Blanket Weed Treatments
Blanket Weed (Spirogyra Adnate), the nemsesis of all amateur and professional pond and fish keepers in the UK! Spirogyra Adnate is one of the most prolific aquatic weeds you could possibly hope to come accross. Known as 'Long String Algae' in the United States, because in fact Spirogyra is not actually a weed or plant but a Filamentous Algae.
There are several other so called 'Aquatic Weeds' which are Filamentous Algae, such as Rhizoclonium, Vaucheria, Cladophera, Enteromorpha and Ulothrix. Ulothrix is a Chlorphyte like Spiogyra and looks almost identical. If that wasn't enough there are over 400 known species of Spirogyra, which is more commonly known as 'Water Silk', 'Silk Weed', or 'Tangled Pond Scum' and over 20 species of Rhizoclonium but to name a few.
So What Is It?
Blanket Weed is a long thin Filamentous Algae which thrives in garden and ornamental fish ponds. It's physical composition contains helical shaped chloroplasts which give that unsightly green appearance associated with blanket weeds and other forms of algae. Growth is stimulated by bright sunlight, a process known as photosynthesis, and it's preferred environment is shallow, fast running water hence it is usually found in waterfalls, pond returns and un-shaded parts of the pond itself. In ornamental fish ponds the waste from our fish and the by-products of our filter systems, i.e. dissolved ammonia and nitrate provide the Spirogyra with an abundance of nutirents to supplement the photosynthesis, which accelerates the growth rate even more. It is not uncommon for it to achieve growth rates of 2 metres a day with bright sunlight and the right nutrient levels.
During the night the process of photosynthesis is reversed; these Filamentous Algae normally suspended in the water by tiny oxygen bubbles begin to slowly sink. They then begin to absorb oxygen from the water for cellular respiration. This process depletes the Oxygen levels, increases the carbon dioxide levels which in turn can lead to sudden changes in pH levels, from which stress and even death to your fish can occur. This is in addition to the stress being endured by larger fish as they struggle to swim through it.
Unlike Planktonic algae, a singular celled algae, which can be eradicated in garden and ornamental ponds by simply installing UltraViolet Clarifiers or sterilizers, (which have proved very effective at agglomerating the single cells into clumps for removal by the filter system) Ultraviolet lights have little or no effect on filamentous or Macrophytic algae. Other methods of control are required. The Department of the Environment effectively banned the use of chemical weed killers to remove blanket weed, and in any case none of us would put such chemicals in our ponds. The prefered option would be to introduce wildlife and plants to the eco system that would feed on, and compete for food with the blanket weed. This is also not really an option for fish keepers. That leaves the bacterial approach and electronic devices that will feed on or destroy the spores from which blanket weed grows. Just removing blanket weed from the pond can have an adverse effect as the spores are released into the water and the process starts again more vigorously.
There are many good products for eradicating Blanket Weed. Bacterial treatments work by introducing bacteria from the strains belonging to the Azotobacter, Bacillus, Pseudomonas and Chaetomium genera. The component strains include both aerobic and faculative organisms. These safe non-pathogenic bacteria compete with the Filamentous Algae for any waste products like dissolved ammonias, nitrate, fats, oils, grease, proteins, sugars, starch, cellulose and phosphates. This deprives the Filamentous Algae of a food source forcing it into recession, thus making the water clearer. Please note that this is not an immediate solution, it can take time for the bacterial level to establish and the equilibrium in the pond to stabilise. It must also be mentioned that Bacterial treatements are not as effective against singular celled algae and if this is the prefered option bacterial treatments should be used in conjuntion with an Ultraviolet Filter.