Frozen pond, no dead frogs (or newts)


It seemed only appropriate to head this post with another of Paul's pictures

It seemed only appropriate to head this post with another of Paul's pictures

From Paul (he of the great frogspawn sequence), on the subject of frozen ponds and dead frogs:

‘Our small garden pond was frozen solid (or nearly so) for several days during the cold blast. Since the thaw I’ve seen one live frog, one live newt and countless live damselfly nymphs. I can’t guarantee that there’s nothing caught under the weed, but so far things look good.’

It’s a puzzle (and thanks to Paul for the feedback).


33 Responses to “Frozen pond, no dead frogs (or newts)”

  1. anne spragge Says:

    Today 16th Jan 2010, I have counted 7 large dead frogs under the ice.

    How can i prevent this happening again?

    • Jeremy Biggs Says:

      Hi Anne

      Could you tell me a few things about the pond?

      1. How big is it roughly in square metres.
      2. What’s the maximum depth roughly: up to 30 cm, up to 60 cm or more than 60 cm?
      3. Have you got leaves in the bottom?
      4. Have you got submerged plants?

      And about the cold spell:

      1. Roughly how long was the pond covered with ice?
      2. Did you make a hole in the ice, or break the ice at all?
      3. Did you have snow covering the ice and, if so, for how long?
      4. Did you have a pump running or anything else mixing the pond?

      Finally, roughly where are you in the country?

  2. anne spragge Says:

    how kind, I WILL reply tomorrow, I am so sad abot this

  3. anne spragge Says:

    Hallo Jeremy,

    Even worse
    at least 14 dead frogs, more than I have ever before seen live.

    i) approx 2MX 4 M
    ii) centre prob 80cms deep
    iii) there would be leaves at bottom
    iv)only 3 water lilies, another bulb plant all in containers
    there is a large root under which creatures could hide.
    marginal plants,reeds,rushes, marigolds, also various pond weeds
    2 yers ago I removed flag iris,reeds, grasses which were choking centre of pond, and making a lot of work,keeping clearing
    so now centre is fairly clear.
    now realise that prob not enough shelter for frogs

    i) pond covered with ice at least 10 days
    ii)did not break ice, never have done
    all goldfish have survived;
    would rather have had frogs survive, goldfish are detrimental to wildlifee, and are replaceable
    iii)snow covered pond,at least 7 days
    iv)no pump

    7 miles south of Bath, Somerset.

    Now have the unpleasant task of removing frogs, all mature specimens, suppose no spawn this year.

    Was unaware that so many frogs hibernated in pond,
    The most seen at spawning time would be about 8

    Would be grateful for advise should the same conditions occur next year,assumig there will be any frogs.

    Would you have advise on how to care for tadpoles??

    I believe goldfish eat the tadpoles, so last year I put some spawn in a large galvanised tub, tapoles grew, jumped out of tub.
    I put lots of rocks ,weed, shelter from sun, and occaisional feed of fish flakes and mince meat.

    Would be grateful for any advise as Iam devastated, at loss.

    How long for a tadpole to mature into breeding frog?



    • Jeremy Biggs Says:

      Oh dear Anne – that’s a shame.

      Thanks for all the info on the pond – will come back with thoughts later.


  4. scoot Says:

    We seem to have suffered a similar fate to Anne. One of my ponds fits an identical description to Anne’s, the other is a small ornamental pond. No fish in either.

    I have also spent an hour removing half a gallon bucket of dead frogs and newts. I am particularly upset about the newts, as they are cool little buggers.

    Is it the cold, or the inability to get to the surface to breathe which has caused the problem? I have always avoided breaking the ice because I thought there was a problem with shock waves (am i being a bit daft?).

    My questions are:

    1) What is the best way to avoid this carnage in future?

    2) Should i try to obtain some newt spawn to restock (if so where from), or will nature do its thing?

    3) Will the dragonfly larvae have survived? They appear to be serious hardcore mothers, but it was stuffing cold round these parts – also in north somerset.

    • Jeremy Biggs Says:

      Hi Scoot

      Will get back to you over the next day or two. I think there are going to be quite a few questions to answer on this subject.


  5. colin Says:

    Hi. I live in Belfast N.Ireland and we have a 10 x 8 foot pond, about 6 foot deep. It is a magnet for frogs. Every year from early Feb – Mar it is one big mass of them, dozens at a time swarm in it and leave several football sized balls of spawn. This winters freeze has just cleared and I was raking leaves and pond weed off it today when I discovered about 10 large dead frogs floating on the surface. The pond was frozen solid for more two weeks but that has happened before with no dead frogs. There are no fish or any other larger animals in the pond. Has anyone any ideas why this might have happened?

  6. Andrew Warner Says:

    Since the ice from the big freeze of the last few weeks has melted,our pond – 10ft x 5ft x 4.5 ft deep at its deepest point – has been a scene of absolute carnage. Fished out 97 – yes 97 – dead frogs. The pond has been established for about 15 years and the dead included juveniles from last years spawn to old retainers that have been around for ages. All gone. Anything that was overwintering in the pond appears to be dead. Interestingly, no toads though. Presume they are under cover out of the pond and will return. The frog population will take years to recover from this though. Catastrophe.

    • Jeremy Biggs Says:

      Hi Andrew

      Could you bear telling us some more about your pond?

      We’re trying to get a better feel for whether there’s any particular kind of pond that might be vulnerable to such huge losses as you’ve suffered.

      The form is on the Big Pond Thaw section of the website – there’s a printable version to download, and then you simply fill it in on-line.

      Questions are pretty simple – and I’d be interested to hear what you think might have caused the problem as well.

      Best wishes


  7. Andrew Warner Says:

    Hi Jeremy

    Will certainly fill the form out. If my experience can help anyone else avoid a similar problem then at least something good will have come out of it. My own feelings are that it was so cold for so long – ice over the pond for 2-3 weeks – that they just couldn’t cope with it. I have a second ‘fish’pond, smaller but more sheltered, and the few frogs that were in there [plus the fish] suffered the same fate.


  8. Pete Says:

    We have a very small pond (Liverpool), it’s really a water tub buried; about 50cm diameter and 75cm deep. It’s got mud on the bottom and leaves. There are also plants and weed, but it’s not really regulated. Frogs big and small can get in and out using the plants that hang over the sides.

    Every year we get about 12 frogs that come to spawn and then stick around all until autumn. (I put the spawn in a fish tank and when the tadpoles are big and strong I release them into local ponds).

    The ice melted about a week ago after about 2 weeks; but only yesterday did I see 3 big frogs floating on the surface – dead. They were all bloated and grey.

    I didn’t break the ice. I thought frogs hibernated out of ponds, so I’d built a log pile next to the pond for them to use. Now I’m absolutely gutted!

    This pond’s worked well for years, but now I’m looking for advice. I don’t want this to happen again.

  9. Pete Says:

    Hi Jeremy,

    Filled in form, hope it helps.



  10. David Says:

    Last year I had massive frog losses so I got a 100w pond heater on ebay for £15 and put it on for 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes at night using a plug timer – Result NO Losses so far!


  11. Heidi Says:

    This year we are trying to avoid a repeat of heavy frog loss to our garden pond by placing a couple of ladders across the pond thereby supporting a double layer of insulating bubble wrap; this is neatly tucked in & the excess weighted down.

    The theory is that as the pond is protected from the cold wind with bubble wrap (& at night an extra layer is placed over that in the form of a tarpaulin) the pond water should not build up such a thick layer of ice.

    Optimism is the name of the game; this routine may be a bit inconvenient but is worth it if the frogs stay alive. We lost even tiny baby ones last year which was most distressing.

    We bought bubble wrap from the roll at Homebase & have no idea of the outcome but will keep you posted.

  12. Helen Says:

    I have a recently made belfast sink pond. I saw what I saw were 4 dead frogs under the ice, but eventually they all moved. I thought they would have left the pond, and I am worried about them. There is not much mud in the bottom. I have put newspaper and cardboard all around to try to keep out some of the chill. The frogs are beautiful, so tame during the summer.

  13. Jeremy Biggs Says:

    Hi Helen

    Frogs often winter underwater (they’re not hibernating – they can move around to find the right spot with enough oxygen). As long as the pond doesn’t run out of oxygen they’ll be fine.

    Have a look at the icy pond advice.


  14. dawn hobbs Says:

    Just found 8 dead frogs in our pond without even looking in the mud etc on the bottom. Have suffered from leaks in the pond during the summer which we worked hard to fix before the winter. But as pond froze then covered with snow, water level started to drop. The result, now that it has thawed is multiple small dead fish, plus I hate to think how many frogs. Do you think it was the water level or the freeze that did it. It makes me so sad to see them all dead.

  15. Jeremy Biggs Says:

    Dear Dawn

    Sorry to hear about this: I think it was almost certainly the freezing weather.


  16. daffy Says:

    This year i have swept snow off frozen pond for 12 days.
    Now thaw: so far no dead frogs. Last year 24 dead frogs.

  17. Roanne Says:

    My pond is taking a long time to thaw (West Yorkshire area). Although there is water on top, there is still thick ice below. The sides are frozen so the whole pond is capped with ice. I cleared the snow and the plants are looking good although their middle area is frozen. I have tried to thaw a hole with pans of hot water but its too thick. Today I can now see that my favourite toad is dead under the ice. I feel so sad that I haven’t been able to prevent it.

  18. Jeremy Biggs Says:

    Sorry to hear it Roanne. That is sad.


  19. Judy Says:

    Just managed to get alot of ice out of my smallish pond. It’s been frozen for 1 month. Have seen about 8 dead frogs, have left them in case they may have a survival system for being very cold or frozen! Will let you know if they are alive in a few days. Fingers crossed.

  20. Jane Says:

    We’ve had the same I’ve just fished out 17 dead frogs from our pond and 4 dead fish. Really sad about it. I’ve had the pond in this garden for about 20 years and never had a problem and frogs started coming about 8 years after the pond was built. I also had ponds prior to that so not new to ponds. This is the first time I’ve encountered anything like this. Very disappointing and unpsetting.

    • Jeremy Biggs Says:

      Hi Jane – Would you be able to fill out a Big Pond Thaw form (on the Pond Conservation website), if you haven’t already done so.

      And I’m curious what happened to your pond last year during the cold weather – did you have any problems then?

      Best wishes


  21. Sue Orchard Says:

    Hi all – so sorry for all of you that have lost frogs etc. Very upsetting and worrying. I definitely had tadpoles and adult frogs last year so I’m really glad to be able to report no losses now the (very thick) ice has finally thawed. The pond is just over a year old so not as much vegetation as I would like yet but a pump returning running water to the pond kept a small area ice free (with a bit of help from a long stick!) and presumably oxygenated the water somewhat. Haven’t dipped the pond yet but have seen ‘whirlygig’ beetles and a mating pair of great diving beetles coming up for air!

    P.S. I’ve completed the survey as I guess ‘no loss’ information may be usefull too.

  22. Jeremy Biggs Says:

    Hi Sue

    Thanks for the form, and yes – we definitely are interested in ponds with no mortalities.

    Interesting that you ran the pump.


  23. carolyn Says:

    I also have a very small garden pond, home to lots of frogs and some goldfish, which froze solid in spite of my attempts to keep a hole free, and I now have several dead frogs and fish. Now the ice has gone, I have removed the dead frogs I can see, but the surface of the pond seems to have a thin layer of oil over it. I have no idea what has caused this, can it be from the dead frogs? Does anyone know, and what can I do about it? I haven’t put anything oily into the pond, and it has lots of plants and weed growing, it is normally a natural, healthy pond, I think (I know nothing about them really, but the frogs and fish seem to be happy and breed in it, and the vegetation grows too much, so I presume it is normally OK.

  24. Sue Orchard Says:

    Carolyn – do birds use your pond for bathing? I often see an oily sheen on our pond after too many pigeons have been doing their ablutions. Presume it’s from their feathers. It quickly disperses although we do have a pump and small water fall which keeps the water moving a bit which must help.

  25. faye Says:

    i have just fished out seven dead frogs from our pond. i thought frogs hibernated in walls over winter. have the frogs died from disease or lack of oxygen i wonder? is there anything i can put at the bottom of the pond to produce oxygen over the winter months when it gets icy? faye

    • Jeremy Biggs Says:

      H Faye – there turn out to be quite a lot at the bottom of ponds. It looks like the oxygen (or perhaps toxic gases); having plenty of plants should help and maybe less organic matter – but have to add that we don’t have enough good information about managing ponds in winter to be really confident on the advice. Keep an eye on the website for the Big Pond Thaw report for 2011 when we’ll review the cold weather pond advice again.

  26. jonspond Says:

    Jeremy, I have noticed that my pond’s water level has dropped after the ice has thawed over the last few days. The ice was around 5cm thick or less – as it has thawed the water levels have dropped – does this mean I have a leak or is it natural evaporation?

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