Stacking The Odds Against Pond Algae – The Introduction

Over the years, the use of beneficial bacteria in ponds has helped to clear up, clean up, and restore a number of ponds, and in doing so, algae has been reduced too. This has been one of the positive “side effects” of treating a pond naturally or organically.

Compared to even 10 years ago, the use of the good bugs has grown to the point where most pond owners have at least heard of some of the benefits, whether they may believe in it or not is another thing. Suffice it to say though that the commonly used chemical algaecides, so widely used in the past, are not as favorable as they once were.

There is a growing awareness (which is a good thing) that oftentimes chemicals are not the best solution to the problem, and that addressing some underlying causes may just make more sense. It’s not just in ponds where this is happening of course. Home owners are looking for more natural alternatives for lawn care, pest control, and many other things. Go to any WalMart today and you’ll find some organic produce too, which you never would have imagined seeing “back in the old days”. Sam Walton would probably be proud.

Beneficial Pond Bacteria is Good…But

In some ways, beneficial bacteria has been revolutionary in pond care because, although it has existed in nature about as long as natural ponds have been around, it’s only been in the last 15 years or so that it’s been available for most of us to use as a supplement. And as a supplement it’s done amazing things in many ponds.

If you’ve read much of our material here already you probably know what these benefits are. First, bacteria will lock up and lower various nutrients in the water that do a great job of feeding more algae growth. Once these become unavailable it’s not unusual to see algae simply fade away with no muss and no fuss.

Compost, or in other words, rotting organic material might be great in your garden but it’s not something you want at the bottom of your pond. If you have a build up of muck and sludge, as this gunk slowly decays it will release even more nutrients into the pond and these stimulate algae growth as well. Good bacteria is one of the only things that can work on both of these issues simultaneously and in doing so, a pond will become cleaner, healthier, and as a by-product of this improvement, algae will regress quite often as well.

This of course does not mean that the bacteria killed the algae. It simply created an environment where algae can’t thrive and there are great benefits to working against algae in this way compared to using a chemical algaecide. Safety for fish and other wildlife is unquestionable and it’s all better for the environment too.

So you might say that in a perfect world, where every pond is the same, and every sky is blue, beneficial bacteria would be considered the perfect, non-toxic, healthy and cleansing, algae-beating mechanism.

Unfortunately the world we live in isn’t perfect. No two ponds are exactly alike. If they have algae problems they all have certain things in common, but there are quite a few variables that can exist too.

In some ponds, for one reason or another, there are cases where pond bacteria may not be enough to get the algae to regress the way you want it to. The reasons for this can be varied but here are the top one’s that I’ve come across.

  • The beneficial bacteria is not in high enough concentrations. In other words, it’s underdosed for the pond’s size and nutrient loading.
  • It was not used for a long enough period of time. There’s an assumption that bacteria should work as fast as a chemical, but they often don’t.
  • The pond has low dissolved oxygen levels. Beneficial bacteria is primarily aerobic so it needs reasonable oxygen levels to thrive.
  • The chemistry of the pond water may not be supportive. Bacteria use minerals like calcium to help it bind to nutrients so soft water may hinder this. As well, pH is important and if it’s really high or low, the bacteria may not be optimized.
  • So, even though beneficial bacteria will often do wonders for a pond, there are cases and times where it just won’t be enough to get the tide to turn. That’s when you want to consider bringing in some reinforcements.

    Stacking – How To Beat Pond Algae Through Teamwork

    The good thing about pond bacteria is that it generally will work well with a lot of other things without any contradictions. For instance, it’s not all that uncommon to see the stuff blended with something containing barley extract, or even straight barley straw. Barley works differently than bacteria so it approaches the problem from an entirely different algae. As barley straw decays, it releases substances which ultimately transform into a low concentration of hydrogen peroxide. Peroxide has had some degree of success at inhibiting new algae growth but it doesn’t hurt anything else.

    In shallow waters, a water tinting pond dye can be a reasonable addition to help reduce the influence that sun light may have on algae growth. (Remember that the two fundamental things that help algae grow well is sunlight and nutrients.) In very hot weather it’s useful for providing a bit of shade, and subsequent cooling as well.

    In smaller ponds, desired plants, like lilies for example, have the ability to provide much needed shading and additional nutrient absorption too.

    Aeration plays a big part in the performance of bacteria and so it’s often a topic that comes up when folks ask about how well the process works at cleaning up a pond. With aeration, bacteria supplementation can usually help more quickly and it won’t need to be used as frequently or dosage levels can be reduced simply because you can get better performance with it.

    In the end, there are number of complimentary steps that you can take to assist good bacteria in it’s work. We’ll be putting together a sort of flow chart at some point in how all of these things can work together, but for now, it’s best to reference several of the points we noted above.

    Look for ways to keep working against the algae growth in a ways that support it and many times you’ll make good headway in getting your pond cleaned up.

    After all is said and done, if a pond algaecide is needed and proves useful (they are not a 100% effective solution) then using one to keep new algae from forming, rather than treating algae after it blooms, is the best bet. If they are applied correctly, and carefully, some of these can be used to good effect without risking harm to fish or the environment.

    That’s a very general overview of what stacking is about and how it works. But let’s move on to more specific ways to apply stacking with beneficial pond bacteria. Listed below you’ll find links to several kinds of algae problems in several kinds of ponds. Each one of these protocols is specific for the type of algae you’re seeing and the size of the pond you’re trying to manage.

    In terms of size, here’s how we define the difference between a large and small pond. Small ponds, regardless of the gallons, will most likely use mechanical pond filters, circulating water and the like. Large ponds are managed naturally. They don’t use mechanical filtration of any kind, although you may have an aerator or fountain in place, this is not the same thing at all. So that, by our definition, is the difference.

    So let’s break this down. Click on the link that applies best to your current situation and you’ll be taken to a page with a very specific process of what we would go through in trying to turn that particular pond around. There will be a video explaining an overview of the process and a video that you can use for reference. We hope these help your situation and wish you the very best, but remember, nothing is quite as absolute as we want it to be with a pond most of the time. Give yourself the permission to be patient and persistent and take time to learn, test, and try things. It’s up to you to understand your pond better than anyone else and you can do it! These tips are sure to help the vast majority of pond owners to take the time to study them, and apply them as directed.

    Small Ponds With Green Water

    Small Ponds With String or Hair Algae (In the pond or on the rocks and waterfall)

    Large Ponds With Any Type Of Algae (For aquatic weeds go here)

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    2 Responses to Stacking The Odds Against Pond Algae – The Introduction

    1. euclid August 16, 2011 at 3:44 pm #

      how do i get rid of a leopard frog? He is in the top part of my pond and hides in the plants. Or should I just leave him? Will he try to dig into the liner come Winter. I already got rid of a baby snapping turtle. Thanks

    2. Mark August 17, 2011 at 3:52 am #

      Hi…I wouldn’t worry about a frog or two…I kind of like them hanging around.

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