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We want to swim in our pond, but as soon as we step in, it is muck and smells. Help! | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: We want to swim in our pond, but as soon as we step in, it is muck and smells. Help!

Q: We want to swim in our pond, but as soon as we step in, it is muck and smells. Help!

Steve – McDermott, OH

A: Yuck. In some luxe-minded circles, mud baths are all the rage – but muck baths aren’t, particularly when they’re paired with putrid, off-putting odors. What causes all that slimy, stinky stuff, and how can you get it under control before swimsuit season?

Making Muck

Muck, and its associated smell, is an all-natural byproduct of the breakdown of organic debris, like leaves, dead algae and disintegrating plants, in your pond. Chances are, your pond has been unused for a long period of time, or you get a lot of stuff floating or falling into your pond. All that material eventually builds up, breaks down and begins to decompose, forming muck and gases.

When you tiptoe into your pond and all that slimy muck squishes between your toes, you’re feeling the accumulation of this decaying material – and smelling the now-released stinky gases that were trapped in the debris. Not a fun experience.

Dealing with Detritus

Unless you want to launch your own luxury muck bath spa (it could be next big thing, after all!), you should definitely plan to get rid of all that detritus and its resulting odor. Here’s a three-step solution that can help:

  1. Add Natural Bacteria: If the water temperatures in your pond are above 50°F, add some Pond Logic® MuckAway™. The formula’s beneficial bacteria will help break down the decaying muck on the pond bottom. When used as directed, MuckAway™ can eat through 2 inches of muck per month!
  2. Add Aeration: When the weather allows, install an aeration system and crank it on. The Airmax® Aeration System product line includes aerators suited for any size pond – from shallow water bodies to ponds up to 6 acres. They each include diffusers, a compressor, cabinet, airline and free mapping service that takes the guesswork out of diffuser placement.
  3. Add Pond Maintenance: Don’t forget to add some pond maintenance chores to you to-do list. Regularly rake out dead and dying organic material. Keep plants trimmed and pond weeds managed. Do what you can to prevent leaves and debris from blowing into the water.

By using beneficial bacteria, adding aeration and preventing decomposing debris, you’ll be well on your way to a sludge-free pond that’s perfect for swimming and summer fun.

Pond Talk: Have you de-mucked your pond? Tell us your success stories!

Eliminate Noxious Pond Odors - Pond Logic® MuckAway™

Do I need to put enzymes in my pond if I put bacteria in there? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: Do I need to put enzymes in my pond if I put bacteria in there?

Q: Do I need to put enzymes in my pond if I put bacteria in there?

Tom – Clinton, AR

A: Bacteria and enzymes may both be microscopic heavyweights when it comes to breaking down decomposing organics in your pond, but they play distinctly different roles. Here’s what you need to know about them – and how they complement each other.

Natural Bacteria: The Leading Role

Aerobic and anaerobic bacteria already live your pond, and they’re prolific. These hungry stars of the show decompose organic material, like dead algae, decomposing weeds and leaves, and pond muck.

Of the two types, the aerobic variety, which is found in bacteria additives like MuckAway™ and PondClear™, does a much better job at gobbling the decomposing organics than the anaerobic type that lives in oxygen-depleted environments. Most ponds, in fact, have an overabundance of anaerobic bacteria, thanks to poor circulation.

Enzymes: The Supporting Cast

Enzymes are a different critter altogether. In simple terms, enzymes accelerate chemical reactions – so in a pond, they play a supporting role. They’re catalysts that help natural bacteria by speeding up the digestion of all that organic material. This allows the bacteria to work more efficiently.

Give Them a Boost

Do you need to add both bacteria and enzymes to your pond? No, not really.

Self-sufficient microorganisms, aerobic bacteria naturally secrete their own enzymes to help digest muck. Simply increasing the number of hungry bacteria by adding PondClear™ and MuckAway™ (both found in ClearPAC® PLUS Pond Care Package) will grow the amount of productive enzymes, which ultimately means more decomposed muck and a cleaner, clearer pond.

If you want to give your bacteria a boost, be sure your aeration system is in tip-top shape to pump oxygen into your pond, and use EcoBoost™ Bacteria Enhancer to bind excess phosphates and other suspended organics in the water. It also adds more than 80 trace minerals to promote fish health and growth, so it’s great for all critters – microscopic or otherwise!

Pond Talk: What plans do you have for your pond or lake this spring?

Attack Suspended Debris & Clear Water - Pond Logic® PondClear™ Beneficial Bacteria

Should we leave cattails in the pond for the animals? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q:Should we leave cattails in the pond for the animals?

Q: Should we leave cattails in the pond for the animals?

Cynthia – Greenfield, OH

A: Cattails may be a nuisance in ponds and lakes, but they’re not all bad – particularly if you’re an animal. All kinds of critters, in fact, use the plant as a source of food, shelter and supplies.

Cattail Basics

Cattails are common aquatic plants that grow from 3 to 10 feet tall in dense colonies around the margins of ponds and lakes. In the spring, the green strap-like foliage grows from large, creeping, below-the-ground rhizomes. As the seasons progress, the cattail’s leaves and spikes—or the plant’s brown cylindrical flower—grow. And when the flowers open and let loose their fluffy seeds, the cattails spread and propagate new plants throughout the lake.

Cornucopia for Critters

A small, managed area of cattails can provide an ideal habitat for amphibians, insects, birds and fish. These aquatic critters use the plants for all sorts of things, including:

  • Nesting Spot: Red-winged blackbirds often use cattails for a perching and nesting spot. Water fowl, like mallards and Canadian geese, also use the tall, tightly bunched leaves and stalks for nesting. Turkeys—as well as deer, raccoon and other mammals—use cattails as cover from predators.
  • Hatchery/Nursery: Birds and mammals aren’t the only ones that find refuge in cattails. Insects and amphibians, like dragonflies, frogs and salamanders, will lay their eggs in the brush and water between the stalks. Below the surface, fish and other aquatic creatures will hide and nest in the growth.
  • Multi-Purpose Material: The cattail fluff that explodes from the plant’s spikes makes excellent nest-making material for birds –and that’s not all it’s good for. Native Americans used it to cushion moccasins and papoose boards. Pioneers used it to dress wounds, start camp fires, and stuff quilts, cushions, mattresses and dolls. And the military used the water-resistant, buoyant fluff to stuff life vests. Besides the fluff, the cattail’s leaves were used to make mats and webbing, and the stalks were used to make fiber and adhesive.
  • Grocery Store: An integral part of the pond ecosystem’s food chain, cattails’ leaves, shoots and roots make a tasty buffet for muskrat, geese and snails, while the plant’s underwater stalks feed fish, frogs and turtles. Humans can eat cattails, too. The rhizomes can be used like other root vegetables, and they can be dried and ground into flour. Young green shoots, which taste like cucumber, can be chopped into salads. Green flowering stalks can be boiled and eaten like sweetcorn.

Pond Owner Considerations

Allowing a cattail stand to grow in your pond for the animals’ benefit is a great idea—and those critters will appreciate what you leave for them—but there are some things you should keep in mind.

If you’re trying to deter troublesome predators, like raccoon and muskrats, keep the cattails cut back. This exposes their hiding and hunting spots, so they’ll be less likely to stop by for some sushi. Use pond weed cutters and a rake to remove dead debris and growing cattails, particularly around the pond’s perimeter. While you’re at it, add some MuckAway™ to the water to help break down muck and other decomposing materials.

Your best bet is to mark out an area where you’d like your cattail stand to grow, and then clean up what grows beyond the border. You’ll provide an ecosystem for the animals while preventing your pond from being overtaken.

Pond Talk: How do you manage cattails in your pond?

Cut Through Tough Pond Weeds - The Pond Guy® 28” Weed Cutter

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

Why is my pond cloudy in the summer and clear in the winter? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: Why is my pond cloudy in the summer and clear in the winter?

Q: Why is my pond cloudy in the summer and clear in the winter?

Mike – Baldwin, WI

A: Frustrating, isn’t it? During the summer when it’s warm and inviting outside by the pond, the water looks cloudy; when it’s too cold to enjoy the outdoor scenery, the water appears crystal clear. What’s the deal? Let’s look below the water’s surface to see what happens during the two seasons.

Murky Summer

A lot happens in your pond during the warmer months. Fish are actively feeding and creating waste. Pond critters, like turtles and frogs, are digging around in the mud and stirring up muck at the bottom of the pond. Rainstorms wash sediment into the pond along with fertilizer residue – which provides fuel to algae and pond weeds growing prolifically in the summer sun. With all that activity, it’s no wonder the water looks cloudy!

Clear Winter

During the winter, however, activity slows. As your fishes’ metabolism decreases, they fast and hibernate through the cold season. Turtles, frogs and other pond residents reduce their movement, too, which allows the muck and sediment to settle at the bottom. Ice and snow cover the pond, limiting water movement and blocking sunlight. Algae still grows, but at a much slower rate. As everything settles and slows down, the water clears.

Extending Winter

If you want that crystal clear water all year long, follow this three-step formula, particularly as the days get longer and spring warmth thaws the ice:

  1. Feed Your Bacteria: First, be sure to add some bacteria enhancer, like EcoBoost™, to the water. It binds suspended organics, provides trace minerals to fish and other pond dwellers, and helps break down fertilizers from rain runoff. It has no temperature restrictions, so you can use it throughout the seasons.
  2. Shield the Sun’s Rays: Next, pour some Pond Dye in the water. The color reduces the amount of rays that into the pond. Like EcoBoost, Pond Dye has no temperature restrictions, so you can use it throughout the season.
  3. Add Oxygen: Aeration is the final – and most important – step in maintaining clean, clear water. By aerating your pond from the bottom up, you will circulate the water, improve the dissolved oxygen levels in your water column, and allow for increased levels of beneficial bacteria to accumulate in your pond.

Pond Talk: How do you keep your pond clean and clear all year long?

Create Clearer Water in any Pond - Pond Logic® EcoBoost™ Bacteria Enhancer

I have a lot of leaves blowing into my pond. Will the bacteria still work this time of year? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: I have a lot of leaves blowing into my pond. Will the bacteria still work this time of year?

Q: I have a lot of leaves blowing into my pond. Will the bacteria still work this time of year?

Austin – Breesport, NY

A: Leaves. There’s really no getting around them. Every fall, those deciduous trees drop their colorful foliage and leave behind a headache for those who have to clean them up.

Natural bacteria will do a great job breaking down the fallen leaves in your pond or lake – but only when water temperatures are above 50° F. Take your pond’s temperature with a pond thermometer; as long as your water is at or above that 50° F mark, keep using MuckAway™ and PondClear™. The microorganisms in those products will continue to work hard to break down organic debris.

Going into winter as temperatures dip below that number, however, the bacteria go on vacation. But there are some things you can do to keep your pond healthy as the cooler weather approaches. Here’s what we recommend.

  1. Rake Up the Leaves: As powerful as natural bacteria are, they will still take a long time to break down fresh leaves that blow into your pond. Help those microorganisms out by raking up and disposing of as many leaves as possible.
  2. Rake Out the Leaves: If they do float into your pond, use a Pond & Beach Rake or Weed Raker to skim and rake those leaves out of your pond. If an abundance of leaves remains in the pond as ice begins to form, this could lead to poor water quality. As the leaves continue to break down, they will release toxic gases that will edge out available oxygen – and if there is ice covering your pond, that’s bad news for your fish.
  3. Aerate All Winter: Unless you plan to use your pond or lake as an ice rink this winter, keep your aeration system running. This will help keep a hole in the ice, circulate the water and keep your oxygen levels higher.
  4. Maintain Your Landscape: In addition to raking up leaves around your pond, keep the foliage around your pond maintained. Prevent that organic debris from getting into the water and turning into algae and pond weed fertilizer.

Bottom line: Yes, bacteria will still work while temperatures are above 50° F, but help them out by removing as much leaf litter and organic debris as possible. There’s no way to fully prevent leaves from falling into your pond – but the fewer that do, the better.

Pond Talk: Have leaves started falling in your neck of the woods yet?

Remove Leaves & Debris - The Pond Guy® Pond & Beach Rake

My pond is about a quarter acre, and I have ducks so I don’t want to use chemicals. Can I use barley straw? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: My pond is about a quarter acre, and I have ducks so I don’t want to use chemicals. Can I use barley straw?

Q: My pond is about a quarter acre, and I have ducks so I don’t want to use chemicals. Can I use barley straw?

Katie – Johnson, VT

A: More and more people are using barley straw as an all-natural (and duck friendly) way to control pond scum—and for good reason. Barley straw is a safe, natural alternative to manufactured chemicals and one of the compounds produced by submerged, decomposing barley straw may actually help keep your pond clear.

You need a lot of it to be effective.

In your quarter-acre pond, you’d need between 25 and 50 pounds (1 to 2 standard bales) of barley straw, depending on your pond’s condition. That straw would then need to be broken up, divided among several permeable bags and placed around the perimeter of the pond with weights in water no deeper than 6 feet.

That’s a lot of work!

And if you don’t replace the barley straw as it decomposes, it just turns into more decaying organic debris in the pond.

So what are your options?

Focus on the health of your pond. Reduce the decomposing plant matter, fish waste and other nutrients by adding a stout aeration system and wildlife-safe beneficial bacteria.

Reconsider manufactured chemicals, like Algae Defense®. The algaecide has no water use restrictions, and it’s safe to use around ducks and other wildlife. And because it only needs to be used when algae growth is occurs, you could use it as a one-time algae bomb. Not all chemicals are bad!

But if you want to give barley straw a try, check out this “fact sheet,” provided by The Ohio State University Extension. It details everything you need to know about using barley straw.

Pond Talk: Have you ever used barley straw? How did it work in your pond or lake?

Promote A Healthy Ecosystem - Pond Logic® PondClear™ Natural Bacteria