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What’s a Nitrogen Cycle? – Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

PondCare Master Test Kit - Complete System

Explaining the Nitrogen Cycle

We’ve Got Good Chemistry
Today we trade in our waders for lab coats as we discuss your pond’s nitrogen cycle. While many of us find it hard to stay awake for science lectures, we promise this one will save you time and money and give you the upper hand in the fight against algae and fish kills. The nitrogen cycle is present in all water gardens and is truly a great thing when in balance. As plant matter decays and fish produce waste, ammonia is released into the water. The bacteria in your pond naturally break this ammonia down into nitrites and then down into nitrates. Plants, including algae, feed off of these nitrates, which in turn die and decompose or are eaten by fish and the process repeats itself. Having too many fish in your water garden or an abundance of decomposing organic debris can dramatically increase the amount of ammonia in your pond and, in turn, can harm your fish or turn the water body into an all you can eat buffet for unwanted algae.

Put Your Water Garden to the Test
Different types of test kits are available for purchase that will allow you to measure nitrite levels and ammonia levels. Kits like our PondCare® Master Test Kit let you measure nitrites and ammonia and pH all in one package. Regularly testing the water quality of your pond will give you the ability to locate potential problems and adjust accordingly before they become a danger to your plants or fish. Your ammonia and nitrite levels should ideally be at 0 with a pH level between 6.5 and 8.5.

Are You Unbalanced!?
So you know why it is important to achieve balance in your pond, you know how to test for it, but how do you go about achieving balance? A great, natural way to combat high nitrate levels in your pond is by incorporating some aquatic plants. Plants like Water Hyacinth filter the contents of the water, helping to create a clean, clear pond. Furthermore, providing adequate filtration is key in maintaining a balanced water body. Pay attention to your fish load. The more fish available to produce waste, the more filtration will be needed to break down the resulting ammonia. A good rule of thumb is to figure one fish per ten square feet of water surface. Adding beneficial bacteria such as Nature’s Defense® will further help to break down organic debris and fish waste. Using natural products and methods like those listed above will reduce your dependency on algaecides and other chemicals to fight algae blooms.

POND TALK: What products do you use to control your water gardens nitrate levels?

PondCare® Master Test Kit - Complete System

My pond is covered in duckweed. What can I do to treat this stuff? – Ponds & Lakes Q & A

Duckweed

Q. My pond is covered in duckweed. What can I do to treat this stuff? – Tony in Indiana

Friend or Fowl
A: For the lucky pond guys and gals out there who have never experienced duckweed in their pond, or those of you who think you may have it but are unsure; duckweed is a very small floating plant with kidney shaped leaves and a small hair-like root hanging below. It is approximately the size of a pencil eraser and is frequently misidentified as algae. It can cut off sunlight to submersed plants and cut off oxygen to fish and other wildlife. Duckweed is an extremely prolific grower and can quickly cover an entire pond making it frustrating to treat and maintain. More often than not, duckweed is introduced into your pond by hitching a ride on the feet of waterfowl.

Don’t Go Daffy Over Duckweed
There are two great options available to you in your fight against duckweed. Choosing the product that is right for you depends on the time frame you have to treat your pond. For fast acting, short term results, you can use a contact herbicide like Ultra PondWeed Defense® . Treatments with these types of herbicides work best on mature aquatic plants that are in a contained environment. Multiple treatments are typically required for effective short term control. It is important to remember that whenever you are treating large amounts of weed growth, only treat one third of the pond at a time and implement aeration whenever possible to ensure safe oxygen levels. When treating with Ultra PondWeed Defense®, we suggest that you use a tank sprayer to apply the herbicide directly onto the weeds. Ultra PondWeed Defense® has some water use restrictions, see label for details.

For long term treatment of duckweed, we suggest using Sonar™ A.S.. By adding Sonar™ A.S. to your pond in early Spring, you will inhibit the weed’s ability to produce carotene, a pigment that protects the plant’s chlorophyll. Without carotene, the sun quickly degrades the green chlorophyll and the weed dies. Sonar™ A.S. must stay in your pond for up to 90 days for maximum results, so if your pond has a constant overflow or you are experiencing heavy rains, you may need to include additional treatments. Sonar™ A.S. is degraded by sunlight, so when applying, make sure you spray the product directly into the water and not onto the plant foliage itself. Also, adding Nature’s Blue™ Pond Dye after treatment will help prevent sun degradation as well as track water dilution from heavy rains. Sonar™ A.S. has a 30 day irrigation restriction.

POND TALK: Have you ever experienced duckweed in your pond? What did you use to treat it?

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