Greetings from Blessed Bayou! As the weather warms up and we enter the Summer months, many people begin seeing vegetation issues start to develop on their lake. This can be frustrating for lake and pond owners, especially those who have spent significant time and money in the Spring to promote a healthy and productive water body during the warm months. While having a certain amount of plants in your lake or pond is beneficial for the health of the ecosystem you are cultivating, there is definitely such thing as too much of a good thing when it comes to aquatic plants. For example, excessive plant matter can choke a waterway, leading to clogged boat engines, tangled lures, unsightly aesthetics and oxygen issues. In this newsletter, I’ll be focusing on the negative side of vegetation and what to do when it is out of control so that you can rest easy knowing your lake or pond is stay stress-free this summer and hopefully into the fall.
To understand why you are having a vegetation issue, it is important to consider why you might be having the issue in the first place. In any body of water, aquatic plants require certain variables and nutrients to thrive. Just as terrestrial plants, aquatic plants need carbon dioxide, sunlight and certain elements in their substrate, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, which are commonly referred to in ecosystems as “limiting nutrients” due to the fact that it is usually one of these two nutrients that is in the shortest supply in that ecosystem out of all the nutrients that are required for the growth of the plant. Due to Earth’s position to the sun during the summer and the increased respiration of fish within your water body, most lakes and ponds are primed for vegetation issues by mid Spring. Then, if there is an influx of a limiting nutrient within your lake, be it due to agricultural runoff, increased bioload (a.k.a. more fish) in you water body, or overfeeding of fish food in those bodies of water that utilize automatic feeders, then you could quickly find yourself with a vegetation problem. If we are asked to come solve a vegetation issue for you, we have to put on our detective hat a little bit to figure out why you’re encountering the problem in the first place, though the reason isn’t always abundantly clear.
Even if you understand the cause of your vegetation problem and act to prevent future spells of uncontrolled weed growth, that still doesn’t necessarily solve your current situation. This is where we come in. As licensed commercial pesticide applicators by the state of Texas, we have access to all kind of herbicides and algaecides to knock back the weeds that are causing your lake to become more of an eyesore than an oasis. Not interested in utilizing pesticides? We offer non-toxic dyes as well as certain species herbivorous fish that can help control your problem in certain circumstances. With regard to pesticides and dyes, we are able to provide these for you and allow you to do them yourself if you so choose, but we recommend letting our professional team take the job off your hands. This is especially true with pesticides, as we can ensure proper usage amounts and adequate coverage as well as prevent or minimize any fish deaths that could result from overutilization of pesticide within your water body.
With regard to which method we recommend out of the three main weapons in our arsenal (dye, pesticides and herbivorous fish), we consider each owner’s unique situation/parameters within their pond, the owner’s preference for how they would like to treat it, and the plant species itself. This final consideration is one of the utmost importance. Misidentifying a plant can sometimes lead to the utilization of an improper method of control for the job at hand and is equivalent to needing a hammer for a construction job and bringing a socket wrench. Even if you would like to take a crack at managing your vegetation problem yourself, we highly recommend that you at least have a team member from Blessed Bayou to stop by and confirm what species of plant is growing in your lake or pond so that you can be sure that you aren’t wasting your time.
Regardless of which method you choose, each has drawbacks that are worth knowing about so you can make an educated decision about which form of control you’d prefer if you are lucky enough to be plagued by a type of aquatic vegetation that is able to be managed using more than one form of control. First, with regard to herbivorous fish (what we refer to as biological control), you face the fact that both species (triploid grass carp and Mozambique tilapia) are regulated by Texas Parks and Wildlife in the entire state and part of the state respectively, meaning this method requires some paperwork. That being said, if interested in these types of control, this link here will walk you through the permitting process. Additionally, triploid grass carp are sterile and Mozambique tilapia usually die in water once it dips below around 55 degrees. These two factors mean that most lakes will require multiple stockings to manage vegetation year in and year out.
With Pesticides, the very thing that can make them so attractive also can make them less safe for the inhabitants of your pond. I’m referring to the ability of many pesticides to be fast acting. The fast action of many pesticides may be gratifying, but comes with a risk of oxygen issues, especially in the worst of the summer heat, when the water’s ability to hold oxygen is already lowered. By killing off lots of vegetation, the pesticides create a large quantity of decaying matter that gets broken down by aerobic bacteria. In the process of breaking down this plant matter, the bacteria can use up a lot of oxygen very quickly.
Lastly, although dyes can work for specific jobs, they work poorly, if at all on emergent and floating vegetation, limiting their usefulness to only submerged vegetation. Dyes also are nonselective, meaning that they will hinder growth of beneficial phytoplankton while they are present within your water column, which can be problematic if you already possess a strong bloom that you would like to maintain.
While there is much more that can be said on this topic, I hope this sheds some light onto the complex world of vegetation management within lakes and ponds. If you have questions about vegetation management or concerns about the vegetation situation in your lake or pond, feel free to drop us a line!