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How do I control floating and bottom-growing algae in my lake? – Pond & Lake Q & A

No Algae Here!

Pond & Lake Q & A

Q: How do I control floating and bottom-growing algae in my lake? – Tom in New York

A: Whether it’s floating or submerged, algae can turn a lake into a green mess in no time. It’s unsightly, it’s sometimes stinky and in extreme cases, it can cause a fish kill. The good news is that algae can be controlled no matter what time of year. It starts with controlling the population and ends with a long-term management plan.

Before we dive in, it’s important to understand the difference between algae and weeds. The term “algae” refers to a wide range of single and multi-celled organisms that live in the water and metabolize carbon dioxide into oxygen via photosynthesis, just like plants. They differ from plants or weeds in that they don’t have true leaves, roots or stems.

In lakes and ponds, the most common varieties of algae include: Green floating algae that creates a “pea soup” appearance; Chara or Stonewort, which are a bottom-growing, seaweed-looking type that can be mistaken for weeds, and string or filamentous algae, which are actually long strings of algae connected together.

Sometimes, pond and lake owners may mistake duckweed for floating algae, but if you look very closely, you’ll find that it’s actually duckweed or watermeal. Check out this blog entry to learn more about controlling this invasive weed.

Population Check

If your pond is coated in pea soup or the bottom is carpeted in Chara or string algae, you can knock back the population with a chemical herbicide like Algae Defense®. It provides quick results and it’s formulated to get a pond under control – especially during the hot summer months. Do not use if your pond or lake is stocked with koi or goldfish. If your pond has trout, check your carbonate hardness with a water hardness test kit, like the Laguna® Quick Dip Multi-Test Strips, and make sure the carbonate hardness is above 50 parts per million (ppm) before using Algae Defense®.

Long-Term Strategy

Algae Defense® by Pond Logic® will solve a crisis, but to keep your pond or lake looking clean and clear, you’ll need to be proactive and develop a plan to manage the algae. The most successful approach centers on cutting off the algae’s food supply – nutrients.

Nutrients can come from a wide variety of sources, like grass clippings, twigs, trees, fish waste, yard and farm fertilizers and runoff. As these nutrients break down, they produce ammonia, which triggers the nitrogen cycle. Nitrifying bacteria surround the ammonia, turning it into nitrites and then into nitrates (nutrients) – which then feed the algae.

So, how do you reduce the nutrients in your pond?
Try these tips:

  • Buffer before fertilizing: To prevent inadvertently fertilizing the algae, leave a buffer area around the pond. You can also try using organic or low-phosphorus fertilizers.
  • Aerate, aerate, aerate: Because that muck at the bottom of the pond feeds the algae, you should prevent the buildup with proper aeration.
  • Reduce the muck: Use natural bacteria like MuckAway™ by Pond Logic® to breakdown up to 5-inches of organic muck per year. You can also rake your pond using a Pond & Beach Rake to remove dead vegetation, leaves and other organics that will eventually decompose on the bottom.
  • Reduce sunlight: Like all photosynthetic organisms, algae requires sunlight to thrive. Adding pond dye can help provide shade. If possible, consider adding some non-invasive aquatic plants to your pond. The plants, which also consume nitrates, will also be a source of competition for food.
  • Add beneficial bacteria: You may also consider adding some additional beneficial bacteria, like PondClear™ by Pond Logic®, to your pond or lake. The bacteria gobble through nitrates, breaking down fish waste, leaves and other organics that accumulate in the pond, naturally improving the water clarity.
  • That green gunk can be controlled in your pond or lake. It just takes a little planning and some proactive management. When you see the results, it’ll be worth it!

    POND TALK: When was your worst algae bloom and how did you control it?

    How do I control algae in my decorative pond, both long term and short term? – Water Garden & Features Q & A

    All Rest, No Algae.

    Water Garden & Features Q & A

    Q: How do I control algae in my decorative pond, both long term and short term?
    - Stefanie in Michigan

    A: Algae blooms are the bane of most pond owners. All summer, they rear their green heads and turn a beautiful pond or water feature into a soupy or stringy mess. But with some planning, both the floating (pea-soup algae) and filamentous (string algae) species can be controlled in the short term and prevented in the long term. Here’s how:

    Short-Term Solution

    To get your decorative pond looking clean and clear right away, you’ll need to knock down the algae population by using a chemical herbicide, like AlgaeFix or TetraPond’s Algae Control. These algae-busters are safe for use in ponds with fish, but because they destroy algae so quickly, they can cause a drop in oxygen levels in your pond, especially during the warm summer months. Be sure that your pond is adequately aerated with a fountain, waterfall or underwater air diffuser.

    Long-Term Prevention

    To prevent that green goo from surfacing again, you need to limit its food source: Nutrients. Algae thrive on nutrients, which are the end product of the nitrogen cycle. The nitrogen cycle begins with ammonia released from fish waste and detritus. Nitrifying bacteria turn the ammonia into nitrites and then into nitrates (nutrients). The algae grow, the fish eat it and excrete it, and the cycle begins again.

    So, how do you control the algae’s food source?
    Try these approaches:

  • Keep your fish load to a minimum. Most pond owners love their fish, but if they plan to have 60 12-inch koi in a 1,000-gallon pond, they’re going to have an algae problem – which can be expensive to manage. So, when calculating your fish load, think of it in pounds of fish or total inches per gallon. Remember that your fish are growing and possibly multiplying, so plan for the future and remember: Less is best. Be careful not to overstock your decorative pond.
  • Increase the number of aquatic plants. Whether they’re submerged plants like hornwort, marginals like dwarf bamboo, or floating plants like water lilies and water hyacinth, aquatic plants consume the same food that algae does – nutrients. The more plants, the more the algae have to compete for those nutrients. Floating plants also shade the pond, which filters the sunlight and can slow the growth of sun-loving algae. You should try to cover 40 to 60 percent of your pond’s surface with floaters.
  • Check the filtration. The size and type of filtration system on a pond will depend on the fish load. If the filter is not properly sized for maximum potential, the fish will outgrow the filter and produce unhealthy amounts of ammonia, which could prove lethal to the fish. An inappropriately sized filter can also cause an algae bloom from the copious amounts of nutrients in the water. In most cases, filters on the market are rated for ponds containing no fish or a minimal fish load, so you should consider a filter that is rated for at least two times the water volume of your pond.
  • Toss in some beneficial bacteria. In addition to ensuring the proper mechanical filtration, you may also consider adding some additional biological filtration – beneficial bacteria – to your pond. These hungry creatures gobble through nutrients, breaking down fish waste, leaves and other organics that accumulate in the pond. One product to try is called DefensePAC® by Pond Logic®. It’s a combination of five products that provide beneficial bacteria, trace minerals, and a fish and plant-safe pond cleaner.
  • No pond will ever be completely algae-free, but the key to keeping the green stuff under control is to limit its food supply. Like any other living thing, if it can’t eat, it can’t survive!

    POND TALK: When was your worst algae bloom, and how did you correct it?

    Why do people put dye in their decorative ponds? – Water Garden & Features Q & A

    Pond Dye

    Water Garden & Features Q & A

    A: If you’re new to the hobby, the thought of adding dye to your pond may seem like a foreign concept! Why would you want to add color to the water that you’re working so hard to keep clear? Well, there are aesthetic reasons – and some practical reasons, too.

    Understanding Dye

    First, let’s discuss the dyes themselves. Pond dye typically comes in two colors: black and blue. Black pond dye, like Pond Logic Black Pearl Pond Dye, gives shaded ponds a rich look and turns a brown or gray water feature into a stunning pool that reflects the trees and landscape. Blue pond dye, like Pond Logic Blue Sapphire Pond Dye, gives ponds a natural-looking blue color and looks best in features surrounded by manicured or open landscapes. You’ll find these pond dyes in concentrated form. When you add the recommended amount, the coloring will diffuse throughout the pond within several hours. They’re safe for people, pets, fish and water fowl.

    Why Dye?

    Adding dye to your decorative pond does more than give your water feature a unique and appealing look. The dye actually serves several purposes, from controlling algae and simulating depth to protecting fish and masking a murky pond.

    Simulate depth: Some people use dye in their ponds to make a shallow pond seem deeper. If you have a 14-inch-deep pond, adding black dye can make it seem 5 feet deep. The optical illusion creates a mirroring effect that appeals to many pond owners.

    Fish safety: When predators fly overhead or lurk alongside the pond, a little pond dye – along with some predator control – will go a long way in protecting your fish. Koi and goldfish will dart to your pond’s dark depths when a heron or raccoon threatens them. The pond dye serves a similar purpose.

    Aesthetics: Of course, aesthetics remain an important reason why folks use dye in their ponds. A crystal blue pond or a rich reflective pond mimics what you’d find in nature. Couple that with a tranquil landscape, and you have an attractive water feature that draws oohs and ahhs!

    Algae control: The top reason why people add dye to their ponds is that it is widely known throughout the industry that it may inhibit algae growth. Algae thrives in sunlight and pond dyes filter those rays, preventing them from reaching below the surface, thereby preventing algae from growing.

    POND TALK: Why do you use pond dye in your decorative pond or water garden? If you don’t use pond dye, why not?

    The Science Behind Barley Straw – Water Garden & Feature Q & A

    Picture of Barley Straw.

    Water Gardens & Features Q & A

    Q: How does barley straw work to control algae? – Emma of Michigan

    A: Barley straw is no magic bullet to rid your decorative pond of algae. But when used as a preventive measure, barley straw offers pond owners an attractive option to chemical products to manage those dreaded green blooms.

    The Science Behind Barley: Barley straw has been widely used for decades to control algae blooms in many bodies of water, including large reservoirs and canals. Researchers have yet to precisely pinpoint how it works, but generally, it’s believed that the straw may alter the nutrient balance in the water, starving the algae to death, or the straw’s decomposition may be produce compounds toxic to algae.

    Experts usually consider barley straw to be algistatic, or an algae preventive, rather than an algaecide, or an algae killer. It has not been found to harm fish, water fowl or pond inhabitants in any way and, in fact, some studies suggest the straw benefits fish health.

    Using It In Your Pond: Science aside, what’s important to pond keepers is how to use it in their ponds. Currently, hobbyists can choose from three different types of barley products: barley straw in bale form, barley pellets and barley extract. When used correctly, each will work to suppress algae blooms in the pond.

    Barley Straw Bales: Typically available loose in a mesh bag, bales of barley straw should be placed in the pond several months before bloom conditions are expected to occur (around March or April, depending on your climate) as the straw must start to decompose before it releases it’s algae-suppressing substances. One pound of barley straw will treat a 1,000-gallon pond for approximately three months. Be sure to keep the straw well-aerated, floating it near your water fall or stream or in shallow water, if possible. Besides the length of time it takes for bales to decompose another downside is that they can be counter productive if left in the pond for too long. They can eventually become a nutrient source for algae as well.

    Barley Pellets: Compressed into a compact form, the barley pellets also contain all the beneficial algae-suppressing substances found in barley straw without the unsightly look of bales, pillows or pads. They’re designed to break down quickly, and produce phosphate-combating humic substances that suppress algae growth. The pellets may also buffer pH and control alkalinity in your pond. A 4.4-pound bag will treat a 150-gallon pond for up to one year or a 500-gallon pond for up to seven months; a 10.5-pound bag will treat a 1,000-gallon pond for up to nine months or a 2,500-gallon pond for up to four months.

    Barley Extract PLUS: Offering the benefits of barley straw without the mess or unsightly bale floating in your pond, barley extract contains the algae-suppressing substances in liquid form. Because you don’t have to wait for the barley straw to decompose, it starts to work on contact. Another great benefit of Barley Extract PLUS is that it is enchanced with sludge-eating natural bacteria to also help reduce muck building on rocks, gravel and/or liner. An 8-ounce container treats up to 800 gallons for three months; a 16-ounce bottle treats up to 1,500 gallons for three months.

    POND TALK: Have you found barley straw to effectively control algae in your decorative pond?

    All-Natural Algae Control with Barley Straw Extract – Water Garden Q & A

    Barley Straw & Barley Straw Extract

    Q: I have heard that barley straw will control algae. Is this true? Also I have noticed a product on the market called barley straw extract. Why can’t I just use a bale of barley straw? – Samantha of California

    A: Barley Straw has been known for a long time to help in the control of algae. The concept is that as the straw decays, a chemical is released that will reduce algae growth. The problem with using actual Barley Straw is that it takes up to 8 weeks for the straw to decay and begin to work. It also “decays”, which means it puts nutrients back into the pond that will cause future algae growth.

    We strongly recommend using an extract (liquid) such as Barley Straw Extract PLUS. The extract is the by product of rotting barley straw. This starts to work on contact instead of having to wait weeks for the straw to decay. It also will not contribute to the nutrient load and is all-natural and safe.

    Another great benefit of using the Barley Straw Extract PLUS product is that it contains muck & sludge reducing bacteria.

    Controlling Algae in a Pond Containing Trout – Pond & Lake Q & A

    Q: How do you control algae growth in a small pond that will not affect the fish (trout) in it?
    -Jerry of Harrisburg, PA

    A: We always suggest to customers with a pond of any size to use an aeration system along with natural bacteria to help eliminate muck and prevent stagnant water. Using these products together will make pond management easier and in time will reduce the need for chemicals. As far as the algae you currently have, there are a couple options to get rid of it. They are Algae
    Defense Algaecide
    and Hydrothol 191 Granular. If you use the Algae Defense, you will need to test your water hardness to ensure the carbonate hardess is above 50 ppm (parts per million) which is safe level for trout when treating with Algae Defense. If you do not wish to go that route or if your pond contains koi or goldfish, use Hydrothol 191 instead. Hydrothol 191 is a granular that will work both on algae and weeds.

    Just remember, using only chemicals to control algae is a “reactive”, short-term approach. If you really want to gain control over the long-haul, then you need to be “proactive” and follow the 4-Easy Steps to the Perfect Ecosystem. Watch our 4-step video online to learn more.

    Keeping Your Pond Clear – Pond & Lake Q & A

    Q: My pond is approximately 1.5 acres and shaped like a horeshoe with a pennisula in the middle. I have clay soil and my pond is always murky. It is 7 years old and I am frustrated that I have stocked the pond and do not catch many fish. I want a clear pond without killing my fish. -Scott of Carl Junction, MO

    A: Great question! There are many facets to this questions and also please note that a pond will never be as clear as a pool. If your pond is murky, the first question I would ask you is, “Do you have catfish or koi in your farm pond?” If the answer is “yes”, then thats the issue. Catfish and koi are known as “bottom dwellers” and will stir up the bottom of a pond and no matter how hard you try to settle it out, the catfish and koi will just keep stiring it up. If you do not have catfish or koi, then we have to dig a little deeper for find the answer. What I would do next is a glass jar test. Take a clear glass jar and fill it up with your pond’s water. Wait 24 hours and either two things will happen. One, the cloudiness settles and the water becomes clear or two, the water is green and nothing settles. If the water is green, than we have to treat for algae. See Algae Control. If the cloudiness settles at the bottom and the water is clear, then the cloudiness is caused by suspended particulates instead of algae. If this is the case, a double dose of Nutri-Defense will flocculate the particulates and a regular maintenance of Pond-Clear Packets will help maintain that clear water. Also, Nutri-Defense & Pond Clear are both Safe for people, pets, fish, livestock & Wildlife.

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