Pond Algae Control for 2022
“The Natural Resource For Sustainable Land and Water Stewardship”
The Biological Treatment of Lakes and Ponds has been an emerging science for the past 30 years. The environmental science staff of Eco-Systems first began utilizing bacteria for lake and pond treatments in the1990’s as a carry over to the work we did on organic waste digestion in wastewater treatment plants and the bioremediation of contaminated soils. For the overall health of the pond and aquatic biology, biological treatment is a far superior means of treatment to using chemical algaecides and herbicides. Algaecides simply treat the symptoms of pond nutrient enrichment which is algae. Bacteria, actually reduce the nutrients in the pond through degassing and utilizing nutrients in beneficial bacteria biomass as opposed to being in nuisance weeds and algae.
In ponds and lakes we use 4 different major types of bacteria:
Leaf Eater Bacteria breaks down coarse particulate organic matter (CPOM) such as leaves, dead vegetation, sticks, and grass clippings, and turns them into fine particulate organic matter (FPOM) which is known as muck.
Muck Eater Bacteria – then is applied to eat the black organic muck off of the bottom of the ponds. This is very important, as muck contains nutrients that continually recycle into nuisance algae and weed growth in ponds. In addition, depth is also restored by the digestion of the organic muck by the bacteria.
Algae Eater Bacteria – Some strains of bacteria colonize algae cells and use them as a food source, thus sucking the life out of the algae cells and killing it. This is a far more beneficial approach than the use of persistent heavy metal chemical algaecides that build up in the sediments over time making the sediment toxic to aquatic life.
Blue-Green Algae Eater consumes floating BG algae, especially in the heat of summer, thereby reducing cyanobacteria poisoning risks to humans, pets, and livestock.
What To Expect
Bacteria treatment is a process and not an event. Bacteria grow and reproduce somewhat slower than algae grow so many times an algae bloom will outpace the ability of bacteria to control it in weather that turns suddenly warmer and drier.
Also, as the Leaf Eater and Muck Eater are digesting organics off of the pond bottom, they release waste into the water that has a tea-colored appearance. So, in the first few weeks, the water looks more discolored as the muck is being initially digested. However, after a few weeks, the bacteria begin to catch up and the water clarity begins to improve as the bacteria populations colonize the entire pond, and their metabolic rate increases with increased temperatures.
We try to set up ponds similar to the biofilter in the bottom of an aquarium and similar to a wastewater treatment plant to denitrify the water and digest organic wastes. This is the most cost-effective means of lake and pond management for the overall health as depth is generally gained by the digestion of organic muck and detritus.
Chemical treatments are typically used to is growing on the surface. Unfortunately, chemical treatments fail to address the root cause of many water quality issues. For the vast majority of lakes and ponds, the root cause of the problems on the surface lies in the nutrient-rich muck on the bottom.
What is Muck?
Muck is composed of organic debris such as dead algae, plants, grass clipping, leaves, or animal waste and inorganic sand, clay, and gravel that builds upon the bottom of lakes and ponds. Muck, stores excess nitrogen and phosphorus which is released into the water and fuels the growth of algae and aquatic plants. Muck can reduce water quality and clarity and creates an overall unhealthy aquatic environment, especially for benthic (bottom-dwelling insects) and fish.
A major limitation of Muck Eater is that it eats organic muck. Bacteria do not digest sand, clays, and inorganics. That portion of the sediment composition will have to be dredged or removed mechanically, or hydraulicly.
Pond Muck Treatment
Ideally, muck would just be removed via dredging, but in many instances, there are physical and economic limitations to be overcome to physically dredge ponds and lakes.
Bio-Dredging – Let Bacteria Do the Work
By muck digestion, depth can also be gained, but again, it is a process and not an event. BioDredging takes years. In fact, in Indiana, we find that the average depth restored is 1.3 inches per year. So after ten years, it is common to see a foot of muck reduction in ponds.
That does not seem like much, but more sediment keeps coming in every year that has to be digested in addition to the muck that has already accumulated for many years before biological treatment. So it is vitally important to stop or slow down the addition of new sediment coming into the ponds via streams, drains, and leaf litter.
Typically we try to set the ponds up similar to a wastewater treatment system, with aeration and gravel bottoms so bacteria can colonize the gravel (just like a biofilter in an aquarium) to digest organics that accumulate on the gravel and have plenty of oxygen for aerobic digestion.