New Pool Owner? How Can You Inhibit Algae Growth?

Posted on: 3 February 2016

If you're about to embark on the journey of swimming pool ownership for the first time, you may already be daydreaming about lazy days spent lounging on an oversize flotation device or sunbathing on your pool's deck. However, during your pool's inaugural summer, you may find yourself spending more time trying to achieve proper pH balance and avoiding algae growth than actually enjoying time in your pool. What can you do to help control the growth of algae and other bacteria without spending hours per week on the drudgery of pool maintenance? Read on to learn more about the causes of algae overgrowth, as well as the steps you should take shortly after filling your pool for the first time to prevent an annual algae battle from becoming a full-blown war. 

What causes algae growth in swimming pools?

Although it's a single-celled plant rather than a type of fungus, algae also reproduces through the spread of microscopic spores. Short of fully enclosing your pool in an airtight dome, there's not much you can do to prevent an occasional algae spore from finding its way into your pool water -- in fact, even indoor pools can develop algae problems if not regularly treated with chlorine or another type of spore-killing disinfectant. 

When an algae spore falls or is blown into your pool water, it will feed on any bacteria or sugars present in the water and utilize sunlight to begin the photosynthesis process by which it grows. This allows a single algae spore can multiply exponentially, taking your pool from crystal clear to a muddy green seemingly overnight -- and unfortunately, all the same environmental qualities that can create a great day for swimming (like bright sunlight and warm water) can also create an ideal environment in which algae can thrive. 

What problems can uncontrolled algae growth pose?

In addition to its ability to cloud water and stain plastic liners or ceramic tiles, algae can harbor bacteria that may make you sick. Although chlorine and other purifying chemicals can help kill off any bacteria present in the algae (as well as the algae itself), these chemicals can be hard on your skin and hair in high concentrations, so preventing an algae outbreak in the first place is often much more effective than trying to do damage control after the fact. 

Cycling millions of these tiny fibrous plants through your pool's filtration system can also cause additional wear and tear on your filter, shortening its lifespan and costing you money. 

What should you do to help minimize algae growth without adding to your list of maintenance tasks?

Fortunately, getting ahead of algae growth before it starts can help set you up for a low-maintenance pool schedule for years to come. Your most important weapons for this task are your pool's filtration system and an automatic or floating chlorinator. By periodically checking to make sure your filters remain clear and free of debris, you'll ensure the properly-chlorinated water is flowing through all parts of your pool, killing bacteria on every surface on which an algae spore could land. 

An automatic chlorinator not only helps reduce the amount of time you'll spend measuring chemicals and testing pH levels, it can serve as a barometer of your pool's health. If chlorine levels begin to decrease, the automatic chlorinator will calculate and release the proper amount of chlorine needed to restore a bacteria-free environment. Because even a temporary dip in a pool's chlorine content can allow algae to gain a foothold, this constant (and automatic) monitoring and adjustment process is usually the best way for busy homeowners to stay one step ahead of algae. 

You'll also want to invest in a nylon (not wire) brush to scrub your pool's walls and bottom. These brushes have soft, non-abrasive bristles that won't leave any scratches or tears in your pool's liner that may serve as an underwater petri dish. 

Finally, you may want to investigate a periodic enzyme treatment. Unlike chlorine, which kills bacteria and algae on contact, these enzymes (including a phosphate eliminator) operate by starving the algae of the nutrients it needs in order to grow. Combining chlorine with a phosphate eliminator is often the one-two punch needed to ensure you'll never awaken to a green or muddy-looking pool.

For more help keeping your pool clear and algae free, contact a local swimming pool service. They may have more detailed information that's specific to your local environment.