Keeping Pond Water Clear

July 1, 2015

A big pile of milfoilMy husband and I have been trying to keep ourselves extremely busy for the past four months to avoid unemployment-related depression. As we currently have zero (0, none, nada, zip) income, we are getting very creative with our time and energy.


Our pond is rapidly being overgrown with an invasive pond-weed called Milfoil. This stuff makes it almost impossible to fish in the pond, and it exacerbates fish-kill in the winter by robbing oxygen from the water as the stuff dies and rots. We decided a good way to keep ourselves occupied is to drag this stuff out of the pond an armful at a time. This has also proved to be great exercise, as the stuff is terribly heavy when wet!A pond with milfoil.

Milfoil in the pond.

Hubs rigged up a hook from a piece of metal (I had salvaged it on a pre-unemployment trip to the lake), a large fishing sinker, and some nylon trot line. We throw the weed-harvesting-rig out into the pond and slowly drag it back in, bringing 20-40 pounds of the weeds back to the bank with it. We load up the garden trailer and pull up to 200-300 hundred pounds at a time to the garden. We are improving our aim every day, and spend roughly an hour a day harvesting this stuff, as well as 20-30 minutes spreading it.Collecting milfoil

Collecting milfoil from the pond.
A big pile of milfoil
The best part about all this is that we have been needing to mulch our tomatoes and other parts of the garden, but no money for mulch! Guess what? It turns out this stuff makes fabulous mulch, and it enriches the soil when it rots (well how could it not, growing in fish poop, right?).

A garden being mulched with milfoil

Milfoil mulch

The pictures aren't the best, but I think you get the idea. We are hoping to get enough "mulch" tonight to finish the paths in the tomato garden. We have also mulched our grapevines with it and hope to do our asparagus bed with it in the fall. When dry, it is very light and soft to walk on.


It's a wet, dirty job, but we are enjoying working together on a big project, and it feels so good to be building muscles while recycling our pond weeds!

Source: Thought of it myself and did a little online research to see if it was a good idea---turns out it was!

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Gold Post Medal for All Time! 858 Posts
June 28, 2006

There is a growing trend in gardening of adding water features to the yard and garden. Installing a pond to your landscape gives your garden a sense of peace and serenity and makes a delightful addition for backyard wildlife.


Neglecting to maintain it, however, can quickly turn your tranquil pond into a smelly, murky headache.

Water lily in pond with fish below.

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4 Questions

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June 1, 2006
Q: I have a small fish pond in my front flower bed. It is under some tress so it gets lots of shade. In the past I tried electric pumps to filter the water but they would constantly get stopped up. I finally took the pump out and now just have the pond without any filter. Is there any product that will keep the water clear? I have cleaned the pond and put fresh water in it.
I waited 3 days to put the fish back in so the water would not kill them. What is the best way to keep the pond clean at this point? I really don't get algae in the water but it is hard to keep it from turning dark. The liner is heavy plastic and the pond holds about 50 gallons of water.


Cookiepom from Owensboro, KY

A: Cookiepom,

All ponds need some cleaning and maintenance to keep the water clear, but once your pond reaches a state of balance, cleaning and maintenance should stay at a minimal. In new ponds, water is seldom clear for very long and changing the water frequently only delays balancing the ecosystem. The keys to a balanced system are 1) a pond of the proper depth, 2) combined with a good filtration system (biological or otherwise), 3) adding the appropriate amount of plants and fish, and 4) a little bit of patience. Several things could be causing your water to look dark and murky, including algae, bottom silt, and excess waste and decaying debris (falling from the trees overhead).

Make sure the soil on the bottom of your pond is covered with large pieces of slate, sand or gravel to prevent the fish from digging up the plants and stirring up silt. Encourage the growth of submerged plants like Anacharis, Cabomba or Vallisneria (good in shade), which will not only oxygenate the water, but filter out suspended particles. If you haven't added them already, snails, tadpoles and bottom feeding fish are also important partners in eating algae.


You may not think you have an algae problem, but algae can't always be seen with the naked eye. It's usually the single-celled algae (suspended in the water) that are responsible for turning it that murky green color. Light, warm temperatures and calm water are really all most algae need to "bloom."

Adding surface plants, like water lilies, will keep the pond cooler and block out light to the algae as they grow. These plants, along with the submerged plants, will eventually kill off the algae by taking up the CO2 and nutrients they need to survive. In a small pond, you'll want to shoot for having at least 50-60% of the surface covered with floating plants. Also, most pond suppliers recommend that a pond with 50 gallons of water or less should contain no more than 2-3 gold fish to keep from overloading the waste cycle. Koi fish are not recommended for smaller ponds because they grow to large.


Good luck!


May 8, 20060 found this helpful

Barley straw works well for keeping pond water clear. Check out Gardener's Supply Company at, and search for "barley". The Barley Pad with Flotation Frame s the product size that would be appropriate for a pond your size. The Barley Ball product description is a bit more useful, though. Good luck!

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By Sue (Guest Post)
May 9, 20060 found this helpful

PetSmart sells squares of pond water cleaner. You get 3 for about 10 bucks. You just float these cleaners in your pond, they are about 10x10 inches. At first they float and eventually sink, they dissolve and you don't have to worry about removing them. Add a new pad every 3 months. They really keep the water clear and sparkling

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Answer this Question

May 1, 2012

It is frustrating when your beautiful garden pond become a murky green from algae. This is a page about controlling algae in a pond.

Controlling Algae in a Pond

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