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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

My pond is spring fed. Does aeration do anything more for my pond than what the fresh water does? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: My pond is spring fed. Does aeration do anything more for my pond than what the fresh water does?

Q: My pond is spring fed. Does aeration do anything more for my pond than what the fresh water does?

Tom – Eden Prairie, MN

A: You gotta love a spring-fed pond. Rather than being volume-fluctuating catch basin for precipitation runoff (and pollution in some cases), it’s filled by a spring or ground water. That means the water level stays fairly consistent regardless of rainfall—and that’s a definite plus if you’re using the lake for recreation or watering livestock.

As great as they are, spring-fed ponds do have their challenges. They’re prone to thermocline, which is when water forms layers or stratifies depending on the water temperature. And even though spring water flows into the lake or pond from the underground aquifer and provides good water exchange, it is typically low in dissolved oxygen and not moving enough to circulate the water column.

Just about every pond or lake can benefit from aeration—including those that are spring fed. Here’s how an Airmax® Pond Series™ Aeration System can help your pond:

  • Circulates the Water: Rather than develop pockets of cold, oxygen-depleted water, a pond with an aeration system moves the water both horizontally and vertically.
  • Prevents Thermocline: During the summer in a pond that’s not properly aerated, the water at the top is warmer and full of oxygen while the deeper water remains cooler and nutrient-rich. Aeration churns the water, allowing the shallow and deep water to mix.
  • Infuses Oxygen into the Water: Your lake and its underwater inhabitants need oxygen to survive, and aeration pumps that O2 into the water while releasing dangerous gases, like ammonia, at the surface.
  • Promotes Muck Digestion: Beneficial bacteria thrive on oxygen, too, and those tiny microorganisms eat through muck and debris that has collected in your lake—ultimately creating a cleaner pond.

For those readers who have an aeration system in place but are unsure if the water is properly aerated, we suggest taking temperature readings at multiple depths and in different areas of your pond and recording any extreme variations, which indicate a lack of circulation from your aeration system.

Pond Talk: Some pond owners transform their natural springs into interesting water features, like artesian wells. Have you found a unique way to take creative advantage of the spring that feeds your pond?

Create The Perfect Pond - Airmax® Pond Series™ Aeration Systems

My pond is spring fed, so I don’t need an aerator, right? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

My pond is spring fed, so I don’t need an aerator, right?

Q: My pond is spring fed, so I don’t need an aerator, right?

Charles – Wadsworth, OH

A: Great question! First off, let’s tell the folks at home the differences between a catch basin pond and a spring-fed pond.

A catch basin pond is a reservoir filled with precipitation runoff—and pollution, in some cases—from the surrounding area. A spring-fed pond, however, is fed by a spring or ground water, which keeps the pond full. If you have cold areas of water in your pond, that could indicate that you have a spring-fed pond.

As the fresh water flows into the lake or pond from the underground aquifer, the water does move somewhat. But it doesn’t keep it agitated enough to naturally aerate it and maintain good water quality.

Preventing Thermocline

Whether you have a spring-fed or catch basin lake or pond, it’s critical to keep the water aerated. Why? Because doing so prevents thermocline, which is when the water forms layers, or stratifies, depending on the water temperature.

During the summer in a pond that’s not properly aerated, the water at the top is warmer and full of oxygen while the deeper water remains cooler and nutrient-rich. This phenomenon causes the fish to hang out at the pond’s surface. As the seasons change, however, the pond water does a “turnover,” which is where the warmer, oxygen-rich water sinks and the cooler, oxygen-depleted water to rise—leaving your fish gasping for breath.

Aerating Your Spring-Fed Pond

Obviously, you don’t want that to happen! So you should aerate your pond, even if it’s spring-fed. The action created by an aeration system, such as the Airmax® Pond Series™ Aeration System and the Airmax® Shallow Water Aeration System, effectively moves the water and causes the shallow and the deep water to mix. The Deep Water Aeration System is powerful enough to aerate ponds up to 3 acres and can be adapted to fit any shaped pond. The Shallow Water Aeration System is ideal for shallow lakes or ponds that require multiple aeration plates due to depth restrictions.

The result: oxygen is spread throughout the water column while dangerous gasses, like ammonia, are released at the water’s surface—and that means happy fish, good water quality and a healthy lake.

Pond Talk: Would you prefer to have a spring-fed or a catch-basin pond on your property?

Airmax® Aeration Systems - Create the perfect pond with aeration

Help! There are a bunch of dead fish in my pond, what happened? | Pond & Lakes Q&A

Why do frogs/toads make so much noise?

Help! There are a bunch of dead fish in my pond, what happened?
Jason – Hastings, NE

The arrival of spring is an exciting time for pond owners. The weather is warming up, the sun is shining and the ice is melting away from the surface of your pond. Some pond owners however, find all of their fish floating dead at the water’s surface. While experiencing a winter fish kill is not the best way to start the season if you understand the cause you can prevent future occurrences.

Your pond is constantly absorbing and releasing air. As wind blows across the surface of the pond water ripples absorb oxygen into the water column. Decomposing organic debris at the bottom of the pond release a gas that floats to the surface of the pond where it is released into the atmosphere.

The layer of ice that forms over your pond blocks air exchange locking fresh oxygen out of the pond and harmful gas from decomposition in. Depending on the size of the pond and the amount of decomposing debris available, your fish can be overwhelmed and killed by the lack of fresh air.

Fish kills can also happen in the summer. Summer fish kills are typically caused by pond turnovers due to lack of proper aeration. The top layer of water in your pond carries more oxygen and reacts faster to temperature changes due to its exposure to the air. The bottom of your pond will tend to contain less oxygen, light and will be slower to warm up throughout the summer. These layers of water are referred to as stratification and are divided by thermoclines. If you have ever swam in your pond you may have noticed that your feet are colder than your chest as they break the thermocline in the water column. Your fish will find a happy medium in the water column where there is adequate oxygen and warmth.

Particular rainy or windy days can cause the thermocline in your pond to break. The bottom layer of water in your pond will mix together with the healthier top layer of water. As your fish have nowhere to flee to, they are trapped in the newly mixed pond water which can severely stress and even kill your fish.
Fortunately, there are a couple of ways to prevent winter and summer fish kills. An Bottom Diffused Aeration System like the Airmax® Pond Series™ pumps fresh air to the bottom of your pond and breaks it into fine bubbles that can be absorbed into the water column. As the air bubbles rise through the water column they also circulate the water body making sure that your pond is evenly oxygenated and warmed. An abundance of oxygen promotes the presence of beneficial aerobic bacteria which will help break down organic waste faster and without the egg-like odor produced by the slow anaerobic bacteria in water that lacks oxygen. Running an aeration system in the winter can also eliminate your winter fish kills as the constant bubbling at the surface of your pond prevents ice formation and quickly breaks up layers of ice.

To further aid in your fish kill prevention, you will want to remove as much organic debris from the bottom of the pond as possible. Beneficial Bacteria products like PondClear™and MuckAway™ in tandem with EcoBoost™ will naturally digest gas and algae causing muck without having to chemically treat your pond. Cut down and drag away any dead cattail reeds and leaves with a Weed Cutter and Rake so that they are not left to decompose. The Pond Logic® ClearPAC® PLUS combines all the beneficial bacteria products you need along with pond dye and an option algaecide to eliminate the guesswork of selecting the proper pond care products.

Pond Talk: Did you find any surprises under the ice in your pond this spring? What are you doing to resolve the issue?

Aeration

What benefits are there for aeration during the winter? – Ponds & Lakes Q & A

What benefits are there for aeration during the winter?

What benefits are there for aerating during the winter?
Drew – Galata, MT

One of the best features of an aeration system is its ability to perform all season long. Your aeration system will play a major role in breaking down the leaves and debris that made its way into the pond during the fall which will promote a healthier pond throughout the winter and easier maintenance come spring. You’ve seen the benefits of aeration all summer long but what does your aeration system have to offer in the winter?

Even in cooler temperatures an aeration system will continue to circulate the contents of your pond and infuse oxygen into the water column. The cooler water will be able to hold more oxygen which is great for the overall health of the pond and its inhabitants. As the surface water cools in the pond it will start to sink towards the ponds bottom. This shift in water can potentially break the thermocline in your pond and force harmful water from the bottom of the pond to mix into the water column trapping your fish. This is referred to as a turnover and they can happen both in warm and cold temperatures in ponds that are not being aerated. You’ve also learned from our previous blogs that running your aeration system in the winter will keep holes open in the ice that allow an escape for toxic gasses and a hole for fresh air to enter the pond. You can also move your plates closer to the shoreline of your pond to keep water open and available for wildlife to drink and birds to swim. Encouraging wildlife to visit your yard is always nice in a season where your yard can sometimes seem bland and uneventful.

Although aeration is a simple and effective way to maintain your pond throughout the winter there are a couple scenarios that warrant a winter break. If you use your pond to skate or ice fish you will not want to run your aeration system as the constant friction not only opens holes in the ice above the plates but will also thin the ice in other areas.

If you do not yet have an aeration system installed in your pond, but would like to install one before the winter, it is best to have your aerator introduced before the ice begins to form. If your pond is not already aerated it is important that you run the system in short increments at first to prevent your own man-made turnover. Start by running it for about 30 minutes the day you install it and double the run time each day after. If you follow this method you should be running your aerator 1 hour the 2nd day, 2 hours the next, 4 hours on the 4th day and should be running the aeration system continuously by the end of the week. Browse over to our Airmax® Aeration page for help selecting an aeration system that fits your pond. If you need additional help or have questions you can also feel free to contact one of our Pond Guys or Gals or post a comment on our blog page.

Pond Talk: Do you notice a healthier pond in the spring as a result of running your aeration system in the winter?

Keep your pond healthy all winter long!

I have a ton of this black muck in my pond. What can I do about it? – Ponds & Lakes Q & A

Got Muck? Use MuckAway®!
Pre-order For Fish Day Online… more info

Q: I have a ton of this black muck in my pond. What can I do about it? Sam – Little Rock, AR

Let’s See What You’re Made of, Muck
Nothing spoils your summer fun like jumping off the dock into your pond, only to become a human lawn dart… stuck in layer upon layer of pond muck. No longer will you have to battle muck for possession of your favorite flip – flop while walking along the shoreline of your lake. Gather your torches and pitchforks; together we will fight off the monster we call muck!

The first step to effectively treating any nuisance in your pond is to understand exactly what it is and how it works. Muck, simply put, is an accumulation of fish waste, plant decay, and other debris that makes their way into your pond. While some of the materials that make up muck result directly from the inhabitants of your pond, much more finds its way into the water body in the form of blowing debris (leaves and grass clippings) and runoff from surrounding areas. As this cache of organic waste decays, it breaks down into slime, or as we call it, muck.

So Long Slime
What is a collection of decomposing organic debris afraid of, you ask? Oxygen and bacteria of course! If your pond is not being aerated, chances are a thermocline has established in the water body. The upper portion of the pond that has exposure to air will contain some oxygen while the lower region tends to lack sufficient levels of O2. Implementing an aeration system into the water body will circulate the contents of your pond and infuse the entire water column with oxygen. If your pond is six feet deep or shallower, Fountain Aeration can provide sufficient aeration. If the pond is deeper than six feet, you would be better suited with bottom-diffused aeration like the Airmax® Aeration System. This influx in oxygen aids the growth of aerobic beneficial bacteria. These bacteria then feed on this organic debris and assist in the decomposition process. Aerobic beneficial bacteria are efficient and thrive on oxygen and, when present, will fight against muck deposits like your own personal pond ninjas. If you supply your pond with aeration, and thereby oxygen, you will be setting in motion events that will ultimately lead towards a cleaner pond.

Send In The Bacterial Backup
While there are beneficial bacteria naturally found in your pond, the presence of muck is a sign that they are severely outnumbered and overworked. You can boost their numbers by adding beneficial bacteria products like Pond Logic® PondClear™ and MuckAway™ to your maintenance regimen. As you might have figured out by the name, MuckAway™ is designed to work against bottom dwelling pond scum. MuckAway™ is formed into precision release pellets that sink to the bottom of your pond or lake where they can start working in the areas you need bacteria the most. Due to their buoyancy (or lack thereof), they are great in areas that experience high water flow like canals and lake front property. When used with aeration, MuckAway™ can eliminate up to five inches of muck a year! To apply MuckAway™, simply use the included scoop to apply pellets to problem areas every four to six weeks. An eight pound bucket of MuckAway™ will treat up to 16,000 square feet.

…And Never Come Back!
Now that you have banished muck from your pond bottom, take some proactive steps to ensure it remains a distant memory. Adding Pond Logic® PondClear™ in your pond every 2 weeks will help sustain a healthy bacterial count. These bacterial treatments, paired with constant aeration, will ensure you will feel more sand between your toes this season and less squish. For more information on treating your pond with bacteria click here or read our Aeration Articles to learn about the many other benefits of aerating your pond.

Pond Talk: Have you used MuckAway™ in you pond or lake? Were you happy with your results?

Got Muck? Use Muck Away® - Eats up to 5 inches of muck per year!

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