Nitrogen Cycle Basics for Pond Owners

Earth Works builds ecosystem ponds that work with natures’ nitrogen cycle for pond owners wanting to provide a healthy aquatic environment for plants and animals. Organic debris, including fish food, animal, and plant waste, accumulate in ponds and are broken down by nitrifying bacteria making nitrogen available to plants in a process called nitrogen fixation. “Nitrification constitutes a two-step process,” according to the Journal of Microbiology. “In the first step, ammonia is oxidized to nitrite by ammonia-oxidizing bacteria (AOB), followed by the oxidation of nitrite to nitrate by ubiquitous nitrite-oxidizing bacteria.”

High organic nutrient concentrations from runoff pollution are often in the news causing oxygen depleting algal blooms and high levels of harmful bacteria that kill fish and other wildlife. Earth Works offers annual pond cleanouts as part of regular maintenance for the healthy pond ecosystem. We stock both cold and warm water activating beneficial bacteria for dosing your pond filter to fuel the eco-friendly nitrogen cycle for pond owners. While it sounds complicated, the properly constructed and engineered pond with adequate filtration, skimmer, pump turnover rate, and properly stocked fish and plants with annual cleanouts are ecologically balanced and easy to maintain.
“Nitrosomonas bacteria first convert nitrogen gas to nitrite (NO2-) and subsequently Nitrobacter convert nitrite to nitrate (NO3-), a plant nutrient,” according to Lenntech. Nitrates become unhealthy for fish at 120 ppm where plants are insufficient for absorption. While these processes are invisible Earth Works supplies various water test kits and water additives to treat and regulate pond water parameters.

Source: Kodama Koi Farm

Under dirty conditions, certain bacteria species threaten the health of fish and other pond wildlife populations. “Aeromonas Alley” is described as when water temps are between 42F and 62F when Aeromonas bacterial strains at high concentrations in dirty ponds can result in fish ulcers, hemorrhagic septicemia, brown blood disease (caused by nitrite toxicity), and death. Good and bad bacteria populations are increasing their activities as water temperatures increase, making nitrogen bioavailable over what pond plants can use, which is why we encourage clients to schedule their pond cleanouts in winter heading into spring. Complicating matters, some of these Aeromonas bacteria species convert nitrates back into nitrites in denitrification. Nitrite levels over 0.15 milligrams per liter in fish inhibit their absorption of oxygen. Regular dechlorinated water changes are the best low-tech approach to reducing levels of nitrites and nitrates in the pond.

The nitrogen cycle explains the basics for converting nutrients into plant food. Earth Works and a network of Certified Aquascape Contractors provide information, products, and services to improve biosecurity to beautiful, low-maintenance ecosystem ponds.

For comprehensive solutions to your specific lawn, garden, and landscaping needs, contact us at 904-996-0712. Earth Works operates a retail Garden Center/Plant Nursery in Jacksonville and provides landscaping, hardscaping, water features, lawn care service, lawn spraying, and drainage solutions. Contact us with your questions and to book design consultations.
We proudly serve clients in Northeast Florida, including Jacksonville, Ponte Vedra Beach, Atlantic Beach, Neptune Beach, Jacksonville Beach, Nocatee, St. Johns, Fleming Island, Orange Park, Middleburg, Green Cove Springs, Amelia Island, Fernandina, and St. Augustine.

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