Having Those Murky Pond Blues?

Published on May 29, 2008


In this article we will explore a new way to deal with those stubborn pond problems such as cloudy water, foul smells, scum and sludge. We will learn about some of the underlying reasons these problems exist. We will discuss a new technology in pond maintenance that utilizes nature’s tiniest creatures in a unique way to effectively address these pond troubles; one that is simple to apply and works like magic to restore some of the natural beauty to decorative ponds as well as farm ponds.

The Ideal Pond

If you step back and consider what the ideal condition a pond should be in and compare that to what you all too often run into you will quickly recognize our collective challenge in meeting client expectations. The variables are many: fish, plants, water fowl, run off, seasonal changes, age of pond, and type of liner…to name but a few of the factors to consider.

One of the first things to understand is that we are dealing with a living ecosystem in a pond that flourishes when it is allowed to exist in its most natural and balanced state. Quick fixes often throw the health of a pond out of balance and can start a chain reaction of negative results. Your solution to one problem creates two more problems. You kill the algae and in its last dying act the algae consumes the oxygen most fish have become very fond of.

Pond Ecosystem

Ecosystem is defined as an ecological community together with its environment, functioning as a unit. An ecosystem is a complete community of living organisms and the nonliving materials of their surroundings. Thus, its components include plants, animals, and microorganisms; soil, rocks, and minerals. A pond’s ecosystem needs to be kept in a balanced state to really flourish.

Chemicals are Not the Solution

The old saying “a better world through chemicals” has brought our precious environment to the brink of extinction. What you put in ponds eventually runs into the ocean.

Ocean Deserts/Dead Zones Expanding

The argument that we are only dealing with small garden ponds or perhaps farm ponds and therefore have so little environmental impact regardless of what we treat them with can no longer be justified in the face of overwhelming evidence that we have collectively and culturally created such a toxic environment that oceans can no longer keep up.

According to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) huge desert like areas in the world’s oceans have expanded dramatically in the last decade. Since 1998 large expanses of the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans which have low surface plant life grew by 15% or 6.6 million square kilometers. These dead zones/deserts have a negative impact on many fish species.

The black areas in the following graphic represent the least productive areas of the ocean, which have increased 15% from 1998 to 2007. The warming of the surface of the ocean is thought to prevent the nutrients in the cool deep ocean from rising to the surface. Without the mixing, there is limited ability for life to take hold. We humans have an odd relationship to the ocean, treating it both as a bounty and an endless dump for the chemicals and waste of our “quick fix” society.

How the Problem Begins

The health of a pond is weakened from chemical run off, debris, excessive rotting organic matter, stagnant water, feces, etc. The water gets murky, scum forms and a nest of smelly sludge builds up at the bottom. Proper pond design and ground maintenance can help to control the impact of these external factors. But there is one part of this puzzle that requires special attention.

The Heart of the Matter

It is important to look beyond the symptoms to the root of the trouble to effectively resolve pond problems. What actually is underlying most negative pond conditions? Destructive microorganisms. Once a pond’s health is weakened, these negative bacteria emerge and thrive causing a tough dwindling spiral of negative proportion. Smells get increasingly worse, the cloudy water goes deeper and the pond owners grow impatient.

Not All Bacteria are Bad

Despite what we learned all our lives, all bacteria are not bad. In fact, these tiny creatures come in three basic groups: the good, those that enhance life; the bad, those that destroy life; the followers, those that follow the leader (whoever is in charge— good or bad).

A Natural Solution

If you restore the health building components of the pond it will heal itself. Sounds fine but just how do you do that? How do you turn around such a dwindling spiral? Drain and dredge and start over? Certainly one option. Usually not a pond owners first choice however. One of the ways to approach this problem is to reintroduce the correct balance of beneficial microorganisms in sufficient quantity to reverse the tide, a key to reviving the health of a pond.

The Role of Beneficial Microorganisms

Many people think of microorganisms mainly in terms of “germs” causing diseases, but some “germs” are beneficial to humans and the environment. Disease-causing (pathogenic) microorganisms need to be controlled and beneficial microorganisms perform that task. Beneficial microbes have been on this planet form the start and in fact helped form our atmosphere.

Which Ones to Choose? Aerobic or Anaerobic Beneficial Microorganisms

Aerobic (with oxygen) bacteria only work as far as they have air. Many different types of equipment have been developed to aerate ponds and lakes for this reason. On the other hand there are anaerobic (without oxygen) bacteria that do not need oxygen to survive. The best solution is one that provides a consortium of aerobic and anaerobic beneficial bacteria.

Rome Wasn’t Built Overnight

Rebuilding a healthy ecosystem takes time. Be patient. Sometimes nature in its wisdom let’s negative effects run their course before new life can begin again. So don’t be alarmed to see conditions get worse for a bit before they begin to turn around. In time you will see results like these below.

About the Author

Paul Scholz is a Principal Partner of Effective Environmental Services in Lake View Terrace California, www.effens.com, 888-524-5000

Source: Pond & Garden Lifestyle May/June & July/August 2008

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