Ponds and lakes are valuable natural resources. They add beauty to the landscape, provide recreation and serve as a habitat for fish and wildlife. A natural body of water is a complex biological, chemical and physical community. The quality of the water determines the health of the entire community and the aquatic organisms living within the system—from microscopic bacteria to the largest fish!

If you’ve ever thought about adding lake and pond management to your list of services as a new source of revenue, consider this: There is a need and business opportunity for pond management services.

Aeration with beneficial bacteria has proven to be the best tools one can use to maintain water quality, and both are eco-friendly.

The products work: they are relatively easy to learn, quote, and install. Tech support, products, and easy-to-use kits are available to support your success.

Proper aeration with beneficial bacteria significantly reduces the need for chemical controls, which only treat the symptoms.

The “engine” that drives everything within a body of water is the presence of oxygen in proper levels. A pond’s condition deteriorates when its bottom environment cannot support aquatic life. The bottom is where the most oxygen is consumed and is the farthest from the surface, where it is replenished. Without adequate oxygen at the bottom, oxygen-loving beneficial bacteria can die off and be unable to break down the organic waste. This results in increased layers of sediment (muck) along the pond bottom, and conditions become favorable for harmful and smelly gases. Phosphorous can stay in a readily available state, promoting rapid and undesirable plant growth, and the living environment for fish and wildlife is greatly reduced. Simply put, without oxygen a pond cannot clean itself!

Another deadly condition arises without proper levels of oxygen: stratification and fish kill. Stratification occurs when there is a horizontal layering of water, with the warmer water at the surface and the cooler water on the bottom, which has little or no oxygen. A summer storm will typically kick off the event, leading to a fish kill. Wind and colder rain water can mix the water. When the cold, stagnant bottom layer mixes with the warm water on top, the bottom water absorbs much of the oxygen and releases its harmful gasses, resulting in a fish kill. This is what has happened when someone says the pond has “flipped.”

Here are three main aeration tools needed to manage ponds:

Bubbling fountains and diffused air systems are commonly used to increase the natural levels of oxygen. The added oxygen, and equally important, the circulation created by these devices help to create a stable and productive ecosystem. Fountains typically float on the surface and spray water up into the air. As the water droplets fall back to the surface, they pick up oxygen. They are best used in shallower water, since they draw water from a relatively small area and don’t do much for the deeper water.

Diffused air systems utilize a shore-mounted air compressor that pumps oxygen through a hose to a special diffuser lying on the pond bottom. Since the bottom of the pond is where the most oxygen is consumed, it is an ideal way to deliver oxygen to where it’s needed the most. As the bubbles rise out of the diffusers, they create a “lifting” or boiling action which creates considerable circulation throughout the pond. This circulation helps to prevent water stratification.

Aeration in conjunction with beneficial bacteria are the two most important things you can do for a pond. The use of beneficial pond bacteria has proven to be one of the best tools (along with aeration) a pond owner can use to maintain water quality. Beneficial bacteria are like mini vacuum cleaners working along the pond’s bottom to consume and digest organic materials such as decayed leaves, grass clippings, dead algae/ weeds, fish waste, etc. Left in the pond, these materials will contribute to future water quality problems.

Most all ponds contain natural bacteria. The problem is that these are usually anaerobic bacteria (meaning they do not need oxygen to survive) and they digest sediment (muck) very slowly. When we add beneficial bacteria to the pond, we’re adding mostly aerobic bacteria, which does require oxygen to survive, but decomposes sediment at a much faster rate. The results are improved water quality, reduced odors, reduced need for weed and algae controls, improved oxygen levels and a better environment for fish and other aquatic life.

Periodically, it is advisable to add weed and algae controls. The use of these products is a good short-term solution to a problem, and in some cases is like receiving medical treatment to save the patient. There are a wide variety of treatment products available to safely control aquatic weeds and algae in lakes and ponds. These tested and approved products are a safe and quick way to gain control of waters infested with aquatic weeds or algae. However, to gain long-term control, you need to evaluate the overall ecosystem and determine what the real cause of the problem is. In most cases, aeration and/or the use of bacteria will greatly improve the system and the use of these chemicals can be reduced.

Proper pond management is easy and rewarding. Enjoy your ponds.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Rick Smith is director of sales at EasyPro Pond Products.