. Having done most of the above at some point, I can tell you that the last one is probably the easiest of the lot...


  • In a mild winter, fish will feed throughout. Make sure you’re using low-temperature food to avoid problems in the spring.
  • Ensure that the deepest layers of the pond remain undisturbed. These warmer zones are where the fish will shelter during the coldest weather and shouldn’t be disturbed by filtration during the winter. It is in these static areas that fish and amphibians will spend the coldest months of the year and by turning the water over, these depths will be chilled. If your pond lacks marginal shelves, place bricks beneath your pump, or place it inside a bucket so that water is drawn only from the surface layers.
  • Now is also a good time to consider removing equipment such as pumps and ultraviolet units for servicing. With fishes gearing up for a slow winter and daylight now insufficient for green-water algae growth, many people opt to turn the life support equipment off for a few months. In the case of UVs, this makes good sense as many critical components are made of glass and would shatter if left out in the cold with the power off (turned on the lamp will generate heat). These units work by exposing algal cells to harmful ultraviolet light but as the lamp burns the output becomes less effective. In order to clear green-water, the lamp should be changed at either six-monthly intervals, or at the start of each new pond season in the spring. Another issue facing these units is limescale and the delicate quartz sleeve that separates the lamp from the water can easily become furred up, shading the algae from the light as it passes through the unit - specialist descalers are available for pond equipment and work well on quartz sleeves. An important component that often gets ignored until they fail; the sealing, or O rings, prevent water reaching the electrical parts of the unit: get into the habit of checking and replacing these to avoid problems later.
  • A pond heater can be a good way to avoid problems in the cold weather. Unlike an aquarium heater, pond heaters aren’t designed to raise the temperature of the entire pond but to provide an area of ice-free surface water allowing the pond to breathe. Plants can photosynthesise under a layer of ice but snow blacks everything out. In the event of snowy weather, brush it from an ice-bound pond to keep conditions healthy
  • Remember the birds and animals that rely on your pond and provide drinking/bathing water if sub-zero weather brings ice
  • When temperatures are very low expect your fish to be very lethargic. This is normal and with species such as tench you may even see them lying on their sides if they’re not hiding undercover



  • Resolve to be a better fishkeeper. No offence but it’s easy to fall into bad habits around areas such as testing and water changes. See what happens when you increase the frequency of changes and you’ll often be surprised – after all, many of your fish come from breeders who perform daily changes
  • At this time of year, it’s worth remembering the massive temperature changes that can affect your new pets on their way home. Give your aquatic pets an upgrade to first class by using something designed with their comfort in mind – the Maidenhead Aquatics fish transport bag. Use it during the summer to keep your new purchases cool as well. Alternatively, our stores occasionally have polystyrene boxes for sale that are used to send tropical creatures on journeys all over the world. There’s no excuse for giving your fish the worst possible start to one of the most stressful journeys that they might have ever embarked on. Both transport options are equally effective for keeping beer and wine cooler in the summer, so you can raise a glass to reduce stress and excess packaging.
  • Remember to take care with water changes – colder tap water will have supersaturated gases that can damage gill, fin and eye tissue. Make sure you use a good water conditioner and consider leaving cold water overnight in an open container before use. A great way to make changes easier is to use a small heater in the new water container set to the same temperature as your aquarium. Suspending a heater in a barrel of water works well but take care when exposing plastic containers to heating elements and always make sure you unplug the heater and give it time to cool before removing it from water.
  • If you were lucky enough to get a new aquarium for Christmas then this could be a frustrating month as your new set-up matures. Using a Hydra filter or a bacterial starter such as Microbe-Lift nite out 2 and testing for ammonia & nitrite can see this process progress smoothly. Use the time researching some fish options so you can avoid any unpleasant surprises when you add livestock
  • I know I say this a lot, but this is the first time this year - water testing makes you a better fish keeper. Many people who struggle on without testing equipment think everything’s fine until the moment it goes wrong – if you have a healthy mature aquarium check the nitrate and phosphate levels, if you have a new aquarium keep an eye on ammonia and nitrite, if you live in a soft water area or use RO water check your KH.

Nothing you ever buy for your aquarium has the potential to be such good value as a test kit – imagine a situation where you never lose a fish to preventable water quality issues ever again...