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Finding the right balance of plants in the pond

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Nothing kills the euphoric feeling of setting the hook on a monster bass more than reeling in a couple pounds of pond weeds. Pond owners and anglers alike need to understand there is a delicate balance between too many aquatic plants and too few.

“Any pond plant will cause problems when it is overabundant,” said Marley Beem, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension aquaculture specialist. “Dense plant growth can interfere with casting and boating access, and be unsightly.”

There are three tips to ensure pond owners do not have an overabundance of plant life. The first is to make sure the pond is at least 3.5 feet deep, which is the depth to which the wavelengths of light useful to plants can penetrate.

“Generally, shorelines should have a 3:1 slope; a 1 foot drop for every 3 feet as you move toward the pond’s center,” Beem said. “Droughts can be a good time to deepen pond edges. Large shallow pond edges tend to be filled by emergent plants such as cattails or bulrush.”

The second tip is to reduce nutrient runoff into the pond by properly managing fertilizer use in the pond’s watershed. Third, learn the names of the common plants in the pond and check them throughout the year for any signs of them becoming overabundant. A list of common plants is available by referencing OSU fact sheet NREM-9211 at

Ponds with an underabundance of plant life may have problems such as a lack of protection against shoreline erosion, limited fish spawning and nursery areas, and inadequate production of insects and other food for fish and other higher animal pond life. It is natural and normal for plants to grow in ponds and totally eliminating them is almost always a mistake.

There are three common situations associated with too few plants. The first is in newly constructed ponds, where not enough time has passed for higher plants to establish themselves.

“Another problem is muddy ponds,” Beem said. “This prevents light penetration, thereby inhibiting plant growth.”

The corrective steps for a muddy pond are available by checking OSU fact sheet NREM-9206.

The final situation causing too few aquatic plants is when herbicides have been used to remove all or most higher plants. This often leads to excess growth of algae.

Pond owners should contact their local county Extension educator if they have too few or too many pond plants.

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