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#141813 - 12/17/08 11:28 AM alum/quicklime safe for fish?
dekalb08 Offline
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Registered: 09/20/08
Posts: 14
Loc: E Texas
From what I've read, the pH of the water is pretty important if you do this treatment. Can someone go through the safety issue, when the chemical reaction gets toxic to fish? Some places say to just use ag lime or gypsum or barley hay to clear water, others that these may not work. Consensus here seems to be to use alum.

My little pond (<1/4 acre)was just dug this summer, and it's in gray clay. The trackhoe dug 11' deep without ever getting through the clay layer, so it holds water good. But it never has attempted to settle out. I can see through about 18", which is probably good enough for fish, but my wife calls it the mud puddle. It's stocked with CCF, HBG, RESF, and FHM.

I tried to clear the water early on (when it was only full in the deep part) with alum and ag lime, but it just got milky white and never did clear up. I covered the rest of the bottom with ag lime then, but haven't tried anything since it filled all the way in September. Don't want to cause a fishkill.

I guess it's just an aesthetic concern- I'd like to see the fish. Is that crazy? All the ponds around here (east TX) seem to be muddy, and it was the same in red clay west TX, where I used to live. There's lots of gypsum in the soil there, so I'm kind of skeptical about how well gypsum works.

thanks

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#141825 - 12/17/08 12:56 PM Re: alum/quicklime safe for fish? [Re: dekalb08]
bobad Offline
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Registered: 06/02/05
Posts: 2365
Loc: Eunice, Louisiana
Dekalb08,

I'll address safety, as aesthetics are up to you.

Hydrated lime is very harsh. If you make a white cloud of hydrated lime in the water, any fish the swim through it will be killed quickly or at least stressed and some may die later. That's why it's important to keep the mixture area as small and isolated as possible. Try to do it in an area that has little cover and few fish. You can splash and stomp around and scare them away from the cloud. I've applied several bags carefully, and only killed a dozen or so fish. I find that an acceptable trade off, but it also killed tadpoles, crawfish, shrimp, etc.

Alum is not nearly as harsh as hydrated lime. I've noticed that it freaks the fish out and makes them jump sometimes, but I've never seen a floater. It's still advisable to keep the the rich mixture area as small and isolated as possible. Alum mixes very readily with water (about as easy as dissolving sugar or salt), so that's not a problem.
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#141829 - 12/17/08 02:03 PM Re: alum/quicklime safe for fish? [Re: bobad]
Shawn Banks Offline
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Registered: 08/20/03
Posts: 288
Loc: Northwest MO
Dekalb08,

The problem with alum is that it can cause the pH of the water to drop (become more acidic). Drastic pH swings can kill fish. The question is whether or not it will occur in your water. Where I am located (NW Missouri) most of the ponds are well buffered and are resilient to the huge pH shifts that can occur with adding any acidic substance.

Folks in the southern part of the state aren't so furtunate so they often have to add AG lime with the alum. The ag lime helps balance the pH or counteract the drop in pH by raising it. Think of it as an equalizer.

I beleive there are certain areas in Texas that often require the use of Ag lime with alum, but other areas don't need the ag lime. Not knowing where these regions are or the dynamics of your soil, I suggest you contact a professional biologist or soil scientist in the area that is familiar with your area. There are several Texans that frequent this site that could help you including Bob Lusk and Todd Overton. Or perhaps someone else on the forum lives close and can communicate their experiences.

I've only messed with alum a few times, and the amount needed to get the results we were after always exceeded what was recommended by various websites, extension publications, etc.

Good luck and keep us posted. Shawn
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#141836 - 12/17/08 03:14 PM Re: alum/quicklime safe for fish? [Re: Shawn Banks]
dekalb08 Offline
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Registered: 09/20/08
Posts: 14
Loc: E Texas
Just a bit more on aesthetics vs functionality. I should mention that I have been to ponds in Tennessee where the creeks run clear, and I have a friend there with spring-fed trout runs and a fishpond as clear as a swimming pool, full of trophy bass. It may not be possible for me to get close to that, or maybe even really desirable? I read (not sure if it was here) about a guy from neighboring Red River county who'd tried everything but still couldn't "fix" his muddy water problem. The only pond I've seen locally that wasn't muddy was neon green (guess he added too much fertilizer).

Is clean water really that much more productive? What's the ideal, seeing 3' down or clear to the bottom?

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#141843 - 12/17/08 04:19 PM Re: alum/quicklime safe for fish? [Re: dekalb08]
Theo Gallus Offline
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Registered: 05/14/04
Posts: 12332
Loc: Central Ohio
Ideal for fish productivity is visibility in the 18" - 24" range, due to plankton rather than suspended sediment.
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#141847 - 12/17/08 05:23 PM Re: alum/quicklime safe for fish? [Re: Theo Gallus]
Rainman Offline
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Shawn, just for clarity you use HYDRATED (quick, slaked, etc)lime alond with the alum aplication for insuring no PH chang50% Hy. Lime of the alum used. The use of AG lime will NOT offset a potential PH drop when applying alum.

AG lime is very slow to act and can be added in any amount to a pond safely as the PH of AG lime is well below the max that fish can tolerate. For the slow/long acting benefits of ag lime, it is used as a general pond buffer over NORMAL PH swings experianced.
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#141885 - 12/17/08 09:58 PM Re: alum/quicklime safe for fish? [Re: Rainman]
Shawn Banks Offline
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Registered: 08/20/03
Posts: 288
Loc: Northwest MO
Good catch!! Hydrated lime is calcium hydroxide and has a greater influence when applied at the same time as alum.
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#141921 - 12/18/08 09:39 AM Re: alum/quicklime safe for fish? [Re: Shawn Banks]
dekalb08 Offline
Lunker

Registered: 09/20/08
Posts: 14
Loc: E Texas
"Ideal for fish productivity is visibility in the 18" - 24" range, due to plankton rather than suspended sediment. "

Theo,

When you say sediment are you meaning clay? As I understand it, soil is composed of various percentages of sand, silt, and clay. Sand and silt particles are too large to stay in suspension. Even clay will settle out pretty quickly if the water chemistry is right.

Then, after the water is clear, the whole fertility, algae, plankton thing comes in?

Guess that I'm just asking whether muddy ponds need to be cleared to ever get to that ideal?

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#141923 - 12/18/08 10:01 AM Re: alum/quicklime safe for fish? [Re: dekalb08]
bobad Offline
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Registered: 06/02/05
Posts: 2365
Loc: Eunice, Louisiana
 Originally Posted By: dekalb08
Guess that I'm just asking whether muddy ponds need to be cleared to ever get to that ideal?



From what I've seen, fish do fine in 1 foot and greater visibility. If your pond is new, it's not urgent to get it cleared up. Most ponds clear up naturally in a year or 2. So unless you're really muddy, I wouldn't worry too much.
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#141926 - 12/18/08 11:21 AM Re: alum/quicklime safe for fish? [Re: dekalb08]
Theo Gallus Offline
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Registered: 05/14/04
Posts: 12332
Loc: Central Ohio
 Originally Posted By: dekalb08
Theo,

When you say sediment are you meaning clay? As I understand it, soil is composed of various percentages of sand, silt, and clay. Sand and silt particles are too large to stay in suspension. Even clay will settle out pretty quickly if the water chemistry is right.

Yes.
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#141928 - 12/18/08 11:30 AM Re: alum/quicklime safe for fish? [Re: Theo Gallus]
Rainman Offline
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Dakalb, have you done a jar test to see if anything settles?

FWIW, colloidal clay (negatively charged) will never settle from the water.

Also, is there any possibilty carp or bullheads can get into your pond from creeks or ponds that eventually drain into yours?
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#141940 - 12/18/08 01:39 PM Re: alum/quicklime safe for fish? [Re: Rainman]
Ryan Freeze Offline
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Registered: 10/31/05
Posts: 1285
Loc: Southwest Ohio
What about gypsum?
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#142016 - 12/18/08 11:29 PM Re: alum/quicklime safe for fish? [Re: Ryan Freeze]
Rainman Offline
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I should have phrased my statement about colloidal clay as follows..."FWIW, colloidal clay (negatively charged) will never settle from the water." Without adding a heavily POSITIVELY charged product.
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#142061 - 12/19/08 11:49 AM Re: alum/quicklime safe for fish? [Re: Rainman]
dekalb08 Offline
Lunker

Registered: 09/20/08
Posts: 14
Loc: E Texas
To answer the last question, yes I've done jar tests with soil, haven't tried it with just pond water. With my soil the water never clears.

I probably should get the pH checked before trying any alum/quicklime treatment, as the water that filled it was likely on the acidic side here in the Piney Woods, and I already added about 1/2 ton of aglime. There are no streams or ponds above to get bullheads or carp from, just grass waterway, but I stocked 100 4-6"CC and 50 6-8"CC which I assume will stir things up in the future.

It's not real muddy at present, you can see down 18" or so, an opaque gray-brown color.

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#142086 - 12/19/08 04:52 PM Re: alum/quicklime safe for fish? [Re: dekalb08]
bobad Offline
Lunker

Registered: 06/02/05
Posts: 2365
Loc: Eunice, Louisiana
 Originally Posted By: dekalb08

It's not real muddy at present, you can see down 18" or so, an opaque gray-brown color.


You're lucky then. You can use gypsum as Ryan said. I takes literally tons of gypsum to clear up a real muddy pond, but it it's not very muddy, a few sacks of gupsum may finish the job.

Dollars to donuts your water is more likely to be acidic than base, so gypsum is perfect... very easy on existing fish.
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#142120 - 12/20/08 06:58 AM Re: alum/quicklime safe for fish? [Re: bobad]
dekalb08 Offline
Lunker

Registered: 09/20/08
Posts: 14
Loc: E Texas
I bought a pH test kit last night- not sure I quite have the hang of it yet. The pond water tests 6.5, well water 7.0, and water from the rain barrel 6.2, so it looks like I may need to add a lot more lime?

From what I've read, gypsum doesn't change the pH. Is this wrong?

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#142126 - 12/20/08 08:44 AM Re: alum/quicklime safe for fish? [Re: dekalb08]
bobad Offline
Lunker

Registered: 06/02/05
Posts: 2365
Loc: Eunice, Louisiana
 Originally Posted By: dekalb08
I bought a pH test kit last night- not sure I quite have the hang of it yet. The pond water tests 6.5, well water 7.0, and water from the rain barrel 6.2, so it looks like I may need to add a lot more lime?

From what I've read, gypsum doesn't change the pH. Is this wrong?


Gypsum is a mild base, and will raise the PH only if you add lots of it.
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#143113 - 01/01/09 11:53 AM Re: alum/quicklime safe for fish? [Re: bobad]
M Spinhirne Offline
Lunker

Registered: 02/16/06
Posts: 210
Loc: Montgomery, Texas
In addition to the pH, you need to know what the alkalinity is. It is the alkalinity that "buffers" the water from dramatic pH swings. Think of it this way; a low buffered water can be neutral pH like demineralized water. A single drop of acid will drop pH into the acid range. Likewise a single drop of caustic would raise pH well into the caustic range of pH. Alkalinity concentration buffers the water such that more acid or more caustic solution is required to have that same impact on pH. Alkalinity is the combination of carbonates, bicarbonates and hydroxides in the water.

Your well water may be high in calcium and magnesium hardness, but low in alkalinity, or the converse. Surface waters usually are lower in alkalinity than ground water, so have lower buffering. In east Texas, pine forest runoff lowers pH of ponds, thus the need to add lime to add buffering and raise pH. As the water gets lower in pH, there is more negative ion concentration, so more tendency for water to stay cloudy.

As others have mentioned, I would stay away from hydrated lime, unless you add sparingly, with good mixing, to avoid concentrated areas of high pH. Getting the water above 9.0 pH is detrimental to the fish. Ag lime has a lower dissolution rate, so the time required to fully dissolve usually tempers the impact on immediate pH change. I would also recommend a jar test taking several samples of pond water, divide into several jars, and add drop wise with mixing, a solution of alum. When you find the amount that it takes to clear the water in an hour or so after adding alum, that is the amount you will need to clear your pond. Test that sample pH to make sure it has not dropped below 6.0 pH. If it has, then you will need to bolster the alkalinity 1st before adding the alum to the pond. Which ever source of lime you choose, you will need to do the jar tests again, to determine the rate of alum to add, since you changed the water chemistry from the lime addition.

Also keep in mind that a jar test is a static model under "lab" conditions. You will not be able to get the same level of mixing, distribution, and the water chemistry is not uniform across the pond. Looking at water in a jar across a few inches also looks clearer than looking through feet of water in a pond For these reasons, the amount shown by the jar test may not work exactly the same in the pond. More alum may be needed to get the results shown in the jar. Dealing with changing the water chemistry in a pond can be more art than science.

One last thing, you can effectively clear the water, only to have it cloud again if you do not control erosion. Too many discount the impact of wind erosion on shore line as a source of silt pick up in the water. That is why many new ponds are cloudy and clear with age. They develop a shoreline vegetation cover.

Good luck.

Mike
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#143157 - 01/02/09 06:55 AM Re: alum/quicklime safe for fish? [Re: M Spinhirne]
otto Offline
Lunker

Registered: 11/02/04
Posts: 1074
Loc: texas
Starting a project that has two small ponds close togather but on seprate drains. #1 red and #2 not as bad.
The plan is to enlarge both and have the spillway from #1 run into and help fill #2. Before I call Bob Lusk; is there some kind of treatment or filtering that can help both be a little more clear.

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#143178 - 01/02/09 10:44 AM Re: alum/quicklime safe for fish? [Re: otto]
ewest Online   content
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Registered: 03/08/05
Posts: 18946
Loc: Miss.
Have dirt samples sent to A&M to check for pond use. Then go from there. Are the drainages well vegetated ? If you have red dirt most likely will need ag lime and that may be enough.
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