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Understanding Algae

One of the most common problems pool owners face is controlling algae. Algae is unsightly, slimy, smelly, and bad for your health as well as bad for your pool equipment.

The term algae (ăl`jē) is a broad term used to describe many different kinds of aquatic plant-like living organisms that produce oxygen through photosynthesis. There are more than 30,000 identified types. Most types of algae can survive in very differing environments. Algae can be found in both fresh water and sea water, and have been found surviving in locations vastly differing in temperature – including in ice as well as in hydro-thermal vents. Most types require no fuel other than light source, though some types do require other nutrition as well. With the ability to reproduce through cell division, sexual reproduction, and asexual reproduction, algae is a very resilient organism, and that means it is very difficult to control.

While there are many different types, the type of algae most commonly found in pools is green algae, and can be found either floating in the water itself, or growing on the sides of your pool. This type can actually come in various colors, including dark green, yellowish green, and blue-green. Another common type is black algae, which is typically discovered in the cracks and crevasses of concrete or plaster pools.

Aside from being unpleasant, algae is not necessarily inherently harmful to swimmers. In the context of the health of your pool, however, the story is very different. Your pool filter can become clogged with algae, causing your system to function less efficiently. The plaster of your pool can become stained or even begin to break down if not tended to. Algae will consume the chlorine in your pool – which means the chlorine will no longer be sufficient to kill the bacteria present in the pool. Bacteria build up can cause respiratory infections, dermal infections, and digestive upset, including E. coli, Rotavirus, Salmonella, and Shigella, for example. This will lead to a feeling of nausea, diarrhea, and / or vomiting.

Standard preventative maintenance is the best option for dealing with algae. Ensure your pool water is clean and properly balanced on the schedule that’s required for your circumstances – temperatures, frequency of pool use, and pool materials can affect your risk for algae. Scrub your pool’s walls and floor to loosen any algae that has adhered to them. If the problem is severe you may need to “shock” your pool. If you are unsure how to proceed, you may need to consult a professional to ensure the comfort and safety of yourself and your guests.