For many years now, the Biosphere Pro natural pond treatment has been a mainstay for us in cleaning up ponds. They’re natural in terms of what they use to do the work, which is various forms of beneficial bacteria, and these are uniquely time released to provide a consistent infusion of good microbes into a pond system.
Generally speaking, they’re very clean and easy to work with. The Biospheres are pre-dosed for certain sizes of ponds and you simply pull them out of the box and toss them in the pond. Once wet, they activate and will work for a full month at a time.
All of this probably sounds really good and they’ve done very well for many people who are trying to get their pond to look better and reduce unwanted plant growth, bad smells, and organic mucky build up in a pond.
But this is not to say they are perfect. In fact no bacteria will necessarily be the answer to every problem that comes up in pond care, and there are times when they produce what could be called inconsistent results. Because of this, we’ve always looked for ways to optimize the performance of these good bugs, whether it be in testing water parameters, or making sure there’s good levels of dissolved oxygen in the water and all that can be helpful.
However there’s one other simple thing that needs to be addressed to get the most out of any pond bacteria, and it’s not always noted directly on the instructions or product label.
Dosage is critically important.
Let me share with you a note I received from one of our customers who had tried the spheres and gotten some inconsistent or incomplete results. She made a simple shift in dosage and the results speak for themselves.
Just wanted to follow up on the help you’ve given us on our pond. I think that you hit it right on the head when you suggested that we were under treating it. It hasn’t been quite a month since we put in the larger spheres, and our pond is as clear as I’ve ever seen it. The only time I’ve ever seen it this clear is immediately after the ice would melt! All those little algae fibers that would have started to grow by now (throughout the entire pond) are simply not there. I can hardly believe how clear it is.
I simply can’t thank you enough for taking the time to help us get a handle on our pond problem and suggesting what appears to be a perfect solution. What a difference it makes to look out the windows and see a beautiful, clear pond and not a green mess. Thank you so very, very much.
What we’ve found in our testing, and what Bonnie discovered too, is that underdosing with a beneficial bacteria will usually produce marginal results. You may see a pond shift and improve a bit, and in various ways, but usually you won’t get the greatly improved clarity and appearance that most people are looking for.
So How Do You Dose A Pond Bacteria Correctly?
Let’s start with your typical instructions that come with the product.
In most cases, a pond bacteria will come in a powder or liquid form. The instructions will suggest that the microbes be added to the pond every few weeks and normally they’ll suggest that you determine your gallon size for small ponds, and with larger waters they might have you consider a rough estimate of the gallon capacity, or acre feet of water volume. You might add an initial dose that’s larger than the follow up ones, and that’s just to get some bacteria counts up as soon as possible.
With the Biospheres we have these segmented out based on gallon volume for the most part. One small pond product for instance will treat up to 2500 gallons and no more. Another might treat up to 250,000 gallons and not much more than that. Each will have it’s limit of capability and you certainly don’t want to try and treat more than the gallon size might suggest. It just won’t work well. You can do this safely too. Beneficial bacteria is not a chemical and so you can use it liberally in a pond so don’t be afraid to use enough.
So first and foremost, get the gallon capacity right and dose above this. We start with that as our foundation.
Secondly, you will have to factor in the nutrient loading that’s affecting your pond. Quite often this is what’s missed when you only dose for gallons. Every pond is different regarding the amount of influence that’s placed on the system by organic muck build up at the bottom, leaf debris accumulations, run off, or the amount of fish and their size in a smaller pond. These variables have a huge influence on water quality and if you’re having algae issues, among other things, you can pretty much bet that something in this category is having a part to play in it.
There’s no absolute way to calculate how much these things are affecting your pond. But in a general way they need to be taken into account when you plan your dosage.
One of the best examples I can give you regarding this issue is going back some years ago when we first tested out the biosphere. One of our test ponds was about 1/2 acre in size. It has some depth to it, maybe 10′, with an average around 8′. Estimated gallon capacity was around 650,000 gallons, maybe a bit less.
This particular pond had a history of algae problems. It wasn’t hard to understand why. It was surrounded by huge oak trees which dropped leaves into it each fall by the truckload. The pond also sat at the bottom of a large upslope and fertilized farm fields were above it. These two “nutrient influences” but a heavy burden on the pond.
We started treatment with a 1/2 acre sphere which can treat up to 500,000 gallons. At the time the pond was about 50% covered with heavy filamentous algae. At the end of the first month we saw a very marginal improvement but nothing significant.
In the second month we increased the dosage to about 750,000 gallons and continued to see things improve. This indicated we were at least getting a response from the bacteria and that nutrients were dropping.
In the third month we used a 1 acre, or 1 million gallon sphere and the pond cleared up completely within days. We had finally reached a balance point where excess nutrients were at least kept in check. We were able to keep this pond clear, year after year, but because of the ongoing influences mentioned above, we would usually use one 1 acre sphere pre month in the spring and summer.
As the years went by we could sometimes skip a month or use less bacteria but the real point of this story is that if you don’t consider nutrient influences, along with the right dosage, you likely won’t get the pond to shift enough to get better clarity.
In the years since this test, it hasn’t been uncommon for me to suggest or consider using twice the suggested gallon size of a pond to get things moving in the right direction. I’m not one to suggest someone simply waste their money and time and therefore I don’t usually go to extremes on this approach. I’ll try and commit to using bacteria for several months and look for improvements in the first 30 to 60 days. If I see anything that suggests improvement, I might adjust dosages to try to improve things and often enough we do just that.
As I’ve noted before, pond aeration and good oxygen levels enhance the work that these microbes do. It’s a catalyst that can also make a huge difference in the outcome of a treatment program. Water chemistry should be good, with a decent pH (something from 6.0 to 9.0 is workable for us), and alkalinity and hardness readings should run between 120 to 180ppm, and 75 to 150ppm respectively. This just insures that the microbes have the raw materials that they need to work well.
Chemical applications should be limited during a biological treatment. Copper based algaecides in particular will kill off bacteria, both good and bad, and so you really don’t want to use them in conjunction with a natural management plan.
If you’re thinking about trying a pond bacteria, regardless of what kind we’re talking about, be sure to consider some of the things we talked about here. If you do, you’ll likely get better results with it and be much happier with the end result.
Note: It should be remembered that when we talk about using biological methods of pond cleaning, and referencing any reduction in algae growth, this should not be construed that the biospheres or beneficial bacteria in general had anything to do with “algae control”. It is against EPA regulations to suggest this, except in the use of EPA registered chemical algaecides. The natural methods we discussed here simply clean and improve the pond’s condition by balancing the organic nutrient levels in the water and various improvements can occur because of this.