The Triple Threat To All Types Of Pond Algae – And It’s Approved By Mother Nature

Mark Washburn


For being such a simple type of plant, algae sure can be a stubborn little creature to get rid of, and although it’s a very natural and environmentally important plant to aquasystems, that doesn’t mean a pond owner has to like it.

I’ve said this many times over the years, but algae is really just nature’s way of balancing out a pond.  If nutrient loads are high or organic material is present, something has to happen to bring some self-correction into the picture and algae is one of those tools. 

So, simply put, if algae is present and is spreading all over the place, it’s usually an indicator that something else is a bit out of place in the pond.  In other words, the algae is a symptom…and not the problem in and of itself.

Chemical methods of controlling algae are generally designed to kill the algae directly.  On paper, this is all well and good, since a pond owner would assume that if you don’t see algae on the surface any more, it must be gone and long forgotten.  But that’s not really the case.

Algae that’s killed off must go someplace, and we’re not talking about algae heaven here.  No, truth be told, dead algae sinks, right to the very bottom of the pond.  It sits there, it stagnates, and it decays.  And along the way through this process, much like compost in a garden, it raises the nutrient load and level in the pond water and fosters aquatic growth.  Algae loves this by the way, and it thrives on it. 

So here’s the story in a nutshell.  The pond owner sees algae growth.  He or she sprays or treats the growth with an algaecide.  In a day or two, most of this algae is magically gone (yet is silently sitting at the bottom of the pond and rotting away).  The pond owner is happy.  That is, until more algae comes back in a few weeks, heavier and more dense than it was before.  And the age-old “kill it and curse it when it comes back” routine is formed. 

Many of us used to treat algae problems this way, and unfortunately many pond owners still do today.   This doesn’t mean it’s the best way to deal with the problem however.

Algaecides that are applied wrong, will kill fish…period.  The chemical also will kill most or all of the existing good bacteria that actually helps the pond stay clean and in this way it defeats the purpose of really attacking the root of the algae problem.  And in many cases you’ll see algae return in short order, and even if you don’t and you only have to apply it a few times a year, you’re still filling in the pond with dead algae and stopping any natural cleansing that could be taking place without the chemical usage. 

One has to ask eventually…does it really make sense to treat with an algaecide?

I want to suggest something that I’ll call the “Algae Stopping Trifecta” and at least give you some food for thought in dealing with a pond algae issue.  This tag team approach is made up of several different technologies but they all work either independently of one another or as a group, they offer a great, non-chemical approach to algae control.

I’ll tell you right up front that this protocol is not for everyone.  Really small ponds won’t benefit from the full combination, and it does carry some expense but the prove has been in the results and I simply wanted to offer it here since I’ve found myself telling more and more people about it in recent months.

So what makes up this recipe for algae success?  It’s simple.  Combine a good source of aeration, along with a beneficial bacteria supplement, and top it off with the high technology of ultrasound.

This protocol will work well on any size of pond but the larger the pond is, the better it will likely be to treat this way.  It’s nearly always a given that in one form or another I’ll recommend this to a pond owner that has an algae problem.

Aeration has always been a favorite of mine since it can do so much for a pond’s overall health and vitality.  If you have fish, aeration can help guard against low oxygen levels which are so lethal to fish during particular times of the year.  Pond aeration also works against algae formation buy stimulating any existing and naturally occurring bacteria that helps reduce nutrient loads in the pond.  And aeration is good for keeping things moving.  Stagnant water is not only a great base from which algae can grow, it’s also a healthy haven for mosquito development and any kind of moving water can help retard their growth. 

Bacteria, which often conjures up bad images of people getting sick with food poisoning or other negative connotations, isn’t all bad.  In natural ponds, there is such a thing as beneficial bacteria and it plays a hugely important role in keeping them cleaner and balanced.  Without this bacteria, organic material would accumulate and cause a lot of problems in the pond, including sedimentation build up (or a filling in of the pond) and nutrient spikes that create aquatic weed and algae growth.  

Some years ago creative biochemists took a lesson from nature and developed specialized strains of bacteria that now work in water treatment plants, septic systems, other home and recreational related applications and happily for you and me, pond care. 

Bacteria and aeration work well together since the circulation of the aerator helps spread the bacteria around to all parts of the pond bottom.  Also, bacteria, being the living little worker that it is, needs oxygen to survive and thrive, so aeration provides a great boost to it’s performance.  By the same token, stagnant and very low oxygen levels in a pond often retard a bacteria’s ability to do it’s job of pond balancing.

And finally, what algae control related article would be complete without ultrasound.  If you’re like me, you’re probably thinking…huh?  I’ve never heard of this used with ponds.  Maybe it’s good to check your gallbladder or for babies, but what on earth will it do for my algae?

Well the truth is, ultrasonic algae control is not new.  It was developed in Europe over ten years ago and has started to show up in a number of treatment applications.  Again, waste water treatment operations and clarifiers were prime candidates to use the technology since it drastically reduced chlorine usage to control algae growth.  So it made sense that at some point, it would probably be used in ponds.

In simple terms, ultrasound sends out a sound wave, targeted at a very precise frequency range which when it contacts the outer cell membrane of most algae species, it will damage and rupture the membrane.  When this happens the algae dies and the bacteria can do the clean up work. 

Now the really good news about ultrasound is that once the pond has relatively open water (meaning no algae masses to work through) the system will help to keep more algae from forming at the very early stages of it’s development.  Do this and you won’t see algae in your pond anymore.

The other feature about ultrasonic systems is that they work well with bacteria and help to stimulate the activity level of these helpful microbes.  Along with this, the devices work great in shallow water where not all aeration systems are useful.  Yet, where aeration is needed for fish health, ultrasound works great with that as well and does not bother the fish one bit. 

I’ll cover more details on some of these applications individually in future articles.  The moral of the story here though is that you truly can look for complementary ways to treat an algae problem.  Chemical treatments don’t usually work well with other methods…it’s an all or nothing thing, and in the end they aren’t really the best option to pursue if the health of your pond is important to you.

Like many pond owners, you may find that any one of these methods will work well to clear up your pond.  Or you may find that a combination of resources will do it.  Every pond is different and every pond  is unique.  You’ll need to find the solution that works best for you, but just know, that non-chemical solutions are out there.