Frustrated with algae growing in your stock tanks? Wondering where it comes from and what can you do about it. According to the Missouri Department of Conservation, algae is a plant that lives in the water. It is fed by an overabundance of nutrients in the water. Algae can cause the water to taste, smell and look bad.
Robert A. Schultheis, Natural Resource Engineering Specialist at the University of Missouri Extension Center, Webster County explained that cattle and horses are sensitive to water taste and odor and may not drink as much if they consider it unpalatable. Reduced water intake reduces feed intake and depresses weight gain. Chlorine is effective in managing certain taste and odor problems, such as hydrogen sulfide, but using too much can impart its own objectionable taste and odor.
Schultheis said there are several ways to control algae in stock tanks the first being covering or shading the tanks to help slow algae growth.
4 Ways to Control Algae
1) Chlorine Bleach: Add 2-3 ounces of 5.25 percent sodium hypochlorite (unscented laundry bleach) per 100 gallons of tank capacity every week. The chlorine will dissipate more rapidly in hot weather or if organic material is present in the tank. Do not use pipeline sanitizer or swimming pool chlorine.
Performance horses can actually benefit from some chlorine according to a study done by the University of Kentucky, Schultheis pointed out. As a trace element being replaced in their system, it can actually be beneficial so long as it is a small amount and unscented.
2) Copper Sulfate: Add copper sulfate (Bluestone or Blue Vitrol) at the rate of 1/8 teaspoon per 100 gallons of water to kill existing algae. It should then be mechanically removed. Sheep cannot tolerate high levels of copper, so the use of copper sulfate with them must be carefully managed.
3) Zinc Sulfate: Dissolve 1 cup of zinc sulfate in 1 gallon of warm water and put 1/2 cup of this solution per 100 gallons of water in tanks as often as necessary (it will depend on the number of animals drinking, amount of organic material in the trough and weather). If bird manure on the roof is not a factor, it would be helpful to direct runoff from galvanized roofs into waterers.
4) Goldfish: Add 4-6 goldfish per 100 gallons of tank capacity. Water temperature should be at least 60°F for the best fish survival, so spring-fed waterers or tanks with a constant water turnover may have inconsistent algae control. Remember you’re trading the presence of algae for the presence of fish feces. Take the goldfish inside the house before fall frost and put them back out again in the summer.
Schultheis added, “Bottom line, every species of animal has specific nutritional needs and personalities. Producers need to learn what they are and manage accordingly. The use of chemicals is not recommended as a substitute for timely management and preventative maintenance.”