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My water turned brown about this time last year. How do I stop it from happening again? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: My water turned brown about this time last year. How do I stop it from happening again?

Q: My water turned brown about this time last year. How do I stop it from happening again?

Nick – Charlestown, WV

A: There’s only one thing worse than green water—and that’s brown water. In some ponds or water features, the end of summer or beginning of fall brings with it this discolored water. It’s caused by one of two reasons:

  • Debris Tea: When leaves or pine needles fall into your pond, the tannins in them create a type of all-natural debris tea, which turns the clean and clear water in your backyard feature a shade of brown. This is the most common cause of tea-colored water.
  • Sediment Stew: If you have a lot of floating particulates or sediment in your pond, playful fish, wind or some other action can sometimes disrupt it, mixing it into your water column via your pump or aeration system.

To determine what’s causing the brown water, grab a glass jar from your kitchen, dunk it in your pond and fill it with the water. Let it sit for 24 hours and take a close look at the results. Is the water still tea-colored? Then you have tannin-colored debris tea. Do you see sediment settled at the bottom of the glass? Then you have some sediment stew.

Once you pinpoint what’s causing the brown water, here’s how to treat the problem.

  1. Clean It Up: Because both causes start with an abundance of organics in the water, your first course of action is to clean the bottom of your pond to remove any muck, leaves and remaining debris with a pond vacuum or skimmer net.
  2. Water Change: Next, do a partial (10 to 25 percent) water change, which will freshen things up and clear the water. Don’t forget to add a water conditioner to treat the water for your finned pals.
  3. Add Beneficial Bacteria: If you have sediment stew, add some Nature’s Defense® (if water temps are above 50°F) or Seasonal Defense® (if water temps are below 50°F). The beneficial bacteria will digest any accumulated organic debris and eliminate the brown water.
  4. Use Activated Carbon: If you have debris tea, toss a media bag filled with Pond Logic® Activated Carbon into your pond. The carbon will absorb the tannins, leaving behind clear water.

To prevent the discoloration from happening again, keep the organics out of the pond. Clean up the muck regularly with a skimmer net or vacuum, and when the leaves or pine needles start falling, cover the water with pond netting, like the Pond Logic® PondShelter™ or The Pond Guy® Premium Pond Netting.

Pond Talk: Have the leaves started falling in your neck of the woods yet? If so, what do you do to keep them out of your water?

Remove Discoloration From Leaves & Debris - View Pond Logic® Activated Carbon

How can I get rid of the discoloration in my pond? It looks like a tea pot. – Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

How can I get rid of the discoloration in my pond? It looks like a tea pot.

How can I get rid of the discoloration in my pond? It looks like a tea pot. Esther, Eureka, VA

Tea colored water is a common issue that typically comes up later in the year as the weather cools and the trees start to drop their leaves. The ponding season may be coming to an end in a couple of months but you still want your pond looking its very best. Where is this tea colored water coming from and how can you make it go away?

Water discoloration can occur for a couple of reasons both pertaining to organic debris having a significant presence in your pond. If you have a lot of floating organic particulates in your water they will cause turbid or colored water and is usually stirred into the water column via your pump or aeration system. The other cause of water discoloration, and the most common cause of tea colored water, is the presence of an abundance of organic debris. Leaves are the main contributor to the problem as they release tannins into the water which, like you said, leaves your pond looking like a tea kettle. The best way to determine if your pond suffers from floating particulate or an abundance of tannins is by filling a clear jar with pond water and placing it in a still area. Floating debris will eventually sink to the bottom of the jar leaving the water clear looking. If the water is tinted by tannins the water will remain discolored. Once you pinpoint the culprit you can effectively treat the problem.

Since an abundance of organics is to blame in either scenario you will want to start by cleaning the bottom of the pond to remove any muck, leaves and any other remaining debris. The easiest way to do so is to use a Pond Vacuum but if you do not have one yet a Skimmer Net, Gloves and elbow grease will do the trick. Once you have the majority of debris cleaned out of the pond you will want to do a partial water change. Physically scoop or pump out 10 to 25% of the contents of your pond and fill it with clean fresh water. If you have fish in the pond you will want to add Pond & Fish Conditioner to detoxify the harmful components of tap and well water. If you are fortunate enough to be enjoying warmer weather still and your water temps are above 50° add Beneficial Bacteria to digest remaining organic debris and to keep them from accumulating again. Using Muck Defense goes a long way in removing hard to reach bottom dwelling muck from between your rocks as well. If your water temps are below 50° substitute your beneficial bacteria products with Seasonal Defense. To remove tannins from the water place a media bag filled with Activated Carbon in your biological filter. While the bacteria and activated carbon are going to work you may want to consider covering your water garden with a Pond Protector Net Kit or some Pond Netting to keep new leaves and debris from making their way into to pond. A cleaner pond going into the Winter is much easier to maintain come Spring time so a little work now will go a long way later.

POND TALK: How did you chase away tea colored water in your pond? Do you use a pond net in the Fall?

Get rid of tea colored water fast!

How Do I Get Rid of Brown Tea Colored Water? – Water Garden Q & A

Activated Carbon


Q: I have brown tea colored water and I can’t seem to get it cleared up. Is there something that will remove color from my water? – Karen of Oklahoma

A: Brown or tea-colored water is generally caused from “tannins” in the water. As leaves or other vegetation accumulate and decay in the water garden, they begin to leech these tannins dying the water a brown or tea-color.

The Solution:
Activated Carbon. Activated Carbon absorbs tannins and other toxins such as chlorine from city water. Place the activated carbon in a fine mesh bag and place in your skimmer or filter box. If you don’t have either of these, simply place it near your pump or in the area of your pond that receives the best circulation. The water must run “through” the carbon to work. Typically 4-6 lbs. will treat 1,000 gallons for 2-3 months.

Pond Netting

Use Pond Neting to stop leafs from discoloring your water and adding muck to the bottom of you pond this fall with a heavy duty leaf net.

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