In the wild, where there are beavers , there are most definitely dams and beaver ponds. These beaver ponds can become quite large, they slow down the movement of water and trap a lot of nutrients. In a beaver pond in the summer time , with abundant sunshine and large amounts of excess nutrients there will be huge algae blooms.
For the beaver this is not really a problem. Beavers don’t use algaecides or UV bulbs to get rid of algae in their ponds – they use a moose! Or should I say the moose uses them. Moose actually like algae, in fact you might say they love it.
A moose eating algae in the beaver ponds of Elk Creek in the Weminuche Wilderness.
A moose will wander into the beaver pond and have some algae for lunch, or anytime he likes. This symbiotic relationship works pretty well. Although, if I offered a “hire a moose” service for algae control , I don’t think I would get a lot of calls!
The moose would most likely cause a heck of a lot more damage then help in a backyard pond…but don’t despair, there are alternatives that are less destructive then a moose in your back yard!
Some algae growth is a natural occurrence in any pond. So, although not harmful to fish, large algae blooms can cause concern with oxygen depletion, water chemistry swings and most importantly – it stops us from seeing our lovely fish! Even with a good filtration combination – biological, mechanical and UV sterilization – especially in the summer months, algae can still take over waterfalls, streams and even your entire pond. You can get some help from your fish as koi and goldfish will eat some of the algae inside your pond.(see video below)
UV sterilizers work against suspended plank-tonic algae but also kill the beneficial bacteria that helps to break down excess nutrients in a closed system like a backyard pond. In an unbalanced system, with excessive algae blooms you may have to turn to an algae treatment to work with your filtration system to help you win the battle. Most algaecides can be dangerous to fish, and there are a dizzying array of products designed to reduce, eliminate, and kill algae.
A Miracle Cure?
How does one fight the battle of algae blooms without harming the health of desirable plants or pond dwellers? Could a key ingredient in beer be the answer? Could it be the miracle cure? Well, maybe not the miracle cure, but there is plenty of data and field testing that tells us that barley straw is an effective natural means of controlling algae – especially string algae.
The use of barley straw as a method to control algae isn’t a modern breakthrough. It’s been used for centuries in Europe for algae control in lakes and large ponds. Over the last 20 years, companies in North America who specialize in lake management have also begun using barley straw and now realize the benefits as an eco-friendly method of reducing algae. Recently, the success of barley straw has carried over to the water gardening industry.
How It Works
There are some key conditions that have to take place in order for the barley to have an effect on algae. Barley straw, when placed in water, will begin to decompose.
One of the by-products released into the pond during the decomposition process of the barley is a chemical that actually breaks down the cell walls of the algae. These by-products, when combined with sunlight and oxygenated water, form hydrogen peroxide. The fact is that in scientific experiments, peroxide has been shown to effectively break down the cell walls of algae. Studies show that a consistent low level of peroxide will actually reduce the ability of algae to form new cell growth.
A Quick Fix?
Barley straw is not the “quick-fix” when it comes to controlling algae. It can often take anywhere from four to six weeks for the barley straw to begin decomposing and release the algae destroying chemicals. But once the decomposition process has begun, the barley can remain active for around six to eight months. Barley, when used in conjunction with a good filtration system, is a great, natural way to win the algae battle.
- Start using barley early in the season. This gives the barley a head start in beginning the decomposition process and will ensure better results.
- Barley straw is eco-friendly. Studies have shown that the chemicals released into the pond have no negative effect on aquatic plants.
- Barley straw has no negative effect/harm on fish or other pond invertebrates.
Options for Backyard Ponds
Barley bales are good for pond owners who have large “retention” style ponds. While this may be an effective way of controlling algae, it won’t be the most aesthetically pleasing method for a smaller backyard pond. Placing a large, bale of barley along the edge of your pond could be …well, a bit of an eyesore!
Thankfully some pond manufacturing companies have reduced down the barley bales to smaller sizes for pond owners with small, backyard water features.There are now several forms of barley straw products on the market; barley mats, barley pellets and even a concentrated liquid extract.
Barley Filter mats, with organically-grown barley straw woven into them, provide a simple way to introduce this natural method of algae control to your pond. The barley mats are placed between the regular filter mats inside your biological filter. The mats can be added during the pond construction , or while cleaning your filter for the annual spring cleanout.
The advantage of barley mats, unlike the bale method, is that the barley is spread throughout the entire surface of the filter mat, increasing the barley’s contact with the water. Placing the barley in the biological filter allows the highly-oxygenated water to pass across the entire mat. A good biological filter is an essential part to a healthy pond. Adding barley straw provides the extra “boost” the pond might need to help control algae issues.
Barley Pellets can also be an effective method for algae control in smaller ponds. These pellets can be placed in a small mesh bag and placed inside a skimmer filter or a biological filter at the start of a waterfall, or even directly into the pond. As with the barley mats, it is important to place them in the pond earlier in the season, to get that barley going on the decomposition process.
Barley Liquid Extract is an even simpler way to enjoy the benefits of barley in your pond. Most barley extracts are from pharmaceutical-grade, fermented barley straw, which is very concentrated to work quickly. Some added enzymes and bacteria can sometimes be included in the liquid formulas which also help in breaking down pond sludge and debris.
Improved Water Quality
Barley products, will provide an effective, natural means of controlling algae and also improve the overall water quality of your pond or water feature. The key is to have a good, functioning biological and mechanical filtration system already in place and use the barley as supplemental algae control. Enjoy your pond!