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Thread: Understanding String Algae

  1. #51
    Daihonmei MikeM's Avatar
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    Other Chemicals: F/MG

    Formalin-based parasite treatments will setback string algae. Since these nearly always include malachite green, a potential carcinogen, I would not recommend using it.

    I would note that I have noticed a few folks on other boards who post that they never get string algae also post about doing prophylactic treatments with F/MG medications in the Spring as the water warms, in the Summer and in the Fall, and sometimes more frequently 'just in case'. I do not think it is ever a good idea to use F/MG as a preventative. Those who do may avoid string algae problems as a 'side benefit', but this is not anything I'd ever suggest.

  2. #52
    Daihonmei MikeM's Avatar
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    Other Chemicals: Algaecides

    There are numerous algaecides on the market. Some contain copper. One has as its active ingredient sodium percarbonate, so it is actually a form of HP treatment. A variety of herbicides are also used. Thus far, I have not come across a single algaecide purporting to be 'fish safe' that did not result in fish deaths in a lot of folks' ponds. The manufacturers and retailers will say that it must not have been dosed properly. The pondkeeper will say that they followed the instructions precisely. All I can say is that there are a lot of folks in whose experience HP and PP have proved safer than any algaecide 'guaranteed fish safe when used as directed'. Since HP is cheaper than the algaecides, there is no reason to spend more and take greater risk.

  3. #53
    Honmei ricshaw's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ricshaw View Post
    Yes, the West Coast has its share of string algae.
    For control... one method for yearly spring seasonal string algae is to sprinkle rock salt crystals directly on the string algae.
    The amount of salt used ends up to be a dosage concentration around 0.05% (or less).

  4. #54
    Honmei ricshaw's Avatar
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    Re: Algaecides

    In the past Simazine was used by some for string algae control.
    Simazine is now highly regulated for pond use because of EPA concerns.
    The Use of Simazine by Neil Frank
    I posted this because somebody might run across a reference to Simazine.

  5. #55
    Daihonmei MikeM's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ricshaw View Post
    In the past Simazine was used by some for string algae control.
    Simazine is now highly regulated for pond use because of EPA concerns.
    The Use of Simazine by Neil Frank
    I posted this because somebody might run across a reference to Simazine.
    The Frank article points out the problem with all of the 'fish safe' claims. Testing is done using a limited range of fish species. Different species have different sensitivities, and fish kept as subjects of hobbies often tend to be more sensitive.

  6. #56
    Sansai almostgeorgia's Avatar
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    Thanks, Mike, for the exhaustive treatise on the various recommended (and not so recommended) methods for string algae control. I know you were perhaps a bit reluctant to steer your excellent thread in this direction, but it still proves helpful to everyone who might be studying the subject and coming to grips with this common problem in many ponds. As you have very clearly stated, there is no 'magic bullet', only directions to explore that are still relatively safe for your fish. Your general admonitions to avoid 'nuking' a pond with highly toxic oxidants such as PP are much appreciated.

    As an old aquarium chemist who worked for the pet trade for many years once told me, 'Just about everything, you add to your water must eventually be taken out if you are going to maintain a healthy pond.'

  7. #57
    Daihonmei MikeM's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by almostgeorgia View Post
    Thanks, Mike, for the exhaustive treatise on the various recommended (and not so recommended) methods for string algae control. I know you were perhaps a bit reluctant to steer your excellent thread in this direction, but it still proves helpful to everyone who might be studying the subject and coming to grips with this common problem in many ponds. As you have very clearly stated, there is no 'magic bullet', only directions to explore that are still relatively safe for your fish. Your general admonitions to avoid 'nuking' a pond with highly toxic oxidants such as PP are much appreciated.

    As an old aquarium chemist who worked for the pet trade for many years once told me, 'Just about everything, you add to your water must eventually be taken out if you are going to maintain a healthy pond.'
    If there was a 'magic bullet' there would not be so many products on the market promising solutions. There would be just one, under however many brand labels jumped on the wagon, and there would not be so much chatter over all the different methods folks try every day.

    ...which is a good lead in to the next 'cure': Barley Straw.

  8. #58
    Daihonmei MikeM's Avatar
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    Barley Straw

    In the pond hobby's neverending search for a solution to string algae problems, the promotion of barley straw stands out to me. It is a mystical solution wrapped in scientific terms that seems to be science-based, but nobody understands what it does or how it works. In so many ways, it is an offspring of marketing with desperate hobbyists literally grasping for straws.

    Barley straw is touted for algae control in all sorts of publications, and there are a lot of barley straw products on the market. I can only imagine the huge sums spent on these products annually. However, I seldom see pondkeepers extolling it as a remedy for algae, although there are frequent posts about folks using a barley straw extract in reaction to an outbreak of string algae. They will say such things as, 'I used barley straw extract, but this algae is just taking over everything. What can I do?' What amazes me, although I guess it shouldn't, is that there is actually quite a bit of scientific research into barley straw. The conclusions just do not seem to get fully reported.

    Most studies done on barley straw have focused on its possible use for controlling algae in natural waterbodies. The notion of using barley straw grows out of its use in the UK in the 1990s in reservoirs for algae control purposes. The studies indicate that barley straw can be used to clear some species of algae, but not others. To date, I have not seen a single study find that barley straw has any impact on an existing population of string algae. Instead, the studies indicate it may affect unicellular greenwater algae and blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) adversely, but no impact on filamentous algae has been documented. (Impacts on blue-green algae have varied, raising the question of whether population declines actually were caused by use of barley straw or other coincidental factors. But, adverse effects have been documented on so many occasions that it seems likely there is an impact.) I repeat, as far as I am aware, there is not a single scientifically performed study indicating that barley straw is useful in eliminating an existing string algae population. There are studies indicating that it can adversely impact greenwater algae when used appropriately. So, a marketing claim that it is scientifically proven to fight algae may be literally true, but not string algae.

    The studies most supportive of barley straw for use in controlling string algae may be ones conducted at the University of Florida. These indicate that barley straw does not have an algicidal effect. I repeat, NO algicidal effect. However, the studies suggest that barley straw may be algistatic, meaning that it may prevent or retard algae growth, but does nothing to eliminate established string algae. In the UK, researchers have suggested that barley straw requires months of use before significant impacts are observable, which would indicate that shorter duration experiments conducted in the U.S. were terminated too soon. British scientists studying barley straw have indicated that algistatic chemicals produced by decomposing barley straw build up in the water over a period of about 6 months and the effects will start becoming observable. However, since the particular chemicals have not been identified, we cannot know whether there are chemicals produced that are so persistent that it takes months for them to breakdown. The Brits who supported use of barley straw recommended that more barley straw be regularly added to have continuous decomposition.These recommendations are based on barley straw decomposing in the comparatively cool waters of the UK at a relatively slow rate. In warmer waters, decomposition proceeds more quickly, so replacement would have to occur more frequently. Studies also indicate that in turbid waters (muddy water) the amount of straw used must be increased. Whether this is due to algistatic chemicals being adsorbed by the mud in the water or sunlight being blocked does not seem to have been determined.

    I have seen no scientific study of the utility of the so-called barley straw extracts sold in the ponding marketplace. Every study I have seen has concerned actual straw being allowed to decompose.

    As far as I am aware, nobody really knows how barley straw works to retard algal growth, even the scientists who study it. The theories put forward include: (1) it releases oxidized polyphenolics during decomposition which inhibit algal growth; (2) the decomposition process, when occurring in sunlight, produces hydrogen peroxide in a weak concentration; and (3) barley straw is decomposed by a particular fungus and it is the fungus that produces a growth retarding chemical as a byproduct of its metabolism. (The idea of a build-up of algistatic chemical per the British advocates is contrary to the theory that hydrogen peroxide forms in the decomposition process and causes the retardation of growth. HP is not going to build-up in the water, and certainly not for 6 months.)

    Whether or not barley straw can provide any practical benefit in some situations, and there is just enough science behind it to think there might be circumstances where it could have some impact, altogether I think it is a complete waste of money for the koikeeper. The reason is simple: Koi ponds should receive regular substantial water changes. That means that whatever barley straw might add to the water is going to be continually removed. Even the more ardent supporters of barley straw use in the scientific community speak in terms of patiently waiting for many months to observe positive results. And, by "many months" we are talking about 4-8 months continuous presence of decomposing barley straw. The idea of not performing water changes for many months is contrary to sound koikeeping practice. And, thinking a little bottle of extract can immediately accomplish what the scientific advocates say will take many months is... well, believing in snake oil IMO.

  9. #59
    Daihonmei MikeM's Avatar
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    High Tech Gizmos

    I guess calling algae control devices 'gizmos' declares my doubts about them as a class. I have no idea how many such devices are on the market. They seem to come and go. I already mentioned one that continually releases copper into the water, not a good thing for koi. There are others based on UV light, which does nothing to affect string algae. There are also dispensing gizmos that basically serve to continually dose the pond with one sort of algicide or another. I consider these sorts of devices as costly gimmicks that risk the well-being of the koi or do nothing to control string algae.

    Then there is a group of devices that are actually reported by some to have a beneficial impact, although not touted by many users as completely eliminating string algae in toto. These are gizmos based on electro-magnetic radiation being generated to pulse through the pond water, usually at the point of a return line after the water has gone through the filtration system. It is a scientific fact that such a device, appropriately designed and installed, would reduce calcium bicarbonate ions and increase calcium carbonate ions. The length of time for which the altered ratio endures would vary according to water chemistry. Since calcium carbonate will then tend to precipitate as the concentration of it increases, there would end up being a reduction of total available calcium, unless water chemistry is such that it re-dissolved. There are several theories as to how this alteration of ion balance in the water might affect string algae. One is that the reduced availability of calcium in itself retards growth. Another theory is the exact opposite, that algal cell walls are better able to take in calcium when the ratio of bicarbonate and carbonate is altered, resulting in an increase in metabolism that leads to the string algae withering away as it tries to grow faster than available nutrient allows. …Huh??? Well, that's one of the theories about why these electro-magnetic radiation devices work, or appear to do so sometimes. A third theory is that the algal holdfasts weaken, causing algae to slough off the pond surfaces. But, do these devices actually work? I have to say that I'm always bothered when something is said to work, but the how cannot be consistently explained, particularly when someone is wanting large sums of money. Well, there have been non-scientific 'consumer trials' where use of the devices has been said to reduce string algae by the pond owner. So, some folks really believe they can work. I note that one manufacturer claims that great results will be obtained after 12 weeks of continuous use. Another says growth ceases as soon as 10 days after commencing use and the full impact will be seen in 7-10 weeks. It is also said by some that the devices should be turned off when the water is cool because the ion re-balancing will cause growth of the dreaded string algae in cool water. OK, I think I understand. Use the devices only when the water is warming up, and after 3 months the full benefits will be observed. … Why do I keep thinking that coincides with the natural life cycle of string algae?? These are costly devices, prone to breaking (if postings on koi boards are to be believed). When a consumer says they do not work, a manufacturer will say the device was not properly installed or not enough time was allowed. Another consumer will come along saying that after months of battling string algae they installed the device and had complete relief in the course of several days… Huh?? The manufacturer says it will take a couple of months, but the consumer got relief in days? I am left thinking that coincidence has sold a lot of these gizmos. I really have no idea whether they accomplish anything, or perhaps are effective in certain particular conditions. As long as consumer experience is mixed, I tend to suspect the device accomplishes nothing.

    If anyone has a gizmo that they believe actually worked for them, please post about it.

  10. #60
    Honmei ricshaw's Avatar
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    The big question (mystery for me) is still why do some Koi ponds not suffer from seasonal string algae and other similar Koi ponds do. Or why a certain Koi pond that does not suffer from seasonal string algae problems, then one year have a problem.

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