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jaybear

Mar 28, 2006, 2:09 PM

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Fountain sludge

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Okay, so we have an old 3-level fountain, which sits at the corner of our back patio and pumps happily away to the delight of the bird population. The burbling of the water is pleasant and prevents our hearing the sounds that go bump in the night unless they are very loud. Thus, we are very grateful for our fountain.

Problem: We have tried the chlorine tablets and ph balancing route, and the chlorine kills all the plants with about a 2 foot radius of the fountain, and we would like to have plants around the fountain. We have tried just cleaning the fountain, but we have to do this every 2 weeks at minimum, or the algae gets really bad.

Is there a solution that will allow us to have both (a) plants around the fountain and (b) clean water without (c) a lot of back-breaking labor?

Thanks for any info you can provide.
"Don't believe everything you think" - Maxine

JayBear




Ron Pickering W3FJW


Mar 28, 2006, 3:10 PM

Post #2 of 13 (4871 views)

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Re: [jaybear] Fountain sludge

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Try a small amount of bleach.
Getting older and still not down here.


johanson


Mar 28, 2006, 5:27 PM

Post #3 of 13 (4858 views)

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Re: [Ron Pickering W3FJW] Fountain sludge

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Are not bleach and chlorine really the same thing? hydrochloric acid? Lower levels of chlorine you know, maybe 1 part per million should help keep the fountain clean and not harm the plants.

It's been 20 years since I had to worry about things like that so I might be a little off. But I had a pool that I maintained and I had to keep the chlorine low enough to swim in and I remember being told by a pool supplier that as long as I kept my chlorine level somewhat lower than 2 parts per million (you test the level using a swimming pool water tester) that your plants will be OK

I bet there is someone out there who could fine tune the info I posted above.


sfmacaws


Mar 28, 2006, 8:22 PM

Post #4 of 13 (4840 views)

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Re: [jaybear] Fountain sludge

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I built a big pond last year in California and spent a lot of time researching it. Algae is the number one thing talked about on pond forums and how to books. Basically, algae needs air and light to grow. If the fountain is in full sun, algae will be more of a problem. If it is possible to use plants so that the water receives less sun that will help. If you look under the algae in an algae covered pond, the water will be crystal clear. The algae itself cuts off the sun.

Second, most algae runs through a life cycle and will begin to die off on its own at some point. If you add chlorine or drain and add fresh water you just start the whole cycle over again. You have to find a natural balance or you will be fighting it forever.

With my fountains in my old house in NoCal I would just scrub the drip line with a wire brush every few weeks and clean the filter on the pump, that would get rid of most of it and the water was clear. There was some algae always but not overwhelming.

If you want to do a big cleanup, scrub all the algae loose and put the intake for the pump inside some cotton batting or quilting material (under water of course), rinse and replace until the algae stops clogging it.

Try not to replace more than 10% of the water at any one time. You're just adding new nutrients for an increased algae bloom.

Fish eat algae if not fed fish food. Some goldfish in the bottom of the fountain if its deep enough will help control it as well.

There is a product called Koi Clay that we use in the pond in SoCal. It helps alot with brown or green water from floating algae, I doubt it is available down here but you could order some and have a friend bring it down. It's probably not as effective in the small amounts of water in a fountain though, its more for ponds. There are also products sold in pond stores in the US that claim to be algaecides but I've heard conflicting tales of how well they work.

Mainly, unless you want to be constantly adding chlorine (with the resultant danger to your plants) or some other product, you have to let the water cycle and learn to live with a little algae. Weekly brushing and a good filter on the pump worked best for me.


Jonna - Mérida, Yucatán




Cynthia7

Mar 29, 2006, 3:25 AM

Post #5 of 13 (4828 views)

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Re: [sfmacaws] Fountain sludge

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Have you put one of those chlorine tablets in that you use in the back of the toilet?? Those work in our fountain..it dissolves slowly over a few months??We have had no problems with plants dying and we have clear water.


jaybear

Mar 29, 2006, 4:34 AM

Post #6 of 13 (4827 views)

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Re: [Cynthia7] Fountain sludge

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Thanks to all who have written so far. Keep the advice coming.

A little clarification (pun):

We do not have algae on the surface of the water, as is common in ponds. What we have is algae (brown) clinging to the bottom and sides of the fountain. Once it gets really bad the water is rusty brown with it. It is probably made worse by the fact that our fountain is old and the stone is rough and there are even a few cracks in the bottom that are sealed but are a good place for algae to form. Some day we intend to reline the fountain and put new tile around the edge of the lower tier, which will probably help as the surfaces will then be less porous, BUT this is not going to happen in the near future, as we are still working on basics around the house.

We have a new pump, but, so far as I know, we do not have a filter on the pump. I will talk to the guys at the pool store where I got the pump, to see if I can get a filter. Perhaps a UV filter? It has occurred to me that one way of reducing the bloom is to filter it out, especially since we keep the pump on 24/7.

The fountain is getting a little sun now that the direction of the sun is changing. Even tho I am always talking about photosynthesis and Lake Chapala's shallow water, it had not occurred to me that the sun was a problem. Now I realize that fountains I have seen surrounded by ferns and other plants were in an atrium where it is shaded. I will work on getting plants arranged so that it is as shaded as possible.

About the chlorine tablets: When I first redid the fountain, I killed one side of all the plants that I put around it because I had put one of those chlorine tablets in the water. I tried a half tablet and it was not enough to keep the algae at bay, and the plants still did not like it. If I get plants within about 2 feet of the fountain, the spray is enough to damage them. I would like to avoid using chlorine. That's the whole point of this enquiry.

Note that my idea of plants is to have them surrounding the fountain on the ground, and sitting on the edge of the bottom fountain tier--not growing or sitting in the water.

Also note that I prefer not to fuss around with goldfish. Just another mouth to feed!

Gotta go clean the fountain now!

I note that the ph is very high, and that algae is killed by low ph. I know I can get stuff to balance the ph at the pool store, BUT has anyone tried putting a cup of white vinegar in the water?
"Don't believe everything you think" - Maxine

JayBear



swine


Mar 29, 2006, 7:01 AM

Post #7 of 13 (4817 views)

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Re: [jaybear] Fountain sludge

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What will work is using a small shop (wet/dry) vac to suck up the sludge once a week or so. You won't get everything, but the vac will pull in the stuff on the bottom and your fountain will clear up for a spell.

Another solution is to install a drain and replace all the water occasionally. I put in a valved one and give the impatiens a good soaking once a week.

I do these things because I like to have my animals and the visiting critters and birds avoid ingesting that chlorine (in whatever guise). It is a bit of work, so you could have the gardener do it. I don't, because he is not mechanically inclined and tends to do in the equipment.


Papirex


Mar 29, 2006, 9:43 AM

Post #8 of 13 (4797 views)

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Re: [swine] Fountain sludge

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I don’t have a fountain now, but about 5 years ago when we lived in a different house, we did have one that was in the center of the front patio, no plants or other shade shielded it from direct sunlight.

I used to do the same thing that Jay recommends. Every month or so, I would drain and replace the water in it. We never had an algae problem with the fountain, although we sometimes did with the swimming pool.

We had a couple of dogs that thought that the water in the fountain was the only place to get a drink of the best water, far better than the bottled water in their bowls. I never wanted to put any chemicals in their favorite drinking spot.

Rex
"The supreme happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved" - Victor Hugo


Bubba

Apr 11, 2006, 3:22 PM

Post #9 of 13 (4747 views)

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Re: [jaybear] Fountain sludge

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Jaybear,
Re using salt to control algae.

I found my notes regarding algae. I used salt to control parasites in my koi ponds : I will not bother you with the info for fish but in the article I used they found out that algae starts dying at a concentration of 2.5 gr per liter or 2.5lb per 100 gallons. Water plants will die at 3lbs per gallon Use rock salt.


(This post was edited by Bubba on Apr 11, 2006, 3:39 PM)


Ron Pickering W3FJW


Apr 11, 2006, 3:43 PM

Post #10 of 13 (4740 views)

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Re: [Bubba] Fountain sludge

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Anybody ever tried water softener?? Helps stop a lot of problems in my MH grey water tank.
Might be worth a shot.
Getting older and still not down here.


jaybear

Apr 11, 2006, 4:23 PM

Post #11 of 13 (4733 views)

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Re: [Bubba] Fountain sludge

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No reason not to try the salt. I will let you know how that turns out. Not sure about the water softener. I'll try one cure-all at a time!
"Don't believe everything you think" - Maxine

JayBear



johncash


Apr 11, 2006, 9:47 PM

Post #12 of 13 (4708 views)

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Re: [jaybear] Fountain sludge

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Two things will help your algae problem and not hurt your plants. Hydrogen peroxide (3.5%) at the rate of one ounce per ten gallons water. A commercial cleaning product commonly called oxy-clean will also control the algae and not harm fish or plants. Just sprinkle it directly on the algae and let it work.

Ever consider that the problem with the plants may not be with the chlorine?? Just the excess water from the fountain could easily be enough to rot your plants. Check out my website at www.Ark-La-TexWater Gardens.com. Hope this helps.

We are planning our first trip into Mexico this summer. Going to visit Rincon de Guayabitos and the surrounding area for a couple of weeks. Hope to meet some of you then.

John


jaybear

Apr 12, 2006, 5:52 AM

Post #13 of 13 (4702 views)

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Re: [johncash] Fountain sludge

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Thanks, John. The hydrogen peroxide sounds like a good solution until I can get to a store that has stuff specifically for algae.

Considering my cures, the birds here are going to look like new species: swolen ankles (the salt) and blond feathers (peroxide). Guess I better be careful how much stuff I add!

Shading the fountain has made a big difference. I don't think I can totally get rid of the algae problem until I reline the fountain--it is porous and cracked and no doubt traps the algae no matter how hard I clean it.

BUT, all this is very good practice, and I hope to get this down to a science, or maybe an art.
"Don't believe everything you think" - Maxine

JayBear

 
 
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