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Algaecide: When and How to Use It in Your Dam

If you have a dam on your property, you’re probably constantly on the lookout for ways to maintain its health. Algaecide is a word you will come across many times in your research for improving the health of water, but what actually is it?

Algaecide is a chemical or biological substance that can be used to control the growth of or eliminate algae in bodies of water. Algae are microorganisms that grow quickly when conditions are most favourable. This can lead to green water, foul odours, and poor overall water quality.

Oftentimes, dams are used for recreation. Whether for fishing or to house an inflatable lounge and slide for the grandkids to enjoy, you will likely want your dam or pond water to be healthy and enticing, which usually means getting rid of excessive algae.

If you’re considering algaecide as a treatment for existing algae issues in your dam or pond water, then you have come to the right place. This article will cover the role of algae in your dam when it is the right time to try the treatment, what types of algaecide are available, and considerations you need to make before using it.

Understanding the Role of Algae in Dams

Algae is an entirely natural part of any aquatic environment. It can be found in ponds, dams, and rivers, as well as aquariums and other bodies of water. But while it is natural, algae growth can actually have detrimental effects on your water body if not properly maintained.

As a primary producer in aquatic ecosystems, responsible for converting sunlight and other nutrients into organic matter, algae ensures that plants and wildlife are fed by forming the base of the food chain. They are photosynthetic organisms and mainly convert nitrogen and phosphorous into organic matter.

Another role of algae in the ecosystem of ponds and dams is maintaining adequate oxygen levels in the water. A product of photosynthesis is oxygen, and so, as algae photosynthesise, they release oxygen into the water. The gas is vital for the respiration of a range of wildlife in the water.

However, while algae have a vital role in the health of water, aquatic ecosystems rely on a delicate balance of algae to blossom. For this reason, algal blooms or excessive growth of algae can become a problem for your pond or dam very quickly.

Algal blooms occur when the water is overloaded with nutrients, algae are exposed to prolonged sunlight, or temperatures increase. An algal bloom can lead to oxygen depletion in the water caused by dead algae, which consume large amounts of oxygen. This oxygen depletion can create hypoxic environments, which are damaging to wildlife and other organisms in the water.

In addition, some species of algae may actually produce harmful toxins and release them into the water. This can make the water dangerous for both animal and human consumption. Algae can also cause changes in the taste, odour, and colour of the water, which not only makes it dangerous for human consumption but can make it less than enticing to play in.

On top of this, an algal bloom can cause issues with water intake, like fountains, water features, or any water filter structures you have. It can lead to clogging and impact your ability to treat water.

Lastly, algal blooms often lead to a phenomenon known as eutrophication, which can disrupt the overall balance of the aquatic ecosystem and lead to significant issues for the dam as a whole.

When is Algaecide Required?

Algaecide is most often used when algae are growing excessively in your dam, or you have experienced an algal bloom. Both of these events tend to occur rapidly and only when specific conditions are met. Usually, warm weather, elevated nutrient levels, and excessive sunlight cause rapid growth of algae.

Other times when algaecide may be required include the following.

  • Presence of algal toxins: Some algae species can produce toxins, like cyanobacteria. These toxins can be harmful to both animals and humans, meaning consumption and recreation should be avoided in the dam until the algae is under control.
  • Aesthetic issues: For many people, the presence of algae can make a water body disinviting. If you’ve spent money on inflatable slides, water trampolines, and aqua parks this summer, you likely want them to get used. In these cases, even harmless algae, like filamentous algae, needs to be removed. It can lead to odours, discolouration, and general aesthetic issues with your dam.
  • Water treatment: For water treatment facilities, algae can pose critical issues. Often, algaecide is used as a preventative measure to avoid algal blooms that cause issues with clogging of filter structures and more.
  • Ecosystem: Excessive algae can disrupt the balance of your dam. It can reduce oxygen levels and impede the overall functionality of the water body. Though an active constituent in most water bodies, the removal of algae may be the best option in these cases to preserve the quality of the water and ensure organisms like fish and other plant life can survive.

Types of Algaecide

When it comes to algaecide options, you can split most of them into two distinct categories: chemical and biological. Chemical algaecides often include chemicals like peroxygen, chlorine, and copper, while natural and biological algaecides use enzymes and bacteria that outcompete the algae to break it down.

At Love My Dam, we’re all about using natural and biological treatments first. In fact, in almost all cases, the biological treatments work so well that we don’t even need to consider the chemical. We only use chemical treatments in incredibly rare and challenging cases.

Using natural and biological algaecides helps to maintain the delicate ecosystem of your dam. Indeed, there are many drawbacks to using chemical options, including the following.

  • Environmental impacts: Chemical treatments can be toxic for a range of organisms, including those that aren’t the target of treatment. This can lead to damage to the overall ecosystem of your dam and the surrounding area.
  • Toxic residue: As with many chemical treatments, chemical options for excessive algae can leave behind harmful residue. This is likely to enter the food chain and can pose a risk not only to fish and animals further up the food chain but also to humans right at the top.
  • Resistance: Repeated use of chemical treatments can lead to the algae developing resistance to the chemicals. This will ultimately lead to you having to use more and more of the treatment until it works, which can, in turn, have a more significant impact on the environment and ecosystem, as mentioned above.
  • Algae regrowth: Unfortunately, chemical algaecides only offer temporary relief. They do little to address the underlying issues with the dam and cannot target the cause of the algal bloom. In contrast, a biological treatment introduces organisms that can help to maintain the balance much better by naturally competing with the algae.
  • Compliance: Due to the enormous risks to human and environmental health, many regions have strict rules on what kinds of treatments may be used. It is always best to check out local guidelines before potentially risking fines and other legal consequences.

Final Thoughts

Algae, while a totally natural part of aquatic life, can pose risks to your dam if it grows out of control. In these cases, an algaecide treatment may be the best option. At Love My Dam, we’re proponents of using natural methods first, and we would always encourage you to take the same approach!

If you’ve got excessive algal growth on your dam and you’re wondering where to start with algae treatment, we can help. The team at Love My Dam has lots of experience in maintaining the health of dam water, and we can help you, too.

Get in contact with the team today for guidance, or check out our full range of biological algae treatments.