How To Get Rid Of Filamentous Algae

Published: 26th May 2010
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If you have a water feature in your back yard then there are two words you probably dread to hear - filamentous algae. It is perhaps the most feared algae that can appear in our ponds. This is because it reproduces incredibly fast and can cling to any surface of the pond.

Fortunately it is a species that is easy to identify by appearance. If this is a problem that you have and want to remove once and for all then keep on reading.

Filamentous algae are unicellular but they grow together in strands. There are three main species common in water bodies in Europe and the US. These are Pithophora, Cladophora, and Spirogya. The latter is easy to spot as it has a bright green neon colouring. Other characteristic signs are bubbles of scum on the surface and a slimy appearance. Cladophora has a more cotton like appearance than other filamentous algae. It is actually quite a common species found in shallow areas of water. Pithophora have an appearance similar to horse hair as their filaments are thicker and almost wool like.

Understand that it is natural for a water body to have some amount of algae present. In a small number filamentous algae is not really a problem and will not increase as fast as other forms of algae. It will only become a real issue if there is high nitrate levels in the water which are food for algae. If the conditions are right then filamentous algae can produce a pond that has a mat of green scum on the surface and no aquatic life below.

To prevent this problem from getting out of hand you will need to keep a check on the water that flows into the pond and if necessary add an enzyme or other product to break down any algae or bacteria that exist. If possible try to remove organic matter from the water and also minimize the potential for debris to add to the problem in the future, for example make sure any overhanging branches are cut back and dead leaves do not enter the pond.

When you see string algae forming make the effort to physically remove as much as possible. Search areas where it can take hold, for example around rocks and the pump. If the algae is visible around the pump than there may be a problem in the way water is circulated and filtrated. A good filtration system would also help ensure that algae are kept down to a minimum.

If practical it can be worthwhile emptying out the water from the pond and physically cleaning the bed. You will be amazed at the difference it can make. Be wary of using chemical cleaners as these may be harmful to the plant and animal life you want to encourage.

It is possible to improve the water quality with barley straw. This releases an enzyme harmless to fish but not so positive for algae. The amount of straw required would depend upon the size of your pond.

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