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Hi Folks:

Below are a few articles on pond algae.  The source of these articles are from Irrigation and Green Magazine, September 2006, www.igin.com which I subscribe to electronically.  I know that you will find these very informative.  After reading, please remember that while green water and string algae are part of the natural eco system of a pond, it can be controlled naturally without harming the eco system.  We have proven it here in Sonoma County with our Mother Nature’s Pond Care Process Simplified . Check out our Pond Problems link to 'String Algae" & "Green Water".  Remember, a slight tweak here and some natural help to Mother Nature's existing nitrifying process there can result in a balanced pond.

Happy reading


Call me 707-584-4228 with any questions regarding our Mother Nature's Pond Care Process Simplified.


Understanding Green Water and String Algae

Source: Irrigation and Green Magazine, July 2006, www.igin.com

We've all seen those slimy green scums on ponds, lakes, or pools. They're called algae. And they stubbornly occur in water - the one place in a landscape that shouldn't look green. But what are algae? Where did they come from? What kind of damage can they do? And are they really that bad?

The problem of algae is hard to escape - algae are everywhere. More than 30,000 varieties have been discovered, and scientists have found that algae have been around for at least two billion years. They occur in virtually every habitat on earth, as long as water and sunlight are found there, even if the water is present for a very short time. They can survive severe environments, from icy mountain glaciers to boiling hot springs to excessively salty water. However, for the purposes of this article, we will limit ourselves to algae that grow in ponds, lakes, and streams.

So what are algae? You'll notice that we've been using the plural form to talk about them - one alga is microscopic; masses of hundreds of millions of alga are called algae. It's these masses that we see when we look at a lake, and it's these masses that are the real enemy. Algae are traditionally considered to be simple, primitive plants, some made of only one or two cells. Most make their own food materials through photosynthesis using sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide - just like any other plant. While they also contain chlorophyll and produce oxygen, all lack the leaves, roots, and flowers associated with the more familiar higher plant forms.

Algae can float freely in water, coloring it green, or they can coat the sides of a pond with a green or brownish slime. In the ocean, they provide the food base for most marine food chains. Without algae, our waters would not sustain life and mankind would not benefit from its countless qualities and boundless beauty. However, in very high densities (called algal blooms) algae not only discolors water, but can also out compete or poison other life forms in it.

But how did it get to your pond or pool? That can be answered with another question: where did you get your water? All water - even purified drinking water - can have algae in it. Algae can form spores, which are special, microscopic, and very tough cells that can survive just about anything - even the local water purification system. Local water companies will kill nearly all of the algae in water, but some is bound to survive, and it only takes a single spore to birth a huge, visible, mucky colony. Algae can also enter a pond with fish, fish food, or just about anything else you put inside.

The most common kind of algae is called planktonic algae. These are the single-celled culprits that create most algal blooms, although they also bedevil pond owners worldwide. They reproduce rapidly, and can be green, brown, or red in color. They can be toxic to animals and can give water an unpleasant taste or odor.

Spirogyra are another common type of algae. These algae look like strings or filaments, and are familiar as being the green "hair" on the rocks, sides, or bottom of a pond. There are more than four hundred species of Spirogyra worldwide, adapted to a variety of environments, but are not as likely to "bloom" as planktonic algae.

Planktonic algae will bloom in nutrient-rich water. Nutrients can be produced by a few fish, heavy feeding of fish, or even bird traffic. Any of these circumstances can throw off the balance of a pond's ecosystem, and algae will quickly take advantage of that imbalance, growing rapidly and dying back when the nutrients are depleted. Even non-toxic chemicals such as those running off of a farmer's field have been found to cause algal blooms. If non-toxic runoff from a landscape is reaching a pond, or even the rocks surrounding a pond, it might be inviting an algae explosion.

This can be a problem even after the algae die back. They can sink to the bottom of a pool or pond and form sludge. A lot of sludge - a couple acre feet of water can easily sustain growth of several tons of algae per season. This will decrease your water volume over time and possibly necessitate dredging.

As the dead algae decompose, the decomposition may cause oxygen depletion in the deeper waters. This can result in fish kills, or even chemical changes in the mud on the bottom, which could release chemicals or toxic gases. Some species of algae even produce neurotoxins, which, if present in a high enough concentration of water, can cause serious health problems in humans if that water is ingested.

Naturally, those are extreme instances. But smaller amounts of algae are not without their own hazards. For one, algae aren't aesthetically pleasing. They can make a pristine pond look like a cloudy, stagnant bowl of pea soup. They can also make rocks or hard surfaces extremely slippery, especially a problem around pools. They can clog screens, filters, or pipelines, plug irrigation or pumping equipment, and stain and rot wood. They can also lessen water flow and trap unsightly debris.

In small amounts in natural environments, algae are an important part of the ecosystem, providing an essential link in the food chain. However, in recreational or aesthetic water features, they can be a serious problem that needs to be dealt with aggressively.

By Denne Goldstein and Rebecca Peterson

Again the source of this document is: Irrigation and Green Magazine, July 2006, www.igin.com

Some more great info on controlling algae:

Green Water and String Algae Control

Let’s face it: an algae-infested pond isn’t a pretty site. Algae can make a beautiful water garden look like a pool of slime left over from a Halloween display. They also complicate the maintenance of a pond—algae can clog filters and equipment, ruin wood, and suffocate plants and fish. Some species of algae double their population as often as every twenty minutes. But not only are they quick to reproduce, they’re also stubborn. How can you get rid of them?

First, you need to remember that algae are plants. Like any plant, they need three elements to survive—light, water, and nutrients. Take away any one of these necessities, and algae are controllable. Naturally, you can’t take away water. But light and nutrients are different matters entirely.

At first, the thought that you can control the amount of light reaching a pond sounds absurd—trees or buildings may provide a certain amount of shade, but beyond that, it’s not like you can turn off the sun! However, floating plants are a great—and aesthetic—way of controlling the amount of light a pond receives.

Plants like water hyacinth, water lettuce, and water lilies are widely available and will eagerly reproduce to cover the water’s surface. Some experts suggest that plants with floating leaves should cover up to 50 to 75 percent of a pond.

Mike McGee, president of EP Aeration, San Louis Obispo, California, says that, “The key in algae control is nutrient control.” Angela Hopko, marketing manager for Otterbine Barebo, Inc., agrees: “There’s a direct correlation in the level of available nutrients and the populations of algae.”

Nutrient control starts even before a pond is built. Ponds should be designed so that water running off the landscape doesn’t run into them. The organic debris, fertilizers, and yard chemicals present in runoff are all considered tasty snacks by algae invaders—you might as well set out an algae buffet.

“Nutrient loading can be very high in waters adjacent to green areas or turf grass,” Hopko warns. If a pond is already constructed, some kind of barrier can be placed around the edge to stop the flow of runoff.

Overstocking a pond with fish and overfeeding fish can also give rise to algal blooms. Fish waste and leftover food are perfect nutrients for algae to feed on.

Adequate filtration is another important step towards limiting algae propagation—whatever material the filter removes is not feeding algae. “I tell contractors that algae problems in a client’s pond can almost always be traced back to too many fish, too heavy feeding, and inadequate filtration,” says Carolyn Weise, consumer relations manager for Ecological Laboratories, Freeport, New York.

Submerged plants can also help. They feed off the nutrients in the pond water before algae get a chance. “If the nutrients in a pond can be consumed at the same rate as they’re being introduced, you can pretty much solve an algae problem,” McGee says.

Some companies make products for aerating ponds by introducing air and oxygen at their deepest level. Getting oxygen to this oxygen-depleted area can be critical in the fight against algae. “Oxygen works via a chemical reaction to sequester nutrients at the bottom of the pond, where they can’t be used as food by algae,” McGee explains. “Many of the most common nutrients found in ponds become insoluble in oxygen-rich water. Being insoluble makes them heavy, and they sink to the bottom.” Algae like to stay near the surface, where sunlight is readily available, and can’t follow the nutrients down.

Proper oxygenation of water can also aid aerobic digestion of nutrients and sludge. Aerobic organisms consume nutrients, but can only survive when oxygen is present. Also referred to as microbes, aerobic organisms are another big element of algae control.

“Aerobic bacteria feed on nutrients and digest them into compounds that algae can’t use for food,” Hopko explains. Many manufacturers make products that contain microbes for this precise purpose. “This is a great approach to managing algae, because it’s organic; it doesn’t require chemicals,” says Casey Coke of Natural Environmental Systems, Dallas, Texas.

“I would highly recommend regular use of a microbial product to maintain a stable ecosystem to any landscape contractor managing a pond,” says Weise. She also advises not to wait until an algae problem has started before using these products. “By the time the problem arises, the cure can be worse than the problem,” she says.

A first thought to fight algae would be to go for an algaecide. However, while these products can eliminate both planktonic and filamentous algae, some are not safe for ponds with fish and aquatic plants, and should only be used in decorative ponds and fountains.

Additionally, algaecides can sometimes work too well—if a product kills algae too quickly, it can deplete the oxygen in a pond, or worse, the dead algae can feed a whole new crop of algae, and the problem begins anew. “This is another benefit to the organic approach,” says Coke. “It works at a slower pace.”

But if your algae problem is already significant, you may not have a choice but to use an algaecide. You can kill the algae you already have, then start with a “clean slate” and begin fighting algae using other techniques. Some manufacturers offer products that combine algaecides to kill the algae with microbial products to consume the dead algae.

“It’s vital that contractors understand the importance of good pond care and regular husbandry using microbes to prevent algae problems,” Weise says. With knowledge like this in your back pocket, it should be easy to keep water gardens crystal-clear and algae-free.

Again the source of this document is: Irrigation and Green Magazine, September 2006, www.igin.com


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