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What is the difference between algae and Chara and how should I treat them? | Pond & Lakes Q&A

What is the difference between algae and Chara and how should I treat them?

What is the difference between algae and Chara and how should I treat them?
Veronica – Savannah, GA

To an entomologist, the differences between a cockroach and a termite may be a subject of profound fascination. However, to a homeowner, they’re both insect problems. If you have them, you sure as heck want to get rid of them – and the sooner the better.

Likewise, when the seasoned water biologist sees filamentous algae floating on the surface of a pond, he can probably identify the strain — Spirogyra, Oscillatoria, Pithophora, Anabaena or perhaps some combination thereof. Just beneath the surface, he might point out the gray-green, cylindrical branches of Chara, another form of algae that is often mistaken for a submerged flowering plant, except it has no flower and no defined root system.

Most of you would probably find this at least mildly interesting, unless, of course, the biologist is talking about your pond. Where he sees variations of filamentous algae, you see ‘pond scum’:what he identifies as Chara, you know as ‘skunkweed’ or ‘muskgrass.’ Suddenly, what it is, matters a whole lot less to you than how to get rid of it.

Well, fortunately, we’ve got some great options for you. One gallon of Algae Defense®, mixed with water and Treatment Booster™ PLUS , can treat up to 8,000 square feet of pond surface. It’s best applied with an pond sprayer. It should come as no surprise that the sooner you address an algae issue with Algae Defense®, the quicker and more effective the results. Algae Defense® is best used to eliminate algae on or just below the surface of your pond. For bottom forming algae, like Chara, we suggest Cutrine®-Plus Granular – 12 pounds can treat 8,700 square feet.

If you find that the algae in your pond has graduated from ‘issue’ to ‘problem,’ you may find that multiple applications of Algae Defense® and Cutrine®-Plus Granular are necessary. Make sure you treat your pond in small sections waiting a week between treatments, and have sufficient aeration when treating during the hot summer months. We also recommend following up treatments with the use of PondLogic® PondClear™ and PondLogic® MuckAway™, which use environmentally friendly bacteria to break down the dead algae.

When it comes to the health of your pond, knowing what goes on is important, but knowing how to deal with it is essential.

Pond Talk: Have you learned any tips or tricks to treating algae in you pond?

Killing Algae – Liquid v.s. Granular – Pond & Lake Q & A

Killing Algae - Liquid v.s. Granular

Killing Algae – Liquid v.s. Granular

Those of you with at least a couple years of ponding under your belt know that beautiful summer sunshine comes as a package deal with algae and green water. While it can be painful to look at for even a couple days, when your pond is being properly maintained it can be a quick and simple process to whip your pond back into shape.

Before you select which type of algaecide you want to use you will want to identify what type of algae you have. Algae typically come in 3 great flavors, Planktonic (green water), Filamentous (floating mats or string algae), and Chara (a smelly bottom growing plant-like algae). If you are not too sure on which type you have or you think you may have a submerged weed instead, take a look at our Weed ID Guide.

It is important to know what type of algae you are dealing with because it will help you select the proper algaecide for the job. Liquid algaecides like Algae Defense® are best used to contact spray floating algae mats, planktonic algae outbreaks, or to treat algae submerged in relatively shallow water usually 3 feet deep or shallower. Liquid algaecides are mixed with water and a Surfactant which is then applied using a Pond Sprayer. When dealing with bottom growing algae in greater depths you will want to use a granular algaecide like Cutrine®-Plus Granular or Hydrolthol 191 Granular . Granular applications are great for getting rid of Chara and, by using a Hand Spreader, are very easy to apply. If you have Koi, Trout, or Goldfish in your pond or lake you will want to use Clipper™ as it is not copper based. You can also benefit from the fact that Clipper™ works not only on weeds by on a variety of submerged weeds as well.

While both liquid and granular algaecides are great for killing existing algae, they will not prevent future growth. Properly maintaining your pond using Dye, Beneficial Bacteria, or Subsurface Aeration will help keep your pond healthy and reduce the chances of algae in the first place. Remember to always read product labels before doing any treatment.

Pond Talk: How successful has your fight with algae been?

I have a ton of algae growing on my pond. What can I do to get rid of it? – Ponds & Lakes Q & A

Pond Algae

Q. I have a ton of algae growing on my pond. What can I do to get rid of it? – Jeff in New York

The ice is finally off. You walk out to the pond for the first time, expecting to see your happy fish except….in their place is a happy, healthy sprout of algae! This may leave you thinking where do I begin? Here is a quick guide to get you started towards taking back your pond.

1) Give your pond short term relief. If you are in a climate where water temperatures are already above 50° Fahrenheit you can begin doing algae treatments. The chemical choice will depend on the type of fish contained in your pond, whether the algae is floating or submerged and how much area the algae is covering. For more detail on choosing the right chemical view our Weed Control Guide.

2)  Add Pond Shade. By adding pond shade you can reduce the amount of sunlight reaching into your pond.

3)  Rake the Pond. Once the algae is dead you can rake out the dead matter in order to reduce the amount of accumulation of muck in the bottom of the pond. Muck is a major food source for algae.

4)  Treat with Natural Bacteria. Adding natural bacteria such as PondClear™ & MuckAway™ will aid in quickly decomposing any organic material that does reach the pond’s bottom. You can also use EcoBoost™ to give your natural bacteria a little extra oomph.
Dyed Pond with Aeration5) Aerate the Pond. If you aren’t already aerating, aeration is a great way to increase the oxygen contact for the bacteria to be more efficient and also to help keep your fish healthy for the upcoming warmer months.

If your pond hasn’t quite hit the 50° F temperature you can still be proactive about algae reduction and prevention. Dye and aeration is not dependent on temperature and can be started at any time.

POND TALK: What are your favorite methods for keeping your pond clear and beautiful?

Use Pond Dye To Keep The Algae At Bay

Treating ponds in winter. – Pond & Lake Q & A

Algae tends to grow all year long – even in cold temperatures when ice covers your pond.

Pond & Lake Q & A

Q: The weather is getting colder, so can I still treat my pond with chemicals or natural bacteria? – Sara in Washington

A: Algae tends to grow all year long – even in cold temperatures when ice covers your pond. Given the right mix of nutrients, carbon dioxide and sunlight, these little photosynthetic, autotrophic compounds will flourish – regardless of the temperature or time of year.

Whether you can treat the pea soup or filamentous algae depends on the water temperature in your lake or farm pond. When the underwater thermometer drops below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, the effectiveness of both chemicals and natural bacteria begins to drop. So to get the most for your money, we recommend dosing your pond or lake with one of these methods in the fall before the winter chill hits:

    Treat with Chemicals: As long as your water temperature is about 60 degrees F, you can use algaecides, like Algae Defense® (or Clipper™ if you have koi or goldfish in your pond), to help with late-season algae blooms. Warning: If your lake is stocked with trout, test your carbonate hardness before adding Algae Defense®. If your Water Hardness Test Kit reads less than 50 parts per million (2.79 degrees of hardness), it could be toxic.
    Add Some Shade: Regardless of your water temperature, you can also add pond dye to shade your pond or lake during the winter. Throughout the pond industry, experts use dye to minimize the amount of sunlight that reaches the depths of ponds and lakes. This can prevent algae from photosynthesizing – and limit its growth.
    Treat Naturally: Beneficial bacteria, like PondClear™ , are also most effective when temperatures are above 50 degrees F. When used correctly, they will help to keep your pond crystal clear.

POND TALK: Have you experienced a late-season algae bloom in your lake or pond? What did you do to control it?

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 I need to test for carbonate hardness in my lake or pond? – Pond & Lake Q & A

Testing for Carbonate Hardness

Pond & Lake Q & A

Q: Why do I need to test for carbonate hardness in my lake or pond? – Jose in Michigan

A: A number of pond treatments, including some algae-control formulas and other herbicides, contain copper. In certain conditions, the copper chelate may break down and release copper ions, which could cause your pond or lake’s alkalinity to rise.

If you use these treatments in a pond or lake stocked with trout, koi or goldfish that are sensitive to high alkalinity levels, you need to test your hardness regularly to ensure the health of your fish population.

What is Carbonate Hardness?

Carbonate hardness, or alkalinity, is the measure of carbonate and bicarbonate concentrations in your pond or lake’s water. Alkalinity is a measure of the ability of a solution to neutralize acid without changing the pH. It both controls and maintains water pH.

Alkalinity is related to the amount of dissolved calcium, magnesium and other compounds in the water, so alkalinity tends to be higher in harder water. It naturally decreases over time through bacterial action that produces acidic compounds that combine with and reduce the alkalinity components.

In a pond or lake, the alkalinity of the water is critical to the health of the fish – especially for trout, koi and goldfish. For these fish, the carbonate hardness of your pond or lake must exceed 50 ppm for the fish to survive, ideally falling between 50 ppm and 200 ppm.

Testing 1, 2, 3

When you’re treating your pond with a product like Pond Logic® Algae Defense®, be sure to use a water hardness test kit, like Laguna Quick Dip Multi-Test Strips.

Carbonate hardness is measured in degrees (KH) or in parts per million (ppm). Because the water hardness test kit will give its results in degrees, you’ll need to convert your findings from KH to ppm to determine whether the levels in your lake are safe for your fish. Use this formula to figure it out: 1 KH = 17.848 ppm. So if your test kit reads 5 KH, you would multiply 5 times 17.848, which equals 89.24 ppm.

POND TALK: How often do you test your pond or lake’s carbonate hardness level?

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