The word "bacteria" may sound scary when it comes to your pond, but certain bacteria help keep it balanced. Beneficial bacteria are how your pond naturally breaks down organic debris and are an important part of its ecosystem. You want this type of bacteria in your pond to maintain clear and healthy water. It's a key natural ingredient in many of our water treatments. Learn exactly what beneficial bacteria can do for a pond and why "beneficial bacteria" is not an oxymoron.
Every pond owner wants their pond to have clear, odor-free water so they can enjoy their water garden. This can be a little more difficult when the warm summer months create the perfect conditions for algae blooms. If you look up different water treatments and maintenance tools, you'll find that many (especially smartpond ones) use beneficial bacteria. How can adding bacteria be a good thing? First, you need to understand the difference between the "good" and "bad" bacteria in a pond to see why you want to boost beneficial bacteria.
The pond's ecosystem is similar to a person's digestive tract. People are full of bacteria, and it concentrates in the gut, and having the right balance is important for keeping us healthy. The "bad" bacteria can lead to different illnesses, but good bacteria help break down food as it travels from the stomach. Doctors often recommend probiotics to help boost the amount of healthy and good bacteria in the digestive system.
You can think of adding beneficial bacteria to your pond to maintain a healthy ecosystem as taking probiotics to keep your digestive tract healthy. Your pond needs this good bacteria to break down debris. Like in the stomach, if there are not enough beneficial bacteria in the pond, the balance is off, and water quality begins to suffer.
Anaerobic vs. Aerobic Bacteria
The beneficial bacteria are "aerobic bacteria" because they need oxygen to work and survive. The harmful bacteria in a pond are anaerobic and don't require oxygen. This type of bacteria is often found at the bottom of the pond or in other places with low oxygen levels. The beneficial bacteria work significantly faster and more efficiently than the anaerobic bacteria.
Beneficial bacteria quickly break down organic waste into harmless gases. If a pond does not have enough oxygen from an aeration system, the pond becomes stratified. The pond's surface has the most oxygen from the wind and any fountains or waterfalls agitating the water. The surface also has the most beneficial bacteria because they can only survive where there is oxygen.
As the pond gets deeper, it loses oxygen and beneficial bacteria. The bottom of the pond becomes devoid of oxygen, and neither the beneficial bacteria nor the pond life can live. Anaerobic bacteria often cannot break down organic matter faster than it accumulates, so the debris settles at the bottom of the pond, creating a layer of sludge. As anaerobic bacteria work, they release sulfur and other nutrients. The sulfur gives the pond an unpleasant smell, while the nutrients feed algae.
Aeration is Key
Aeration is essential for maintaining beneficial bacteria levels. Pond aerators diffuse oxygen into the bottom of the pond, which allows the beneficial bacteria to colonize and work on breaking down the debris buildup. Water features like fountains, waterfalls, and spitters help oxygenate by moving the water.
Aeration is extra important in the summer when oxygen levels tend to drop. The warm summer water holds less oxygen than the cooler water in the fall, winter, and early spring. If your fish are spending all of their time at the surface, it can be a sign that there's not enough oxygen at the bottom of the pond.
Adding aerators like a fountain and filtration system helps the beneficial bacteria recolonize. Still, a water treatment like Sludge Remover or pond filter with bio balls (these contain carefully selected strains of good bacteria) helps to give the bacteria a head start. Beneficial bacteria are extra important for new ponds, as it takes time for the bacteria to cultivate and grow naturally.
Before adding fish or other pondlife, use a water treatment or filter with bio balls to help startup the new ecosystem. Without good bacteria, the pond won't be able to break down the fish waste, and water quality can quickly drop.
TIP: When introducing beneficial bacteria into a pond, remember to turn off your UV Pond Clarifier for a few days.
Beneficial bacteria are essential to the pond's process of breaking down debris. They occur naturally but require oxygen to survive. If there are not enough beneficial bacteria, debris settles to the bottom of the pond, creating a layer of sludge and affecting both water quality and clarity. Pond aeration is key to maintaining enough beneficial bacteria in the water. If your pond is new or needs a boost, you can use water treatments or a filtration system that uses bio balls. Beneficial bacteria sound like an oxymoron, but they are vital to a healthy pond.