6I – Ecosystem-Pond analysis

Supporting article I: The importance of healthy ecosystems can be better understood when one looks at why a pond may go bad.



A clean fresh smelling living pond is a source of pure pleasure, while on the other hand a dead, algae infested, foul body of water is a major turn off. Where there is a clean lake you can be assured property values are high, recreational pursuits are a pleasure and life is good. Sadly because of pollution many of our natural waters are turning bad. When Mom (Mother Nature) set up the system she never intended for the problem to get this out of control. In the natural order of things a pond or lake is by design able to take care of itself for the most part. In the beginning Mom set up a perfect “balance” where each body of water in the world was able to basically stay clean and therefore support life. The system worked for millions of years. Then came man. Us humans introduced unnatural elements into Mom’s perfect ecosystem. We over fertilized; we used pesticides, herbicides and a bunch of other ‘cides’. Due to run off these chemicals and other unnatural elements are finding their way into our rivers, lakes, ponds, seas and oceans.

How does a pond go from good to bad?

BALANCE is the key word. In a balanced body of water the life in it is in harmony. Things come into being, live, reproduce and die at a rate that is for the most part in perfect proportion to the need.
That is to say “what lives and then dies is beneficial to the entire environment.” Each living organism is nourished and dependent on other living things contained in the same ecosystem.

Example: Without being too technical. As plant life grows it absorbs carbon dioxide and gives off oxygen. The oxygen is needed by other life forms, (fish, bacteria etc.). Animal life also feeds directly off the plant life and this life becomes food for other life. When the plants and animals die, this dead organic matter sinks to the bottom and begins to decay. Bacteria begin to do their job. They turn the organic matter into ammonia, nitrites, nitrates and finally into nitrogen. Besides nitrogen, other plant nutrients (potassium, calcium, iron, phosphorus etc.) also are produced in order to keep the life cycle on going. Nitrogen basically is plant food. The nitrogen provides the means for new plant growth. The life cycle of algae works the same way. Bacteria eat the dead algae; small animals (zooplankton) eat the algae and the bacteria, which in turn is eaten by other life forms. Death is not a bad thing because it provides food for the living. Therefore in a balanced pond or lake the process provides each life with the means to survive.


If this balance is disturbed in some way the entire ecosystem is affected. To illustrate, let us look at a pond that is out of balance or becoming unbalanced. The first signs of an out of balance pond are an over abundance of algae and weed growth. This happens because the available bacteria are not absorbing the decaying organic matter from previous growth at the natural cleansing rate.

One major cause is that the pond is experiencing “eutrophication”, which means “over fed”. The main reason for this is pollution. There is man made pollution and natural pollution. Man made pollution often contributes to the over feeding of the pond from the run off of the things we put on our lawns and crops to make them grow faster and better. Namely fertilizers. Most fertilizers contain either or all of the following: nitrogen, phosphate, potassium, sodium, iron and calcium. All these elements greatly enhance plant growth. When present in excess, such nutrients can stimulate algae, aquatic plant and weed growth. In turn more and more plants die off, which in turn end up on the bottom as organic sludge.

If the bacteria can not keep up and dissolve (decay) this heavy loading of organic matter the pond begins to deteriorate. Left unchecked, sooner or later the pond fills with dead plant life and becomes a swamp. Side note: Actually this also happens in the natural order of things. Natural pollution can cause a pond to become a swamp, then a bog and finally a meadow. But that is on Mother Nature’s time line, which may not be what we want. AND we can slow this process way down or even stop it all together.

Again without getting overly technical, in nature as plants die and sink to the bottom, they serve as additional plant food. As the organic load builds it robs the pond of oxygen. Stagnation sets in. Without oxygen the beneficial bacteria can not live. As more and more of this process takes place the pond begins to die from the bottom up. It is Mother Nature’s way, but we can slow the process or increase it. Which brings us back to man made pollution. Add some chemicals, which stimulate plant grown and you greatly; increase the prospects of the pond dying. On the other hand, add beneficial bacteria and oxygen (for the bacteria to flourish) and the dying process slows or stops. Herein lies the answer to how we can restore and/or maintain our ponds and lakes in a clear, clean healthy state.

Keep weed growth and algae under control = clear, clean healthy water.


First of all let us look at what does NOT work. Using harsh chemicals like copper sulfate and others is not the answer. Yes they kill off weeds, but over time they actually contribute to the problem by adding to the organic loading, killing off beneficial bacteria and hurting the environment as a whole.

The use of chemical dyes, which turn the water blue or another color, are another way to fail. They are designed to rob the water of sunlight. The reasoning being that the plant life in the pond needs sunlight to grow so this “shading” effect will slow the growth rate. The problem is that other life forms in the pond also need sunlight to stay healthy. In the long term these dyes cause the pond to suffer a lingering, but certain death.

The only true answer to the problem is found in Mother Nature’s own way of doing things.

That answer is the enhancement of the decaying process by the natural action of beneficial bacteria.

It is a two-fold process that has proven to work best. It is done by adding mature healthy bacteria to the pond and giving it the means to survive.

It is a simple equation. Have enough beneficial bacteria to absorb the dead organic matter faster than it is produced and the pond stays healthy, clean and clear.

Which brings us to the benefits of aeration. A well-designed aeration system in the pond environment greatly enhances the overall life cycle. Why? Well the first thing that comes to mind is an aerator adds the needed oxygen that the bacteria needs to live, but there are other benefits as well.