Magazine article Landscape & Irrigation

The Basics of Aquatic Dyes. (High Science)

Magazine article Landscape & Irrigation

The Basics of Aquatic Dyes. (High Science)

Article excerpt

The view of a clear body of water with sunlight dancing across the 17 surface is envisioned by many property owners with a lake or a pond. All too often, the sun's summer rays bring a different reality as the water turns murky or green.

Fortunately, products like aquatic dyes can help solve those problems. And while pesticides alone may not offer the best long-term solutions, an integrated strategy that includes the use of properly formulated lake and pond dyes and other products, such as biological pond clarifiers, can provide greater short-term appearance and long-term improvement in overall water quality.

Aquatic plants are essential components of a well-balanced pond, lake or river ecosystem. Microscopic plants, such as algae, are the basis of the aquatic food web, producing oxygen for fish and other aquatic animals. Larger plants provide spawning areas and safe havens for young fish, or habitats for insects and snails. Other plants protect against shoreline erosion or stabilize the bottom sediments.

Effective management of water bodies is complicated by factors that are frequently beyond the owner's control. Eutrophication (inputs from external sources) can cause an imbalance in the nutrients available for plant growth. Turf fertilizers, septic leaching, plants brought in from outside sources (such as the bottom of a boat), storm run-off, wildlife and a host of other factors can promote rapid plant growth that will interfere with the lake's inhabitants, its ecology and its intended use.

Integrated management of ponds and lakes helps achieve a balance in this essential aquatic growth and compensates for complications from outside sources. Aquatic dyes are an important component in this strategy.

Aquatic dyes generally fall into two categories. Single-component formulations contain some source of blue color, and more sophisticated products contain both blue and yellow in an appropriate ratio. In addition, the technical quality of the dyes may be variable. The formulations among these dyes may vary significantly, as can the manufacturers' claims.

In general, any product that claims to stop, limit, prevent, control or restrict aquatic growth must be a registered pesticide. These products are therefore subject to EPA regulations. Label instructions must be followed closely. In addition, many states require pesticide applicators to be licensed.

Aquatic dyes that are registered pesticides include Aquashade, manufactured by Applied Biochemists, and Admiral, marketed by Becker Underwood.

Aquatic dyes that are similarly formulated, but are not pesticides, include True Blue Lake and Pond Dye, manufactured by Precision Laboratories, and Rochester Midland's Dolge Lake Dye.

Properly formulated aquatic dyes act as chemical shades that absorb some of the blue wavelengths of light that are needed for photosynthesis. In general, a 2-foot water column is needed for sunlight filtration. Because plants can grow in the top 18 inches of water, many lake and pond management sources recommend that gradual, sloping beachfronts be avoided so that the areas where algae can bloom is limited.

How long aquatic dyes depends on several factors, such as the formulation and ingredients of the product, in-flow and out-flow rates, and the amount of sunlight. Through the growing season, as the dye becomes diluted, broken down by sunlight or biologically decomposed, additional dye should be added. It can be used on a wide range of water-body sizes with good results.

Application is easy, and most products can be simply poured or dispensed into the water from shoreline. Some manufacturers offer aquatic dyes in a water-soluble package that allows for minimal or virtually no contact by the applicator. For maximum effectiveness, Jim Reiss of Precision Laboratories recommends that aquatic dyes be applied as soon as the ice melts in northern climates.

"Getting lake and pond dyes out early is important," Reiss says. …

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