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What is the thermocline? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: What is the thermocline?

Q: What is the thermocline?

Walt – Cedar City, UT

A: Have you ever swum in a pond without a bottom aerator and felt colder water near your toes and warmer water on top?

You’ve experienced the thermocline.

Simply put, the thermocline is a layer of water between the warmer, surface zone and the colder, deep-water zone.

In ponds and lakes in the summertime, a natural phenomenon called stratification occurs when warm, less-dense, oxygen-rich water sits on top of colder, denser, oxygen depleted water. The thermocline separates the warm layer—the epilimnion —and the cold layer—the hypolimnion. In this stable system very little mixing of the layers occurs, particularly in calm weather.

Fish and other underwater critters (including beneficial bacteria) have trouble with this stratification. As summer marches on, your finned pals have less and less oxygen available below the thermocline, so they have to come closer to the surface to get their needed O2 supply. That means less room for them to swim. It also means your beneficial bacteria below the thermocline become oxygen-starved, which could result in algae growth and odor.

Thank goodness for aeration.

Bottom diffuser aeration, like Airmax® Aeration systems, prevents your pond or lake from stratifying by churning and mixing the temperature layers. The tiny bubbles created by the diffuser force the cooler oxygen-starved water to the pond’s surface where it becomes pumped up with O2. The warmer, oxygen-rich water then drops down, fueling the beneficial bacteria.

The result is an eliminated thermocline and higher oxygen levels throughout the water column.

It’s critical, however, that your system be sized correctly for your pond so the aeration is uniform throughout. If you currently have an aeration system running and you’re not sure if it’s doing its job, take your pond’s temperature. Using a thermometer and string, measure the temperature of the water every 24 inches down in various locations in your lake. If you find that you have more than a few degrees difference in your vertical readings, you’re probably under-aerating your pond.

But once you get your aeration system dialed in, your fish will once again have full access to the entire body of water, and your beneficial bacteria will have the opportunity to grow and thrive.

Call us if you need help mapping the aeration system in your lake. We’re happy to help!

Pond Talk: Have you experience stratification in your pond or lake?

Create The Perfect Pond - Airmax® Aeration Systems

I’ve always been curious to know just what really lives down in my pond. – Ponds & Lakes Q & A

I've always been curious to know just what really lives down in my pond.

I’ve always been curious to know just what really lives down in my pond. Holly – Girdler, KY

The Company You Keep

Your pond is a beautiful and enjoyable addition to your back yard and just as it is full of water, it is also full of mysteries. Since we have at one time or another used our ponds for swimming, fishing, or maybe irrigation we can only wonder, “What really lives beneath the surface of my pond?”

While you won’t find any man-eating sharks or lost cities like Atlantis at the bottom of the pond, there is a surprisingly diverse selection of living creatures cozying up in your water. In your average back yard farm pond you can expect to find large creatures such as fish, frogs and turtles, snakes and muskrats. In regards to the smaller inhabitants in your pond you have tadpoles, a variety of insects, and don’t forget your microscopic bacteria in both aerobic and anaerobic flavors. Your pond also plays host to aquatic plants like Cattails, Algae, and submersed weeds like American Pondweed, Hydrilla, and Naiad. It is only natural that since your pond is choc-full of life, it will draw additional wildlife to its shores like birds and deer. The physical location of your pond will directly influence what kinds of creatures you will find frequenting the water as certain animal species are located in select regions in the US.

Now that you are certain you are not alone in your pond, rest assured that the majority of what is living in your pond actually helps create a balanced ecosystem at best and is a minor inconvenience to people at worst. Having a healthy and balanced fish population will help keep your pond clear of insects and leeches. Creating an ideal environment for beneficial aerobic bacteria like those in PondClear and MuckAway to thrive will improve your water clarity and reduce muck accumulation and weed growth. Click over to our Bacteria Blog to learn more about these microscopic maids.

With all of these animals in your pond who is responsible for room assignments? If you are not aerating your pond, then your pond is most likely broken up into layers or thermoclines. You may have experienced this when swimming in your pond. Your chest is nice and warm but the water your feet occupy is cold. Many customers confuse this stratification with their pond being spring fed. Oxygen and light can only travel so far beneath the surface of the pond without assistance. This means that the top layer of your pond is typically a warm, oxygen rich environment which is prime real estate for the ponds inhabitants. The lower layers of the pond are darker, cooler and have considerably less oxygen. Gasses released by decomposing plants and fish waste (thanks to anaerobic bacteria) are trapped in this bottom layer creating a toxic environment that is not a very ideal living space. Installing an Aeration System, you can infuse oxygen and circulate the entire water column allowing your fish and their roommates to utilize the entire pond. Aerating the pond will also cut down on those smelly toxic gases and encourage a cleaner healthier pond which makes it more enjoyable for not only the wildlife but for you as well.

POND TALK: What types of creatures have you found in your pond?

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