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Thread: A different kind of algae question...

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    dattia's Avatar
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    A different kind of algae question...

    Hmmm.... I got to thinking that all of you water experts around here may have the answer I am looking for. Besides having a pool for the family's refreshment, I have two fountains in my garden to keep the birds happy. One is a 'bowl' variety that sits on the ground near a feeder. There is a little fountain head in the center that is surrounds by rocks. The birds walk on the rocks to get at the water which is kept almost at a trickle, so that it is easy for them to splash and drink from. The other fountain is a three-tiered 'pineapple' style where the water flows from the top and makes its way down to the bottom by filling the lower level until that in turn spills into the large basin.

    I love watching the birds having fun in them, but, they are prone to get algae rather quickly. Without thinking clearly one year, I put bleach in them to control it and it sent the birds packing... and I'm sure they let all their friends know too! Now I am in a schedule of cleaning and scrubbing once a week to control it and I have managed to keep my birds around. While that method is keeping the birds happy... I can't say as much about myself.

    So... my question. Is there a way to maintain an algae free fountain that is safe for the wildlife in the yard to swim and drink that doesn't include weekly breaking down and scrubbing?
    27' round AG
    Hayward Matrix 1 1/2 HP Pump
    Hayward S210T Sand Filter

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    Re: A different kind of algae question...

    There might be an algaecide that is effective at inhibiting algae, but isn't harmful to birds. However, I don't know enough about the effects of algaecides on birds to be able to tell you. This link on boron only talks about the concentration of boron naturally in birds, but doesn't refer to toxicity levels. It is possible that 50 ppm Borates would inhibit algae and maybe be OK for the birds, but given the effect on dogs I wouldn't be sure about that. Other algaecide alternatives would be questionable as well including PolyQuat 60, copper sulfate, etc.

    Perhaps the safest method would be a phosphate remover, if that were to actually prevent algae growth. However, if your fill water has phosphates in it (some municipalities add it as a corrosion inhibitor -- my fill water has 300-500 ppb phosphates, for example), then you'll be needing maintenance doses regularly. Also not the cloudiness that could occur from it and you may not have any way to filter out such particles.

    I'm a bit surprised that the chlorine scared away the birds. I suspect you used too high a level. At normal algae inhibition levels, the FC isn't much higher than found in some drinking water (usually around 1 ppm FC but up to 4 ppm FC and that's with no CYA), but at shock levels I can imagine that the birds might have been deterred.
    16,000 gallon outdoor in-ground 16'x32' plaster pool; Pentair Intelliflo VF pump; Pentair IntelliTouch i9+3s control system; Jandy CL-340 square foot cartridge filter
    12 Fafco solar panels; Purex Triton PowerMax 250 natural gas heater (200,000 BTU/hr output); automatic electric pool safety cover; 4-wheel pressure-side "The Pool Cleaner"

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    Re: A different kind of algae question...

    I am not totally sure but copper might be safe for birds. I know in small enough doses it is safe for fish.

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    dattia's Avatar
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    Re: A different kind of algae question...

    Thanks for entertaining my off-topic question. After looking through chem geek's link, I googled to see if I could find any other info. It seems that on a particular bird forum, they recommended small doses of bleach (I'm quite sure that I overdosed it the last time) and also placing a piece of copper piping or a few "old" pennies with a high copper content in the basin.

    You were both right! Of course I knew that you would be! Thanks again!
    27' round AG
    Hayward Matrix 1 1/2 HP Pump
    Hayward S210T Sand Filter

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    Re: A different kind of algae question...

    Instead of the pennies or copper pipe a chelated copper algaecide might be safer since the copper dosage can be more closely regulated.

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    Re: A different kind of algae question...

    Also, since the fountain is outdoors, you'll want to use some CYA in the water so that the chlorine doesn't break down too quickly -- just like a pool. If you use a little copper algaecide as well, then you don't have to worry as much about the FC getting too low relative to CYA -- you'll have some insurance. Hopefully, you won't get staining (a fountain gets a lot of aeration so the pH can rise, though you won't be increasing the TA intentionally -- higher pH with copper can cause it to stain).

    Yes, if you just added chlorine without CYA, then the chlorine would outgas a lot so would smell and probably annoy the birds. Try adding chlorine with CYA. The easiest way to do that is with Dichlor, at least initially until the CYA builds up, and then switch to bleach -- and don't overdose. 1/4 teaspoon of 6% bleach in 2 gallons is 10 ppm FC (already high). Basically, treat this somewhat as you would a spa except you could go higher with the CYA since the fountain is exposed to sunlight and you could have the copper-based algaecide.
    16,000 gallon outdoor in-ground 16'x32' plaster pool; Pentair Intelliflo VF pump; Pentair IntelliTouch i9+3s control system; Jandy CL-340 square foot cartridge filter
    12 Fafco solar panels; Purex Triton PowerMax 250 natural gas heater (200,000 BTU/hr output); automatic electric pool safety cover; 4-wheel pressure-side "The Pool Cleaner"

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    Re: A different kind of algae question...

    But, you know, the algae is consuming the ammonia from bird poop in the water. When there is bird poop in the water it simply has to be dumped out since you don't have a filter to mechanically remove it. The amount of chlorine that it would take to clean the water is too much for the birds.

    I would ignore the algae as it helps to clean the water of ammonia but keep up the weekly scrubbing, I think the fountain needs it just to remove bird poo.
    23,000 gallon in ground pool with rock waterfall and spillover spa, Aqualink control system, Polaris 380 cleaner, Purex Triton Clean&Clear Plus cartridge filter. Located in The Woodlands, Texas.

    Pool owner since Nov 2008, Trouble Free since April 2009. Happy to help when I can.

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    Re: A different kind of algae question...

    You can try barley straw pellets to inhibit the algae but the scrubbing really is necessary to clean up their droppings.
    — AnnaK —

    12,000 gal AGP, Hayward sand filter, Pentair 2-speed pump, timer.
    Please visit our Pool Issues pages for information about step weights, managing the solar cover, and PoolSkim.

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