How to Reduce Algae in Your Livestock Tanks and Ponds

How Does Algae Affect Your Livestock?

Some algae are toxic, but most algae won’t directly harm your livestock. However, it can reduce the overall water quality, which can result in your animals drinking less. During these hot summer months when algae is a problem you definitely want your animals drinking plenty of water to stay hydrated. In order to survive algae need sunlight, water, and a nutrient source (leaves and grass, manure, even saliva).


How Can You Reduce Algae In Your Water?

Natural Ways To Reduce Algae:

One of the easiest ways to reduce algae growth is to move your tank into the shade. This reduces the amount of sunlight it receives (a requirement for algae growth). This made the quickest and most substantial difference in our livestock tanks.

Switch to a metal livestock tank if you are using a plastic one. The University of Minnesota did a study that showed using metal tanks resulted in less algae growth and it did not increase the temperature of the water compared to the plastic tank.

Regularly scrub your tank. When you scrub the tank you are not only removing existing algae, but you are removing nutrients needed to feed new algae.

Try adding goldfish to your tank. This is an interesting and potentially fun method to control algae. The literature is divided when discussing how effective this method is. If you care to try it out for yourself, the recommended number of goldfish is 4-6 per 100 gallons water. Add hiding places in the bottom of the tank for the goldfish to escape from predators. The water tank should always be kept full to ensure adequate oxygen is available and to reduce the amount of fresh tap water that is added to the tank at one time. Chemicals added to tap water can be harmful to fish, and only small amounts should be added at a time (as when using an automatic waterer). When adding new fish to a tank, make sure the water has been full for several days so that the chlorine can dissipate before adding the fish. You should also test the pH of the water to ensure it is in a range that won’t kill your goldfish. The pH should be between 7.2 and 7.6. Lastly, the water should be at least 60 degrees Fahrenheit for your goldfish to survive.


Chemical Methods To Reduce Algae:

Unscented household bleach can be added in very small amounts to reduce algae growth. When added in the correct amounts and mixed thoroughly, it does not pose any health risk to your animals. Some sources recommend 2 ounces per 50 gallons of water while others recommend only about 2 teaspoons (0.3 ounces) per 50 gallons of water. To be on the safe side, it is best to restrict access to the water tank for at least 1 hour after treating it. If the water is less than 50 degrees Fahrenheit, the recommendation is to restrict access for at least 2 hours. Most people treat their water about once per week.

Premixed copper sulfate solutions can be purchased at your local farm store and can be added to your livestock’s drinking water to reduce algae growth. Special consideration should be taken when adding copper to your livestock’s diet and this method is generally not recommended for sheep who cannot tolerate excess amounts of copper. Additionally, copper sulfate is harsh on your metal tanks and can reduce its lifespan.


Reducing Algae In Your Ponds:

Interestingly, barley straw has been shown to help reduce algae in ponds. It doesn’t kill algae but it can inhibit new growth. Using barley straw is natural and it doesn’t inhibit other aquatic plant growth. It works by producing a chemical that prevents algae growth as the straw decays, so it should be added to ponds before algae appear (fall through early spring). Once applied to the pond it keeps working for about 6 months. The recommended amount of barley straw is about 0.5 lb barley straw per 107 square feet of pond surface area. Depth of the pond is unimportant when figuring the correct amount of straw. It is best applied in loose nets or cages spread out over the area of the pond’s surface. The nets or cages should be anchored, but allowed to float near the surface where adequate sunlight and oxygen is available. Keep in mind that the barley straw uses oxygen as it decays, so if more than the recommended amount is added it can cause fish in the pond to die due to a lack of available oxygen in the water. For ponds with a history of severe algae or very muddy ponds the recommended amount may need to be doubled, but watch for fish deaths and remove some straw if that happens.

Disclaimer: I am not a veterinarian and strongly advise you discuss any potential diagnoses and treatment options with your veterinarian first. This article is for informational purposes only. Riebel Farms LLC and its authors will not be held liable for any use of the information provided.


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