FOR THE ARCHIVES:
It has often been a topic of conversation what consitutes "carrying capacity" of a pond.
A typical comment might be as follows:
A pond can support 50 lbs of bass per acre.
While this may be a good starting point, it would be interesting to remark on all of the variables. See this link for a good discussion of the topic also.
Topic: Trophic Continuum - natural to aquaculture --https://forums.pondboss.com/ubbthreads.php?ubb=showflat&Number=19169
NOTE from ewest quote - Natural carrying capacity of all fishes present can range from 40 lb per acre to up to 2000 lbs per acre. IMPORTANT - As carrying capacity increases water quality decreases proportionally. Species of fishes present also play an important role for carrying capacity. Every waterbody is different. In the south natural carrying capacity is reached about 18 months after stocking , up north about 24 months. In poor waters carrying capacity can be enhanced by removing limiting factors (fertilizer , lime , feeding etc.). In many ponds no enhancement is needed. Management is based on goals and is a personal preference. No goal or management method is always right or wrong - it just depends.
1. Water clarity/lack of suspended sediment-
-Lack of suspended sediment allows for better sunlight penetration into the water column, which in turn increases simple and complex plant growth, which in turn enhances micro and macro-invertebrate populations, yielding more fish. Water clarity is composed of suspended micro algae, zooplankton, bacteria, and dead organic & inorganic solids aka detritus. Usually non-living detritus is more abundant than the other three categories. Just because your water has low visibility does not mean lots of living Plankton is present.
--Nutrients are necessary for the above mentioned phytoplankton growth to occur. Increased fertility can occur naturally or be helped along artificially when necessary by fertilization or fish manure from feeding the fish. Just adding nutrients or fertilizer is not the answer if the pond water chemistry is not alkaline enough for the plankton to utilize the nutrients. Adding fertilizer to a clear water pond with weeds or filamentous algae usually just results in those two "weeds" blooming instead of the plankton. Learn about and know how to do it right.
--Predator carrying capacity is directly impacted by competition from other predators, even in the form of so called "prey" species early in life, i.e. bass YOY need abundant zooplankton for several weeks before they can prey on larval fish. Carrying capacity for any one species needs to account for other species in the fish community.
--Does warm water have a greater "carrying capacity" than cool water? I'm not so sure. Fish in a cooler pond require less oxygen, and may therefore be able to push the envelope, so to speak, as far as pounds per acre. I would guess that a warmer pond may get to carrying capacity quicker, but may not ultimately support more weight of fish. I'd be interested in comments in regards to this.
--This may simply be a subgroup of fertility, but experience tells me that at least for short periods of time, I can support more pounds of fish per acre in a fed pond. In the long run, however, I may be more prone to crashes. Perhaps the fed pond has a higher "carrying capacity", but implies more risk.
Higher carrying capacity always involves more risk. Be cautious and observant with high limit fisheries.
6. Waste removal/flow through
--As nutrients build up in the form of waste products, a pond's carrying capacity decreases if it is unable to rid itself of waste. Ponds with efficient bacterial communities process waste better, thereby probably have higher "carrying capacity". Ponds with high natural flow through, such as those with a large watershed/volume ratio, have better ability to support more fish per acre due to the 'flushing' factor.
--Maybe a subgroup of #6, enhance a pond's ability to rid itself of waste, thereby increasing carrying capacity. Perhaps more importantly, aeration makes "usable" water more plentiful within a pond by bringing oxygen throughout the water column. Obviously a pond that only has oxygen in the top five feet, but below, has seven feet of anoxic oxygen (no DO) deficient water has less net carrying capacity per acre.
8. Forage diversity
--If a pond has species diversity that is appropriate to the goals of that particular ecosystem, it allows for more efficient movement of biomass up the food chain. In other words, if there is plentiful invertebrate life available that is utilizable by gizzard shad, then the presence of gizzard shad and or BG allows biomass to "flow" more efficiently up to a top end predator such as largemouth. This means a higher carrying capacity for the predator, although the carrying capacity could simultaneously decrease for species that would compete directly with the gizzard shad, such as bluegill or shiners.
--Another way that carrying capacity can be increased would be to have pH levels that minimize the presence of unionized ammonia. In water, ammonia occurs in two forms, which together are called the Total Ammonia Nitrogen, or TAN. Chemically, these two forms are represented as NH4+ and NH3. NH4+ is called Ionized Ammonia because it has a positive electrical charge, and NH3 is called Unionized Ammonia since it has no charge. This is important to know, since NH3, unionized ammonia (abbreviated as UIA), is the form which is toxic to fish. Water temperature and pH will affect which form of ammonia is predominant at any given time in an aquatic system. At high pH there is more UIA because of the OH- groups readily available in basic water. The OH- groups attract the H+ ion to form water (H2O). By stripping this ion away from NH4+ it leaves the unionized, or toxic form in the water. Toxic water means fewer fish, and less carrying capacity.
10. Social interaction
--The carrying capacity is lower in a pond amongst species that spend large amounts of energy fighting over cover territory, and spawning substrate. A limited example would be an aquarium that might be able to hold three pounds of green sunfish biomass, but ultimately never reaches that carrying capacity because the GS spend most of their time attacking and killing each other. Pond ecosystems can behave in a similar manner if a particularly aggressive species, like bluegill fight over territory during late spring and summer.
(Cody Added) Alkalinity as dissolved carbonates stimulates or allows the phytoplankton to do their thing and thrive and move the nutrients up to zooplankton and the rest of the food chain that is actually a part of the pond's whole FOOD WEB. Alkalinity can be increased by adding lime in the proper amounts. Alkalinity for good phytoplankton growth should be at least 20 mg/L or ppm. Fertilization without proper alkalinity will not stimulate good phytoplankton and resultant good zooplankton growth.
12. Suspended Dirt
- High amounts of suspended silt decreases carrying capacity because it interferes with or reduces plankton production.
In summary, all of these factors need to be considered to evaluate "carrying capacity". It might also be more useful to think of this in terms of pounds of fish per unit of water volume instead of surface area, since one surface acre could mean anywhere from one to twenty acre feet of water.