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Does the type of algae and where it’s growing determine what chemical is needed? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: Does the type of algae and where it’s growing determine what chemical is needed?

Q: Does the type of algae and where it’s growing determine what chemical is needed?

Pete – Addison, AL

A: When battling algae, you have the upper hand if you understand the enemy. What type of algae is it? How does it behave? What are its strengths and weaknesses? Before we get in to how to treat the green menace, let’s discuss the different varieties and where they live in an aquatic ecosystem.

Algae Explained

In a large pond or lake planktonic algae, filamentous algae and chara, are the most common types of algae you’ll come across.

  • Planktonic algae, the source of algae blooms, are floating, microscopic plants that color pond water shades of green, blue-green, brown or variations in between. In controlled amounts, this type of algae can actually be beneficial. It can shade the pond’s bottom, preventing subsurface nuisance plants from growing.
  • Filamentous algae are single-celled plants that form long, visible chain, threads or filaments. These threads, which start growing along the bottom of the lake in shallow water or on rocks or other aquatic plants, intertwine and form mats that resemble wet wool. When these mats rise to the surface, they’re commonly referred to as pond scum.
  • Chara is a gray-green branched multicellular algae that has 6 to 16 leaf-like branchlets that grow in spirals around the stem. Though bottom-growing chara superficially resembles terrestrial plants, it lacks flowers, true leaves and roots. It has a skunky, musty, garlicky-type smell and has a crunchy- or grit-type texture, thanks to calcium carbonate deposits on its surface.

In general, algae will grow just about anywhere sun penetrates the pond. Surprisingly, algae has some benefits: The tiny plants feed fish and make great homes for micro- and macro-invertebrates like bugs and worms. But algae has its definite drawbacks. Besides being unsightly and odorous, uncontrolled blooms can cause oxygen depletions, affect fish health and, in extreme circumstances, cause fish to die.

Vanquishing the Menace

The key to successfully treating algae – whether planktonic, filamentous or chara – is to make the most contact between it and the algaecide. Rather than dumping the chemical into one place in the pond, which will only kill algae in that small area, it needs to be evenly dispersed.

Floating mats of filamentous algae and suspended planktonic algae are best treated with liquid mixtures, like Algae Defense® and Clipper™, that are sprayed directly over the area with a pond sprayer. To treat extra thick mats, stick the top of the sprayer into the mat itself to get the chemical to the deeper portion of the problem.

For bottom-growing algae, use granular algaecide, like Cutrine®-Plus Granular and Hydrothol, and distribute it with a granular spreader. It’s the preferred choice because the granules will sink over the algae bed and make maximum contact with it.

Follow up by raking out any decaying or dead debris with the Pond & Beach Rake, setting up an aeration system and adding natural bacteria, such as the types found in ClearPAC® PLUS Pond Care Package.

Pond Talk: How much time do you spend battling algae in your pond or lake?

Spray Directly Onto Algae Blooms - Pond Logic® Algae Defense®

I don’t know if I have chara or another weed. How do I tell? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: I don’t know if I have chara or another weed. How do I tell?

Q: I don’t know if I have chara or another weed. How do I tell?

Dan – W Jefferson, OH

A: Though it resembles a pond weed, chara—also called muskgrass or skunkweed—is actually a type of bottom-growing algae that can efficiently take over your pond or lake.

Can’t tell the difference between the two? Here are some tips to help identify and treat the chara.

IDing Chara

Pull out some of the plant in question and take a close look at it. Does it have these characteristics?

  • No Roots: Unlike pond weeds with traditional leaves and well-established root systems, chara is a gray-green branched multicellular algae that lacks flowers, true leaves and roots. Instead, it has six to 16 leaf-like branchlets that grow in spirals around the stem.
  • Distinct Odor: Next, smell it. Does it have a skunky, musty, garlicky-type smell? If so, it’s probably chara. Simply walking close to or around your pond will tell you right away if you have a chara problem, particularly late in the pond season.
  • Crunchy Texture: When you rub the plant between your fingers, what does it feel like? Chara has a crunchy or gritty-type texture that’s different than pond weeds.
  • Quickly Disintegrates: Finally, when you leave it on the dock, what happens to it after a few hours? If it almost disintegrates after a few hours, you’ve got chara.

Treating Chara

Once you determine it’s chara and not a pond weed, you’ll need to treat it with an algaecide rather than an herbicide. We prefer to use Pond Logic® Algae Defense® Algaecide, a fast-acting liquid formula, but use Cutrine®-Plus Granular as for chara growing in water deeper than 3 feet.

About two weeks after treating the chara, we suggest to use a Pond Rake to rake out as much as you can Doing this will help you gain control relatively quickly. (Important tip: Do not rake out chara before treating it because it will spread).

Pond Talk: What kinds of problems do you have with pond weeds or algae?

Eliminate Bottom Growing Chara - Cutrine®-Plus Granular

Properly Getting Rid of Chara (Algae) – Pond & Lake Q & A

Picture of chara, an erected form of algae.

Q: I have been treating for Algae/Chara about every two months throughout the summer although with fall approaching (and cooler temperatures) should I still be treating it or should I wait until spring? – Paul of Michigan

A: In general we suggest that you wait until water temperatures are above 60°F: Although the real answer is that you can treat Algae/Chara anytime it is actively growing. In most cases (in the Midwest) you can start treating algae as early as March or April and continue treatment through the month of October.

Treating for Algae/Chara: Chara, although it looks like a plant is actually just an erect from of Algae.

When treating for Chara and/or floating algae always take in to consideration the following:

  • Benefits of Chara: Chara unlike planktonic and floating algae is not always an eyesore and can benefit your pond in many ways such as: naturally filtering the water, providing fish habitat, and preventing more aggressive plant grow. Chara can be selectively treated in swimming and fishing areas in larger bodies of water.
  • Treatment Area: Only treat 1/3 of your pond at a time, waiting 7-10 days between treatments to minimize oxygen depletion caused by rotting vegetation.
  • What Product Works Best: In almost every case we would suggest using liquid Algae Defense® due to its cost and effectiveness. Although if your pond contains Trout, Koi or Goldfish you must use Clipper™ to reduce the chance of a fish kill.
  • The Best Time of Day For Treatment: Treat early on a calm sunny day; this will give you optimal conditions for your treatments to work.

Preventive Tips:

  • Removing and/or raking dead Algae and Chara after a treatment (wait 5-7 days) can help prevent it from coming back in the future by removing excess nutrients.
  • Always consider a proactive solution over a reactive one when possible consider aeration , natural bacteria and other alternatives for a long-term solution to your problems.

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