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Cleaning up a pasture pond: Possible? How?

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  • Cleaning up a pasture pond: Possible? How?

    Just an idea we kicked around at the barn cookout the other night: is it possible to clean up a pasture pond, and if so, how?

    We have two spring-fed ponds on the property. Both survived the drought BUT ended up all green and scummy, which apparently they weren't before.

    What's the process to try to get them back on track? I assume first thing would be to get the water tested, yes?

    Thanks for any input!
    "The standard you walk by is the standard you accept."--Lt. Gen. David Morrison, Austalian Army Chief

  • #2
    They are green and scummy due to algae growth. Nitrogen and phosphorus (ie, manure) encourages the growth. Just killing the algae (with an algaecide such as copper sulfate) does not remove the nutrients - the algae decompose and the nutrients are still in the water. The algae will come back as the "seeds" "gerrminate" (algae is not really a plant...)
    You must remove the algae somehow.
    If the water is really low, maybe nets? a fun pond get wet day?
    You could add some algae eater fish, such as tillapia or another carp, but that just puts the nutrients in their poop.



    • #3
      If you have lots of money (ha ha), you could hire someone with a backhoe to drain the ponds and then excavate them to get rid of a couple of feet of sludge. They'll fill back up again and be deeper and cleaner.

      Otherwise, I dunno, add some fish? Although they might die if the oxygen level is too low. A pond supply place, like a nursery that does water gardens, might have some sort of additive to kill algae.
      I realize that I'm generalizing here, but as is often the case when I generalize, I don't care. ~ Dave Barry


      • #4
        Lack of oxygen in a pond (in addition to pH balance) is the biggest cause of algae blooms. The cheapest/safest way to address the lack of oxygen is an aerator. A bottom bubbler type is more effective than the "fountain" type. We have ours running 24/7. Algae blooms are gone, water is clear, fish love it, we love it. And BEST of all, no chemicals.


        • Original Poster

          Originally posted by silveroats View Post
          Lack of oxygen in a pond (in addition to pH balance) is the biggest cause of algae blooms. The cheapest/safest way to address the lack of oxygen is an aerator. A bottom bubbler type is more effective than the "fountain" type. We have ours running 24/7. Algae blooms are gone, water is clear, fish love it, we love it. And BEST of all, no chemicals.
          Cool, thank you! And they don't actually seem all THAT expensive. Looks like one of the ones I saw for $395 would prolly do it... but it would have to run off the power at my house, not the farm mains.

          But I wonder if we need to get the sludge out first? We do have a backhoe but it'd be kinda nice to know what we're doing first!
          "The standard you walk by is the standard you accept."--Lt. Gen. David Morrison, Austalian Army Chief


          • #6
            my neighbour is a smart guy- he hired a backhoe, dredged out his scummy pond, and in the dry season, lined it with concrete and added an aerator that looks like a fountain. You can actually swim in it! Its about 10 feet deep. Plus it looks nice from the road with the fountain running. And since we are far away from any fire hydrant, his 20,000+ gallon "resevoir" lowered our insurance rates because it is only about 200 feet from our house, and the fire department has longer hoses than that.

            PS, in any event, hire a backhoe if you can afford it because otherwise you are just going to start agitating the sludge at the bottom and the pond will be forever murkey.
            "The Threat of Internet Ignorance: ... we are witnessing the rise of an age of equestrian disinformation, one where a trusting public can graze on nonsense packaged to look like fact."-LRG-AF


            • #7
              Dredging always helps keep a pond looking a bit better. And I would add a bubbler. Most likely the springs feeding into the pond slowed down enough to stop circulating the water, a strong flowing stream in helps keep water clear and free of scum.
              One of my neighbors has a pretty little spring fed pond...they're so pretty.
              You jump in the saddle,
              Hold onto the bridle!
              Jump in the line!


              • Original Poster

                LOL, well, they're pretty until the TWO-FOOT snapping turtle decides to come out and sun himself!

                He actually showed up in my back yard a couple nights ago. We're all new(ish) to the property & didn't know he was there - good thing he outed himself, b/c we were about to turn weanlings out in that pasture and he could snap a leg right off a baby horse! Probably 'splains why HRH Avery won't go any farther out in the pond than about knee level.

                So: Get the water tested, maybe use a net, then dredge, then get a bubbler?
                "The standard you walk by is the standard you accept."--Lt. Gen. David Morrison, Austalian Army Chief


                • #9
                  So: Get the water tested, maybe use a net, then dredge, then get a bubbler?
                  And don't forget to call the head guy at the lodge that traps snapping turtles in their spare time and sells them to restaurants for snapper soup!

                  Here, where I live, there are a group of guys that go around catching and removing these turtles at various farms.... I never knew these kind of folks existed until it came up in conversation with someone.... So, ask around and that pesky problem of the snapping turtles may be solved for you too!

                  I have to believe there are guys like that where you are. Ask the chefs at a couple of the restaurants nearby who the guys are!
                  Have we learned nothing from the Romans???


                  • Original Poster

                    Actually I'm from bigtime snapping turtle country originally, so I know how to kill 'em, I just didn't have the tools available at the time. But we know where he lives now, so EITHER his days are numbered or he gets "rehomed" somewhere down the crick a piece - which is also doable provided you have the right gear.

                    Thanks for the help everyone!
                    "The standard you walk by is the standard you accept."--Lt. Gen. David Morrison, Austalian Army Chief


                    • #11
                      Why are you going to kill the turtle? He won't hurt anything (well maybe a dog) and the more complete "ecosystem" you have the more resilient your pond will be.

                      Your pond is almost certainly way over on the nutrients due to it being in a pasture full of livestock. I wouldn't bother testing the water until after it rains as that's when everything flushes in. In fact I wouldn't bother testing it at all. If you can drain and dredge it that's probably the best solution but check if you need a permit first (seriously, it's a wetland and you could be hit with a monster fine). Use the dredgings as fertilizer, that's where all the stuff you put on the fields ends up anyway.

                      Most algaecide is very nasty stuff, I'd stay away from it. It won't kill your horses but it'll do a number on everything else: fish, amphibians etc.

                      What will help your pond the most is good management. Don't over fertilize and leave a buffer zone around the pond that is not fertilized and is allowed to grow reeds and other native vegetation. That will filter the run off from the field quite a bit and give you a much longer time between dredgings. Algae leads to low oxygen levels, not the other way around and a bubbler will help keep the things that eat the algae alive to control it. You can get a solar one. Having emergent plants like lilies help quite a bit as it shades the algae and also increases the amount of zoo plankton which eat algae. Shade helps control algae too, consider some trees next to the pond. Fish are good but don't put in plant eating fish that root in the sediments like carp or catfish, they will muck up a pond quicker than anything.


                      • #12
                        I cannot give this enough thumbs up. Works wonders and doesn't harm anything. Fairly cost effective as well. Two giant thumbs up from a very satisfied customer!



                        • #13

                          you could do like the Chinese government did before the Olympics and dragoon the entire neighborhood into manually removig the stuff.


                          • Original Poster

                            Originally posted by D1nOnlyRocketPony View Post
                            I cannot give this enough thumbs up. Works wonders and doesn't harm anything. Fairly cost effective as well. Two giant thumbs up from a very satisfied customer!

                            Thanks for that! I'll check it out!
                            "The standard you walk by is the standard you accept."--Lt. Gen. David Morrison, Austalian Army Chief


                            • #15
                              I read an article about a windmill powered aereator, which helped keep the pond from being stagnant, even in low water table seasons. It was in our Farm Bureau newspaper, and really was a surprise to me. Wind power was not an option I ever thought of.

                              This was a big, deep pond. Wind mill drove a couple aereators placed in the bottom of pond, that air rising caused layer mixing in the depths of water. No dead zones of stagnant things.

                              Not sure what the investment would be, but could be worth checking out.

                              Too bad about the turtle. Perhaps re-homing would be a good option. They clean up the bottom of lakes and ponds, are needed in the cycle. Any State Parks you could donate him to? It takes many years in most cases, to get the turtles to that great size. A successful turtle, may be really old. He may be ugly, but has good turtle genes that should be kept going in the gene pool. Deserves a bit better than being Soup of the Day someplace.

                              I would not advise cement lining to a pond. Poor footing for equines, along with leaching of cement chemicals into the water. For small ponds in yards, everyone advises against cement blocks in them because they leach into the water over time. Not good for the pond inhabitants, plant and livestock.

                              Keep us posted on your progress with the pond. Can take a while to get everything balanced, working together. You might have faster success with fencing the animals out, using troughs for water. Not letting them stir up the bottom, tear up the edgings of protective filter plants keeping rain washed nutrients out of water.


                              • #16
                                Snapping turtles need love too!


                                Maybe you can get him a job on Primeval? http://www.bbcamerica.com/content/320/index.jsp Or your local Game and Fish can help rehome?

                                What can I say - I have a soft spot for the hard shelled.
                                Delicious strawberry flavored death!


                                • #17
                                  dredging it is a good idea, but please also take into consideration if there are small children around and their access to the pond... children can drown in just a couple inches of water.


                                  • #18
                                    Water Quality

                                    War Admiral

                                    If the ponds were in good health before the drought and have nutrient levels that are not out of whack with what they can handle in terms of volume of nutrient and ability of the pond system to procces nutrients, in some respects the best thing is to let them adjust on thier own.

                                    A couple questions though as with all things envirionmental it is location, history, and all the pesky detials that help make the decision.

                                    Are these natural spring fed ponds? Some areas have different regulations on natural spring fed ponds, versus those that are artificial.

                                    What sort of vegetation surround the ponds? Some types of vegetation are more effective at limiting the inflow sediment or other materials than others.

                                    Could you post a picture? That may help provide some other ideas as well. Of course your local NRCS office or Ag College will also have tons of great resources for you to draw on.

                                    And of course as I live here in Arizona I am totally jealous that you have a pond, snapping turtles and well greenery.


                                    • #19
                                      There are several things to be done. Algae grows when temp in pond rises to certain level.

                                      1) To reduce the growth of algae, you must excavate the pond so water level will be deeper thus water will warm up slower. After that if you can afford few loads of pebbles can be chacked in the middle of the pond - it will keep bottom clean for few years - but to be honest, excavating must be repeated each 5-10 years to keep pond in the right condition.

                                      Warning! Pond after excavating will look even worse for a while as one algae will take over other, some plants will enjoy, some will die, we call it "pond is boiling" untill ecosystem establishes. So don't be scared if pond looks worse when digging is finished - it is normal.

                                      2) Some shade over the pond (like a big tree) also reduces the warming up thing in summer, so if there is none, plant some, probably evergreen like thuja, cedar, something like that (leafy trees are not very good as wind blows leaves into the pond)

                                      3) Some plant eating fish need to be there - it is quite hard to find the right balance between not enough and too much but it could be done. Some fish will reduce plant growth. (Last summer we had a pet stork who needed a lot of fish, we were fishing like mad, hardly any fish had been left in the pond and as a result it is full of weeds this year) - our mistake.

                                      You wrote your pond is fed by a spring - in such situation I would not reccomend any chemical algae killers - try to establish natural balance of the pond. Bubbler to keep water moving and putting oxigen in is a good thing, plus plants, plus fish, plus depth of water level - it must work.

                                      And algea will dissapear anyway when the cold weather will appear. And it will be back in dry hot summer if there is not enough water in the pond.
                                      ** I LOVE PUIKA FAN CLUB*** member


                                      • #20
                                        While I'm far from an expert, my uncle has a spring-fed, man-made pond in the middle of his cow pasture. Very similar, I'm sure, to your situation. In all my years, he's never dredged or drained or aerated it. He does stock it with fish (I know there are sunfish, also possibly catfish and something else...plentiful enough that my dad occasionally goes fishing there), and has lilies and cat-o-nine-tails growing in the shallows.

                                        He's actually had a bigger problem with the lilies taking over than any with the algae
                                        A Year In the Saddle