Emergent - Cattail

Emergent – Cattail

We receive calls from folks who just built a new pond. They installed artificial fish attractors in key areas, built brush piles, and other important habitat. Someone told them they should plant vegetation.

Lake management plans monitor water quality and methods to grow healthy fish, but Mother Nature determines what vegetation develops in ponds. Plants require certain water chemistry, nutrition, soil, and sunlight to thrive. When the right conditions exist for given plants, they appear. Plant seeds are deposited by waterfowl hopping from pond to pond. Fragments may migrate from a neighbors pond to yours during high water events.


Submerged-Coontail. Image courtesy of Aquaplant.tamu.edu

According to our friends at the Texas AgriLife Extension Service, there a six common varieties of algae, 10 floating plants, some 25 submerged plants, and 39 in the emergent category. As you see, there are numerous opportunities for vegetation to develop. Our challenge is maintaining a proper balance for fish habitat and limiting growth so it doesn’t interfere with you enjoying the pond.


Algae are very primitive plants. Most are microscopic, others are stringy or hair-like, some are large and resemble higher plants with true roots. Floating plants are not attached to the bottom. They are in all sizes from very small to over a foot in diameter.


Floating-Duck-Weed. Image courtesy of Aquaplant.tamu.edu


Most have roots that hang in the water from floating green portions. Submerged types are rooted with most vegetative mass below the surface. Soft stems usually prevent them from rising above the surface. Emergent plants often are rooted along the shoreline, have strong stems, and stand above the water. It’s important to identify each variety in your pond. Some are beneficial to fish and waterfowl, others disrupt pond productivity.

There are safe, approved chemicals to treat problem plants. Several brands are only sold to licensed applicator’s. Vegetation treatment is not a casual task. You must accurately identify the plant, then select the correct chemical for effective results. Treating too large an area at one time can cause a fish kill. It’s best to treat plants early in new growing seasons. Surfactants must be added to chemicals when spraying certain varieties, like lily pads, so the product sticks to waxy leaves.

Scattered vegetation is beneficial for fish cover. Young baitfish need such security zones to escape predation and mature to contribute future generations of forage. We don’t get concerned about vegetation until it exceeds approximately 20 percent of the pond area. Greater coverage may prevent bass and other sportfish from feeding efficiently and maintaining desired growth rates. Early, spot treatment or grass carp can keep conditions balanced. If you want to accent a dock or prominent shoreline, ask us about water lilies.


Algae-Filamentous. Image courtesy of Aquaplant.tamu.edu

They can be planted in containers and confined to preferred locations. Floating islands make great landscape features. They can be moved for a new look and planted with different varieties each season.

Please don’t collect a random bucket of vegetation from an outside source and toss it into your pond. As you see, there are numerous ways for it to establish naturally. Since water temperature influences vegetation growth, it’s now dormant and won’t resprout until water temps return to the 60’s. If you have excess vegetation, call to make a plan for nipping it in the bud early next spring.