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My water turned brown about this time last year. How do I stop it from happening again? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A


Q: My water turned brown about this time last year. How do I stop it from happening again?

Q: My water turned brown about this time last year. How do I stop it from happening again?

Nick – Charlestown, WV

A: There’s only one thing worse than green water—and that’s brown water. In some ponds or water features, the end of summer or beginning of fall brings with it this discolored water. It’s caused by one of two reasons:

  • Debris Tea: When leaves or pine needles fall into your pond, the tannins in them create a type of all-natural debris tea, which turns the clean and clear water in your backyard feature a shade of brown. This is the most common cause of tea-colored water.
  • Sediment Stew: If you have a lot of floating particulates or sediment in your pond, playful fish, wind or some other action can sometimes disrupt it, mixing it into your water column via your pump or aeration system.

To determine what’s causing the brown water, grab a glass jar from your kitchen, dunk it in your pond and fill it with the water. Let it sit for 24 hours and take a close look at the results. Is the water still tea-colored? Then you have tannin-colored debris tea. Do you see sediment settled at the bottom of the glass? Then you have some sediment stew.

Once you pinpoint what’s causing the brown water, here’s how to treat the problem.

  1. Clean It Up: Because both causes start with an abundance of organics in the water, your first course of action is to clean the bottom of your pond to remove any muck, leaves and remaining debris with a pond vacuum or skimmer net.
  2. Water Change: Next, do a partial (10 to 25 percent) water change, which will freshen things up and clear the water. Don’t forget to add a water conditioner to treat the water for your finned pals.
  3. Add Beneficial Bacteria: If you have sediment stew, add some Nature’s Defense® (if water temps are above 50°F) or Seasonal Defense® (if water temps are below 50°F). The beneficial bacteria will digest any accumulated organic debris and eliminate the brown water.
  4. Use Activated Carbon: If you have debris tea, toss a media bag filled with Pond Logic® Activated Carbon into your pond. The carbon will absorb the tannins, leaving behind clear water.

To prevent the discoloration from happening again, keep the organics out of the pond. Clean up the muck regularly with a skimmer net or vacuum, and when the leaves or pine needles start falling, cover the water with pond netting, like the Pond Logic® PondShelter™ or The Pond Guy® Premium Pond Netting.

Pond Talk: Have the leaves started falling in your neck of the woods yet? If so, what do you do to keep them out of your water?

Remove Discoloration From Leaves & Debris - View Pond Logic® Activated Carbon

6 Responses

  1. MEL, ADDING A BLOCK OF SALT WILL CORRECT THE PROBLEM.
    YES,COPPER LINES WILL TURN THE WATER BROWN ON HOT DAYS, TRY NOT TO USE COPPER. JUST MAKE SURE YOU DON’T OVER ADD THE SALT. IT WORKS FOR ME,JUST BE CAREFUL..
    NOW IS THE TIME ALSO TO ADD YOUR MICROBE-LIFT. IT WILL CLEAR UP A LOT OF PROBLEMS. IT ALSO KEEPS WORKING TO MINUS ( – 51 ) DEGREES. LEAVES CAUSE BROWN WATER ALSO.
    MAKE SURE YOUR SKIMMER IS KEPT CLEANER THIS TIME OF YEAR. NET LEAVES WHEN EVER POSSIBLE.

    YOUR PONDERING FRIEND — GREG JOHNSON

  2. I have an above ground storage that had algae issues earlier in the summer thanks to abundant sunlight and no wind for the windmill. I treated it with copper and managed to get a handle on the algae, but now the water has a black tint (that will get on you). Visibility is around 5′ despite the black material, large numbers of water fauna indicate that this is still good water.
    I’m trying to figure out a way to clear up the water short of filtering it.
    Favor of a reply is requested

    • Hi Mark – Do you have any aeration or circulation running in the tank? Because you killed off the algae using copper, the dead algae is likely the black stuff that is floating in the tank. Aeration and beneficial bacteria will help to clear the water.

      • Mel,
        Thanks for the advise. The bacteria I can do; the aeration might take a bit since this reservior is in a remote location.

  3. Excellent advise of brown water. I do find though that you need to remove fish from the pond as stirring up the bottom does create an breathing issue for them. More than once I have had fish die if I try to clear the sediment and let the water get thick with particles while the fish still in the pond..

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