Pond and Lake maintenance using Diatom Algae

Pond and Lake maintenance using Diatom Algae

By: Bhaskar M V


Water pollution issues in ponds and lakes and solutions to these problems are in the news now a days for all the wrong reasons. Water pollution is increasing due to human activity – increasing population and consumption has resulted in more waste being generated – sewage, fertilizer run off, etc. These enter ponds, lakes, rivers, estuaries, etc., and cause algal blooms leading to low dissolved oxygen problems and fish kills and dead zones. The main source of ‘pollution’ of water is nutrients – Nitrogen and Phosphorus from sewage and fertilizer. Industrial pollutants though more toxic and harmful are a smaller problem in terms of volume. Farmers use fertilizer since plants require them, fertilizers cause higher plant growth and this is a good thing. Why are these fertilizers regarded as ‘pollutants’ when they enter a waterbody? What type of ‘plants’ grow in the water due to these nutrients? Micro algae i.e., Cyanobacteria, Green Algae, Dinoflagellates, Diatoms; macro algae, aquatic weeds, are the various plants that can grow in water. The problem arises when the balance shifts in favor of one group and this dominates the water. Thus when there is a large bloom of Cyanobacteria or Dinoflagellates the water turns Green or Red and some of these species release toxins too. Water hyacinth or Duck weed too can bloom and cover the pond or lake. Which is the best species / group of ‘plants’ to grow in water? How to maintain the desired ecological balance of various species? We believe that Diatom Algae are the best group of micro algae to grow, they are the best food for fish and hence do not accumulate in the water. Cyanobacteria / Blue Green Algae, Dinoflagellates, water hyacinth, etc. are not consumed by zooplankton, fish, etc. and hence accumulate in water and become a nuisance and have to be removed by artificial means – physically removed or by use of algaecides and weedicides. Diatoms on the other hand are removed naturally by Zooplankton and fish. Catching fish is easier and more profitable than harvesting algae. Diatoms typically dominate water during spring, early summer and winter. Late summer is when Cyanobacteria and Dinoflagellates bloom and dominate the water. The reason for this is that Diatoms require more inputs than other micro algae, they are the most recent of the micro algae to have evolved – less than 300 million years ago. Cyanobacteria evolved more than 3000 million years and Dinoflagellates about 1000 million years ago. Thus Diatoms are the more complex of all micro algae and they require many micro nutrients and Silica to bloom. Iron, Manganese, Zinc, etc., are the micro nutrients require by Diatoms. These and Silica do not dissolve easily in water. Metals oxidize in water and silica (sand) is not by nature soluble. Thus these elements are the first to be exhausted in water leading to the end of Diatom bloom in early summer and consequent domination by Cyanobacteria. Thus is supply of silica and micro nutrients is increased the Diatom bloom can be prolonged and the bloom of other algae and weeds controlled. N P K are the inputs that are common to all plants and algae, thus when these are consumed by Diatoms other plants are starved out. However, since Diatoms are grazed upon by Zooplankton and fish their population is regulated naturally and the bloom will not get out of hand if adequate number of fish are available and if the silica micro nutrient supply is regulated. Thus the natural ecological balance can be restored and maintained throughout the year. A solution to provide silica and micro nutrients in water in a stable manner has been invented by Mr T Sampath Kumar of Bangalore, India. He researched for over 10 years from 1994 to 2004 and perfected the formula. Its now patented and marketed under the name Nualgi [NUtrition for Algae] . Nano silica is used as a base for delivery of all the micro nutrients. Nano silica disperses in water and does not dissolve, however the dispersed nano particles behave in the same manner as dissolved particles. The silica keeps the metals stable in water and prevents them from oxidizing. Thus metals in Nualgi are stable in water for a long time and they are bioavailable to the Diatoms. The maximum dosage of Nualgi is 0.25 ppm i.e., about 1 kg in 1 acre of pond 1 meter deep. The Diatom bloom lasts for about a week, so repeat doses have to be given weekly. The cost of Nualgi used is fully recovered from sale of fish. 1 kg of Nualgi results in 100 to 200 kgs of Diatom biomass. This results in 10 to 50 kgs of fish biomass. 100 kgs of Diatoms give about 100 kgs of oxygen and absorb 137.5 kgs of CO2. Diatoms bloom rapidly and the color of water changes from green to light brown in a few days. When Nualgi is used in a pond with a massive Blue Green Algae bloom the BGA may crash within hours of the first dose. Nualgi is thus a safe and economical alternative to mechanical aerators, algaecides, dyes, etc. Bhaskar www.kadambari.net

Pond Water Color

Water coloring for weed and algae prevention

In order to prevent the growth of weeds and string algae, water in almost any type of pond or lake should not be perfectly clear. The way the water is colored is of major importance.

Clear water will not stay clear very long when exposed to the sun. Something will grow in the water, and it will probably not be what you want. To control this in farm ponds, fish ponds, lakes, or even in koi ponds and other backyard ponds, you will have to take some action. Prevention is better than trying to treat for slime, blanket weed, or submersed lake weeds later on. Getting out in front on this issue could save you a lot of money in treatment costs.

Pond water color good and bad

Not all pond water color is good. Turbid or muddy water isn’t good for any beneficial aquatic life, and the problem causing the turbidity should be solved before anything else can be done to improve water quality. This problem can occur for a variety of reasons, the most common of which is a bare watershed. Once the cause is dealt with, the water can be cleared using a flocking compound, and then the real work of getting the water properly tinted can begin.

The best pond water color is achieved with algae. Not string algae or pond scum, but the type of algae suspended in the water, known as phytoplankton.

Phytoplankton for pond water color

Phytoplankton is the best solution to most water clarity issues, it shades the water against sunlight, and uses nutrients which would otherwise be used by weeds and string algae, and it feeds zooplankton which feeds fish. There are several different types of phytoplankton.

Diatom algae

The type of phytoplankton present in the water is also important. There are many types, but perhaps the most productive is diatom plankton. These are the microscopic plants with silica exoskeletons which exist both in salt water and fresh water. Like phytoplankton in general, their numbers are diminishing, and have been for many years. Diatoms are very efficient in food production, and present a marked increase in zooplankton when they are present in large enough quantities. Diatom algae adds a golden brown tint to pond water.

Green algae

Green phytoplankton, have cellulose as their skeletons and produce increases zooplankton, but to a lesser degree than diatoms. Both produce color in the water, both remove excessive nutrients from the water, both produce oxygen, break down carbon dioxide, and raise dissolved oxygen levels, and both reduce weed and string algae production. Diatoms produce these desirable effects more efficiently, and great strides forward have been made in efficient means of producing it. Green phytoplankton produces similar results, but phosphorous is needed to produce and maintain this bloom, and phosphorus supplies are running low. Not all green algae are the same.

Dyes for pond water color

There are occasions where phytoplankton production may be difficult to acheive due to a variety of factors such as local water use restrictions. It is even possible to produce some types of fish without the presence of high concentrations of phytoplankton. Catfish respond well to regular feeding, and the introduction of fathead minnows into the environment, but for weed control, and for temperature control, some coloring of the water is needed. In such situations, and for decorative fish ponds, fountains, and other decorative garden type ponds, dyes may present the best possible alternative.