Lake And Pond Food Chain | Lake Advice

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The elements in the lake and pond food chain

What makes up the lake and pond food chain ecosystem? It can seem deceptively simple, and at the same time, it is deceptively complicated, but for our purposes in lake management, there is a reasonably simple middle ground that ends in good pond and lake management, and good fishing. There are several elements in the food web for ponds and lakes, and they begin with a simple, single cell plant that exists just about everywhere.

A lake with visible plankton promoting a good lake and pond food chain.


In the life chain, that is, the lake and pond food chain, the beginning is phytoplankton. We could take this back a little further, and say that the pond food chain begins with the presence of phytoplankton, which is seemingly present everywhere, and awaiting water, fertility, and sunlight to become active. Once all the elements are present in sufficient quantities, the process will begin and continue as long as the elements remain in sufficient quantities to produce algae bloom.


Microinvertebrates, the mini sized creatures that exist in large numbers in pond and lake water, feed on phytoplankton. The more phytoplankton, the more of these little creatures.


These are the little bugs (under .5 millimeters) that exist in and around ponds and lakes and feed on the microinvertebrates. Once again, the more of the microinvertebrates they have to eat, the higher the numbers.

Small fish

Small fish exist in ponds, both small fingerlings of the larger species, and smaller species. These small fish eat the bugs that exist in the water, and once again, the more bugs exist, the more these small fish increase in number.

Larger fish

Now we are getting down to the brass tacks. Small fish provide food for larger fish, and the more small fish are available, the larger the large fish will grow.


Finally, if the food chain achieved good results, starting with the phytoplankton, and you are a reasonably good angler, you will have food for your own table!
See also: How to increase fish production!

How Can I Clear The Water In My Muddy Pond?

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The first thing to do is to make sure that the reason the water appears to be muddy is because of soil particles and not a result of algae.

Is it mud or algae?

Algae in a pond should be a light green color, or a slightly golden brownish green if diatom algae is present. In most cases here in the U.S. what we expect to see is the light green unless you have used nano silicates from Nualgi.

The sources of turbidity or muddy water

If the water is indeed muddy, you should first solve the mystery of why it is muddy.

Bare banks and inlets

Bare banks and inlets, or adjacent bare feilds will often be the cause. If this is the case, vegetation will need to be established in those areas, or all the water clearing methods in the world will not solve the problem.

Turbidity causing fish

In some cases certain types of fish may be causing the problem, and they will need to be removed by a qualified company with the proper equipment for the job.


After this problem has been dealt with, the serious work of clearing the soil particles can begin, if it is still needed. The process is known as flocking. Flocking is the use of a product that will bind with soil particles, and drop the soil particles to the bottom of the pond. The most common agent used for this purpose is alum.

Flocking agent amounts and water volume

The amount of allum needed is determined by the size of your reservoir, and to some extent, the severity of the turbidity. You will need to know the surface area of your body of water, as well as it’s average depth to determine the amount needed.

Application involves broadcasting this over the surface of the water.
For specific reccomendations in your area, you can consult your agriculture extension agency. These folks have a wealth of information on such topics, and are more than happy to share their knowledge, so give them a call.

How Can I Increase Fish Production?

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How can you increase fish production in your private pond or lake? The answer is surprisingly simple, the methods are simple, but the process is surprisingly complex. It starts with the basic life cycle, which involves how everything in a body of water interacts with everything else.

Fish population and fish size

The number and size of fish populations is similar to the number and size of almost all populations in one way. The availability of food. If enough food is present, the average size per fish, and the population will both rise.

How fish get their food

So, aside from feeding the fish in your pond or lake with a fish feeder, or by hand, how do fish get the food they need to survive and thrive? The answer is in the food chain. Larger fish eat smaller fish, and some insects that cross their path. Smaller fish eat bugs. The bugs eat smaller bugs. The smaller bugs eat algae in the form of phytoplankton.

Phytoplankton production

The answer is pretty simple, for fish to thrive, they need phytoplankton to start the food chain. The obvious next question is: How do I get phytoplankton to grow in my pond or lake?

Well, the phytoplankton already exists in your reservoir. All you need to do, is encourage it to grow by feeding it. The way you feed the phytoplankton is with fertilizer. The fertilizer should be high phospherous, or micronutrients in a delivery system like nano silicates. This will kick start phytoplankton production. I encourage you to do a pH test before you start this type of program, and also to do a secchi test to determine how much phytoplankton is aready there.

See these articles for more detailed information and how to:

Lake And Pond Food Chain

Lake Management Lake Depth Secchi Disk

Pond and Lake maintenance using Diatom Algae

Lake Fertilization

The process works pretty rapidly, and continues as long as the proper fertility exists. This is something that will need to be repeated throughout the summer, but the payoff can be amazing.

How Can I Prevent Pond Algae?

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Not all algae is bad First, let's get our minds wrapped around this: Not all algea in ponds and lakes is bad. The problem comes when you have too much algae, or the wrong type of algae. In fact, the best treatment for pond algae, is algae! I know it sounds a little strange, but that is the way it works. What is pond algae When most people think of pond algae, they think of the type of algae commonly called pond scum, or blanket weed. The proper name for it is fillamentous algae. This is a type of algae that forms long fillaments or strings that then mat together to form a blanket on the surface of the water. This mat or blanket of algae makes fishing, boating, and other recreational use of a lake or pond difficult and distastefull. Pond scum also allows a perfect environment for mosquito production. In general, blanket weed in a lake is not a good thing for human use and interaction with the lake. Understanding pond algae To understand the best treatment for it, we need to understand where it starts, and how it starts. When we notice pond scum, we notice it on the top of the water, but that is not where it begins. Fillamentous algae starts at the bottom of your reservoir, and rises through the water profile as it gains bouyancy from the oxygen it produces. Eventually, enough oxygen is produced to lift it to the top of the water where it floats annoyingly. Clear water is the problem The problem is not that your pond or lake water is too murky, the proble m is that it is too clear. Again, I know that this is counter intuative, but bare with me. You have probably heard someone say "I can't see through muddy water." when they wanted you to move out of their line of site. The same principle applies here, because light penetrates straight through clear water, and because sunlight is needed for plant production, if the water is not clear, plant production is limited. If your water is too clear, you will have pond algae. The answer is not to go out and make the water muddy, the answer is to produce a single cell algae known as phytoplankton to tint the water, and prevent sunlight from reaching the bottom. So how do we prevent pond algae? Pond fertility is the answer. Check your pond or lakes water. If it is clear to a depth of more than 20 inches or so, it is too clear, and chances are, your fish are going hungry as well. A good fertilization program will solve both problems, and many others as well. This is how it works: When the proper amount of the proper fertilizer is introduced into the water, in the proper way, the single cell algae known as phytoplankton will reproduce rapidly in a process called algae bloom. This will continue as long as the water is fertile. The green color, or the golden brown coloring that this method produces will tint the water, preventing sunlight penetration, and preventing the growth of fillamentous algae. To learn how to do this see these pages, How To Fertilize A Pond Or Lake Lake Fertilization Lake Management Lake Weed Control Water Depth Secchi Depth and all the posts in this section of Home And Garden Press: Lake Management

How Can I Keep Lake Weeds From Taking Over My Pond?

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The best control is prevention. Preventing lake weeds from infesting your pond or lake is the single most important part of lake weed control. The methods are simple, and straightforward. One is a matter of vigilance, and the other a matter of good management practices. Most of our lake weed problems are with weeds that are not native to our area, therefore, the best method of controling them by prevention is to avoid introducing them into your pond or lake. Prevent non native lake weed problems through vigilance This is a simple matter of making sure that anything that might have been in an infested pond or lake does not make it into your reservoir without a good inspectin and cleaning. This includes boats and fishing tackle, trailers and anything else that went into or near the water. Sometimes animals, and even runoff from other water bodies may be a problem. There is not a lot you can do about natural causes, but they account for only a very small fraction of invasive lake weeds. Most lake infestations come from human carelessness. Lake weed prevention through good management Have you ever noticed how lake weeds start in the shallows? There is a reason. It is because light can reach the bottom. Lake weeds cannot grow without sunlight. It is as simple as that. If you can prevent the sunlight from reaching a depth of more than about 20 inches, you may still have problems in areas that are very shallow, but you will be able to prevent lake weeds from starting in other areas. The method is pretty simple. Here are the steps:
  1. Determine the pH. I put this first, because it is something you should do to make the rest of this exercise success. It should be between 6.8, and 8.6. If it is not, correct it by using lime as described in the lake weed control section of this site.
  2. Determine sechi depth. This is the depth that light can penetrate water. This will tell you what your next step should be. If the sechi depth is under 1 foot, your lake is too fertile, and you need to do something to reduce it's fertility, like planting a vegetative barrier, reducing fertilization around the surrounding area, or increasing water exchange. You can find the answers you need in this section.
  3. Fertilization. If the depth is more than 24 inches, you need to fertilize. Fertility will cause algae bloom, which will result in reduction of light penetration, which will reduce the chances that lake weeds will spring up. The information you need to accomplish this can be found here.
Follow these steps, and you may not avoid all your lake weed problems, but you will reduce them to a manageable level. Remember, You do not want to eliminate all vegetation, just the non native invasives, and excessive natives. About 20% of your lake area should contain vegetation.

Biological Lake Weed Control

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Biological lake weed control involves introducing a species into the lake to destroy the weeds. At the present, there are only a few biological controls available to the lake manager, and they have their drawbacks. Biological controls are popular because they do not involve chemicals, and are perceived as being “earth friendly”, but this may not in fact be the case.

Problems with biological lake weed control

Remember, that the need for the control is probably because a non native species was introduced into the mix to begin with, introducing another to control the first hardly seems wise.

In cases where the “grass carp” has been introduced into environments other than it’s native habitat, the results have been mixed, ranging from achieving the desired control, to lakes completely devoid of vegetation and almost all other forms of aquatic life. Other issues are escape, which can produce disastrous results downstream, and the potential for the accidental release of non sterile, reproductive capable grass carp into the environment.

There are a few other biological controls available. Basically, these are “bugs” that dine on specific species. The same issues exist with them as with the grass carp.

In general, we do not recommend the use of biological control measures for these reasons.

A better form of biological lake weed control

Natural, native biological control can be used safely by simply following good cultural practices for your pond or lake. This simply involves providing for proper pH, proper fertility, and then allowing nature to do the rest. A properly fertilized pond or lake will produce the right amount of phytoplankton to keep the water tinted, and the weeds at bay, as well as producing healthy fish.

See also: How To Fertilize A Pond Or Lake

Lake Mowers Lake Mowing

Lake mowing, that's right, I said lake mowing! Mowing lakes is a form of controling lake weeds without using chemicals or other severe methods. There are 4 types of lake weed management: Prevention, which is preferable, and involves keeping the weeds out, or having the right conditions to keep them from getting started, chemical, which involves the use of herbicides, biological which involves introducing a living species into the water, and mechanical, which is the physical removal of all or part of the weed. Lake mowing falls into the mechanical category.

Lake weed management progression

I would consider this to be the normal progression for most people who find non native, invasive vegetation in their ponds or lakes: Attempt to erradicate, and failing that for long enough, attempt to control and work toward erradication. The best control is prevention, but it is now beyond that point, and the weeds are already multiplying. The next best control, and this should have been done earlier and would have been a part of the prevention program, is to produce enough phytoplankton to tint the water for the purpose of feeding fish, and preventing sunlight from reaching the lake bed. Now, however, you must control the weeds before you can do it. Even if you already have problems with lake weeds, and especially non native invasive lake weeds, this is a step that should be taken as soon as the weeds are controlled. The final step is resignation to the fact that you cannot erradicte the lake weeds, and that continued control is a fact of life. In such a case, you have to make a few choices: Chemical, biological, or mechanical.

Mowing lakes

Mowing lakes is not something that most people think about when mowing is mentioned, but it can be an effective means of maintaining a pond or lake. Admitting this is a bit of a problem for me, you see, from the perspective of a vegetation manager with many years of experience in the field, resigning myself to the fact that we can not get rid of all the non native invasive weeds in a forest or lake is almost tantamount to admitting defeat, and everybody hates losing! After a few rounds with chemicals, and perhaps, a few rounds with biological controls like grass carp, most lake owners have resigned themselves to the fact that treatment and control will be an ongoing process with gains and losses each year. It is obviously best to get rid of invasive lake weeds if possible, but sometimes it becomes more than a manager can handle using the standard methods, so lake mowing begins to look like a good option. In such cases, when a lake or pond manager has reached the end of the proverbial rope, our next best advice is to give mowing a try. The mower to be used should cut smoothly, and with as little vibration and fragmentation as possible, because many aquatic weeds can reproduce from small fragments at a disheartening rate. Less vibration means less fragmentation. The floating remains of the pond weeds should then be gathered and removed from the water for the same reason. If you are resigned to the fact that you will have to have several chemical applications a year, or buy some foriegn fish of questionable reputation, mowing your lake is realy a less expensive option.

Lake mowers

There is one tool on the market which is head and shoulders above the rest, because it cuts cleanly with little vibration, and is user freindly. This is not a product review, it is a product recommendation, because if you are going to have to do it, you should do it with a machine that will not cause further problems.

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

Lake Fertilization

Pond management and lake fertilization

There are times in the life of a pond or lake when clearing the water may be necessary. At those times, there are flocking agents that will do the job well. You should be aware however, that a completely clear pond or lake is not the optimum circumstance for a healthy body of water. Unfortunately, there are many who suffer from the illusion of healthy happy fish in a beautiful crystal clear pond, but it is just that, an illusion! For healthy fish, and for a healthy pond ecosystem, there must be something growing in the water, and that something is phytoplankton. The way to get it is through fertilization.

Nowhere in the world of living things can the effects of fertilization be seen more clearly than in a pond or lake. The effect can be almost immediate, and often drastic. The results, if properly implemented, will be a near incredible increase in fish size and numbers. Properly timed and implemented fertilizer applications will also reduce the population of unwanted submersed and emergent weeds.

An analogy: Cattle pastures and fish ponds

Think of it in terms of a cattle pasture. If you fertilize the grass, the cattle will grow more quickly, and the pasture may be able to support more cows. Reproduction will increase, and pounds of milk or beef per acre will increase. Lake fertilization works the same way. Increased pond fertility will increase the food source for your fish, which will increase their size and numbers. If done properly, you will also cause the grasses to outgrow the weeds.

What kind of fertilizer and how much

Fertilization will produce algae bloom, or phytoplankton in your pond. The right fertilizer is a fertilizer high in phosphorous and low in the other 2 elements. Phosphorous is the middle number in the 3 numbers listed on a bag of fertilizer. You need to add 40 lbs of 20% phosphorous, or 20 lbs of 40% phosphorous, or something similar in ratio per acre to initiate algae bloom. It takes about 4 to 8 pounds of pure phosphorous to produce or maintain algae bloom in an acre of water. If you had a product with 80% active ingredient, you would need about 10 pounds. However you get there, you need about 8 pounds of the second number in the fertilizer label, and as little of the other ingredients as possible.

There are some great pond and lake fertilizers available, but if you can’t find them, regular old high phosphorous agricultural fertilizer granules can be used. There are also liquids available, but when using liquids in a pond or lake, always remember that the fertilizer is heavier than the pond water, and will sink to the bottom unless you add water before releasing it into the pond water.

An alternative to phosphorous for pond fertilization

With phosphorous being closely monitored today, and restrictions on the horizon, it may be a good idea to look into alternatives such as the ones mentioned in this post by Mr. Bhaskar on our Lake Advice Blog: Diatom Algae. For the details on various methods fertilize your pond see Pond Fertilization Methods . Find more information about the effects of lake fertilization throughout this site.

Lake Advice Product Development


We are still working on our new products, and we needed another season to work out some logistical details like shipping, and to perform adequate field testing before deciding on a release date. Thus far, the products have proven to be safe, effective, and a good alternative to products currently available on the market. We will let everyone know when we have more information available.


After many years of field work in agriculture, aquaculture and vegetation control we have realized a need for products that don’t exist, but should. With that in mind, we have initiated the development of products to meet those needs, and development is well underway. 2 products should be available in the spring, and there will be more on the way within the next year.

The 2 products to be released in the spring deal with weed and filamentous algae control by non toxic means, and one should increase fish production as well.

Please contact us to let us know if you are interested. Lead time is crucial. Contact us at: