Whether you are already avidly water gardening or merely considering wading into this increasingly popular pastime, you will eventually be faced with the issue of algae control. While prevention is the best approach, occasionally the problem rears its ugly green head before you are prepared to deal it. Should you find yourself in such a situation, ask yourself the following questions to aid in diagnosing and correcting the problem.
Am I merely being impatient? - Perhaps this is the most important question to ask yourself. Spring algae blooms are a normal occurrence. The water is warming and plant growth has barely begun. However, you can actually do a number of things to get the upper hand at this time of year. Begin by raising your submerged plants, lilies, and marginal plants close to the surface to hasten their growth. Add algae-eating Japanese Trapdoor and Ramshorn snails at the rate of one per one square foot of surface area. Adding beneficial bacteria products to the pond can also help "starve out" the algae as such products compete for their food source. Resist draining the pond and starting with fresh water and determine whether you have a surface runoff problem. In both situations, you will merely be starting the algae growth process over by providing a new rich nutrient load. Simply allow the pond to find its own natural balance. Within a few weeks you should be rewarded.
What type of algae is the source of my problems? - If the water is tinged "pea soup" green throughout, you are dealing with single-cell algae. However, if there are large clumps of stringy algae floating in fairly clear water, your problem is due to filamentous algae, otherwise known as blanketweed. The solutions for each can vary from one another. Examples of this include the fact that algaecides do not necessarily treat all forms of algae, nor does a UV sterilizer work very well on combating blanketweed.
Do I have enough submerged/oxygenating plants? - While these plants are generally not very attractive in appearance, they serve as the workhorses of the pond and are fairly inexpensive. The main contribution of such plants, other than serving as a source of oxygen during daylight hours, is to utilize the dissolved nutrients found within the pond that would otherwise fuel the growth of algae. The recommended stocking rate is generally one bunch per one to two square feet of surface area. Should you already have an algae problem, the higher stocking rate should be considered. Patience is also warranted as it may take several weeks for the plants to become established. It should be noted that such plants generally function better when planted in pots that contain pea gravel or sand, but no soil. Examples of submerged plants that do well in this area include Elodea canadensis (often referred to as anacharis) and Cabomba caroliniana, otherwise known as fanwort.
Do I have enough surface coverage of the pond water? - As algae requires sunlight for continued growth, general recommendations are to have approximately 60%-70% of the pond's surface covered with plant material. This can best be accomplished through the use of water lilies and various floating plants such as water hyacinth and water lettuce.The floating plants serve a dual purpose by also competing for and consuming the nutrients needed by algae. Chemical dyes, available in both blue and black, can also assist in decreasing the amount of sunlight available to the algae. As the use of such products denies sunlight to the other plants in the pond, you should use them sparingly, as well as move your pots of water lilies and submerged aquatics closer to the water's surface.
Is my fish stocking rate and feeding routine acceptable? - Common sense tells us that having more fish equates to having more fish waste. In turn, fish wastes can fuel a greater risk of algae blooms. Approximately one inch of fish per one square foot of surface area is the maximum recommended stocking rate for goldfish. Only half of that rate is acceptable when stocking the pond with koi. Keep an eye on fish growth as well as reproduction levels. When feeding fish during the summer, use a quality high protein food, preferably one which floats, and use a net to remove any food that is not eaten by the fish within a single five to ten minute session per day.
Should I consider having a filtration system? - The topic of pond filtration is simply too extensive to cover within this article. Suffice it to say that filters fall into several main categories: biological, mechanical, chemical, ultraviolet, and phyto (plant). Do your homework ahead of time to ensure that the filtration method you decide to use is one that will meet the specific needs of your pond and that will control the type(s) of algae in your system. Remember, if your pond is properly balanced, filtration is not necessary.
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