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4CornersPuddle, anthropic, jpsdad
Total Likes: 4
Original Post (Thread Starter)
by Radwoem
I've been lurking on this site for about a week now...it is hands down THE place for the best information on pond maintenance. Y'all are amazing. So...I have a ton of questions. First, I should mention the pond: I live in Georgia (near Augusta) and the pond I'm dealing with was made in the early 1970's. It is roughly 2 surface acres with an average depth of around eight feet (twelve in the deepest spot...three feet of depth at the head/roughly 1/4 of the pond).
It is currently having a horrible time with watermeal (just the word makes my skin crawl...with hatred). The pond is NOT mine, but I have been enlisted to help figure out the various problems...because I'm a nerd.
The pond has suffered with watermeal and duckweed for approximately three years with no intervention. It has also had around four fish kills in the last three years. My brother and I advised the purchase of an aeration system...it was bought and we installed it. A Hiblow HP200 running two Matala 12" diffuser discs in 8' of water each (separated by 200' in different areas of the pond). The aeration has been running on a system from 12:00a.m. to 6:00a.m. for the last week.
So, we installed the aeration to hopefully stop the fish kills. But as I'm finding out about aeration, it will be beneficial with so many other aspects of pond maintenance. Now...to figure out the watermeal. LOT of questions...here we go:

1. If we lived with the watermeal for one more season but relied on bacterial products like MuckAway and GoClear + the aeration system to reduce nutrients in the pond, would that remediate the watermeal problem by itself?? I've searched and not seen this approach discussed in direct terms.

2. If we have to go with a fluridone product to knock out this scourge, does the systemic action also kill the good bacteria in a pond? Would it be wise to, after fluridone treatment, reintroduce aerobic bacteria into the system or does this active ingredient not bother bacteria?

3. Who sells Texas Hunter feeders WITH the solar panel chargers for the best price?

4. Purina MVP vs Optimal? (BG, LMB, warmouth [didn't see an acronym for these], and BH) Is this primarily a matter of personal preference?

5. Should I keep the aerator at just six hours in the night? I've heard that because of our extreme summer temperatures in the southeast, running a system during peak heat hours is not advised.

6. What is flumioxazin? How does it compare at watermeal eradication compared to fluridone?

7. How much does it cost to drain and dredge and old pond/start over?? <$10,000?? I have yet to see even a "ballpark" figure on this...or any sort of pricing at all.

Anyway...that's about all for now. After absorbing as much information as I could for a little over a week now, I KNOW I've forgotten some of my questions...but this is a decent start. I appreciate any and all input!
Liked Replies
by Bill Cody
Bill Cody
You're dealing with close to a 50 year old pond that has not had aeration until recently. Working with old ponds is definitely a challenge, a big challenge. Aeration tends to slow the aging process. The pond each year has been accumulating nutrients, growing more and more plants that have been dying and recycling lots of the available accumulating nutrients and most of the nutrients are dead organics bound in the bottom anaerobic muck that creates the sloppy black sludge in the bottom.

Duckweed and water meal are nature's indicator plants of an over-enriched condition (hypereutrophic) that is a normal process or status for an aged or old 'dying' pond. I often see duckweed in drainage ditches that receive enriched septic tank outflows. When a pond gets duckweed the pond is in aging trouble due to over enriched conditions and lack of other competing aquatic plants.
Lack of other nutrient using aquatic plants allows duckweed to grow unchecked. You are experiencing nature's way of filling in that pond. Until all that muck and bottom slop is removed, containing now all that huge nutrient enrichment "sink" ,,,, the nutrients contained in the system will demand some type of plant to grow profusely and respond accordingly to utilize that over enriched condition. Duckweed loves hypereutrophic with no other plant competitors. The more unused nutrients that are present results in more plants that grow.

To keep that profuse plant growth from happening one will constantly need to "chemicalize" that pond. Expect to chemicalize annually. Pond chemicals are not cheap. MuckAway, GoClear and similar products are not guaranteed and there is a reason why. Even if one could find a 'magic" bacterium to consume the nutrients, the biomass of bacteria needed to do all this would probably equal the biomass of duckweed. Then when all that bacteria cloudy 'soup' eventually dies, what happens to them? Nature says they will run out of food (nutrients), die in mass, decompose, and recycle the nutrients back into the system. What was accomplished? Then it becomes another do-over. Accumulated nutrients in the basin from the aging process do not go away. They eventually just get recycled and or bound up in black bottom slop. Non-flow through ponds are just BIG accumulator toilets with no flusher. Eventually the accumulations fill in the pond to become shallower and shallower moving toward swamps / wetlands, then eventually dry land (succession). Without proper pond management from day one, ponds age prematurely. You are experiencing first hand the pond aging process. People cannot stop the pond aging process, maybe just slow the process. Annual inputs determine how fast the pond ages.

Long term capital plan would be to drain and rebuilt the pond even if it has to be a smaller pond. If this is not done then expect reoccurrence of the recent disappointing conditions caused by excessive nutrient accumulations. Feeding pellets and growing more fish than the pond can support naturally speeds up the annual nutrient accumulation or build-up. Be aware feeding fish adds nutrients to the system.
Another option is to let nature continue to convert this pond toward the shallower wetland swampy conditions, deal with it as best you can and build a new pond and manage it properly from the beginning.
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by jpsdad
Howdy Radwoem,

Hey nice place. Its good see it with the map. I take it the bright green around the edges is duckweed/watermeal is before it gets bad or are these pond weeds? First I would say is that the tree situation isn't as bad as thought it might have been. So the situation is that that pond has been around a while AND efforts have been made to make it more productive (past fertilization program for a number of years). I'll begin by restating something Bill said, the presence of duckweed is an indicator of an advanced stage eutrophication. Duckweed is picky, it needs lots of nitrogen and potassium and if these are present in large concentrations the first thing that happens is that heavy blooms shade submerged vegetation and kill it out. Once the Duckweed gets in, it has the advantage of being able to float above the blooms of phytoplankton and shade them. Probably, the most rapid growth of Duckweed occurs when there is sudden collapse of standing population of phytoplankton. This returns alot of nutrients to the water and Duckweed is ready to exploit it. Every year a progression like this probably occurs where first there is a very strong bloom of phytoplankton, collapse, and subsequent duckweed bloom which could easily last the Summer..

But it takes really rich water to give Duckweed an upper hand against its competition. Bill noted how this is an indicator of trophic status and that the presence indicates hyper-eutrophic water. He wisely said, "Expect periodic unpredictable fish kills." So with this knowledge I would just say be prepared to experience another. Just some thought to chew on:

1. For now manage the water without adding additional phosphorus or organic matter of any kind. This includes feed of any kind or any additional fertilizer. Do not increase alkalinity or add lime. If you were to build a pond below ... do not initially feed or fertilize it either. Allow the enriched water of this pond to flow into the lower pond and the naturally fertile water feed your fish below.

2. OK. So instead of removing duckweed, why don't you use it? 1500 lbs/acre of Tilapia can be grown in fertilized water. If you harvest the fish ... guess what? You harvest what they retained of the duckweed they ate. Guess what else? You harvest a lot of detritus from the bottom and phytoplankton too. TP are 25% dry matter so removing 1500 lbs of TP per acre is just like undoing ~400 lbs of formulated feed per acre. It is just that you have to remove them in order to get the nutrients out. TP are great from late spring to late fall ... but there is another organism that would grow fat in that pond that does well in late winter to mid spring ... crawfish. I would bet, depending on the overwinter fish community, that you could grow up to 800 lbs of crawfish. Again, you have to get them out in order to remove their sequestered nutrients. One thing I will tell you, these organisms have the ability to turn back the clock if harvesting them is something you would do. They have value and if you can use or market them they are almost cost free dredgers that can renovate your pond over time. Both organisms can sustain foul water conditions and will be the last to succumb in a fish kill.

3. So if harvest isn't a viable option, you can bite the bullet and remove the accumulated muck. The pond will still likely be very fertile and probably wouldn't require food or fertilizer unless you might be in a hurry to fill it up with muck again smile The key to success of any plan is population management. Fertility never means bigger fish ... it only means more of them. Feeders and Feed aren't required ... they are an option than can increase fish standing weights until the water is too eutrophic (then the effect of increasing primary production becomes limiting fish standing weights AKA fish kills).

4. I mentioned that I liked the option of building a pond below the existing one. Looking at the map ... this seems to a possible option assuming there are funds and a desire for it. But the nice thing about doing that is that it has a really rich source of fertile water from the existing bow. So if I faced with same scenario and had the opportunity to build a pond below the existing I would probably kill out the existing pond and restock with GSH, FHM, and Gams. These would proliferate and could be trapped to boost the lower pond. I would stock 3000 to 6000 2" TP fingerlings annually (in the upper pond) and if I didn't want to harvest them ... I would find someone who did. The same goes for Crays, I'd do same using the winter and early spring season for them. A pond that size is going to produce more than you guys want to eat. So you'd need some help or need to find a market. Treating the existing pond as a forage pond for a few years while removing many TP and Crays could renew the pond and take many years off its existing trophic age over time. When you begin to see submerged weed growing in abundance and no more duckweed blooms, you know you've done it and that may be a good time to think about introducing predators and managing it for sport again. Give careful consideration to a plan of restricting/removing nutrients on a long term plan in order to keep it in that sweet spot longer..
1 member likes this
by jpsdad
Originally Posted by Dave Davidson1
Jpsdad, remove the accumulated muck? That stuff is generally the consistency of pudding. Without draining, how do you do that? Or, are you recommending draining as a first step?

Dave, the pond owner understands what a renovation is and they have performed it once before by draining and mechanical removal. I didn't see a need to go into the details of how he should do that. I know of at least on forum member who is dredging by siphon stirring sediments (into a slurry that will siphon) with a pump and jet to take a long term approach at renovation performing these treatments himself. Not recommending that per se, but it is effective for him where he has made progress. That happens to be one way to remove muck without draining the pond.

Another way is with pond organisms. I guess it really depends on costs. If all the muck is removed mechanically what will it cost and how far would that have gone to make new water. Were it me and I had the means to do it I would lean towards building the new pond. I would drain the original and kill the fish. During draining, I would siphon and try to stir up sediments as much as possible in attempt to carry away as much muck as I could but this wouldn't be primary reason and it wouldn't qualify as a renovation as would mechanical removal. The primary purpose would be to concentrate the fish in a smaller volume of water to kill them.

I like GSH, FHM, and Gams because they tolerate low DO. The first two are often the survivors in winter kill lakes. But I would probably delay stocking the FHM and GSH until after construction of the lower pond. Until its construction I would grow TP and Crays and remove as much of them as I could by the end of their grow outs I would stock fingerling TP and if lived where I could use Blues or Niles I would use them. Rather than purchasing fingerlings I would purchase two or three pounds of adult females and a couple of males and keep them in a breeding tank (or very small pond) and allow each female to breed once. Every three or four days I would net the fish and examine females for eggs in their mouth. If they had eggs, I would carry them in water to a cage in the pond to complete her parental care. In about 10 to 14 days fry over ~1/2" length would exit the cage. One cycle of 3 lbs of females could contribute as much as 8000 fry to the pond. This is just about right. The TP fry will not reproduce for a minimum of 5 months which is just about the end of the growing season before winterkill. So this approach prevents overpopulation and the need for predators. To be sure, I would not buy 6000 2" fingerlings at a $1 a head for this purpose ... I would implement the knowledge I have learned through study to leverage results and lower costs.

So obviously I favor long term sustainable management over mechanical removal of the muck ... but mostly because I would want implement management that controls and limits eutrophication.
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