Ultrasonic Algae Control – Facts And Fiction

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As the years go by, more and more pond owners are hearing about the use of ultrasonic algae control devices and how they might help one’s pond look better.  More retailers are certainly offering the systems now and with that, there’s been an increase in mis-information and one might say the promise that ultrasound is the perfect and complete solution for algae reduction.

In this article I want to address the real facts surrounding this technology and tell you what it’s good for, and at the same time I think it’s important to expose it’s limitations, and finally how you can be sure that the device will actually do what you want it to do regarding algae control.

Ultrasonic Algae Control Is the Perfect Solution For Your Pond

Let’s start out by dispelling the misconception that ultrasound is just a fancy marketing gimmick and that it doesn’t really work at all.  

I’m sure you’ve seen ads on TV or in magazines about various “ultrasound” tools that promise to remove plaque, ward off moles, and Lord know’s what else.  I’m not really sure about any of those other things, but I can tell you that ultrasound does, and will control algae in a pond most of the time.

The process is actually quite simple and it’s all about resonance.  I’m not an opera singer, and you could probably put a glass of crystal in front of me and no matter what I did, I couldn’t hit a note that would shatter it.  But when that resonant frequency or pitch is hit, the glass will shatter from the vibrations of the sound waves.

The same thing kind of happens with algae cells, only it’s a bit more subtle.  The sound waves produced by ultrasonic systems are closely matched to the resonance of algae cells and it makes them vibrate.  This ongoing vibration eventually ruptures something in the cell, such as the cell wall, or air bladder, but in any case it damages them enough to eventually destroy them.

So just how effective is ultrasound at killing algae?  

Our research shows that ultrasound is effective about 70% of the time.  That’s not really a bad ratio of success and failure but as you can see, it’s definitely not 100% like some people may be claiming.

The bottom line, main determining factor in this success hasn’t got anything to do with the device.  What matters most is the actual cellular structure of the algae cell itself.  So going by the numbers we can say that most of the algae that’s found in ponds will be vulnerable to ultrasound.  But a handful of species simply won’t be.  They may have cell walls that are very complex, or they may be branching plants like Chara, or they may have an ability to be motile or move around so much that they can move out of the sound wave area.  For these types of algae, ultrasound alone won’t be enough and you’ll probably want to add some other control into the mix.

As a consumer, I suppose this isn’t the most comforting news.  Ultrasound is simply not a sure thing.

But there are things you can do to make sure it’s a good fit for your pond.

Over time, we’ve experimented with a variety of things, mainly involving algae testing and analysis prior to selling a unit, but even that wasn’t 100% accurate.  Usually we have to use a small sample size and things can be missed sometimes.  

Eventually we decided to incorporate a trial/rental program that would pretty much take all the guess-work out of the use of ultrasound in a pond.  There is not a more accurate way to evaluate the device and what it can do in a particular setting.

How The Trial / Rental Program Works

I want to stress that I personally don’t believe that ultrasound is a good solution (even if it were to work) for a pretty small pond.  If the pond is under 5,000 gallons for instance, (and this number could be variable somewhat) but if it’s small, it’s probably better to cover it with some other algae control system such as a UV light, or a well matched biofilter.

Ultrasound provides a really viable solution in ponds that can’t use UV or filtration.  Large waters, or industrial settings tend to be the best fit for the system. 

The other thing to keep in mind is you can’t really tell visually whether ultrasonic algae control will work or not work.  Historical data shows it’s been effective on green water and string algae types but never on branching algae or weeds (including duckweed and watermeal).

So if you have a reasonable idea that ultrasound might fit your needs, the best way to proceed in my mind is to try it before you spend money to purchase it.

It’s a pretty simple process.  We developed the trial to run up to 60 days.  That’s been proven to be more than enough time to evaluate it’s effects.  The cost is approximately one quarter of the purchase price.  For instance, the retail price of the ss100 is $1,195 and the rental fee is $300.  If the test is successful, the rental fee can be applied to the purchase price and we replace our rental unit with a new factory direct unit that has the full manufacturer’s warranty on it.

Throughout the trial we work with you to trouble shoot issues, insure that the device is set up and operating properly, and if necessary, we may even do a microscopic evaluation to see if the process is working as it should, or why it may not be. In the end, like you, we want to treatment to be successful and we want to be sure that the fit is right for your pond.

Our rental fleet continues to expand.  Nevertheless, availability may be an issue as we get into the spring and summer, and you may be placed on a waiting list for the next available system.  We test each unit as it comes back in to make sure it’s working properly and usually it’s out again in just a few days.

I think it’s important to end this article much like we started it.  Be sure to not look at ultrasound as the perfect solution to algae control.  Make no mistake, it’s a good one when the setting is right.  We have customers that will swear it’s the best thing they’ve ever put into their pond.  But there are others, albeit in more limited numbers, that just didn’t find it to be successful, at least all on it’s own.  

Some combined it with out methodologies and found success, and others simply had to move on to other things.  And ultimately, putting a system in a pond and running it for a time will be the only way to know for sure if it’s the answer to your algae problems.

If you have additional questions about ultrasonic algae control, or our trial/rental program be sure to contact me directly and I’ll try to be of help.

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