Beneficial Bacteria in Your Pond

Crystal clear water doesn’t happen magically in your pond.  However, to the average person it appears that way thanks in large part to beneficial bacteria.  But what exactly are beneficial bacteria and where are they in your pond?  We will answer these questions so you can fully understand how elements in your pond work and how to improve the productivity without compromising quality. 

Beneficial pond bacteria are found in the water and the pond filter.  They are responsible for maintaining crystal clear healthy water, breaking down organic sludge like leaves, dead plants, fish droppings, fish food, fertilizer, and dead algae, as well as reducing odors.  Beneficial bacteria convert deadly ammonia into nitrites and then into nitrates, which is an essential part of pond filtration. Then the nitrates are absorbed by the pond plants, which help all the aquatic life survive. They also help reduce problem nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus. 

There is a cycle that exists among all pond life but specifically between the different types of bacteria.  There are two major types of bacteria: aerobic and anaerobic bacteria that help maintain a healthy pond ecosystem.  Aerobic bacteria need the presence of oxygen to thrive, where anaerobic need an absence of oxygen to live. But both aerobic and anaerobic bacteria require the presence of one another to exist.

The job of aerobic bacteria is to break down left over organic matter into much more simple forms. Most of the time, it is the aerobic bacteria that do the majority of the final step of decomposing.  As they decompose the organic matter, aerobic bacteria reproduce exponentially but quickly run out of food or a food source and have trouble sustaining life due to depleting oxygen levels.  This is the point where anaerobic bacteria play an important role in finishing the cycle. Anaerobic bacteria are often present at the bottom of the pond in areas where the aerobic bacteria have exhausted the available dissolved oxygen.  According to industry expert David Beasely, “Anaerobic bacteria are much slower at decomposing organic matter, but the byproduct of their digestion process is the release of nutrients, especially phosphorus. These nutrients are…readily available for plants and algae to use as a food source [enabling growth]…which aids in the production of a large percentage of the dissolved oxygen in the pond. When the dissolved oxygen level is restored, the aerobic bacteria can once again replenish their population as they work quickly and with fewer byproducts to break down organic matter.”  This means that anaerobic bacteria help restore oxygen levels so that plants and fish can survive as well as aerobic bacteria that help filter and clean the water. 

There are also beneficial bacteria colonies that grow in your pond and on your pond filter.  They can take up to six or seven weeks to become large enough to handle all the waste created by the pond fish and dead plant matter in your water garden.  To aid in this process, make sure the pH level is as close to neutral as possible and add beneficial bacteria to avoid stressing, injuring or even killing the pond fish.  Also make sure the water flows at the perfect rate through the biological chamber of the pond filter by having a good water pump. It will determine the effectiveness of the beneficial bacteria colony.  If it flows too fast the bacteria becomes ineffective, if the water flows too slow it may not move enough of the pond water through the bacteria colony in the pond filter.  Only clean the biological chamber of the pond filter when completely necessary.  But if that is the case, make sure to add in beneficial bacteria to replace any lost during the process and avoid using chlorinated water. 

Using treatments like Total Pond’s Sludge Remover, Chlorine Remover, and Pond Cleaner Tablets at the beginning of pond season adds beneficial bacteria and helps balance your pond so you can enjoy that pristine water through spring, summer, and fall.