Understanding Algae

By Patrick Simmsgeiger, Founder of DWI


They have existed for nearly 4 billion years. With names such as mustard, red, moss, fungi, green, and mold, many structures, both man-made and natural have succumbed to their wrath. These outlaws take no prisoners, clogging any screen, filter, or pipeline mobilized in their path. They derive special pleasure from staining and rotting wood, doing so with noxious resolve.

Welcome to the wonderful would of algae. Algae are nothing more than simple plants, only microscopic in proportion. Most noticeable in water, they are also present in the air and on earth, and require similar nurturing to plants for chlorophyll production.

When not ravaging lakes, streams, and the like, their primary function is to maintain the natural balance of life cycles. As humans interject discord into the cycle by constructing recreational or aesthetic water barriers, these single-celled organisms consider this an open invitation to linger and multiply.

With well over 30,000 varieties, algae have been discovered thriving in the severest of environments. They are quite comfortable in mountain glaciers, hot springs, and even in waters whose high salinity content obstructs other plant life from prospering. Algae tend to concentrate in the shallowest areas and outward into deeper water, always aspiring to attach themselves to a well ventilated damp well.

It is painfully obvious that algae have been afflicted with dual personalities. Although they are engaged in the thankless responsibility of giving life, they insist on creating quite a “stink” during the process. Long after humanity vanishes, however, algae will continue to plunder just as they have since the beginning of time.

Algae is everywhere. Without it our waters would not sustain life and mankind would not benefit from its countless qualities and boundless beauty. But what happens when our precious ecosystems are not in balance? We’ve all seen it. Algae can turn your pristine reflection pond into a stagnant bowl of pea soup or perhaps plug your irrigation lake and pumping equipment with its slimy strands. Even minor growth around your shoreline can cause loss of water flow and trap debris. So, do you Love it or Leave it?

The answer, Don’t Love it and Don’t Leave it. Appreciate it and Control it. How? Educate yourself and follow these simple guidelines:

  1. Consult with an experienced Aquatic PCA (Pest Control Advisor).
  2. Establish a seasonal history. It’s likely that your body of water has repeated algae growth season after season.
  3. Learn to anticipate its growth. This is where the history comes in handy. Early treatment will save you much time and money.
  4. Practice tried and true methods for Algae control. Avoid the biological potions that are being solicited. It is unlikely they will provide any significant improvement.

You may be telling yourself, yes I’ve experienced some of perhaps all of the problems listed about but no one is complaining and it’s not hurting anything. Right? Wrong!

Every body of water has a life span. Man made and natural. Eventually all that algae you’re allowing to proliferate and then die off at the season’s end are forming sludge. A lot of sludge. Left untreated, a couple acre-feet of water can easily sustain growth of several tons of algae a season. Sooner or later your water volume will decrease substantially necessitating dredging long before its time.

What is the best product for training algae? For best results, a highly refined copper chelate is still the most effective. It’s environmentally friendly and is cost effective. Copper has been given a bad rap lately and for good reason. For years applications of copper sulfate have been used to control algae and its done a good job. However, copper sulfate in a non-chelated form will produce copper carbonates and other toxic precipitates that will accumulate on the pond or lake bottom causing disposal nightmares and stifling aquatic life. So be sure the formula you’re using is chelated. Now, not all chelated copper algaecides are the same. Take your time to choose and be selective. Most algaecides on the market have weak chelating agents that will cause them to break down in high pH and high alkaline water. Look for an algaecide with a low pH and high active ingredient. With proper use, this will ensure safe for the environment applications and effective algae control.

Lastly, don’t be afraid to be aggressive when tackling your project. Follow all manufacturer directions for application and if you are unsure of dosage rates or would like some application advise, pick up the phone and call the manufacturers technical support. They will be happy to give you a few tips.

Posted on April 16, 2014 and filed under Algae Control.