Algae: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
Algae, plural, noun /ˈalgə/ – A simple non-flowering plant of a large group that includes the seaweeds and many single-celled forms. Algae contain chlorophyll but lack true stems, roots, leaves, and vascular tissue. Algae is otherwise known as the “green stuff” that drives a pond owner crazy!
There are two types of common algae, suspended algae and string algae. How do you know which algae you have in your pond? Take a clear glass, scoop up some of your pond water and hold the glass against a white background. If the water itself is green, you have suspended algae; if the water is clear, you don’t, but you may have string algae.
String algae typically grows on rocks around the perimeter of the pond, and in stream beds and waterfalls, which are usually areas of hyper-oxygenation. String algae, as its name implies, can be spooled around your fingers and tugged off rocks to a degree. Eliminating the last part of this plant can be challenging, but it can be removed with Aquascape’s EcoBlast Granular or liquid Pond and Debris Clarifier. These work by binding up the available calcium in the pond which the algae needs to maintain its bond with the rocks.
The Good: Algae is not harmful to your pond or water feature.
Algae actually performs a necessary and important role, just like any other plant in your pond -that is to absorb nitrates, which is what’s left in the water after your pond’s beneficial bacteria are finished degrading fish and plant waste. Nitrates are excellent plant fertilizers, but left unchecked, can be harmful to aquatic life. So, a little bit of algae is alright and it is also a source of nutrition for goldfish and koi.
But what if you don’t like the look of string algae? There are products that will both prevent and eliminate string algae. But just like the old adage ‘A stitch in time saves nine’ implies, it’s easier and cheaper to prevent algae than it is to treat it.
Beneficial Bacteria are essential helpers in your garden pond and for pond filters.The bacteria eat pond fish waste as well as other organic matter and convert ammonia first into nitrites and then into nitrates. These nitrates are then absorbed by the pond plants, which are also a great preventative measure for pond algae! The more aquatic plants you have, the more they will compete with algae for the same nutrients, and at a certain tipping point, you will notice a drastic reduction in your algae population. Floating or submerged oxygenator plants not only clean your pond, but they release oxygen into the water and provide protection for your fish. Read Our Top Eight Water Cleaners for your Pond below to find out more about choosing the right plants for your pond!
If used early and regularly, Aquascape’s Barley Straw Extract can be very effective at deterring string algae. Barley straw extract contains humic acid (derived from the degradation of barley straw). When it’s exposed to the sun and oxygen, humic acid becomes unstable, ultimately forming hydrogen peroxide in the water. Hydrogen peroxide prevents the algae plant from adding more cellular building blocks, thereby inhibiting its growth.
The Bad: A Bloomin’ Bother!
Now if we have a particularly hot and sunny summer or if it’s particularly wet, you will likely notice a bumper crop of algae (called a bloom). This is because algae thrives on sunlight, which in turn drives photosynthesis that produces sugar, the fuel they need to grow. Too much rain causes excess nutrients to find their way into the pond, due to water runoff, and rain also carries with it dissolved nitrogen from the atmosphere.
If the algae is particularly bad, you may begin referring to it as ‘carpet algae’, as it is also commonly known, particularly if it’s beginning to take over or ‘carpet’ your pond. If this is the case, we recommend the use of two tried and true Aquascape products: EcoBlast Granular in combination with powdered SAB Stream & Pond Cleaner. EcoBlast Granular is one of the fastest ways to get rid of algae from ponds, waterfalls, fountains and streams. It is sprinkled directly on the algae and a powerful oxidation reaction occurs, which makes it a quick solution for any area that may need cleaning. SAB Stream & Pond Cleaner is used after the EcoBlast Granular, as it helps digest the algae that has been released from the rocks by the EcoBlast.
Or, try something new -liquid Pond & Debris Clarifier followed up with liquid Sludge & Filter Cleaner. Speak to the staff at The Pond Clinic retail store for information on which product is best for your situation, which product combination is best suited for your pond, and for instructions on how to use these products properly.
The Ugly: Back to that glass of green water -you’ve got suspended algae!
This type of algae is much more difficult to get rid of and is a symptom of excess nutrient load in your pond. Do you have too many fish? Our rule of thumb is that your fish load should not exceed 1” of fish per square foot of pond surface area. Do you have enough plants? Talk to our plant specialist about how much is enough –you need more plants than you think! Are you using beneficial bacteria on a weekly basis? Are you encouraging ducks or other water fowl to foul your pond? Are chemical lawn fertilizers being washed into your pond? These are the questions you need to ask yourself if you find that your pond is ‘fifty shades of green’.
If you are dealing with suspended algae, we recommend adding beneficial bacteria every day for at least two weeks. If you have a filter mat in your skimmer, rinse it daily to remove the trapped algae cells. Aquascape’s Rapid Clear may help to clump the suspended algae, if the particles are large enough. If you want to speed up the process, or if your skimmer doesn’t have a filter pad, use Aquascape’s Rapid Clear Fine Filter Pads in the skimmer or on top of your biological filter pads to trap the algae cells. Again, rinse these fine filter pads daily.
And lastly – a lasting solution to the algae conundrum! The new, second generation IonGen G2 electronic water clarifier for ponds, pondless waterfalls and other water features drastically reduces maintenance and provides clear water without the use of any chemicals. The IonGen G2 system releases a mixture of copper ions into the water feature, which in turn interfere with the growth of string algae. Unfortunately, the IonGen is not effective against suspended algae. This system is designed to be user-friendly and costs less than a dollar a month to run. So, if you are looking for a modern, lasting solution to your string algae problem, the time is now to invest in the IonGen G2 system. Only until July 13, the Iongen G2 System is on sale at The Pond Clinic! See the calendar of events for more details!
So remember when you feel lost in the ‘wild west’ of algae control – you DO have a few weapons at hand. Natural preventative measures such as Barley Straw Extract, Aquatic Plants and Beneficial Bacteria should keep algae at bay. Aquascape’s chemical treatments such as EcoBlast Granular, SAB Stream & Pond Cleaner, Pond & Debris Clarifier, Sludge & Filter Cleaner and Rapid Clear to clean up those bad blooms, and the IonGen G2 gets rid of that ugly string algae for good!