We live in a complicated world. Go to most doctors and there’s a good chance he’s a specialist in something. I know general practitioners still exist but they sure aren’t as common as they used to be. As I found out recently, even the common car key, just isn’t so simple anymore. I still haven’t decided if having a computer chip in the things is an upgrade.
Nevertheless, progress, as they say will move forward whether we like it or not. But coupled into that evolution is an increase in complexity, and with that, usually an increase in confusion.
Which leads me to a recent question that came in from a concerned pond owner. He wanted to know more about starter bacteria for ponds. If he should use one. Where he could find one. And how long he should continue to use it.
For anyone who reads much of this blog, you know I’m a big fan of pond bacteria. It’s really an amazing thing and while blends and formulas do differ some, the truth is, most of these bacteria products work in similar ways. So when we talk about starter bacteria, in my mind, this is just another term for pond microbes. Most anything, (mean brand or product) will be helpful here, assuming it’s rated for the temperature of the water you’re trying to work in.
If it’s cold or chilly when you start up your pond in the spring, then a standard pond bacteria may not be so good until you warm up a bit. So if you want to get something started right away, you’ll want to look for a cold water, polar, or all season blend. Beyond that, there’s no need to really complicate things and think that somehow this specific product will be better or more effective for start ups. In some ways, to me, that’s just the marketing folks talking, and trying to be different, just to get your attention. Just remember, any good pond bacteria will be a good tool for starting a pond off right.
In terms of how much or how long you should add bacteria to the pond, I would suggest that you let the pond determine that. What I mean is, there are some ponds that receive an early shot of bacteria, right at the beginning and that’s enough to prime things up and you really never have to add more again during the season. Other ponds may require and benefit from more routine treatments to keep things better balanced.
You can often tell how well your existing bacteria is working by testing the water or looking for signed of nutrient increases. The water should be free of detectable ammonia, nitrates, and nitrites. You ideally should see very little algae growth (which indicates a balanced pond). I think it’s a reasonably smart idea to test the water parameters too, such as pH, alkalinity and water hardness to make sure they are within reasonable levels for the bacteria you’re using.
If those numbers aren’t listed or referred to, you can use these general guidelines. pH should be between 6.0 and 9.0 and tighter tolerances of say 6.8 to 8.5 are preferable. Alkalinity readings should be between 120 and 180ppm, and hardness from 75 to 150ppm. Having a bit of mineralization in the water will help the bacteria bind up to nutrients.
Its my opinion that adding a bit of bacteria to a pond, particularly in the early stages of the season, or right at start up is a simple, cost effective, and very beneficial thing to do just to get things off and running in a good fashion. These little microbes truly do use the power of Mother Nature to help keep a pond cleaner, healthier, and better balanced and that will often to lead to many more trouble-free days for the pond owner.