Combating Algae: It’s All About Competition
Holding up a clump of pondweed, NOT ALGAE (good for baby fish)
Algae: A Closer Look
Algae can be considered the bane of any pond owner but is it really that bad? Actually algae is a naturally occurring and UNAVOIDABLE plant that can present itself in many forms including green water, wavy green hair attached to rocks, sludge, or slime.
These are the traits that can make it become the disdain for most pond owners. And with the presence of algae comes the presence of multiple combat tactics, primarily chemical treatments to kill it off.
Surprisingly chemicals in a bottle or jar are NOT a naturally occurring phenomenon.
I can proudly say that I have NEVER had problems with excessive algae and the reason is simple… competition…competition for the finite nutrients that exist in your pond environment.
Excessive nutrients are the real problem for pond owners and are derived from multiple sources. They can include:
- Fish and other animal waste
- Decaying plant material
- Dead animals (i.e. fish kill)
Algae is more like a symptom of these excessive nutrients. And like all plants algae uses up nutrients for growth and energy. A natural solution to algae problems is simple, plant lots of plants in and around the pond to suck up the excess nutrients and starve off the algae.
Planting the perimeter of the pond can allow for roots to reach the water and absorb them. Plants along the margins in the shallow areas and plants in the deeper sections all will help. Plants like water lilies and lotuses are particularly nutrient HUNGRY and can greatly limit algae growth.
There is an additional benefit to having water lilies and lotuses for limiting algae growth. They cast shade over the water which slows down the growth of algae. Algae thrives in sunlight and algae blooms occur particularly quickly in the prolonged sun exposure of summer.
Water temperature is also a factor. Cooler water also slows algae growth.
What are some other ways we can combat algae?
- Remove dead leaves, stems, and other plant material from water, especially in smaller ponds when even small amounts can overwhelm a pond and cause an algal bloom.
- Introduce new fish slowly and always have more plants than fish. As the plants fill in, then add more fish. It’s about finding the right balance. Take it slow.
- Do not use chemicals which can kill off beneficial bacteria as well as algae. Then you will find yourself constantly having to add more and more chemicals to keep algae away. Fish and frogs are more likely to die after too many treatments because they need bacteria for health.
- Build a BIGGER pond for more stable temperatures and less temperature fluctuations. Larger ponds provide more water for the dilution of excessive nutrients, and more room for fish and other animals.
- Build ponds away from large trees that can drop excess leaves and needles (if possible) that can overwhelm your pond quickly, especially in the fall.
- Relax and breathe… algae isn’t all that bad anyway. The fish will not mind unless it’s extremely excessive.