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Aquatic Weed ID: Chara Versus Pondweeds – Pond & Lake Q & A

Picture of Chara, a Form of Algae.

Pond & Lake Q & A

Q: I have mats of pondweeds in the bottom of my pond. I used Pondweed Defense to treat it, but it seems to be unharmed by it? What am I doing wrong? If there another herbicide I am supposed to use? – Ted of Michigan

A: I remember when I first began treating ponds the importance of being able to identify what I was treating was vital. For example, after talking with Ted we discovered that what he had in his pond wasn’t a pondweed at all , it was actually a form of algae called chara. Chara, (refer to picture on the left), mimics true plants with its shape and form. At times, its hard to tell the difference between chara and pondweeds by just their physical appearances.

Aquatic Weed Identification: Chara Vs. Pondweeds
Even though there are times when it may be difficult to tell the difference between chara and pondweeds there are a few distinct qualities that chara has that will help you set them apart from pondweeds.

  1. Skunky Smell: Chara has an awful musky smell. Simply walking close to or around your pond will tell you right away if you have a chara problem or not.
  2. Easy to Remove: Chara is not as rooted into the pond as pondweeds are and is extremely easy to pull out from the water.
  3. Gritty Texture: Diagnose chara by pulling some out and rubbing it in between your fingers. Chara has a gritty feel to the touch.

Treating for Chara: When treating for chara, since it is a form of algae, you need to use an algaecide. We prefer to use Algae Defense® , but you can also use Cutrine®-Plus Granular as well. Approximately two weeks after treating the chara we sugget to use a Pond & Beach Rake to rake out as much as you can (Note: DO NOT rake out chara before treating it, it will spread). Doing this will help you gain control relatively quickly.

WE CAN INDENTIFY WEEDS/ALGAE FOR YOU!: If you are ever unsure of what you have, just go ahead and send us a sample and we can diagnose it for you. Its FREE. You can either e-mail us a picture of mail the sample to us. See below for instructions.

E-mail: E-mail us pictures at weedid@thepondguy.com


Mail: Mail weed samples to: The Pond Guy, ATTN: Weed Sample, 15426 Chets Way, Armada, MI 48039. When mailing just be sure to ship priority or exprss shipping to ensure the sample arrives quickly and fresh. Also, please wrap samples with a DRY paper towel and place in a plastic bag.

POND TALK: Have any of you had trouble identifying pondweeds or algae? Please comment and let us know how we can help.

5 Responses

  1. When you say chara has a skunky smell do you mean that it actually smells like a skunk? my pond deffinitely smells bad but not really like a skunk.

    • The chara won’t actually smell like a skunk but it will still be pretty bad. Most would probably describe it as a musty odor or rotting debris.

  2. does american pond weed become a problem if left unchecked? my pond is 2 acres, for fishing and has pond weed started. should i spray and remove? thankyou. i love your magazine!

  3. I have a farm pond, 1/2 acre in size, stocked with Catfish, bream and bass. Over the past few years I have read about chara, and from what i read it provides lots of cover for fish and even provides food sources for some. The amount of chara seems to be the issue … and again, from the sources i have read, if it covers 30-50% of the bottom of the pond, that is actually a good thing

    My pond is very clear, and you can see bottom structure and the fish and … it simply looks healthy. I am always trying to learn … so as the expert, what are your thoughts?

    • John,

      Great comment! Having some chara or pondweeds in a pond is absolutely fine. A lot of it comes down to preference. If a customer swims in the pond and that is the most important activity they do with the pond, usually they want minimal weeds/algae and clear water. If fishing or fish themselves is the most important, then usually weeds/algae aren’t as big as a concern. Like you mention, small coverage of aquatic weeds or algae is not a bad thing. Its natural and will of course provide good cover for fish.

      The biggest issue you run into though, is when algae/chara or pondweeds become extremely dense. Since algae/chara and pondweeds inhale and exhale oxygen in the photosynthesis process, when they become dense, it can reap all of the oxygen out of the water. This is another reason why it is very important to have an aeration system running at all times.

      Hopefully this helps!

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