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How Diatoms Benefit a Body of Water

Diatoms outcompete less desirable forms of algae for nutrients in the water reducing harmful blue-green algae and filamentous algae (string algae). They are able to do this because they photosynthesize earlier and in less light therefore they are able to consume nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus before the nuisance algae. Diatoms are the primary food source at the base of the food chain for everything living in fresh water, which includes zooplankton, crustaceans, and amphibians. When nutrients are consumed by these organisms, they are unavailable to weeds and algae. Diatoms also increase dissolved oxygen in the water. They produce more oxygen in their life cycle than they consume. This oxygen is available to aerobic bacteria (good bacteria) and that good bacteria breaks down the organic matter in the water. Another huge advantage of diatoms is that they have a silica cell wall or shell, and the nitrates and phosphates absorbed by diatoms are enclosed by this shell and cannot be released back into the water body.

This image shows how diatoms help to increase oxygen, create a healthier ecosystem, and eliminate harmful bacteria and algae.

The problem with planktonic diatoms is that in freshwater environments they typically exhibit a “boom/bloom and bust” lifestyle. When conditions in the upper mixed layer (nutrients and light) are favorable, as during the spring, their competitive edge and rapid growth rate enables them to dominate phytoplankton communities. However, they typically diminish in the mid-summer when the supply of silica, iron and other micro-nutrients have been consumed.

Therefore, to keep a healthy and clear Natural Pool or Swim Pond it is important to encourage the yearlong growth of diatoms in the water by supplying them with a nano-silica based micro-nutrient formula. There are a few on the market such as Nualgi and Aquaritin. Since diatoms are limited by silica, a nano-silica based additive provides the diatoms with what limits their growth, and will therefore grow and multiply at an astounding rate throughout the year, out competing nuisance algae, benefiting the ecosystem, and helping to maintain crystal clear water.

Assorted diatoms as seen through a microscope.
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