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How are algae able to grow in the winter when everything else is dormant? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q:How are algae able to grow in the winter when everything else is dormant?

Q: How are algae able to grow in the winter when everything else is dormant?

Patrick – Vandalia, IL

A: Algae can be tough little buggers. An estimated 72,500 algal species exist worldwide, and some of them can thrive in inhospitable conditions, including areas with ice and snow. With a handful of nutrients and a little bit of light, they’re able to grow – even in the 39 degree water under the ice in your lake.

But if your lake’s water is clean and clear during the spring and summer, how can it explode with algae in the winter?

Food Aplenty

Algae feed on byproducts of decomposing organic debris, like phosphorous and nitrogen, in the water. During the warmer months, natural bacteria would typically break down these nutrients, leaving little food for the organisms. But in the cooler months, those bacteria go dormant. That means the algae enjoy a feast – and a population explosion.

If you keep a hole in your lake’s ice, you can help control the nutrient density with a product like Pond Logic® EcoBoost™. This bacteria enhancer, which has no temperature restrictions, binds suspended organics while providing trace minerals to fish. Simply mix it with water and pour it into the lake.

Let There Be Light

Algae also require sunlight to thrive – but not much. Even through a clear, solid sheet of ice, algae can get enough light to use for photosynthesis. When that light is impeded, however, the algae won’t grow as quickly.

A layer of thick snow cover is Mother Nature’s way of preventing light from penetrating the water, but you can also use pond dye, to block those rays. The blue or black dye comes water soluble packets that are simple to use: Just toss two packets per acre into the lake, and the shade will inhibit algae growth.

Algae’s Benefits

Believe it or not, algae growth in the winter does have its benefits. It helps to filter the water, and on warmer days it’s a great snack for your fish. Plus, when the algae photosynthesize, they give off oxygen as a byproduct – which is then available for your fish (and other aquatic critters) to breathe.

Don’t worry: The algae won’t take over your pond like it does in the summer. It can grow, but the cold temperatures aren’t ideal for explosive outbreaks. If you’re concerned, however, try some EcoBoost and Pond Dye. They’re safe for your fish, and they’ll keep that algae under control until spring.

Pond Talk: Have you seen algae growing beneath the ice in your pond or lake?

Shade & Protect Your Pond - Pond Logic® Pond Dye Packets

What can I do to prevent string algae from growing in the winter? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: What can I do to prevent string algae from growing in the winter?

Q: What can I do to prevent string algae from growing in the winter?

Laura – Hattiesburg, MS

A: Even in the cold of winter, string algae can grow in your water garden. All that green nuisance needs to thrive is the right amount of nutrients and sunlight. So what can you do to prevent it? You have three options in your pond management toolbox: Seasonal Defense, barley straw extract, and a three-in-one pond tool.

Boost Your Bacteria

First of all, you’ll need to control the nutrients – or the food that the algae eat – in your pond. Because the beneficial bacteria that break down those nutrients go dormant in the winter, now’s the time to add some Pond Logic® Seasonal Defense® (as long as your pond isn’t frozen over, of course). It contains bacteria that prefer cooler temperatures. They’ll accelerate the decomposition of leaves, scum and sediment that feed algae, reducing its growth to a minimum.

Add Barley Straw

If you have a small water garden, like a koi pond that’s less than 10,000 gallons, Pond Logic® Barley Extract provides an all-natural solution for maintaining clean, clear water throughout the winter. Available in bales, pellets and as an extract, it works by releasing compounds that improve water clarity, leaving you a clean and healthy pond. Read more about how barley extract works here. The extract form is easy to use: Pour directly into the water and repeat every few weeks.

Manually Remove It

Should string algae form, you can manually remove it by wrapping it around an algae brush, like the one included in the The Pond Guy® 3-in-1 Interchangeable Pond Tool, and yanking it out of the water. The telescoping handle will add 5 feet to your reach, allowing you to reach those hard-to-access patches of weeds.

Unfortunately, if ice is covering your pond, there’s not much you can do to remove that string algae. Plan on removing it during your spring clean-out process. The sun will return soon enough!

Pond Talk: How do you prevent string algae from growing in the winter?

Naturally Clear Pond Water - Pond Logic® Barley Extract

My pond has some filamentous algae growth around the edges. It’s too cold to treat, right? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: My pond has some filamentous algae growth around the edges. It’s too cold to treat, right?

Q: My pond has some filamentous algae growth around the edges. It’s too cold to treat, right?

Jeff – Hanahan, SC

A: Cold-weather algae. It’s the worst. And, unfortunately, you can’t treat it right now because the temperatures are too low. Your pond or lake’s water temps need to be higher than 60°F before you can start treating the green stuff with algaecide.

So until things heat up, you have two options:

  1. Rake It Out: If you can safely access and maneuver around your pond, grab your Pond & Beach Rake and get to work skimming and pulling that filamentous algae out of the water and up onshore.
  2. Add Some Color: Pond Dye will limit the amount of sunshine that reaches the algae. Without enough sun, the algae can’t survive. So toss a Pond Dye water-soluble packet or some liquid concentrate into your pond – and your problem is solved!

Once your water temperatures rise above 50°F, start adding PondClear™ & MuckAway™ to the pond. The beneficial bacteria will clear the water and start breaking down the debris and nutrients that are feeding that troublesome algae.

Pond Talk: How much time do you spend puttering around your pond or lake in the winter?

Protect Your Pond in All Seasons - Pond Logic(r) Pond Dye Quarts

Is it Too Cold to Treat My Pond for Algae? – Pond & Lake Q & A

Picture of Floating Algae

Pond & Lake Q & A

Q: I see some algae in my pond. Is it too cold to treat my pond at this point? – Jack of Ohio

A: Algae has a tendency to grow in colder temperatures even when there is ice covering your pond. To treat or not to treat really all just comes down to the temperature of the water. Algaecides, like Algae Defense® (or Clipper™ if your have koi or goldfish in your pond), are most effective when water temperatures are above 50-60 degrees Fahrenheit. If you are living in the southern climates, the water temperatures may be already high enough for an algae treatment. As for the northern climates, it may be best to hold off until the water temperatures rise above the 50-60 degree Fahrenheit threshold.

Algae Growth During the Winter – Water Garden Q & A

Algae Growing in a Water Garden During Winter.

Q: I shut my water garden down for the winter, but I still see some algae growth. Can algae grow in cooler temperatures?

A: In some cases, a pond that stays clean and clear through the summer can blow up into an algal nightmare in the fall. Shutting down your watergarden ceases the flow-through characteristics of the pond. This reduces the amount of filtration that occurs both mechanically (i.e. skimmers) and biologically (i.e. filterfalls). Since there is less flow, it is a good idea to bump up the amount of bacteria in the pond by adding Seasonal Defense® Bacteria with Barley. These bacteria operate in cooler conditions and will greatly reduce the amount of nutrients in the water, and also contains barley straw to naturally help with the algae. Using Oxy-Lift™ Defense® to scrub down your rocks will also help to remove any debris build up.

Algae Growth During the Winter – Pond & Lake Q & A

Picture of Algae in Ice.

Q: That isn’t algae growing under the ice, is it?

A: A common question that we receive in the winter pertains to winter algae and what to do with it. In the northern climates, there are strains of algae that do thrive in temperatures down to freezing. The good news is that typically these strains do not reach nuisance levels in ponds or lakes. They tend to hang out in warmer locations, usually around an inflow of water, where it is nice and sunny. In optimal growing conditions, these algae can generate enough biomass to put your fish at risk. A sudden die-off caused by a sudden swing in temperature, overcast weather, etc. can deplete the dissolved oxygen levels under the ice which leads to unnecessary fish stress.

Solutions: Nutrient management in your watershed as well as your pond will slow down the growth of any algae or plant all season. Typically phosphorus is the key nutrient for algal growth, so try switching to phosphorus free fertilizers if you fertilize your lawn. Our PondClear™ Packets and MuckAway™ Pellets eat away at the muck/nutrients found in the pond. Our EcoBoost™ bind up any excess nutrients flowing in from the watershed. These are things to do in the summer, but what about winter? With the pond frozen over, your options are limited. Dying the pond a deep blue with Pond Dye will reduce the amount of sunlight that passes through the water column. If you can safely do it, I would suggest adding an extra dose through the ice to slow down growth.


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