Algae Basics & Understanding Algae

1. You need to have BALANCE, which then creates HARMONY:

Okay, most of us know that Algae will grow in our beloved  ponds, not to mention many other water-filled places like your dogs outside water dish, or your bird bath, etc.  In a nutshell, it is because of nature’s production of excess nutrients and instant imbalances.  If we left them alone, in many years from now, they would indeed balance themselves out naturally; however, we as man want instant gratification of clear, algae-free, sparkling water.  Now, I’m not one for taking short-cuts when it comes to something as important as creating better water quality because the fact is, good things take time.  I often refer to the analogy of a good solid marriage; marriage with a spouse to that of a watergarden/pond.  Initially, the marriage is fresh, beautiful and perfect, then, the honeymoon is over and some bumpy roads may come along, but being the type of person I am, I certainly won’t run from my problems, or mask them with temporary band-aids, you really need to ride it out.  Quick fixes, such as scrubbing out your  pond and starting over completely will temporarily fix these issues and actually set you back to where you started from in the first place.  The reason why, is this does not allow your good bacteria to start working for you.  A relationship with your pond is indeed very much like a marriage.  If you’re impatient and want instant results, our method is not for you.  If you want to continue to build up a good solid foundation for your water feature to grow properly over time, you’ll not see results overnight, but in the long run your results will be glorious, I assure you.  One can use Algaecides or quick fixes, but personally, I am a strong believer in using natural solutions for combating algae.

2. Barley Straw as part of your Natural Solution:

Barley straw is an important part of keeping your pond balanced.  Make sure you are using authentic Barley Straw.  High Quality Barley Straw, as it decomposes, slowly releases hydrogen peroxide and humic acid into the water at levels that are toxic to algae but is harmless to other plants and animals.  Most Barley straw will begin to work after it has been installed in your water after 30 days and will last for about 4 months.

3. Algae Types:

There are many types of algae that occur under different water conditions, but they are all caused by an abundance of nutrients, usually Nitrates and Phosphates.  Both of these nutrients are naturally occurring in ALL bodies of water.  This is perfectly normal, and perfectly healthy.  Algae is such a remarkable and strong plant that can grow at extreme temps and varied lighting conditions, just like a weed does in your yard.  There are so many different varieties of algae as well, I’ll mention a few of the most popular: Brown Algae which tends to grow in waterways with less light, Green Slime, Green Hair, and Beard Algae will grow in the presence of more light, and finally Blue-Green Algae, which really is a Cyanobacteria that grows more commonly in marine water, along with Red Algae.  An interesting note on the mentioned algae is that they are now found in freshwater and have adapted to the environment having evolved and acclimated to the water through transfer from brackish water areas (where fresh water rivers meet the seas and oceans).

The first thing many people may do when they see algae is a water change.  This is a great start, but the problem is that many go overboard and will do “too many” water changes and not allow the good bacteria to grow.  Patience is needed when you see a bloom as overreacting could be very costly in the long term.

4. Good bacteria is your friend!

If you are using a UV Sterilizer, you may be one of those types of people that need instant gratification and don’t want to wait for the natural solution to start the clarity process.  I have always felt that a pond is a pond, and a swimming pool is a swimming pool.  Many pond keepers get the two confused and want their pond to be as debris-free and crystal clear as their chlorinated pool.  Having debris on the bottom of your pond is acceptable; after all, it is a pond.  Your pool is different.  We entertain at our pool, we swim in it, but our kid’s or even some adults may pee in your pool and this is why we use chemicals like Chlorine to kill germsor bad bacteria.  But again, your pool does not have fish or ornamental plants growing in it, so you need to be educated on what you are dealing with when you are trying to get your pond clear.  My point here, is that a more natural solution will payoff in time.  The UV Sterilizer may seem like the quick fix you need, but it is actually setting you back from beneficial bacterial growth, as it zaps away all of the good bacteria that you are in need of growing in the first place.  The use of bacteria for ponds is not a new concept, your pond or aquarium has been trying to utilize this method since the first drop of water was added, what stopped it from succeeding is man’s interference.  Let’s begin with why bacteria work so well:

Visualize algae as a simple cell absorbing nutrients that are available thru contact.  Bacteria presents an entirely different picture, imagine a muscle bound, shark toothed, voraciously hungry single cell bacteria with a propulsion system that allows it to move about the water column consuming all the nutrients that algae needs to thrive.  Let’s also keep in mind that these bacteria’s clean waste, consume nutrients and double in population every twenty minutes or so as long as food is available.  The bacteria at the end of the life cycle become three elements:  Water, Carbon Dioxide and Protein Mass which provide the finest fish food supplement available at any price. Liquid form of bacteria that must be kept cool and becomes aggressively active once added to your water.  We can help you figure out a bacteria regimen for your actual pond, just ask.

5. Substrates, Gravel, Rock Base:

A great way to maintain beneficial bacteria and help control algae is to have a good base substrate in the bottom of your waterway.  In a pond, you may want to use a nice layer of rocks (river rocks/gravel/etc) to allow this bed of healthy bacteria to develop, or in an aquarium, a nice 3” or more layer (nothing less) of gravel or sand.

6. Fish Foods may contribute to your algae:

Many fish foods contain phosphates, especially cheap foods and frozen foods, so make sure you are using a premium food and not allowing for overfeeding.  Limiting the amount and types of food to keep phosphates in check is the best approach.

7. Plants are a part of your solution:

Now don’t think by “just” throwing in a bunch of aquatic plants that this will fix your imbalance.  Make sure aquariums are densely planted and provided with enough iron, this will enable them to out compete with the algae for nutrients.  Co2 injection is not difficult either, and it makes a more stable environment.  In ponds, you’ll want to use lilies and lotus which helps lock out the sun’s UV rays and shade your water from the hot Summer sun.   Stocking large quantities of oxygenators such as Hornwort or Anacharis or Pennywort will also help correct imbalances as well.  When calculating bunched plants for your pond, try using 1 bunched plant per surface sq ft of area.  Bog plants are also important as they absorb nutrients through their roots, provide refuge for many fish, block wind, and may also help with soil erosion problems on the shoreline.

10. Salt:

I can’t begin to tell you how much the addition of salt is to any pond or aquarium.  It is such an important factor in the balance of your water since it: Protects fish, Heals fish, Promotes Healthy Gill & Thyroid function, Helps curb algae growth, Wipes out many bad bacteria and parasites, and it can be used as a general sanitizer to clean aquatic accessories, and it even helps hatch shrimp eggs!  Dosing can be tricky.  Although many salt manufacturers may suggest a stronger formula using ¾ cup per 100 gallons for water with plants, or use 2 cups of salt per 100 gallons for water without plants, I will agree that those dosages may be right on as an initial hit for disease or first treatment, but if you have a well-balanced pond, you shouldn’t have disease in the first place.  I will tell you a company secret that I often tell many customers about using aquatic salt: Use it in a “sporadic” regimen.  In other words, do not use the exact same amount of aquatic salt in your water every single week/month because it won’t work as well down the road when you really do have an issue, as some diseases may build up a tolerance to the salt.  Change the amounts at every application, and make sure you simply broadcast your salt over the top of your waterway.  Add salt only at water changes.  Water changes are defined as removing 20% of the water capacity, then broadcasting the salt at fill-up time.  Aquarium salt or Pond salt is NOT table salt,

9. Hydrogen Peroxide:

Peroxide is a strong oxidizing agent that serves multiple purposes. It is both anti-bacterial and anti-fungal.  After a short while, it breaks down into its base components: oxygen and water. This helps add oxygen to the water for the eggs. It also requires no diluting afterwards.  It is quite simply, the most perfect assistant to egg hatching I have found to date.

10. Peroxide Dosage:

The hydrogen peroxide used is the common type you find in most grocery stores and pharmacies.  Costco Wholesale is one of my favorites as they sell a larger twin-pack of bottles, affordably priced.  It is a 3% strength solution you are looking for.   Peroxide can be used at a rate of approximately 1 ml per gallon.  Other ways to measure this is 1 teaspoon per 5 gallons. 1 cup per 236 gallons or simply, one of the 16oz peroxide bottles will treat about 473 gallons.  This should be done about 1 time per week with a max dosage of 3 applications in a one month period.  Shut off your waterfall or pumps for an hour and apply hydrogen peroxide full strength in a spray bottle and apply it over your entire pond, spraying everything from rocks to waterfalls and hitting all affected surface areas.  Spraying it on other plants and lilies will not hurt them, but after an hour, turn your pumps back on!  Don’t forget!  In a week or so, if you used enough peroxide, you’ll see that the hair algae seems to just disintegrate.  Many people claim this happens after the first rain, but it is actually the rain hitting the water that it “appears” to have washed away the remaining disintegrating algae.  You may simply spray your pond down with a hose after a week to get the same results.  Using the Hydrogen Peroxide should not be your primary algae fix, but use it as part of your initial battle along with the above mentioned solutions.  Peroxide will also aid in the hatching of fish and shrimp eggs.  Dosage should be repeated every 12 hours or so until eggs have begun to hatch.  Most eggs hatch in 24 to 36 hours.

11. In Closing:

I truly hope that this short summary has helped you to understand algae a little better than you did 10 minutes ago, and steer you in the natural direction instead of using short cut band-aids to temporarily fix the real issues behind the rooted problem.  Practicing these simple tasks will create balance, and enable you to create and maintain a healthier and harmonious pond or aquarium that will naturally help itself in the long term

Article credit: Peter Yunger, AAG Nurseries, Inc.

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