Floaters for a Temperate/Cold pond?

Discussion in 'Aquatic Plants' started by Whistling Badger, Apr 8, 2014.

  1. Whistling Badger

    Whistling Badger Specializing in Making Simple Things Complicated

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    Hello, Pond People. My pond has a problem. Perhaps you can help. Since this is my first on-topic post here, I will be fairly detailed, because (as I know from my aquarium experience) details matter. That makes for sort of a long post. Please bear with me.

    The short version: I need some recommendations for cold-hardy floating plants to combat a Green Slime Plague of near-Biblical proportions.

    The Pond: My pond is about 35' across, 7-8' deep when full, fed by an intermittent irrigation ditch. Lined with EPDM covered with river stones. It is not directly connected to the local waterways, so I'm not too worried about invasives. Formerly stocked with a half-dozen large goldfish and assorted native critters, all of which died over the winter due to decomposing algae under the ice.

    The water level fluctuates hugely, due to the intermittency of the ditch, combined with a leak in the pond liner about halfway down. So parts of the pond vary from high-and-dry, sometimes for several weeks, to being under 3' of water. Finding a plant that can handle both extremes is a bit of a challenge, needless to say. Also, our climate is between zones 3 and 4, which narrows the choices right down.

    The Problem: Last summer, for the first time in 10+ years of living here, I had a HUGE algae bloom. Disgusting green slime took over our entire pond, ruining its beauty, ruining it for boating and wading, even killing off all the fish over the winter. It has already started up again this spring, just a couple weeks after ice-out. I suspect someone upstream from me has either put in a feedlot or started fertilizing their hayfield, because obviously the nutrient levels are way up.

    The Solution: So, since I have absolutely no control over my water supply, I think I need some plants that will function as a gigantic nutrient sponge, that I can just rake out if they get too thick. Something fast-growing, tough, hard to kill. And it has to float, because the huge water level fluctuation rules out water lilies, cattails, and some of the other usual suspects.

    I am leaning toward hornwort, because I already have a bunch in my aquarium, and because I've heard it does OK in cool water. And it grows like a fiend! I'm also considering anacharis.

    My Questions: Any other recommendations? Has anyone kept these plants in cold water, and if so, how do they do? Do they survive under the ice, or do they die off in the winter? Any info would be appreciated.

    Thanks--
    Tom
     
    Whistling Badger, Apr 8, 2014
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  2. Whistling Badger

    sissy sissy

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    I know here they use big floating pond pumps to aerate them and some just use aeration plates and a big box sits on the ground out side there ponds .But they are very expensive and they also use pond dye .In this heat I guess it is the only option they have .Some use those healthy pond balls they get off northern tool ,I asked one guy what the balls were that he had floating around in his pond .I looked at them but no clue what is in them .I guess what I am saying there are many choices .They also take stuff out by hand .What happens with most ponds is run off of high amounts of nutrients from farm animals and fertilizing of field crops
     
    sissy, Apr 8, 2014
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  3. Whistling Badger

    sissy sissy

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    Chesapeake Bay project has been trying to stop the farm run off for years with minimal luck .I see they are making farms now put up those black run off silt stuff .Farmers are having a tough time of it as it is and the added expense is not helping
     
    sissy, Apr 8, 2014
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  4. Whistling Badger

    callingcolleen1 mad hatter

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    Forget about floating plants, they are too tropical and do not get growing well until the water is very warm, and by then the algae has taken over.
    Get large clumps of hardy sedges, such as catails, iries, and rushes. Large sedges are best for cleaning pond. Just wedge shoots between the rocks on the shore line and wait a couple seasons for them to get really big.
    Get lots of water movement, the more your disturb the surface of water, the less amount of algae will grow.
    Darken the water with a pond dye, harmless and will fitler out some sun.
    Get the guck off the bottom of the pond, net it out or something....
     
    callingcolleen1, Apr 9, 2014
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  5. Whistling Badger

    callingcolleen1 mad hatter

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    Put that hornwort in too, it helps lots. See if you can get some duckweed to grow, that will block the sun good, if the fish do not eat it all. Maybe get duckweed to grow in large round floating baskets or something and then give the excess to the fish.
     
    callingcolleen1, Apr 9, 2014
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  6. Whistling Badger

    Waterbug

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    Since this is a very large body of water a bit of serious research would be a big help rather than relying on myths that are very wide spread on the net. Try lake management type info. Many Universities publish how to info for regular people. Fish and Game and the Ag Dept also publish good, easy to read info. Best to try for local sources if possible.
    Here's one from the state of Washington.

    I say this because chasing myths is fine for small backyard ponds, no big harm. But in such a large pond it can be very expensive. For example, aeration is not very effective and can increase algae. It depends on the kinds of algae you have, depth, how air is applied. Spending a $1000 and making it worst is no fun.

    Reducing nutrients with plants could reduce algae growth, but certainly won't eliminated it, and it is not actually very effective at all. If you could stop additional nutrients from entering the pond it could still take years for nutrient levels to fall. It's a Catch-22, using plants to starve other plants isn't really possible. They all use the same nutrients. As they break down nutrients are released. So if you could get plants going the only way to reduce nutrients long term is to pull the plants out as they grow. In a pond your size you'd be talking about tons of bio mass every year. A lot of work.

    Getting any submerged plant like hornwort established isn't going to be easy in 7-8' of green water. Not a lot of light getting down there. Not to mention the war plants wage with each other by producing chemicals. If you can get plants established they might be able to win that chemical battle.

    If you do want to try plants I'd consider duckweed. It's a floater, can reproduce fast (but that is not certain), and there are native species in your area. And that really goes for any plant, use natives. You may not be concerned about invasive species but I can assure you many people who live around you, who would be impacted, are concerned. However, if you really don't care you could import some zebra mussels. They can handle your climate and will make water clear in maybe 5-10 years. Of course if your neighbors find out you did this they'd probably do unspeakable things to you.

    The most effective method is chemical. This can be something like copper sulfate algaecide which is very cost effective and if managed properly can be used with fish. There are other algaecides but I think they're more expensive. Other types of chemicals bond with phosphorus but may require specific kinds of aeration.

    Step one is to test the water to see what the nutrient levels actually are. $100-150 for a well done analysis. Your state Ag Dept might be a lot cheaper. People assume green water = high nutrients, but that's not exactly right. By the time the water is green the nutrients have been removed from the water by the algae. And that's why adding plants doesn't really do anything...you already have a plant removing all the nutrients...algae. Just to learn for yourself about this nutrient thing try testing the water in a clear lake or pond nearby. Chances are good that it will have nutrient levels way high enough for algae to grow, but the water is clear.

    The point is, for a serious solution, you really need to get serious about research and/or working with a profession lake management company (they do ponds too). Getting the latest fad floating around the web is just going to disappoint you. There are real solutions but it has to be specific to your pond.
     
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2014
    Waterbug, Apr 9, 2014
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  7. Whistling Badger

    adavisus

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    It's quite feasible to set out rafts of the most effective nitrate sucking plants, station them where the disgusting effluence dribbles into your pond which will go some way to crushing the toxic input levels.

    Scrounging palettes, old tires, chaining them together into whatever configuration you like, tossing some net over the structure and stuffing aquatic iris, water hyacinth among the frame so they grow bare root in effect. When Winter comes, use a tractor to drag the surplus masses of foliage out with a tractor, let them dry out for animal fodder or burn them

    With an effective proportion of plants don't be surprised if the pond goes into depleted condition with about two weeks of the growing season and the algae fizzles out

    Now, might be time to get your big girl pants on and brace yourself for a tintsy wintsy bit of the academic tosh:

    Removals of Nitrogen and Phosphorus in Taihu Lake Water by Four Hydrophytes in Winter Season
    Huang, Lei; Zhai, Jian-ping; Wang, Chuan-yu; Nie, Rong; Yuan, Dong-hai
    Journal of Agro-Environment Science. Vol. 24, no. 2, pp. 366-370. 2005


    We examined four hydrophytes including Elodea Canadensis Michx., Potamogeton crispus Linn., Oenanthe javanica (Bl.) DC. and Acorus tatarinowii Schott, capable of decontaminating total nitrogen (TN), total phosphor (TP) NH4 - N and NO3 - N at the different nutritional levels during winter period in Taihu Lake. The nutritional levels in the lake were found to be classified as meso -, eutro -, hypertrophic and tolerant concentration, respectively. The results showed that all the hydrophytes studied in our test were capable of absorbing the nutrients substance effectively, but Elodea Canadensis Michx. was stronger than Potamogeton crispus Linn. in the submerged plants, and Oenanthe javanica (Bl.) D C. was better than Potamogeton crispus Linn. in the emerged plants. Adaptabilities of both Oenanthe javanica (Bl.) D C. and Elodea Canadensis Michx towards environmental changes and the ability of removing nitrogen and phosphor at a certain condition were very close. Therefore, the both may be used as the two - layer structured FAMS (Floating Aquatic Macrophyte - based Treatment System), able to renovate eutrophication water at Taihu areas and may improve renovated efficiency of hydrophytes at low temperature season. Meanwhile, the absorbing abilities of hydrophytes towards nitrogen and phosphor increased with the enhanced nutrition concentrations. When the concentration exceeded a certain value, the growth of hydrophytes was restrained, resulting in a decrease of absorbing abilities to nutrient substance, and exacerbating water quality. So we should seek a correct concentration for different hydrophytes renovating eutrophication water more effectively.

    Productivity and nutrient removal potentials of aquatic macrophytes with varying life forms and growth environment.
    Kong, D-S; Jung, W-H; Jeon, S-O
    Korean Journal of Limnology. Vol. 32, no. 3, pp. 216-228. 1999.

    Net productivity and nutrient removal potentials of vascular hydrophytes with different life forms were estimated in the natural wetland of the river-reservoir Paldang (Korea) and the macrophyte-based sewage treatment system. In the reservoir, the annual uptake rates of nitrogen and phosphorus by vascular hydrophytes were only about 1% of the external load. However, the uptake ratio in the macrophyte-growing area during April- June was about 27% of the external load. Culturing water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes) within the reservoir, nitrogen and phosphorus uptake rates were in the range 0.56- 1.67gNm super(-2) super(-1) and 0.08-0.33gPm super(-2) super(-1), respectively. In the free floating treatment systems for sewage with four macrophytes, water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes), iris (Iris ensata var. spontanea), cattail (Typha angustifolia) and water dropwort (Oenanthe javanica), the phosphorus contents of macrophytes were closely related with the phosphorus concentration in water. In the pond systems with the hydraulic retention time (HRT) of 2.2 day, BOD removal efficiencies were in the range of 61- 68%, and those were not so different among macrophyte species. In the water hyacinth system, the phosphorus removal rates were 0.22 and 0.16 gPm super(-2) super(-1) in the raw sewage and in the secondary treated sewage water, respectively, while the other emergent macrophyte systems showed the low range of 0.06- 0.12 and 0.03- 0.06 gPm super(-2) super(-1), respectively. In the secondary-treated sewage, water hyacinth absorbed 31- 58% of the removed nitrogen and 47- 54% of the removed phosphorus. However, the uptake/removal ratio in the other emergent macrophyte systems were less than 5% for nitrogen and 10% for phosphorus.

    I hope it was not to painful :)

    Regards, andy
    http://swglist.wordpress.com/
    http://www.pinterest.com/adavisus/pondering/
     
    adavisus, Apr 9, 2014
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  8. Whistling Badger

    Whistling Badger Specializing in Making Simple Things Complicated

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    Thanks for the info, everybody.

    I have gotten in contact with a friend of mine who is a fisheries biologist, and I'm sure he'll be able to point me in the right direction as far as figuring out what's actually going on. The reason I suspect increased nutrients is that I have had this pond for a long time, and I've never had this happen before. My pond is fed from an irrigation ditch which comes out of a smallish creek. This creek comes out of the mountains about 10 miles away and flows through hay fields and cattle ranches before it gets to our place. Looking at what might have changed in the area where I live, increased nutrients (probably from a change in upstream agricultural practices) seems most likely.

    I have thought about the fact that plants absorb nutrients, only to release them again, as "waterbug" mentioned. That is another reason I want floaters, not submerged plants--I can just rake them out when they get too thick, using them for mulch/fertilizer on other projects around my place. Easier than trying to rake out green slime. Plus, floaters would shade the water somewhat. The entire surface of my pond is exposed to direct sunlight. This is not the main problem, but I'm sure it contributes.

    Aeration and "getting the guck off the bottom" are really not practical solutions. As "waterbug" pointed out, this is a really big pond, not a small ornamental. The pond is exposed to frequent breezes and has a huge surface/volume ratio (most of it is fairly shallow; just the middle 1/3 or so is deep), so I don't think oxygen concentration is the problem.

    Adavisis, my pond is lined with EPDM, covered with stones, so I don't think tractoring the bottom would be a great idea. :) Besides, I'm guessing the plants you mentioned would not survive being left high-and-dry for long periods of time. Like I said, it's a complicated problem. :)

    Thanks again for the comments. I think for now I'll toss in some hornwort and see what happens, while continuing to research. I'll let you know what I find out.

    Tom
     
    Whistling Badger, Apr 9, 2014
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  9. Whistling Badger

    adavisus

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    It's fairly easy to set some planks as a ramp, to drag a raft of floating plants out. Once raised from the water the mass will lose a lot of weight when it drains and dries out, making it easy to dispose of surplus plants, The floating raft, island, of plants, with the plants growing bare root in open water will achieve the fastest growth rates from a phytofiltration pov

    Regards, andy
    http://swglist.wordpress.com/
    http://www.pinterest.com/adavisus/pondering/
     
    adavisus, Apr 9, 2014
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  10. Whistling Badger

    Whistling Badger Specializing in Making Simple Things Complicated

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    Interesting idea! I'll give that some thought.
     
    Whistling Badger, Apr 9, 2014
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  11. Whistling Badger

    adavisus

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    Short of creating a separate settlement pond or channel to intercept the incoming polluted water, a floating island will be the most efficient way to extract Nitrogen and phosphate pollution, plants growing bare root are going to max out growth rates

    As pretty as you like, such a feature.

    Regards, andy
    http://swglist.wordpress.com/
    http://www.pinterest.com/adavisus/pondering/
     
    adavisus, Apr 9, 2014
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  12. Whistling Badger

    Whistling Badger Specializing in Making Simple Things Complicated

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    OK; I'm trying to get a picture in my head of what that would look like. Do you have any links or pics of something similar I could have a look at? I like the idea! Sounds pretty, functional, and would probably increase the wildlife value, too. I'm sure the deer would enjoy eating it, if nothing else. :)

    Tom
     
    Whistling Badger, Apr 10, 2014
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  13. Whistling Badger

    adavisus

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    The aztecs success as a civilisation was largely a result of floating plant islands. They raised crops easier, were stronger and healthier etc.

    take your pick among these though many of the attempts are bit gerry built of fabricated re purposed stuff

    https://www.google.com/search?q=floating plant island&safe=off&es_sm=91&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=RbFGU7K4JsOX0gGvmoHgAg&ved=0CAgQ_AUoAQ

    I quite like the idea of bolting tires together, to make an informal shape, covering it with net so plants can root where you want them perty wise. Ye olde plant island photo looks like something I would create, elegant, stable, functional, superb plant selection. Laevigata iris, Gardeners garters, pennywort, Creeping Jenny. Splendid!

    Regards, andy
    http://swglist.wordpress.com/
    http://www.pinterest.com/adavisus/pondering/
    Ye-Garden-plant-island9.jpg
     
    Last edited: Apr 10, 2014
    adavisus, Apr 10, 2014
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  14. Whistling Badger

    Whistling Badger Specializing in Making Simple Things Complicated

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    Cool. What do people use for floats? It would have to be something fairly substantial, given the amount of biomass that thing is holding. Something air-filled, I'm guessing, since wood will eventually waterlog and sink. Big chunks of closed-cell foam, maybe. That's what it looks like on the gooogle search. Empty plastic gerry cans. Something like that.

    I am visualizing several smaller ones for my pond, so they're easy to move (I get what you were saying about the tractor, now, but I don't have one so it's a moot point). Maybe half a palette each, but about five or six of them.
     
    Whistling Badger, Apr 10, 2014
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  15. Whistling Badger

    adavisus

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    Ah, the secrets of knowing your stuff before you build it... Aquatic plants have a neutral to lighter density than water, when they mesh together they float. No need for styrofoam or any other flotation aids, these kids do not need water wings...

    Where your water level fluctuates, so do the plants :)

    Old tires are like a convenient iceberg, they provide a ready made modular shape to establish a structure which the plants can romp and mesh merry...

    Regards, andy
    http://swglist.wordpress.com/
    http://www.pinterest.com/adavisus/pondering/
     
    adavisus, Apr 10, 2014
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  16. Whistling Badger

    Whistling Badger Specializing in Making Simple Things Complicated

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    Ah, yes, knowing before building. I have learned that one the hard way, believe me! ha ha ha

    So, really, they'll float on their own? With enough buoyancy to hold up the tire/wood understructure, too? Fascinating!

    The reason I need to be able to move them is that about half of my pond is pretty shallow, and those parts are often left high and dry for a week or more at a time. And this is Wyoming, so when I say dry, I mean *really* dry. So I will need to be able to drag the rafts into the deeper part occasionally so the roots don't dry out and die.

    Still not sure this is the way I want to go, but it's definitely a very interesting idea!
     
    Whistling Badger, Apr 10, 2014
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  17. Whistling Badger

    adavisus

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    That is the elegance of the tire structure, they are tough as boots, won't puncture the liner, will go where they are towed, rise and fall with the epic floods. Or droughts. They give the plants a stable form to mesh up over and around. Plonk a bit of decking on them and loaf, feeeel the buoyancy. Additionally they are free, indestructible, and black so you hardly notice them when they are adrift

    Your fish will thank you the shade will moderate brutal water temps from 90's to 70's and Mr Heron is going to have a hard time fetching his sushi

    Regards, andy
    http://swglist.wordpress.com/
    http://www.pinterest.com/adavisus/pondering/
     
    adavisus, Apr 10, 2014
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  18. Whistling Badger

    Whistling Badger Specializing in Making Simple Things Complicated

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    Tires...hm. Have to put some plains kilifish in there to keep the mosquitoes out of them. The goldfish take care of that for the rest of the pond, but they get big enough to not be able to fit inside floating plant roots...

    My water actually stays fairly cool, due to frequent influx from the ditch, and frequent emptying for irrigation. But some shade would still be a good thing.

    Again, thanks for the info, everybody.

    Tom
     
    Whistling Badger, Apr 10, 2014
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  19. Whistling Badger

    Shdwdrgn

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    Might I suggest moneywort (creeping jenny) around the edges of your pond? Its an amazing plant that spreads fast once it is established, and it does well completely out of the water or fully submerged, so it would be able to handle your constant level fluctuations. If you tucked it into the rocks near the top edge of your high-water line, it would probably start creeping its way down into deeper waters over time. Also any portion of it that doesn't freeze will stay green underwater through the Winter, and provide a head-start against algae in the early Spring.
     
    Shdwdrgn, Apr 13, 2014
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  20. Whistling Badger

    Waterbug

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    It is true plants consume nutrients. It is true algae need nutrients to reproduce. And it is true that many, many people on the internet connect those two facts to come up with a new fact, that plants can consume enough nutrients that algae can't grow. However, if you read any, and I mean any, study done you will see that it is no where as simple as that. You will see plants can reduce algae blooms...not eliminate.

    Even basic common sense doesn't support the plants starve algae theory. Single cell algae needs almost no nutrients to reproduce and both the algae and plants are consuming the same nutrients...it makes zero sense that the plants could remove enough nutrients to stop algae growth. If a person believes this idea then surely the algae would reduce nutrients to the point that the plants stop growing. If the plants are growing and the algae is starved what exactly are the plants using for nutrients? For the plant starving algae theory to be valid the algae would have to refuse to consume nutrients and instead let them float past so the plants can get them. Basically the algae have to commit suicide.

    A green pond will almost always have 0 ammonia, nitrate or phosphorus. Yet the algae will continue to grow. This is because a 0 reading doesn't mean nutrients aren't in the pond. It only means there's 0 in the water sample because the algae is continuously consuming the nutrients. You can dump a bag of fertilizer into the pond every day and the nutrient level may stay at 0.

    If you look at data from "constructed wetlands wastewater treatment" you will see that it takes a lot of plants to reduce nutrients. And that's only reduced. Still enough nutrients for algae and plants to grow just fine.

    A pond continuously fed from farm runoff would be very similar to the same issue with wastewater treatment.

    There are ways plants can clear a pond but chasing nutrients has never worked in the history of the world. It is simply impossible. Reducing algae growth and creating water toxic to algae (clear water) are 2 entirely different processes. Extremely easy to test the difference.
     
    Waterbug, Apr 19, 2014
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