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

Why Aquatic Weeds And Filamentous Algae Occur


This is the basic sequence of events leading up to pond scum and lake weed problems. It should be noted that not all problems arise from these causes. There are problems related to the over fertilization of a body of water which can lead to some of the same results. There are tell tale signs which can be easily seen by checking water clarity. If the water is a virtual soup of green suspended algae, the water is too fertile, and other measures, like adding vegetation to the intake side to filter some of the nutrients should be taken. While this does happen, it occurs so infrequently that I have seen only one or two cases in my life. Sequence of events resulting in pond scum and lake weed problems:
  • There is not enough fertility
  • Water becomes too clear
  • Sunlight penetrates to the bottom
  • Sunlight warms the bottom
  • Weed and algae germination and growth is initiated
  • Weeds quickly grow through the water profile
  • Filamentous algae begins to rise from the bottom
  • Weeds and pond scum become the dominate feature of the lake or pond
  • Fishing and recreational use becomes difficult
  • Mosquitoes arrive and decide they like the surroundings
  • Water quality worsens
  • Dissolved oxygen is low in the evenings
  • Fish rise to the top to gulp oxygen close to the surface
  • Without plankton, the life cycle is slowed and the fish become hungry and skinny
The last problem listed in this sequence has probably been a problem for a while. Phytoplankton is needed in the water to:

Color the water for sunlight control

By coloring the pond or lake water, sunlight is prevented from reaching the lake bed where weeds and filamentous algae get their start. This provides lake weed and pond scum prevention.

Shade the water for heat control

By shading the water, the temperatures are moderated, providing better, more comfortable conditions for aquatic life.

Produce oxygen throughout the water profile

With higher oxygen production in the water, fish are able to breathe easy, and concentrate on avoiding predation, and food intake.

Provide food for the life chain

Because phytoplankton is the beginning of the "circle of life", food for fish is produced as a natural result. Producing phytoplankton, or algae bloom is pretty easy to do, but there are a few preliminaries. You can read more about them: Pond Scum Prevention Pond Algae