Pond Tip - Maintenance

This is the time of the year when we are all contemplating Pond Maintenance.

Like it or not, the cold months have obviously taken their toll, leaving behind ponds full of debris, plants that didn't make it thru the cold and possibly a few other fatalities. The cold water has reduced our bio systems to a very low efficiency level and there are probably some signs of algae.

Algae will be the primary focus of this article, but first let me touch on one extremely import point. Our bio filtration systems need all the help that they can get and the best thing that you can do is to help them get cranked up as rapidly as possible. The easiest way to accomplish this is to use a pond enzyme. These products are most often supplied as a powder. They are introduced into the water, preferably into a moving water stream like a filter or waterfall. We apply it in the first stage of our filter system

I won't recommend a brand because we buy pond enzymes in a commercial size. But over the years I've found them all to be very similar. They do a great job of eliminating sludge and boosting your bio system. If you are not already using a pond enzyme, start now. There is absolutely no downside, and you have everything to gain. Search the internet on "Pond Enzyme", you will never regret it.

OK, lets get down to that dirty word, ALGAE.
Pond Algae can strike any size pond. Algae is a hideous eyesore, but in nearly every case, there's an obnoxious smell that goes with it! String algae, mossy algae or green water, at one time or another can affect anyone who owns a pond, fountain, water garden, stock tank, bird bath or fish tank. In fact, if you're reading this page, I'll even bet you are dealing with an algae problem right now!

Up to now, the most common way to deal with an algae problem was with the use of chemical products like copper sulphate or other types of algaecides. Can these possibly be safe for fish, plants, wildlife or people in the long run? Not hardly.

Another problem with chemicals like this is, they actually can make the problem worse. Studies show that algae blooms when there is an excess of organic nutrients in the water. These nutrients come from excess feeding and decomposing materials that are found at the bottom of the pond. Algae that's killed off by chemicals dies and sinks to the bottom of the pond, adding to the organic sludge layer. This "chemical quick fix" in turn fosters another round of algael growth, creating an endless cycle of treatment.

In recent years there have been some new developments in the war on algae that are much safer for the environment. From high intensity ultra violet lighting (expensive) to barley straw (a slow process that ultimately adds more organic waste) to aeration, there's a lot to choose from.
Here in the desert, aeration is extremely important. Our water temperatures often exceed 95F by mid summer. As temperature rises, oxygen levels fall. That can be rapidly fatal for fish and have long term effects on the pond in general.

When you get rid of the organic wastes and excessive nutrients they produce, you get rid of the algae!
A few years ago, experts in enzyme research came up with the idea of using natural bacterial enzymes to zero in on the organic waste materials. They found enzymes that would consume the organic materials and in turn, the water became cleaner, clearer, and algae free! The enzymes proved to be very safe to handle, they were safe for fish, wildlife and rooted aquatic plants. Occasional lack of performance can result from a poor or inconsistent application process. If enzymes have one drawback, it's that they have to be applied consistently, and in adequate amounts to work. Look at it this way, enzymes are in fact, living things...and like all of us, they have an effective life span. When they're released into the environment, they'll work for awhile, then as they age, they'll begin to lose vitality and effectiveness. When enzymes are simply dumped into the water, there's usually an overcharged spike, where algae can disappear in a limited and concentrated area but not necessarily the entire pond. Also, if the re-applications aren't supplied consistently or often enough, the enzymes never get a foothold over the organic waste and the results can be ineffective or inconsistent at best. Studies have shown that to get the best results with enzymes, they need to be applied in a consistent, time released fashion. Follow the instructions supplied with the product you decide upon and reap the rewards.

Lastly, let me tell you about an excellent tool for dealing with algae if you already have an infestation. Most pond folks have lives that are busy. We have jobs, families and often travel. Well, in the time it takes for a nice vacation getaway, algae can get a foothold at an alarming rate, especially in the spring. Winter leaves the pond full of food sources and the rising temperatures make everything much more active. By the time you see algae, there is a hundred times more multiplying in the depths. An excellent means to physically remove the algae is to collect it. But, pulling it by hand has the tendency to break it into numerous fragments that will spread it all over. Try this, buy a portable power drill and a dowel rod that fits in the drill. Rough up an area about a foot long  at one end of the dowel rod. Just hack away at it with a large knife or use any method that will leave a VERY course surface. Clamp the dowel rod in the drill and poke the rough end into your pond where you see heavy algae. The spinning rod will gather algae into a green ball around the rod. Then just pull the ball off and toss it. Simple, fast, and effective! Do not use a corded electric drill as AC electricity and extension cords can be a killer around ponds.

Obviously, you need to also attack the source of the problem or you will be out there collecting a new crop every couple of weeks. Vacuum any heavy sludge from the bottom, clean your filter, apply pond enzyme, physically remove as much algae as you are able, establish suitable aeration, and then sit back and watch your pond improve in many ways.