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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 degrees 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 ID 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 degree 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

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?

    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?

    Does Having Too Many Koi Cause String Algae? – Water Garden & Feature Q & A

    Picture of String Algae.

    Water Gardens & Features Q & A

    Q: I have a bad case of string algae in my water garden and someone told me it was because I had too many fish. I have an approximately 1,000 gallon water garden and around 40 koi 6″ long in it. Is that really too many? If so, how many should I have? – Marco of Texas

    A: You can ask anyone here at The Pond Guy; usually the first question we ask when someone says they have a bad algae problem is, “How many fish do you have?”, followed by, “What size water garden do you have?”. 9 out 10 times, there are way too many fish in the water garden. So why does having that many fish cause algae? Let me explain.

    Sunlight + Food Source = Algae: Algae really only needs two things to grow, sunlight and a food source. The food source can come from many sources but fish waste is a major contributor. This means the more fish you have, the more waste, the more algae. Make sense?

    Finding a Balance: When you put fish into your water garden always consider the future. Small fish become big fish and fish are very romantic creatures. Let’s say you purchased 20 koi at around 3″ each. Your pond may be able
    to handle the fish load for a few seasons then all things start to change. As time went by, your fish have grown and maybe even started a family. As nature takes its course, your pond starts to pay the price and water quality becomes an issue. Take into consideration that 40 1″ fish produce the waste of just one 12″ fish. So even though you pond may have been able to handle the fish load in the past, you must consider that your fish load or fish waste grows expotentially every year.

    Koi vs. Goldfish: I know that when you’re shopping for fish koi are more expensive and sometimes the goldfish look really nice too. I feel the same way myself at times. Just keep in mind that goldfish can reproduce up to 6 times a year where koi only reproduce once a year.

    Fish Tips: Goldfish can grow up to 18” long and live up to 20 years, where as a koi can grow up to 36” long and live over 200 years! One famous scarlet koi, named “Hanako” (c. 1751 – July 7, 1977) was owned by several individuals, the last of which was Dr. Komei Koshihara. Hanako was reportedly 226 years old upon her death. Her age was determined by removing one of her scales and  examining it extensively in 1966. She is (to date) the longest-lived koi fish ever recorded (wikipedia).

    POND TALK: How many fish do you have in your water garden?

    Controlling Green Water Algae in a Water Garden – Water Garden & Feature Q & A

    Picture of Green Water Algae in a Water Garden.

    Water Gardens & Features Q & A

    Q: I am having a terrible time with green water in my water garden. What can I do? – Abby of California

    A: It’s that time of year again when the fish are playing, flowers blooming and your backyard is once again becoming your peaceful retreat, except for that green water in your water garden. Like most of us water garden owners the highlight of our yard is our water feature but what fun are fish if you can’t see and enjoy them? Here are some considerations that may help you take back your water garden.

    Filtration: Early in the season your filtration system may not be up to par with the amount of waste and debris left over from the winter months. A good spring clean out may be needed if there is an excessive amount of debris in the bottom of the water garden. If your water garden is relatively clean use a pond vacuum or application of natural bacteria may help get you on your way. This is the time of year to wash out or replace your filter pads to prepare for the coming season.

    Fish Load: Have your fish been busy? If your spacious water garden is becoming a full house, it may be time to find a few friends and share the wealth.  Overcrowding is a common source for green water since the filtration system may not be large enough to handle the amount of waste being produced. A simple rule of thumb to ensure room for your fish is 1 fish for every 10 sq. ft. of surface area.

    Plant Coverage or Shade: We recommend 40-60% plant coverage in your water garden. This adds to your filtration, since the plants are up taking their nutrients from the water. They also provide the added benefit of shade to help protect your fish from predators. A variety of plants should be used, including: bog(marginal), submerged, water lilies or floating plants. If your not sure what to get, you can check out our aquatic plant packages.

    Help Mother Nature Out with Natural Bacteria: Once you’ve checked your filtration, fish load and plant load, it’s time to add some natural bacteria. We recommend the Pond Logic DefensePAC. The DefensePAC is an award winning water garden care system that comprises of 5 products known in the water garden industry as the 5-Steps to Clear Water. They are:

    1. Oxy-Lift Defense: The Pond Cleaner.
    2. Nature’s Defense: The Pond Balancer.
    3. Clarity Defense: The Pond Clarifier.
    4. Muck Defense: The Muck Reducer.
    5. Seasonal Defense: The Autumn, Winter Prep.

    The DefensePAC is an all-in-one source for water garden maintenance and will keep your water sparking clear all season….guaranteed!

    What about a UV filter?: You might be wondering why UV filtration wasn’t mentioned as a solution to green water. Indeed, it is a solution but…it is also can be a band-aid covering up a deeper problem. Always be sure that your filtration is adequate and you don’t have too many fish! You should also be using your test kit to make sure your water is safe for your fish. If everything checks
    out ok a UV may be a good tool as long as it is not the only one. Just remember if everything mentioned above is in check the green water should take care of itself and you will have a healthier overall ecosystem.

    POND TALK: What kind of green water problems have you had? And what did you do to fix them? Please comment and let me know.

    Aquatic Weed ID: Chara Versus Pondweeds – Pond & Lake Q & A

    Picture of Chara, a Form of Algae.

    Pond & Lake Q & A

    Q: I have mats of pondweeds in the bottom of my pond. I used Pondweed Defense to treat it, but it seems to be unharmed by it? What am I doing wrong? If there another herbicide I am supposed to use? – Ted of Michigan

    A: I remember when I first began treating ponds the importance of being able to identify what I was treating was vital. For example, after talking with Ted we discovered that what he had in his pond wasn’t a pondweed at all , it was actually a form of algae called chara. Chara, (refer to picture on the left), mimics true plants with its shape and form. At times, its hard to tell the difference between chara and pondweeds by just their physical appearances.

    Aquatic Weed Identification: Chara Vs. Pondweeds
    Even though there are times when it may be difficult to tell the difference between chara and pondweeds there are a few distinct qualities that chara has that will help you set them apart from pondweeds.

    1. Skunky Smell: Chara has an awful musky smell. Simply walking close to or around your pond will tell you right away if you have a chara problem or not.
    2. Easy to Remove: Chara is not as rooted into the pond as pondweeds are and is extremely easy to pull out from the water.
    3. Gritty Texture: Diagnose chara by pulling some out and rubbing it in between your fingers. Chara has a gritty feel to the touch.

    Treating for Chara: When treating for chara, since it is a form of algae, you need to use an algaecide. We prefer to use Algae Defense Algaecide, but you can also use Cutrine-Plus Granular as well. Approximately two weeks after treating the chara we sugget to use a Pond & Beach Rake to rake out as much as you can (Note: DO NOT rake out chara before treating it, it will spread). Doing this will help you gain control relatively quickly.

    WE CAN INDENTIFY WEEDS/ALGAE FOR YOU!: If you are ever unsure of what you have, just go ahead and send us a sample and we can diagnose it for you. Its FREE. You can either e-mail us a picture of mail the sample to us. See below for instructions.

    E-mail: E-mail us pictures at mrwig@thepondguy.com

    Or

    Mail: Mail weed samples to: The Pond Guy, ATTN: Weed Sample, 6135 King Road, Marine City, MI 48039. When mailing just be sure to ship priority or exprss shipping to ensure the sample arrives quickly and fresh. Also, please wrap samples with a DRY paper towel and place in a plastic bag.

    POND TALK: Have any of you had trouble identifying pondweeds or algae? Please comment and let us know how we can help.

    How Do I Combat String Algae in my Water Feature? – Water Feature Q & A

    Picture of String Algae

    Water Feature Q & A

    Q: I have a 1,000 gallon pond and already the string algae is starting. I am sick of constantly cleaning it. Any ideas? – Steve of New York

    A: Like Steve many of you find yourselves in this same situation, where it seems like you are battling algae year after year with no end in sight. The thing I want you to know is that in order to fully understand how to control algae, you really have to understand how it develops in the first place.

    The Key Ingredient:
    One of the key ingredients for algae to grow is a food source (aka Nitrates). And I’ll have to say in almost every water feature that has a bad algae problem, it is the abundant fish load that is causing the issue. So why does an abundant fish load cause algae? When fish eat they over time, like every living creature, will have to excrete the waste (aka ammonia). This ammonia, when filtered properly, will breakdown into nitrates (aka food source). Make sense so far? This food source is then eaten by algae. From there some of the algae will be eaten by the fish and thus the cycle, the nitrogen cycle of life, begins again.

    So the bottom line here is: If we have control of the food source (aka Nitrates), we have control of the algae. I have mentioned this before in the past, but it bears repeating.

    Keep Fish Loads to a Minimum:
    I know you love your fish and this is a touchy subject. But if you plan to have sixty 12″ koi in a 1,000 gallon pond, your going to have an algae problem and it won’t be inexpensive to get a hold of. When calculating your fish load think of it in pounds of fish or total inches. For example, one 6” fish can weigh as much as four 4” fish. The number of fish will affect the overall fish load, although 10 small fish may only produce the waste of one large fish. With this said, remember that your fish are growing and in many cases multiplying. Always plan for the future and be careful not to overstock your water feature.

    Proper Filtration:
    The size and type of your filtration system will depend on your total fish load. If your filter is not properly sized for max potential, your fish will outgrow the filter. When this happens, ammonia levels can reach to lethal levels. In most cases filters on the market are rated for ponds containing no fish or a minimal fish load. It is always best to get a filter that is rated for at least 2x the water volume of your pond.

    Aquatic Plants:
    Aquatic plants and algae will compete for the same food source in order to grow. I don’t know about you, but I would much rather see a few beautiful water liles then green slime. A simple rule of thumb is to have 60% plant coverage. This should consist of submerged, floating and marginal plants. Floating plants, such as Water Hyacinths & Water Lettuce, are fantastic at pulling nitrates from the water. I recommend putting a few into your waterfall filter box if you have one. Rooted plants, such as water lilies and marginal plants, create a great place for your fish to hide from predators. Please note when aquatic plants are not present, algae will take their place. See our selection of aquatic plants here.

    Beneficial Natural Bacteria :
    I’m sure you hear this a lot nowadays as to why you should be adding beneficial natural bacteria to your water feature. The reason is because it is another reducer of nitrates. One  product to check out for this is called the DefensePAC. It is a combination of five products that provide beneficial bacteria, trace minerals, and a fish and plant safe pond cleaner. The DefensePAC works to breakdown fish waste, leaves or other organics that accumulate in the pond. These are essential to maintain a clean, clear and healthy ecosystem. The best of all, one DefensePAC lasts up to 6 months for a 2,000 gallon water feature.

    How Do I Treat for Chara/Algae? – Pond & Lake Q & A

    Picture of a bed of chara/algae

    Pond & Lake Q & A

    Q: How do I get rid of a chara infestation?
    – Dave of Ohio

    A: During the early beginnings of spring have you ever took that first stroll around the pond and discovered an awful musky smell that filled the air? That smell is chara, and it seems to take off like a wildfire during the early spring. Did you know that if you rake it out before treating it, you risk spreading it even more! So what do you do? The proper way to get rid of chara is the following:

    First: Treat the chara using an algaecide
    Since chara is a form of algae, using an algaecide such as Algae Defense or Hydrothol is a great way to treat for the chara. Algae Defense is best used
    when there are no koi, goldfish or trout in the pond. All other fish are fine. Also there are no water use restrictions with Algae Defense. If your pond does contain koi, goldfish or trout then using Hydrothol is the way to go. The only downside with Hydrothol are its water use restrictions. Read
    more about those restrictions here
    .

    Second: Wait 10 to 14 Days
    The important step here is the wait the 10 to 14 days to make sure the chara has died from the algaecide treatment. Like I mentioned eariler, if you rake while the chara is still alive, it can spread.

    Third & Final: Rake out the chara
    Use the Airmax Pond & Beach Rake to rake out the chara from the pond. The Pond & Beach Rake includes a 25′ rope so you can throw the rake out into the pond and tug it in. I would rake the same area 2 or 3 times to make sure you removed all of the chara. Chara, fortunately is very easy to rake off of the bottom.

    The other hidden benefit of raking chara, is the removal of the black muck on the bottom of the pond. This muck is a nutrient source for weeds and algae so removing it will help you that much more at maintaining the pond. Once finished with the raking, using MuckAway Pellets will help breakdown any future muck that may accumulate.

    My Dog Swims in My Pond. Can I Treat for Algae? – Pond & Lake Q & A

    Picture of a Dog in a Pond

    Pond & Lake Q & A

    Q: I have a pond that the dogs swim in almost everyday when the weather is warm. It is overrun with Algae. Is there a chemical I can use to kill the algae but not affect the dogs? – Corinne of Ohio

    A: Another Great Question! I talk to quite a few pond owners who have pets that love to play in their pond and this is always a concern when it comes to treating a pond with algae. The answer is yes, there are treatments you can use to kill the algae and not harm any pets. One such product is Algae Defense.

    Algae Defense is a liquid algaecide that has no “water use” restrictions such as irrigation, swimming & other recreational activities. We suggest to use Algae Defense in ponds that do not contain koi, goldfish or trout. They are very sensitive to this treatment.

    If your pond does contain koi, goldfish or trout we would suggest to use a product called Hydrothol 191. The only downside are its restrictions. With dogs or other pets, we would suggest to keep them away from the pond for 7 days if possible.

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