Algae 101

Algae in Your Pond

Is algae making your pond water green and slimy? No matter where you live, algae is in the water. While too much algae can create numerous problems, they are essential to the ecosystem, providing food for all types of animals including fish, insects, mollusks, zooplankton (microscopic animals). Algae occur naturally in all types of systems and are indicators of an ecosystem’s condition, including the amount and type of nutrients present in the water.

Are algae plants?

Algae 1The classification of algae has long been debated by plant taxonomists. Algae are able to photosynthesize, a key characteristic of plants, but lack true roots, stems, or leaves so are not considered plants. The two main groups of algae are prokaryotes (no nucleus) including the blue-green algae (aka cyanobacteria); and eukaryotes (contain a nucleus). There are microscopic algae, like phytoplankton; and macroalgae that can be seen by the naked eye.

Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs)

Although most algae are not harmful, blooms of some types of algae can be detrimental to the environment, plants, or animals. A few species release toxins that are hazardous to animals and humans. Cyanobacteria are the most common form of toxic algae. Their toxins cause skin irritation on contact, or more severe reactions if the water is ingested. In addition to identification of problem algae, toxin testing is also available.

Types of Algae

  • Cyanophyta - Blue-green algae which can exist in low nutrient to very high nutrient environments.
  • Chlorophyta - Green algae is the most diverse group with 7000 species identified
  • Bacillariophyta (Diatoms) - Considered a quite beautiful group due to their silica shell design
  • Xanthophyta - Yellow-green algae with branching filaments that form scum in still or stagnant fresh water
  • Charophyta (Stoneworts) - Often mistaken for true plants due to the whorls of filaments that occur at nodes along the shoot

Controlling Algae

Algae 1

Diffused Aeration

Ever see a fish tank with bubbles? This is the same principle applied to larger bodies of water. Adding oxygen to water with bottom diffused aeration can help reduce the nutrients that promote algae growth by speeding up the breakdown of organic matter at the bottom of the lake, thereby reducing the nutrient rich muck buildup. Removing this 'stratification' through aeration also balances the pH levels. Many of the worst algae species including the 'toxic' ones prefer high pH still-water habitats. Vertex offers the broadest range of aeration products for all sizes of ponds and lakes.

Biological options

There are a number of agents that can reduce algae by:

  • Increasing beneficial microorganisms that reduce nitrogen, balance the pH levels and speed up the breakdown of muck
  • Shading the water to reduce photosynthesis
  • Binding to nutrients to make them inaccessible to algae