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Rambling About Algae

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  • Rambling About Algae

    The last few days have been punctuated by different perspectives on algae. Over the past two months my pond has experienced tremendous increases in algae production due to receiving full sun most of the day, rather than being in full shade before the hurricanes took away the tree cover. A slight green tint to the water can be observed when a white bucket is filled with pond water, but only a slight tint. It is not noticeable when viewing the koi, at least to my eye. The algae that is thriving is the carpet algae covering all submerged surfaces with a nearly half-inch coat of green fur. Individual filaments break off as the koi graze it between feedings. And, they do not simply get a vegetable addition to their diet. Within the filaments are the larvae of midges and occasional bloodworms. I have always had an issue with the broken filaments lodging in the leaf net and matting in the skimmer, and it can gunk up the filters if not attended regularly, but it was possible to get by for a week if I had to be out of town. No longer. With full sun, the "algae glarf" is sufficiently copious to clog the leaf net in the skimmer within 36 hours. So, daily cleaning is essential to prevent a blocked skimmer and potentially a burned-out pump. I have increased water changes such that nitrate levels in the pond are below 10-15 ppm at all times ... the best I've ever done. [Never measurable ammonia or nitrite.] I will eventually shade the pond when I make up my mind on a new "grand scheme" for the garden. In the meantime, I view the algae as a bit of a hassle that I will live with. ... an inconvenience, but one I accept because the koi are doing well, eating well, and the water is healthy.

    This past weekend our local koi club met at the home of a new member who has a pebble-bottomed water garden with a few goldfish and koi. The waterlillies were beautiful. I noticed that there was virtually no algae in the pond. The pebbles were relatively clean and the grand waterfall rocks were spotless. I assumed the owner had "cleaned up" for the club meeting. I was partially right. It seems the owner detests algae and uses a power wash sprayer regularly to get rid of it, as well as regular doses of algicides. The water was relatively clear, but had a greenish tint despite frequent application of algicides. The fish did not seem very happy.

    During the get together, I mentioned my recent algae growth. Uniformly, I was given suggestions on how I might get rid of the algae. My comments were misunderstood. My quandary is not over how to get rid of algae. There are many ways to do that. My problem is finding the time to deal with the inconvenience until a shade structure is in place, because I do not want to get rid of the algae. I just want to slow it down. I cannot imagine a circumstance in which I would use an algicide.

    On another board where I lurk, I have been reading complaints about new pond syndrome, green water and use of UV systems to gain control over the unicellular algae. The pond owners complaining do not have established biological filters. They are exasperated that they cannot fully enjoy the ponds they built in summer prior to the colder days of Autumn chasing them indoors. They are being advised on proper maintenance routines and the use of UV.

    It is the nature of algae to grow wherever the conditions are proper for its success, and competition is not too great. With adequate biological filtration and oxygen levels, the unicellular algae will not interfere with koi rearing. It prefers ammonia as its source of nitrogen and declines as nitrifying bacteria become well-established and filamentous algae begin to populate the pond. I no longer use UV, because I do not find it necessary. I would never seek to remove algae from submerged surfaces or the rocks of a waterfall. I see the algae as nature's bio-cushion, with every filament filtering the water in complex ways not fully understood, supplying habitat for beneficial life forms and directly enriching the diet of the koi. I do not see it as an enemy, but as an allied element of the natural world ... one that can become mischievous when given the opportunity, but all in all, a friend of the pseudo-natural balance of the koi pond.
  • #2

    my koi kichi has algea problems as it is constantly cycling. death, restart,lush, death. his koi eat the algea and their faces turn yellow, unshowable. When it is dying and sluving off it packs his BB pretty well. He's tried everything but cannot get things in hand. he views it as his enemy.
    Dick Benbow


    • #3

      I have two ponds with two very different types of algae growth.

      The main pond (6500G) has the type of algae that, given full sun and immature shower filtration, would clog the leaf trap, etc. At one point mats of the stuff could be seen floating around the pond in the water as it came loose. It also seemed to like the little bits of oyster shell that would lodge in it as the bits broke away from the shower filter, before the shower was mature.

      Near the end of summer the shower filter matured and I shaded half my pond. The stringy algae subsided and is now not found in the leaf trap or much in the microscreen.

      My other pond has different filtration and different algae. The algae in the small pond is the light green stuff, very short. Doesn't get into anything. This 1500G pond has a higher turnover rate than the main pond, although the relative stocking rate is probably higher.

      When I had probes in both ponds, the ORP in the main pond tracked slightly higher, but not significantly higher, than the side pond. The side pond also gets full sun and temperature swings slightly wider than the main pond. The main pond is full shade in winter.

      I haven't figured out the difference, except for two things: filtration type and turnover. The main pond turns over about 1.5 hr. The side pond about twice as fast (45m). The filtration on the side pond goes 1/2 through a cloverleaf II, 1/2 bypass, and then 3/4 over a small shower stack. It used to turn over 3x as fast but adding the shower stack slowed the overall turnover (using a 3600SEQ12).

      So you can see I think the reason is the turnover rate. I'm toying with the idea of adding a second pump and shower filter system to the main pond to see if that makes the difference. But the electricity cost... yeeow. Greenhouse first!


      • #4

        Mike, wish I could persuade you to try some bacteria house media in a shower. It seems to have a dramatic affect on algae.



        • #5

          Dick: I think it would be interesting to understand why the algae in that pond goes through those cycles. If it was annual or once in Spring and again in Fall, I'd suspect it was water temperature shifts with the seasons giving the right conditions for a burst of growth, with a decline occuring when temperatures went above or below the ideal range. I would also speculate that if it coincides with shifts in water sources, that there is higher iron levels in one source than another. Wells can vary in iron content according to the rate of percolation of rain water through the soils. I recall reading of a situation where iron content fluctuated in well water. Seems it took about 30 days for rain to percolate to the zone where water was drawn. During the height of the rainy season, the ground water was fairly low in iron content. As the rains tailed off, iron content increased beginning about 30 days after rains slowed. Any micro-nutrient can be a limiting factor for a particular type of algae. Iron is frequently the key element, but it will vary from place to place.

          Jason: The turnover rate difference could matter. The combination of current, oxygen level etc alter the growing environment. My pond turns over every 45 minutes, but much of that flow does not receive full filtration treatment.

          Maurice: Well, I'm thinking about re-doing the pond, so maybe some type of shower will be in my future. But, that's a different thread!


          • #6

            Mike, presently I also have algae problem like you, even worst. Several months ago my pond was clear. Now it's more than just greenish - I can't see the bottom anymore, in spite of UV lights being installed. Yes the sun is at full blast from 08.30 in the morning up till 17.00 late afternoon. I have no shade at all. So I guess I have to be patient untill the sky gets cloudy in one or two months time.


            • #7

              Some have been writing about growing water hyacinth it would use up nutrients that the string algae needs plus they would also add some shade. They top growth would have stay in a roped off area so it didn't get sucked into the filter other water plants could also tie up nutreints and not be so problematic. Nitrates and phosphates contribute to growth as well. They say phosphate is the main limiting factor to plant growth in water bodies here and they are looking at ways to reduce flow in to watersheds. There is also the barley straw thing that ties up nutrients to decompose it.It takes a few month to get going but may be a biological option. I will send you a big round bale if you pay the freight. I get a some string algae but not as bad as you if you lived in this climate they string algae growth drops off at this time of year since we have a foot of snow at the moment.
              The perfect koi is always one purchase or spawning away!


              • #8

                Food for thought

                Space can only support one dominate species. Gas levels, ORP levels, mineral content, micronutrients, light spectrum and intensity and water temperature can give distinct advantages to one species over another. this is important as :

                a) SOMETHING must and will grow on all surfaces

                b) some species contribute to water quality and as suppliment for the fish. this helps to provide that 'sweet' ' mellow' water we look for.

                c) other species thrive on poor water conditions and only add to general organic load of a body of water.

                I believe that 90% of ponds start out wrong and the rest of the time is spent trying to get ride of the 'weeds' that result. And as you know, once established, undesirable alage is a bear to try and remove. It is probably time in this hobby that we innoculate our ponds with desirable subspecies and look at undesirable species growth as an indicator of less than ideal water conditions.
                Unlike a fish tank, algae must be seasonal and be able to regrow annually. Medications and salinity will influence their return. JR


                • #9


                  The notion of innoculating a pond with a desirable variety of algae to give it a head start is excellent thinking. I often say that algae will appear when conditions are correct for it, but that is simplistic. Algae can modify its environment by releasing chemical compounds which deter competing species. Once established, with necessary nutrients replenished thru water changes etc., a variety can take control of available space. The variety may vary from climate to climate, but the idea is attractive. Looking for a source of the most desired variety becomes a bit of a challenge. Although, if I was in North Carolina I'd enjoy hiking along some mountain streams to locate a local area algae with desirable characteristics encrusting a a few stones.


                  • #10

                    in my other hobby bonsai, you can buy moss starts (spores) from Mt fuji

                    to get started on a newly transplanted tree.

                    I'm surprised some enterprisng japanese businessman doesn't start up a company that provides algea starts direct from "daiinichi" or pick your favorite breeder!

                    I can't grow the darn stuff inside or out.
                    Dick Benbow


                    • #11

                      [QUOTE=I can't grow the darn stuff inside or out.[/QUOTE]Dick, you ever try the trick of mixing moss in a blender with unpasturized milk or cultured yogurt and painting it on the trunk and/or soil. Can't remember why the milk/yogurt microbes promote moss growth, but it worked on our waterfall rocks.

                      Mike T., I hope you are listening to this stuff about innoculating and promoting growth of hair algae.

                      steve hopkins


                      • #12

                        True mosses are unable to contend with high levels of nitrogen and other nutrients. They are evolved to thrive in low nutrient micro-environments where other plants cannot. ... such as on rocks, tree trunks and weathered, packed soils. However, they require nearly constant moist conditions. As a result they are found in shade, although many species are capable of thriving in sun if the moisture can be controlled to be constant w/o being so wet as to encourage algal growth. [There are many species, so there are exceptions to these general staements!] The lactic bacteria seem to be effective in causing slow release of nutrient from the substrate, with the acids produced eroding rock substrate surfaces just enough to create a surface that will hold a layer of moisture. This allows the spores an opporunity. Success remains dependent on maintaining moisture and not exposing the moss to strong nutrient. The buttermilk/yogurt/milk & vinegar technique works best on limestones and brick, as opposed to the hard surfaces of, say, granite.

                        Dick: Some years ago when there were bonsai folks active in the bromeliad society, I was told that they could not get moss to grow unless they withheld fertilizer. Rather than applying Peters liquid (the favorite around here) to the surface, they would use it diluted to one-quarter label directions and place in a shallow tray, on which the bonsai tree would be placed to absorb the nutrient solution from the bottom. In this way, no fertilizer was placed on the surface of the moss. The bonsai would be watered by misting several times per day. I have been told that soft water w/o chlorine is best, but I've never gotten into it enough to know if there is any truth in it. The chlorine in my irrigation water certainly does not harm moss growing in the garden, and that water is definitely hard! ... I always seem to get moss where I cannot see it w/o making an effort, or on walk areas where it causes slipping, but almost never where I'd like it to be.

                        A moss covered rock beside a trickle of water. A small fern nearby. The trickle drips into a pond where a brown carp rises to the surface. Morning light reflects in dew. Nature in harmony.


                        • #13

                          Thanks Mike and Bekko for your thoughts and inputs. interesting subject. if only we had more time for study and devotion to learning things. other than the lawn, the house, the job! (lol)
                          Dick Benbow


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