For the last 5 or 6 years we’ve had the pleasure of seeing a number of new technologies come along that have helped in the battle with pond and industrial algae. Few have garnered more attention than ultrasound. After all, it’s high tech, easy to install in most situations, and when it works, it does a really good job of stopping algae growth.
At the same time, I’ve always said that it’s not a silver bullet by any means. It has great capability, particularly on larger waters, where it can be very cost effective compared to chemical and biological solutions. But make no mistake, it has it’s limits. I don’t normally suggest that small pond owners use the device, simply due to cost considerations. There are other options like UV light that may help. For ponds of say, 1/8th of an acre on up, ultrasound may be a good solution.
As we’ve described previously here, ultrasonic systems send sounds waves, precisely tuned to create vibrations in any algae cells that are in the targeted range, and over time, these vibrations create damage that will ultimately disable the cell in some way. The sound waves do not adversely affect fish or other wildlife and visually, you’d never notice any disturbance in the pond at all.
What Determines Ultrasound’s Effectiveness On Algae?
More than anything else, the type of algae you’re dealing with, or more specifically, the cell structure of the algae present will end up determining how well ultrasound will work on it. It’s really about as simple as that. The vast majority of algae can be affected in some way, but there are a few, such as Chara or Oscillatoria that just won’t be affected. Chara is more like a rooted weed, and is a true “branching” algae, and like other weeds and plants, ultrasound waves won’t do any damage. The same goes for commonly found Duckweed and Watermeal.
Other algae that have proven resistant to ultrasonic technology include Nitella, Euglena, Pediastrum, and Cladophora. All of these simply have some feature, or structure that allows the algae cell to stand up to the ongoing vibrations that ultrasound emits.
Fortunately the vast majority of algae that we see in North American ponds tends to be the types that can be affected positively with ultrasound. These include varieties such as Microcystis, Anabaena, Spirogyra, and Chlorella, just to name of few.
How To Tell What’s In Your Pond
So, as you can tell from reading above, you’ll need to determine exactly what’s in your pond before you can expect to get any positive results from ultrasound.
The truth is, visually looking at an algae isn’t going to necessarily tell you what species is in the pond. Some of these algae will fall in a family of filamentous or string type algae, and others will create a green tinted water. There are species within each that fall in the uncontrollable category so you can’t simply rule out anything just by the eye alone.
With this in mind, I normally suggest one or two possible options in order to “qualify” ultrasound as a viable tool to use in algae control. The first is to conduct an algae sampling or test where a small sample of pond water and algae is sent in to be evaluated under a microscope. We’ll look specifically for any algae that historically has a poor record of control and if we find any of those, we may suggest other options. The following link will provide more information on our algae testing service.
As a follow up to the testing, or in place of it, we also are now offering a trial/rental program for ultrasound systems. In truth, there is no other way to tell, 100%, if the systems will work or not work well in a particular setting. The trial program allows a pond owner to avoid the risk of purchasing a unit outright and not being happy with the results. The rental unit is returned after several months of use, and if the control was effective, the rental fee can be applied the purchase of a new, factory direct unit with a full warranty included.
We tested the rental program late last year and it was well received and effective at placing the ultrasound systems in ponds and industrial settings where it could a good investment for inhibiting algae growth.
Contact us if you’re interested in learning more about our rental/trial program.
Ultrasound, Aeration, And Beneficial Bacteria
One of the most important things to remember when you’re thinking about ultrasound for your pond is that it’s simply not a silver bullet on algae. It can, and has worked all on it’s own, sometimes to create amazing results. It works well, much of the time (our estimates are about 70 to 75 percent of the time) but there are cases where some ponds will benefit more from aeration, and possibly beneficial bacteria supplementation too. We talk about both of these a lot on this blog, but that’s because they are both very wholistic and powerful tools for improving the overall health of a pond.
Ultrasound has it’s place as a direct algae deterrent, along with an aerator and bacteria. All three work very well together, and in fact, ultrasound may help stimulate activity in the beneficial bacteria without doing any damage to it. If you can deter algae with ultrasound, you’ll certainly halt or slow the build up of dead plant matter at the bottom of the pond, but you’ll still likely want to use bacteria, and aeration if necessary to maximize the cleaning of any organic debris that may accumulate. Using the three technologies together provide a powerful, non-chemical process that is proving to be helpful to many ponds.