Why are there red streaks in my lagoon? About lagoon Daphnia

We love hearing from operators–their questions give us insight into what may be going on in other lagoon systems. An operator asked if we could identify some red bugs he saw floating on the edge of his lagoon. At first we thought midge fly larvae, which are little red worms that hatch into swarming clouds of nuisance insects (more on midge flies in our previous article, What are these red worms in the lagoon?). From the photo he sent us, however, the red streaks are a telltale sign of lagoon Daphnia. This gives us the perfect opportunity to discuss what they are, why they can cause red streaks in a lagoon, and what they indicate about treatment conditions.

lagoon daphnia

What are Lagoon Daphnia?

lagoon daphniaDaphnia pulex, although often called a water flea, is actually a freshwater crustacean closely related to shrimp. It takes its nickname from the way it propels itself through the water, which resembles the hop of a flea. Daphnia, the most common microscopic crustacean, can be visible to the naked eye, with lengths ranging from 0.2–5 mm. Their reproduction alternates between asexual and sexual reproduction, with females laying eggs during the warmer season and males only being produced during stressed conditions, such as overcrowding or cold temperatures. Eggs laid in the winter have a thicker protective shell and hatch in the spring.

The Micropolitan Museum of Microscopic Art Forms offers a gallery of Daphnia, called “The Water Flea Circus.” Their transparent skin makes them popular for scientific observation, as it’s possible to perform sensitivity experiments without killing them.

Daphnia are metazoan organisms, like nematodes, bristle worms, and tardigrades. Metazoa feed on algae and bacteria, and algae- and bacteria-consuming protozoa like amoeba, flagellates, and ciliates. In the simplest terms, bacteria do the grunt work in a wastewater treatment plant, consuming the soluble organic material like protein, carbohydrates, and fats, then forming as floc and settling out. Protozoa control the bacterial population and pathogens, cycle nutrients, and improve water clarity. Metazoa keep protozoa and bacterial populations in check; some process sludge.

For a more detailed explanation of wastewater microbiology, check out the Wisconsin Wastewater Association’s presentation, Wastewater Microbiology & Process Control. It was authored by Toni Glymph, Senior Environmental Microbiologist for the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, which operates one of the world’s largest wastewater treatment plants.

Lagoon Daphnia are Picky Eaters

lagoon daphnia

Daphnia controls TSS by consuming lagoon algae.

According to Modeling Daphnia Populations in Wastewater Stabilization Ponds in Minnesota, by Charles Joseph Hathaway and Heinz G. Stefan, Daphnia eat algae, but not all types. Some algal particles, such as those of blue-green or filamentous algae, are too large to fit into their mouths. They focus on unicellular algae, bacteria, and protozoa, and during the winter, they also consume a little sludge. Because blue-green algae and green algae compete, predation of green algae by Daphnia can help to give harmful blue-green algae a foothold in the lagoon. (For more on lagoon blue-green algae, read our blog on harmful algal blooms.)

Warming temperatures jump start Daphnia’s metabolism as algae bloom in the spring. As Daphnia rapidly reproduce in response to the availability of algae, they help to remove TSS and cloudiness and turbidity from the lagoon.

Lagoon Daphnia as an Indicator Organism

As part of the complex food web of a wastewater lagoon, the presence and condition of water fleas can give clues to treatment conditions.

lagoon daphniaLagoon Daphnia are useful as consumers of algae, improving water clarity and reducing TSS, and controlling bacterial and protozoan populations. But once they’ve consumed all the available algae, water fleas get stressed. This stress–due to low food and low dissolved oxygen–causes them to turn red or pink, resulting in red or pink streaks in the lagoon. Check out our blog, What color is your wastewater lagoon?, for more on how lagoon color lends insight into treatment levels. Red or pink streaks in the lagoon are Daphnia’s way of telling you your lagoon has low DO.

Daphnia prefer lower pH conditions, possibly because of the effect of high pH on ammonia. They are ammonia-sensitive, preferring concentrations of less than 0.15 mg/L, and disappearing entirely at ammonia concentrations over 0.7 mg/L.

Daphnia don’t like ammonia. Neither does the EPA. Learn how to cost-effectively remove ammonia from your wastewater lagoon.

Water fleas are such champion algae grazers that it’s possible to have too many of them. If that’s the case, Michael Gerardi, author of The Biology and Troubleshooting of Facultative Lagoons, recommends water hyacinth as a natural remedy.

Getting the message from lagoon Daphnia

Because the red and pink streaks of stressed Daphnia are a flag for low DO, it’s important to address the lack of dissolved oxygen before treatment is affected. Check out our blog, Troubleshooting Low Lagoon Dissolved Oxygen, for an in-depth look; here are some recommendations:

  • Remove any algae, duckweed, or sludge that is blocking the surface
  • Cut down any trees or plants that are interfering with wind action across the surface
  • Reduce BOD loading by adding an influent screen, or run lagoons in parallel instead of in series
  • Improve aeration and mixing

MARS Aeration ensures optimum lagoon DO levels. Download our brochure!

What’s going on in your lagoon?

If you have any lagoon-related questions or challenges we may able to help you with, please don’t hesitate to contact us! And join our Lagoons Do It Better Facebook group, where we’re building a community of operators who can help each other out.

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LDIB-TV: Controlling Lagoon Algae and Duckweed with Aquafix

lagoon algae and duckweedLagoon algae and duckweed are among our most covered topics, and no wonder–both are common in lagoon systems, especially during the summer. In this episode of Lagoons Do It Better TV, we revisit the topic from new angle: how these growths can be controlled with lagoon additives like algaecides, bacteria, and catalysts.

In this video, lagoon specialist Patrick Hill sits down with John Dinneen, leader of technical service at Aquafix (teamaquafix.com), a leading microbiological lab. Aquafix produces bacteria, micronutrients, catalysts, and biostimulants that improve wastewater treatment. Watch the interview and read below for highlights of the conversation and links to more information.

Why is algae an issue?

The main issue with algae from a wastewater perspective is its contribution to TSS, or total suspended solids. However, it’s also important to determine what the presence of algae is indicating about conditions below the surface of the lagoon.

What causes algae growth?

lagoon algae and duckweedAlgae will proliferate where water and nutrients are present, which makes wastewater lagoons an ideal habitat. Ammonia and phosphorus, either from influent or rereleased into the water from sludge, act as fertilizer and promote algal growth. Algal blooms indicate an excess of nutrients and can cause low DO, high BOD and TSS, and odors. Our blog post, Lagoon Algae Prevention and Treatment: Strategies and Methods, provides some detail on the negative impacts of lagoon algae and some options for controlling it.

Join us June 29 for a free webinar on ammonia removal for lagoons!


What about duckweed?

Duckweed is an invasive water plant that proliferates quickly in unaerated wastewater lagoons due to the presence of nutrients and the lack of surface turbulence. According to John Dinneen, when Aquafix gets calls about duckweed, it’s usually because the operator objects to the look of it, rather than treatment issues. Read our article, Lagoon Duckweed: Friend or Foe? for more about lagoon duckweed.

The biggest negative impact duckweed can have on a lagoon is by preventing disinfection in systems that rely on sunlight. A covering of duckweed over the surface blocks UV penetration and can cause a spike in fecal coliform levels.

What does Aquafix recommend to control duckweed?

  • Mixing: Duckweed can’t establish itself on water that’s moving, so adding mixing to a lagoon helps to prevent it.
  • Sludge reduction: Reducing sludge, in addition to promoting the long-term health of the lagoon, removes the nutrients that could otherwise be released back into the water column and encourage the growth of duckweed.
  • Aquatic herbicide: Chemical herbicides can successfully kill off duckweed, preferably employed as a spot treatment on new growths before duckweed has a chance to take over.

What does Aquafix recommend to deal with algae?

  • Sludge Reduction: Removing sludge and settled nutrients will make the lagoon less susceptible to algae in the future.
  • Algaecide: Adding copper sulfate is an old-school method of killing algae; the new generation is a chelated copper, which stays suspended in the water column longer and allows the operator to use less. Since copper accumulates in the lagoon, it’s important to use as little as possible. Peroxide-based algaecides are another option.

Pairing an algaecide with a biocatalyst like Aquafix’s Pondzilla increase the effectiveness of the algaecide by enhancing penetration. Pondzilla stimulates bacteria and fungi to consume the dead algae, thereby improving water clarity.

Strategies for treating lagoon algae and duckweed

For the long-term health of a lagoon system, it’s important to treat the causes of lagoon algae and duckweed: limiting nutrients, reducing sludge, and providing mixing.

Triplepoint’s MARS aerator provides robust mixing that keeps algae and duckweed from gaining a foothold in a lagoon. 

For a quick fix, with results visible in as little as a week, algae and duckweed can be treated with an algaecide or herbicide. Summer is the best time to use a sludge reduction additive like Aquafix’s VitaStim lagoon line, as the warm water stimulates the bacteria that degrade sludge.

For more information about how Aquafix products can improve treatment in your lagoon, visit their website, teamaquafix.com, or call 888-757-9577. Tell them Triplepoint sent you for a 20% discount on your first order!

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Lagoon Phosphorus 101: A video overview of the why and how of lagoon phosphorus removal

Nutrient removal is one of the most pressing challenges facing lagoon operators. In this episode of Lagoons Do It Better TV, lagoon specialists Patrick Hill and Tom Daugherty discuss why lagoon phosphorus is being regulated and the methods available to meet increasingly stringent phosphorus effluent limits.

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Lagoon TSS to BOD5: A Simple Ratio to Diagnose the Source of Problems

Biological Oxygen Demand (BOD) and Total Suspended Solids, or TSS, are standard testing parameters for wastewater lagoons. The ratio between the two numbers can provide valuable insight into the source of the TSS. In this article, we’ll take a look at what the ratio of lagoon TSS to BOD5 in final effluent reveals about the source of suspended solids issues, and what can be done to correct it.
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Spring Lagoon Stench: It may be normal, but is it inevitable?

spring lagoon stenchSpring is in the air, and for some wastewater lagoons, that means foul odors are in the air, too. Google “spring lagoon stench” and you’ll see articles from local newspapers across the country, each reassuring readers that the foul lagoon odors they experience every spring are “normal” and will soon pass. While spring lagoon stench may be normal, is it inevitable, or can it be prevented?

In this short article, we’ll discuss the causes of spring lagoon odors and what can be done to prevent them. Continue reading

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Lagoon Sludge: Impacts on Ammonia and BOD Treatment

Lagoon sludge is a normal part of lagoon wastewater treatment, and it’s usually not a problem until it is allowed to build up in excess at the bottom of the lagoon. In the latest video posted to our Lagoons Do It Better YouTube channel, lagoon specialists Brady O’Leary and Patrick Hill discuss what causes sludge and how lagoon sludge impacts treatment.

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New Missouri and Iowa Training: Hands-On Advanced Lagoon Optimization Workshops

lagoon optimization workshops

Join us this spring for the most in-depth lagoon training we’ve ever offered!

Several attendees of our past training days have requested longer class time so topics can be covered in more detail. We listened!

Lagoon expert Steve Harris of H&S Environmental will be in Missouri and Iowa this May, presenting intensive, two-day, hands-on lagoon optimization workshops. Designed for lagoon operators, owners, and engineers, these workshops provide practical information and case studies that will help you to evaluate your current system, maximize treatment, reduce costs, and ensure compliance now and in the future. Continue reading

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Lagoon Ammonia Solutions: A Video Review of Options

In a previous blog post and its accompanying YouTube video, we presented 6 Key Factors that contribute to lagoon ammonia removal. In this followup, Brady and Patrick evaluate four popular options for lagoon ammonia removal and highlight the pros and cons of each.

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Why We Say Lagoons Do It Better

Lagoons Do It Better is our belief, our motto, and our mission. In the following brief video, Patrick and Brady detail what we at Triplepoint mean when we say “Lagoons Do It Better,” and why we say it.

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Removing Lagoon Ammonia: 6 Key Factors for Nitrification

Strategies for removing lagoon ammonia have become a hot topic over the past few years. Many state environmental agencies have been introducing new ammonia limits for wastewater facilities, including lagoons. This is a problem because most wastewater lagoon systems were not originally designed for ammonia treatment; as a result, most will require some kind of upgrade.

In this episode of Lagoons Do It Better TV, Removing Lagoon Ammonia: 6 Key Factors for Nitrification, lagoon specialists Patrick Hill and Brady O’Leary outline the six conditions that must be optimized to ensure lagoon ammonia removal via nitrification.

Nitrification is the most common way to biologically remove ammonia in wastewater lagoons. In this process, ammonia treatment occurs courtesy of bacteria already present in the water. These bacteria break down the ammonia and eventually promote the release of nitrogen gas into the atmosphere. The end result is that your wastewater lagoon ammonia is nitrified, resulting in lower ammonia levels in your effluent.

Watch the video, then read below for more details on the information presented. Then register for Lagoons Do It Better, our community for lagoon professionals!

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