Muddy water in ponds

All farm ponds get stirred up occasionally, but I've seen some that always look like chocolate milk. It’s unattractive and can be harmful to aquatic life.

PJ Waters is an aquaculture Specialist with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System. He says there are several reasons that a pond can turn cloudy.

"Construction activities within the water shed can lead to muddy water in ponds where they're clearing off an area of land to build something. You can get some additional runoff that's picking up some of that soil that's carried into the pond," says Waters. "Different fish, if you've got common carp, or goldfish, or bullhead catfish, a lot of times through their feeding behavior they kind of root through the soil and they can muddy up a pond that way."

Waters says a pond should have about 18 inches of clarity. An easy way to test that is by sticking your arm in the water up to your elbow, then wiggling your fingers. If you can't see your fingers, find out why.

"And the way to do it is you can take a clear glass jar, get some pond water in it, fill it up, and then place it somewhere in  your house and someplace it's not going to be in the way because we don't want to move it again. Let it sit there for a couple of days," he says. "If the water stays cloudy, that's a good indication that there is a clay suspension problem, whereas your algaes and other things may clump up and settle to the bottom of that jar."

Suspended clay can reduce sunlight getting through the water, which kills vegetation. If the cloudiness came on suddenly, wait a few days and see if it clears up. If it doesn't, check the alkalinity of the water, and get advice from the extension service on adding lime, alum or gypsum to the pond.  If you use alum, it's extremely important to monitor the pH levels because they can drop quickly and kill the fish.

Divert runoff around the pond and maintain grass edges and buffer zones to reduce the amount of soil eroding into the water.