Pondology
news from the waterfront by Tim Matson

WORKING ON WATER

As the warm weather season begins, it’s helpful to review the basics of pond water maintenance. If you do need to take action to control algae and/or unwanted aquatic plants, it’s best to begin early in the season before the pond gremlins get well established. I’ve written extensively about water quality and algae/plant control in my books and various “Pondologies” on this website, but it’s a good subject to revisit for new readers and new pond owner/builders, as well as for the chance to mention new maintenance strategies; for instance
the Aquapucks offered by our new underwriter Aqua Dynamic Solutions. More on Aquapucks shortly.

Pond Structure

Pond structure is a basic that is sometimes overlooked in treating water quality. All the good water in the world won’t be much help if the pond basin is working against you.

Shallow edges will encourage plant and algae growth.
Sunlight easily reaches the pond bottom, and plant life loves that. Shallow areas warm up dramatically,
another plant stimulant. If the pond was not built with properly sloped edges, this can be a trouble spot. You may be able to keep pond weeds under control manually here, using rakes or weed cutters. In extreme situations, the pond may benefit from having the edges reexcavated.

If areas of the central pond basin are shallow (less than 6-8 feet or so; depends on climate zone and other factors), the same problem occurs. Warm water, low oxygen levels, and sunlight encourage unwanted plants and algae. It may be time for accumuated sediment to be dredged out, or to have the pond deepened. Whether you have edges or larger pond areas excavated, be sure that the machinery doing the work is not carrying the seeds/roots/spores of nuisance plants from other ponds. Make sure your contractor cleans his equipment.

Pond Water

The water itself is the other half of the equation. Here in the northeast, where many ponds are used for recreation and cold water fishing, the emphasis is usually on minimizing nutrients to discourage algae and plant growth. That means keeping your watershed from stimulating plant growth.

Some of the primary unwanted nutrient sources can be a malfuntioning septic system leaching into the pond; lawn or garden fertilizer; a feeder stream carrying in nutrients; fish feed. If you suspect any water sources may be high in unwanted nutrients, or the pond itself, the water can be checked. Sometimes your state natural resources or water quality department can assist with water testing. Test kits are also available from a number of aquatic suppliers. Some of the basics to test for include e. coli bacteria, pH, ammonia, nitrite, and phosphorous. Algae and nuisance plants are often the result of low dissolved oxygen, and high amounts of nutrients like phosphorous, ammonia, and nitrite. High pH levels may also encourage algae and weeds.

Two water improvement strategies often employed are aeration and water conditioners.

 

Aeration

Aeration involves introducing extra oxygen into the water to help decompose unwanted nutrients and mix the water to reduce low oxygen layers at the the pond bottom. Surface aerators (splashers, fountains) are sometimes used, but many pond owners find diffusion systems most efficient. A compressor pumps air into the pond bottom where it is diffused through a matrix, creating air bubbles that rise to the surface. The water gets an oxygen boost, and warm and cold (low oxygen) layers are mixed. The result is water less inclined to support algae and weed growth, as well as improved habitat for fish.
Sediment buildup on the bottom is reduced. Aeration compressors can be powered electrically or by a windmill. Electric systems use a compressor on shore, eliminating the need for an electric line through the water (for splashers and fountains).

Water Conditioners

Water improvement can also be accomplished by adding
supplements to the water. Many of these are non-toxic, unlike the harsh algaecides more popular in the past (copper sulphate for example). Many of these supplements are blends of natural bacteria
that help decompose nutrients feeding alage and
weeds; they may be applied in liquid or powder form.
Other additives can help settle phosphorous or
suspended soil particles. Barley straw is another natural product that can be added to the water to treat algae.

Get All Your Pucks in a Row

The Aquapuck is a unique entry to the water conditioning array. Shaped like a hockey puck, it is added to the pond where it dissolves over a two hour period. In the process of dissolving, it functions as both an aerator and water conditioner. The number of Aquapucks you need will be determined by pond size, roughly 3-5 lbs per surface acre; several treatments may be recommended over the spring to fall pond season.

The puck blends four elements. Sodium percarbonate creates oxygen bubbles as it dissolves, oxygenating the water. The next ingridient, shredded organic barley, mixes into the water as the puck dissolves, and as it rises and then sinks, filters the water column and helps decompose detrius. The third ingridient, a blend of botanical proteins, settles phosphorous, iron, and particles that can make a pond look dirty. The fourth ingridient is a combination of bacteria that helps the barley work faster, and that live at different water levels, working on nutrients from the sediment on the bottom, through the mid area, to the top. The team at Aquapucks would be glad to explain their product and discuss your pond needs, and invites inquiries.

May 13, 2013


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