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Thread: Algae . . . or something else? Recognizing & treating pool algae successfully.

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    Default Algae . . . or something else? Recognizing & treating pool algae successfully.

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    Algae . . . or something else?
    Recognizing & treating pool algae successfully.

    [ I'm still editing this, and will add more treatment info soon. But if you want to think about eliminating algae permanently, please read this post . ]

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    A Quick & Basic Primer on Pool Algae

    Algae comes in 3 main 'flavors': green, mustard, and black!

    It's customary, when discussing swimming pool algae, to note that algae is a plant, and even to speculate on which species it is. This is a waste of time, though it took me years to learn that. As Wikipedia [June 2018] puts it, "No definition of algae is generally accepted.". That sounds about right, and is consistent with the things I've learned.

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    But it means that there are no simple recipes for eliminating algae that work in every case. I can offer some usually correct guidelines for ID'ing algae. In fact, you can be pretty sure it IS algae, if
    • The sides of your vinyl or fiberglass pool feel slimy (early stage biofilm formation), OR
    • Your pool water is greenish AND hazy, OR [green algae]
    • Your pool water is GREEN and cloudy, OR
    • There are brownish, yellowish, greenish areas on the side of your pool, that float away when you brush them, but return the next day [ mustard algae ]
    • When you smear the black goo, scraped from the black spots on your pool walls or tile grout, on to a white card . . . and the smear is dark green [ black algae ]

    I'll think of some more, but that list covers the most common 'signs' of algae. I will also add and comment on photos of various types of algae.

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    On the other hand, it's probably NOT algae if
    • The pool water is greenish or GREEN, but CLEAR, OR
    • The brownish or yellowish stains aren't changed by brushing, OR
    • You can't scrape even a little 'goo' from the black spots.

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    Dealing with algae is fairly simple in theory, if sometimes complicated in practice:
    • Make sure it IS algae.
    • Make sure the basics are right:
      • pH between 7.2 and 7.8;
      • chlorine above 2 ppm
      • pump ON and filter WORKING
    • Kill the algae.
    • Clean up the algae.

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    The basics of pool chemistry are covered elsewhere, as are the basics of pump and filter operation, so I won't repeat them here.

    The basics of killing algae are very simple: add more chlorine!

    Here is a very important, very basic fact: chlorine is the STRONGEST, LEAST IRRITATING algaecide you can use!

    I've tried them ALL: monochloramine (Yellow Out), sodium bromide (Yellow Treat), quaternary ammonia (soapy algaecide), copper (copper algaecides OR ionizers), silver (some rare algaecides OR ionizers), zinc (skimmer pills), and the one we've recommended, polyquat. I've even used a product now banned, Simazine.

    Chlorine is MORE effective and causes FEWER problems than any of those. Well, polyquat doesn't cause problems, but it's also not super-effective.

    Here's a breakdown:
    • monochloramine -- temporarily VERY effective, but also VERY irritating.
    • sodium bromide -- not generally effective, but has long lasting side effects
    • quaternary ammonia -- not chlorine compatible; not super effective; fairly irritating.
    • copper -- effective at high levels, but turns hair green and pools green, blue or black.
    • silver -- effective against some strains, but is expensive and can turn pools gray or black.
    • zinc -- not generally effective; can turn pools light gray.
    • polyquat -- not as strong as chlorine, but no bad side effects.

    That's it folks.

    That's all the algaecides there are, except for chlorine. There "ain't no more": everything sold as a pool algaecide is one of those listed, or chlorine. (For those still confused . . . SALT pools ARE chlorine pools!)

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    Last edited by PoolDoc; 06-26-2018 at 01:13 PM.

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    Default Re: Algae . . . or something else? Recognizing & treating pool algae successfully.

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    Green algae

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    Emerging algae in a pool that was partially filled, but not treated.



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    The typical green algae that 'took over your pool'.



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    Default Re: Algae . . . or something else? Recognizing & treating pool algae successfully.

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    Mustard algae

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    The typical light mustard algae.



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    Enhanced version of the same picture, making the mustard algae clearer. You can see the 'stripe', where I wiped off the algae with a light stoke of my hand.



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    Default Re: Algae . . . or something else? Recognizing & treating pool algae successfully.

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    Black algae

    Black algae can occur in vinyl and fiberglass pools, but is much more common in concrete (tile, plaster, pebble-crete) pools

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    A pool infested with black algae.



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    Pebble-crete infested at the water line:



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    A severe black algae infestation, viewed from across the pool.



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    The same algae, closer up.



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    Same again. Notice how the algae is growing UNDER surface flakes of plaster. Black algae loves 'cracks and crannies'.



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    Same, again. Even closer.



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    Default Re: Algae . . . or something else? Recognizing & treating pool algae successfully.

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    Miscellaneous Algae

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    The typical spring-time swamp found when opening improperly closed pools. Cleaning this up, without draining, requires MASSIVE amounts of chlorine.



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    The bacterial / fungal slime sometimes called "water mold".



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    Examples of algae dust, remaining after algae is killed. Mustard algae often grows IN the dust piles.







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    Last edited by PoolDoc; 06-25-2018 at 12:20 PM.

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    Default Re: Algae . . . or something else? Recognizing & treating pool algae successfully.

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    Non-Algae

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    Results of using quaternary algaecide:





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    Results of using copper algaecide: clear water; stained pool!





    Interestingly, this user was quite proud of himself for having worked it all out himself, and was only a little worried about the lingering "algae stains".
    TN20186

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    An example of killing algae with chlorine . . . and cleaning up with a DE filter.
    Live algae totally clogs DE filters, but once the algae is dead, nothing cleans the water as fast as a DE filter.





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    More copper stains . . .



    TN22990

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    Last edited by PoolDoc; 06-25-2018 at 08:16 PM.

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