Solving The Cloudy Water Problem In Your Pond

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For many pond owners, there is an issue that can really frustrate the most diligent spirits. And why shouldn’t it. Afterall, cloudy water makes it hard to see your fish, or enjoy the clear and pristine water that we all dream of.

As I tell folks time and time again, every pond is different and dynamic in it’s own unique way, so that needs to be kept in mind. However I’ll cover some of the more common causes of various kinds of cloudy water and what you can try to resolve the issue if it’s plaguing your pond.

The first logical step in this process is to try and figure out what the source of the cloudy water might be. What I mean by this is that if the water is cloudy with a greenish tint, then there’s a very good chance what you’re looking at is planktonic algae.

The water with a planktonic algae issue can vary in color and in the density of the cloudiness. We’ve seen everything from a light, almost pleasing greenish tint to a thick pea soup like consistency that’s not pleasant at all.

Green water issues can be dealt with in several ways but our favorites include using beneficial bacteria, and this is often combined with adding additional plants in the pond. Many ponds that have consistent green water issues also get a great deal of sun exposure through the day, so adding floating plants is a very good step to take. When plants are used in combination with bacteria, a pond owner can often cover 1/3 of the pond’s surface with plants and get good results.

Many pond owners also get good results on green water by using an ultraviolet filter of some type. It’s important to get a filter that’s adequate for your pond size and volume and be sure to circulate the water through the filter at the recommended rates to get the best results.

Green water can also be a problem in very large ponds and in this case, the treatment methods will vary a bit. By far the most useful tool we’ve come across has been the ultrasonic algae treatments that can work on multi-acre ponds with ease.

Moving on, and this is important…if you see milky looking water in a backyard pond with fish, you’ll want to test ammonia and nitrate levels right away. Many times you’ll see a drop in clarity as these readings rise and consequently, as they are lowered the cloudiness will improve as well. Obviously for the sake of the fish, you’ll also want to bring these issues in line as quickly as possible as well.

New ponds and those being restarted in the spring can show cloudy water for a short time as the bacteria levels are building up. Sometimes even an overabundance of beneficial bacteria can create this phenomenon for a short time but this will usually clear up on it’s own after a few weeks.

If you find the cloudy water to be brown or “tea colored” in appearance, this type of issue could be coming from simple dirt in the water or something like suspended organic sediments that have built up in the pond. Organic sedimentation can come from uneaten fish food, decomposing matter like leaf debris and other natural sources.

You can improve the clarity of the water in this case by increasing your filtration systems in various ways or there are additives such as alum or montmorillonite clay or products such as Phosclear that can bind to these particles in the water and pull them down to the bottom of the pond. Over time this sediment (if it’s organic in nature) can be broken down by the use of beneficial bacteria.

The instances noted above are some of the more common issues related to water clarity and cloudy water. If you’re able to identify what type of issue you’re dealing with, you can then begin to apply the various methods to rebalance the pond or begin work to rectify the root of the problem. By working in this way you should see improving pond clarity as the days go by.

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11 thoughts on “Solving The Cloudy Water Problem In Your Pond”

  1. I appreciate all the help you give, but would like to respond to the one about ultraviolet lights. I purchased one and was amazed at how fast it cleared the pond. A few weeks later the string alge started to grow in leaps and bounds. After cleaning my pond twice, and usimg every chemical I could use, some one told me that it was the ultraviolet light killing the bacteria that was causing my problem. I turned it off, added benifical bacteria and now have it under control. Please tell people about this. It caused me a lot of trouble.

  2. Hi Sarah,
    You’re exactly right. Many kinds of beneficial bacteria are drastically reduced or eliminated when using UV. Now, UV works great on green water as you know, but when algae can’t pass through it it’s unaffected, and with reduced bacteria levels in the pond, string algae can grow.

    I used to suggest turning off UV when using the HP bacteria since I felt it would reduce it’s effects however I’ve had customers use it with UV and still get great results.

    The reason I think is the HP system releases bacteria constantly in the pond for 30 full days rather than the brands that you simply add manually now and again. So, due to HP’s dispensing system, it seems to keep up in some cases. But I agree with you in that ideally you would turn off UV to give bacteria a chance to do the job. When and if you have green water issues specifically, you can always turn the UV on again.

    KLM Solutions

  3. Sorry but I don get what you are saying my pond is a week old ,I have put crystal clear in ,but me water is still cloudy what can I do to move the cloudiness
    Thanks katrina

  4. Katrina…since your pond is brand new, I would give this more time. It takes awhile, sometimes up to 6 to 8 weeks for the biological processes to get established…meaning if you have a biofilter for example, it can take that long for good microbes to build up to adequate levels and in that time you could see cloudy water. It could be green or tinted or it could be just whitish or gray, or brown. In any case, usually after a bit of time the filter will do a better job of clearing this.

    If after six to eight weeks, if the water remains murky or cloudy, and you’ve started the pond up with some beneficial bacteria supplementation (which you should always do anyway) then I might look at pond or water clarifiers to help with the problem but after only a week’s time, this is still way early in the process of start up. So I would give it a bit more time for things to settle in and see how it goes without doing too much more or adding a bunch of treatments to the pond.

  5. my pond was built in the winter of 2015 and until know has not given me any trouble . But know the water is very clear when you dip out a glass of water, but to look at the pond it is light brown and cloudy. I can see the fish and starting to be able to see the bottom alittle, but not great. What should I do about it? At first I thought it was because I had cleaned out a drum style filter/with a bag of sponges in it but I don’t think this is the problem Help

  6. Hi Marilyn,

    Initially to help improve clarity I would use something like a beneficial bacteria product. To me that’s the most sensible place to start. This does more than just clean things up, but if this is some kind of algae growth, or suspended organic particulates, it might help with those and it’s just a good holistic thing for the pond. Look at our biosphere line of products on our site at and choose the one that exceeds your gallon capacity in the pond. If this helps, great, then no need to do anything else. Second, I could look at our organic water clarifier (also on the site at which may help to bind to these floating particles, clump them together, and they then sink…clearing the water column a bit. You could use both of these product together if you had to as they serve different purposes, but both might be helpful.

  7. We just put in a pond 6 weeks ago. Like may others, it started out clear, then we had a horrific downpour which resulted in us finding out that we had some dirt flowing into our pond. We were able to fix the problem however, like everyone else, we now have a murky pond. I have been adding beneficial bacteria daily and rising the skimmer filter twice daily. The filter is removing a lot of the brown nasty particles in the pond. It did seem to help since we were able to almost see the bottom a few days ago. Here is my question…since our pond has now started to look a little cloudier the last two days (not able to see the bottom again with no rain), and I adding too much bacteria? Should I just leave it alone for a week and see what happens? Is rinsing the filter in the skimmer so much adding to the problem? Any and all advice you can give will be much appreciated.

  8. Hi Chris….the one side effect you might see from using too much bacteria, is indeed, cloudy water. If things are working well enough, your filter should take out most of the suspended particulates (which is sounds like it is doing) so I think your idea is probably a good one to consider on the bacteria. Try backing off to more of what’s suggested as a maintenance dose or stopping altogether for a little while and see if things clear up a bit more. Early on, ponds go through a lot of changes and shifts before they settle in a bit. Be patient with things, learn as you go, and read up on some good management practices and you’ll come out alright.

  9. this is a large natural pond in my condo complex. the soupy green/ blue then milky film overnight, after lawn service had mowed&trimmed edge. some patches of blue grass along edge appeared too. What happened? fertilizer? oil spill? algae over night?

  10. Hi Mary…yeah the grounds around the pond are often more important to a pond’s condition than anything else, or it has more influence on it. Run off comes in from fertilized grounds, trimmings, grass clippings, they all can contribute to algae growth. Ideally the landscapers would direct clippings away from the pond, and around most of it, you could let a bit of buffer vegitation, some taller grasses and such to grow a little to catch some of the nutrient rich run off. Once you hit a tipping point you’re absolutely right…green water can come on literally overnight.

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