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Weed ID – The Difference Between Naiad & Chara (Algae) – Pond & Lake Q & A


Picture of Chara, a form of algae.

Q: I have a weed growing off the bottom of my pond. After looking at your catalog I think it is naiad. I treated my pond with WhiteCap and nothing seems to happen. I have followed the instructions on the label. What am I doing wrong? – Barbara of Indiana

A: This isn’t the first time I have had this question. To answer this we must first be sure what you are treating is naiad. After reviewing the pictures you have sent me I can see why the WhiteCap is not working…

The plant you are trying to treat is not naiad it actually is Chara which is an algae. WhiteCap is excellent for pondweeds although it will not touch chara. To your defense many people mistake naiad for chara. The good news is chara is much less expensive to get rid of! Algae Defense is very effective on chara or any species of algae.

For those of you identifying pondweeds and think you may have chara too. Chara is sometimes also referred to musk grass due to its distinctive musky odor. Chara also has a gritty feel and can become almost crispy due to calcium buildup, especially when growing in hard water. Chara also does not have a true root system allowing it to me removed fairly easily in clumps.

Indentifying Naiad:
Naiad is very leafy. Leafs are arranged oppositely of one another or in whorls of three on the plant’s stem. If you determine you have Naiad use
PondWeed Defense or WhiteCap.

Please Note: If your pond contains koi or trout with a hardness level less then 50 (hardness test kit link) we highly suggest using Hydrothol 191 instead of Algae Defense or Pondweed Defense. Koi and trout are very sensitive to any copper based products.

14 Responses

  1. Hello

    We have a lentic, six ft. deep, man made ski lake in Northern California and have been working on aquatic weed control since shortly after the lake was completely 20 years ago.
    We’ve found that retaining chara is much more important than its removal since it actively shades out and prevents invasive weeds such as Eurasian watermilfoil, sago pond weed and others from growing and taking over the lake. In fact, we maintain a carpet style covering of chara (app. 18″-24″ thick) over the entire lake bottom where possible and wherever there is a clearing on the bottom, the invasive weeds tend to grow the fastest. In order to maintain control of this “carpet style shade”, we use Aquashade, which inhibits growth of aquatic weeds and algae. Every other year, in order to control any invasive weed issues, we perform a whole lake treatment using Sonar, which is a selective aquatic herbicide and will not affect chara.

    Using Aquashade throughout the season is the very best method for controlling chara, and slowing the growth cycle of any invasive weeds.

    The only issue we’ve had with chara is when the lake turns over. When this occurs, we have large clumps of chara floating around in the affected areas for a few days until the ogygen levels return. At that point, the chara submerges and reattaches to the bottom.

    I hope this information helps….it’s been a real education and remember, chara is our friend..LOL!!!

    Tim D.

  2. Our pond is man made and about one half to almost an acre big. When we moved here it was over half cattails. Our pond is real deep all around the sides and shallow in the middle. In the 2 years we have been here we have killed all the cattails. We have cut them off even with the bottom in the swimming area and all the rest have been cut only below the water level in the shallow middle. There is so many we cant get them all cut out and removed. I am so so tired of cleaning the pond of debrie that floats to the top. Now we have so much of the, what we think is chara growing to the top and breaking off making even more debrie. We have ordered yalls dye several times to block the sunlight. We have ordered the granules for algea from yall. Now we have algae growing on the old cut off cattails. We are at our wits end! It is beautiful clear water as it a spring fed pond but all the stuff in it has been a big problem. We are in our late 60’s and tired! Don’t know what else to do. Im out there scooping up stuff once or twice a week. Is there an easier way? We aren’t rich and keep ordering stuff for it all the time. Also, I think there is another dark green grass that is rooted on the bottom of the pond in certain areas I have been pulling out. It is a shiny green grass. It is growing in the deeper water. Its a shiny green when I pull it out. Is there any kind of helpful hints you can give me to help

  3. We think we have figured out that we have the chara, but one more thing I want to check before ordering something. This, what we think is chara, has tripled in our pond since last summer. Our pond has gone down a lot & when this stuff gets to the top it starts to die and break off and really messes the pond up. Also we had a pond full of cattails and now we have gotten rid of all of them this other stuff has really taken over. Im wondering if its because its getting more sunlight since the cattails are gone cause we only had one small spot of it when we had so many cattails & now cattails are gone and this other stuff has tripled. Our pond is spring fed and real clear water and hate to see this stuff mess it up as our grandkids love playing in it. HELP!
    Janis

    • Hi Janis – The eradication of cattails has likely added to the growth of chara. Not only did the cattails shade the water a bit but they also used nutrients in the water. Without the cattails, weeds and algae now have the nutrients to grow. After treating the chara, make sure you remove as much of the dead material as possible. This will make sure the pond does not get another heavy nutrient load to begin growing more weeds and algae.

      I also recommend using Pond Dye (shades & protects your water) or Pond Dye PLUS (beneficial bacteria plus dye) to your pond. Your grandkids will still be able to enjoy the pond with dye it, just wait 24-48 hours to let it disperse before they jump in.

      Here’s another article to read: Why does algae keep growing in my pond, even after I treat with algaecides?

  4. I have stuff at bottom that has tripled spread. I thought it was chara but it doesnt have a musky smell. When I removed some of it and threw it up on the banks and it dried out it was real crispy & white looking. I didnt feel grit in it but it does look like the chara & we also have algae. Our water is very clear but this stuff is really spread out and can be seen very easy in the shallow parts. I dont know what to buy and all of the herbicides of very expensive. I dont know what to do! Our grandkids swim in this pond and I dont want this stuff taking over.

    • Hi Janis – When it dried, did it almost turn into a dust? If so, then it’s likely chara. Weeds tend to turn turn brown and into muck rather than dust. If you take a picture close up of the weed, showing the stems and branches. Send it to pondhelp@thepondguy.com and we’d be happy to verify it for you.

      • Thanks so much for your reply. I went out & got the plant that I threw up on the bank and wadded up & it did crumble up to like ashes or dusty like. It was almost white. So do your think it is chara then? It is spreading pretty fast. Should I get algaecide liquid or granular?

      • Hi Janis – Yes, it sounds like you have chara. Without seeing it, I cannot make a positive identification. It’s a personal preference for liquid versus granular. If it’s in areas greater than 3 feet deep, you would use the granular, if it’s in shallower waters, the liquid will also work. Don’t forget to rake it out once it browns and dies. Otherwise, it will act as fertilizer for a new growth of chara or weeds.

  5. My pond has some people with water rights. Can I use chemicals to control chara?

    • Hi Stan,

      Anytime you have a situation with multiple owners or water flowing into other water bodies or sources it is best to verify with your local environmental control as to whether or not you need a permit to treat the water body.

  6. VERY GOOD ADVICE…………………..TX

    • Hi…I’m not sure which one I have. Mine is very gritty, and is easily removed in clumps…maybe that settles it..? It doesn’t have anything I would call a leaf…it is all made up of stem type structures with what appears to be tiny seeds toward the end of each piece. I do have hard water, and this stuff does smell musky! If it is just algae can I use copper products to kill it??? THANKS!!!

      • Hi Mike,

        From your description it does sound like you may have chara. Products like Algae Defense and Cutrine will work on this type of weed.

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