Most people who have ponds want the water to be bright and clear, but sometimes experience a problem which can be best described as green water. In order to find a cure for this green water condition we have to understand what causes it to happen. Green water is simply floating algae in the water making the pond appear to be green. Algae is nothing more than a form of plant life. A very important form of plant life, in fact, so important that without algae, all life on this planet would suffer. You see, algae is way down on the food chain. Mom (Mother Nature) likes algae. She has made it easy to take a little water.... a little sunlight.... and, boom = algae. She has even made algae pretty much self-sustaining. When algae dies and decays the final result of the process is nitrogen, which feeds plant life, algae included. Algae is found in every natural body of water that contains life, even under the polar caps. It is Mom's way of feeding the earth. She wants it, she needs it to feed both animal life and other forms of plant life, it is easy to grow, it is hardy and has been around for a few billion years, so if we try to eliminate it all together Mom is going to get mad. AND here in lies the answer to the problem. That being how to let Mom have her algae and us still have clear water. It's called balance.
Let's take a moment and talk about the aspect of pond life called balance. Balance is where life for the most part is self-perpetuating, that is where life comes about, lives, dies, produces, and the cycle begins anew. The whole world is a perfect example of this balance of life. Mom loves life, she put it here and she intends on it staying here. Mom also does not care what forms of life are here, just so long, as there is life. She does not discriminate, giving each form of life the means to come, live, reproduce and die. Sure there are natural and man made disasters, which on first glance might seem like a break in the life cycle of the planet, but are they a problem for Mom? Lets take one example of what most of us would deem a break in the natural balance of life: an oil spill in the ocean. For us humans this is a major problem, but for Mom it is just a little glitch, which she will handle in her own time and way. Believe it or not, Mom will clean up any oil spill that happens, sure it may take her a few million years or so, but she will handle the job just fine and she is not on a time table like us humans. Mom has devised ways of dealing with any problem that comes along that is detrimental to life. Now, that may sound like an "off the wall statement" when you consider the amount of life that is lost when an oil spill or other disaster happens, but life goes on. Life will find a way and therefore Mom is still in charge. She even has enzymes (life forms) that eat oil! Now is that balance or what? What does all this have to do with our pond and green water?
Well, understand this... the old saying is true, "you can't fight Mother Nature". BUT, if you give her what she wants, she might let you have what you want. Again this is going to require some explaining. Take into consideration that the whole world is a filtration system designed to keep our most precious resource: water, clean and healthy. We all know that water is needed to have life... that's a fact.
Without going into great detail the system works something like this... water evaporates over the ocean, becomes clouds, floats over the land, is dumped as rain, is cleaned by the rocks, dirt, and used by plants and animals, then in some form is returned to the ocean.
That is the way it works, think about it... the perfect filter system. AND, wherever there is water there is algae... Mom's perfect food. That part of the system works something like this: small microscopic animals eat the algae, bigger animals eat the micro-animals, bigger animals eat the animals that have eaten her algae, and then... well, you get the picture. Even the nitrogen that is produced by the dead algae (decaying) that was not eaten is used by Mom to nourish her higher forms of plant life. (The nitrogen cycle will be explained in a moment) What a system... right? Of course and here is something else to consider... if you have ever seen a clear stream, river, or lake you have seen the perfect example of "balance". The algae is there, it is growing and reproducing, but it is being used, therefore NO GREEN WATER.
Now you should have a hint of how to cure the green water problem in your pond. Follow Mother Nature's example and add to your pond a "filter system" that closely emulates hers.
How do we do that:
First of all we need a filter system that uses the biological process in such a manner that deals with Mom's "nitrogen cycle" in such a way that is beneficial to our needs, while at the same time does not conflict with her desire to grow algae. The nitrogen cycle is something that Mom set up to reproduce her algae. In order for algae to grow, besides water, you have to have sunlight and nitrogen. Nitrogen is simply algae food. All other forms of pond plant life also use nitrogen. Without going into a long boring detail of the cycle and how it comes about here is a short explanation of the cycle: Ammonia is produced by both animal waste (fish poop and such) and decaying organic matter (dead stuff), this ammonia is decomposed by bacteria into first of all nitrite, then to nitrate and then finally to nitrogen. This nitrogen is then used as a nutrient by the plant life, algae included, which starts the cycle all over again. STOP! Does this not mean that if we have a filter which enhances this nitrogen cycle are we not actually making a nitrogen producing machine, which is food for algae, which common sense would tell us that we are going to get an even a bigger crop of algae?
Well the answer is... NO and the reason being is FM. FM stands for freakin magic. Let me explain... with the right type of filter, a wonderful thing happens which for the lack of a better term is as stated... FM. The filter will trap the algae, let it die, and decompose in such a way that the end result, the nitrogen, is used to the extent that basically starves out the algae in the pond.
Need a little more detail? Here goes... let us compare an un-filtered pond with a filtered pond. For example, if you took just a simple kiddy wading pool and filled it with water you would have a un-filtered pond and soon Mom would put in some algae, in fact after a while a bunch of algae. If you looked at this pond what would you see? A green slime filled cesspool right? Well, not exactly. Yes, after a time the sides, bottom and the entire surface of the pool will become covered with green algae, but also an amazing thing will happen. Even this simple kiddy-pool pond will obtain a balance. At some point in the life cycle of this pond all the nitrogen produced by the life in the pond will be consumed by that life at a rate, which will be in perfect balance. The amount of life this pond can sustain will be reached and as things die they will only be replaced proportionally. Need proof? If you were to take your hand and slowly move the surface floating algae away you would find clear water. What has happened is that the algae that has lined the pool, combined with the floating algae is using the available nitrogen and sunlight therefore any new algae which could grow in the water is slowed, end result is clear water.
Yes, but the pond is covered with algae and that is not acceptable.... you might be saying. Okay, let us add a filter and see what happens. If the filter is of the right design, the filter will take away the floating algae, move it to the filter, where it can still grow and satisfy Mom, the natural life cycle of the algae will even help to use up the available nitrogen which will slow the growth of any new algae, for the most part the ammonia to nitrogen cycle will be taking place in the filter instead of the pond AND guess what?.... FM = CLEAR WATER
That is the simple explanation of the FM cure for green water and sure there is more to it. As an example, as stated, you need the right filter design. For the biological process to take place you need bacteria and time. A good filter will trap the algae giving the bacteria enough time to decompose it. Bacteria needs oxygen to live so therefore "out of the pond" filters are much better at decomposing organic matter than "underwater" filters.
The filter must be large enough to produce the desired effect on the entire pond. The filter media is very important. To be effective it must trap the organic matter, hold it long enough for the biological process to take place and then release the left over mineral matter. Much of the available media that is sold just does not do that. We recommend Skippys Media. The filter is very important in our quest for a balanced pond, but other factors also apply and are helpful... Higher forms of plant life in the pond and around the pond will help keep the algae growth under control by taking away the available nitrogen and by also shading the pond. Add plants that you like and add lots of them. When using a good biological filter it works great to put a few plants right into the filter on top of the media -- keep an eye on them cuz they will grow. It's really more important to have plants in your pond. -- See Picture 1. See Picture 2. See Picture 3. See Picture 4.
Lets talk a little bit to the people who MUST HAVE DUCKS. We get a lot of questions about these, well lets use the word "messy" creatures. If you want to use our filter with "messy" ducks, that's fine, but most likely it's not going to work the way you want it to. Filter and pond will still need to be cleaned periodically. Our filter is not meant to filter out duck "mess", so much as it is a biological enhancer, meant to break down algae and other organic matter, and send it back to be used in your pond.
However, people who do use our filter with "messy" ducks & turtles, are pretty happy with it simply because they're not cleaning as often as they were with what they had before. How often will depend on how much "mess" you have.
A few more tips on controlling algae:
Do not over clean your pond and filter: Whenever you clean your pond or filter you actually trigger Mom to grow more algae. The biological process takes time, if you hurry it up by cleaning, you most often also remove the beneficial bacteria colony and/or nitrogen consuming algae... more will grow and very quickly. Tap water added to the pond also adds chlorine, which in turns kills bacteria. Bacteria are needed for the ammonia cycle to take place. No bacteria = no cycle = more algae, the point being add a chlorine remover every time you add water. With the right filter the pond should take care of itself. Start it up in the spring by spiking with some beneficial bacteria, let it run all summer and NOW we recommend you do not ever clean out the filter. We know it gets gunky and such, but we have found out due to pure laziness (we did not clean ours for several years) that it works quicker and better if just left alone. Another thing about our recommended media… It is tough and long lasting. No need to change it very often. Our best guess is it will last at least 5 years or more.
Do not over feed your fish: Uneaten food becomes waste. Excess waste matter in the pond in any form adds more ammonia, which is detrimental to both animal life and plant life. Excess ammonia levels in the pond and filter will slow the natural cycle down and produce more algae. Fish are natural algae munchers, but are also lazy for the most part. If you feed them too much from outside the pond they will simply stop eating the algae in the pond.
Add higher forms of plant life: Mom does not care what life is in the pond just so long as there is life there. Mom does not care that the available nitrogen is being used by a beautiful lily or by a clump of pea soup colored algae. She leaves that choice up to us.
Shade the pond: Algae being plant life needs sunlight to grow. If the sunlight is being used by a overhanging plant then... you get the picture.
Algaecides and other ...cides: (Additives which are used to kill algae.) If you noticed in this essay we did not mention them and the reason is because for the most part as far as controlling algae is concerned they are an unnatural addition to the pond used to mask the problem by treating the symptom not the cause. If the above essay makes sense to you then common sense should also tell you that the use of anything that is designed to kill has to carry with it a harmful effect, therefore the use of anything that in an unnatural way effects the pond environment should be used rarely if at all. Algaecides kill algae. Algae is plant life. Logical conclusion algaecides cannot be beneficial for any form of plant life including but not limited to lilies, cattails, rush, iris and so forth. Bottom line... if you kill off the algae by using a algaecide, Mom is just going to grow some new algae anyway and you have just hurt your other plant life.
Salt and other additives: First salt... yes, salt slows the growth of algae. Salt is also beneficial in the treatment of many illnesses that effect fish, but do you know what types of plant life and fish live in Utah's Great Salt Lake? Answer... NONE. The point being: If salt slows the growth of algae it has got to slow the growth of the other plant life in the pond, it is almost impossible to gauge the right amount of salt to add to a pond (if there is a right amount) which will slow the algae growth and still let the other forms of plant life survive. If you want to treat a sick fish with salt then use a sick tank. Keep salt out of your pond. Other additives: There is a bunch and it would be almost impossible to describe them and there use here. A general statement which could cover them all is this... use with caution. Most of these additives are actually treating the symptom and not the problem.
You will find descriptions of the additives that we sell and directions on ordering them at: Stuff We Sell.
Whether you have an established pond or are just thinking about putting your first one in, we invite you to call our Help Line:
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