Comparison of Lake Bottom Cleaning Tools (How To Get Rid Of Lake Bottom Muck & Weeds)
Letting weeds and muck build up can cause problems for any lake or pond. Besides just looking ugly, these nuisances can lower property value, lessen visibility, and inhibit fishing and swimming by making it easier to slip and fall. If left unchecked, they can even throw off your waterbody’s ecosystem. Excess weeds and muck make it hard for larger fish to find food, and they keep water from flowing, creating places for mosquitos, leeches, and other pests to breed. Worst of all, muck and dead plants use up valuable oxygen as they decompose, resulting in fish kills. Muck also promotes the growth of bacteria that emit toxic ammonia, methane, and hydrogen sulfide gas — the source of that infamous “rotten egg” smell.
Healthy ponds and lakes need some muck and weeds, but if they’ve started taking over, you may need to intervene. Thankfully, there are plenty of options you can choose from to both remove muck and weeds and stop more from accumulating.
Why You Should Remove Weeds AND Muck (The Muck Cycle)
Weed growth and muck buildup form a kind of cycle. Muck is essentially decaying organic matter, and dead weeds are a significant part of that. Because decomposing weeds consume oxygen, they eventually lead to conditions with more anaerobic bacteria (bacteria that thrive in oxygen-free environments) than aerobic bacteria (bacteria that need oxygen to survive) available to break down the muck.
Anaerobic bacteria decompose muck about 20 times slower than aerobic varieties, meaning that the more dead weeds you have, the faster muck will accumulate.
Unfortunately, muck is full of valuable nutrients that then fuel more weed growth. This sequence is a natural part of healthy aquatic ecosystems. If you’re having problems with excessive amounts of either muck or weeds, though, removing some of both may be more effective than removing just one.
Different Lake Bottom Cleaning Tools Compared (Top Muck & Weed Cleaners)
Manual tools are the simplest means of removing muck and weeds. The three most common, lake rakes, cutters, and rollers, are also among the least expensive. Each are limited, though, and they may be most effective when used in combination.
Lake cutters are tall, y-shaped tools with blades on each arm and 20–25 feet of rope attached to the handles. Standing on a dock or shore, you toss the cutter into the water and let it sink. As you pull it back in, the cutter slices weeds where they come out of the ground — not at the root — in a 4-ft-wide path. Alternatively, rollers do remove weeds at the root, and they can also stir up small amounts of muck and mix oxygen into the sediment. Rollers look like very big paint rollers studded with hooked blades; standing on a dock, you push them over the bottom to shred and pull up weeds. They usually have handles that extend up to 16 feet, but you don’t toss them, meaning they have a much shorter reach than cutters.
Cutters and rollers don’t collect the vegetation they remove. If left alone, those weeds will rot and contribute to muck. Lake rakes, with their 10–15-ft handles and up to 50 feet of rope, are perfect for this job. Like cutters, you toss them from a dock, and as you pull them in, their metal tines gather weed and muck. Lake rakes may come with floats or hollowed-out heads, meaning you can use them to collect vegetation at the surface or bottom.
These manual tools won’t remove all muck and weeds, making them best for routine maintenance on small ponds or personal lakefront areas. They’re cheap, straightforward, and portable, but using them can be physically demanding — all that tossing, pushing, and pulling against water resistance can be tiring.
|Manual Lake Rakes, Cutters & Rollers|
Muck blowers are among the most expensive devices included here, but they’re an automated option that require much less effort than manual tools. They’re essentially big electric fans, adjustable to the surface or bottom, that drive away clumps of muck and floating weeds. They usually attach to the side of a dock, but models are available that float or sit on the bottom. Once installed, muck blowers are easy to use — you just turn them on when you’re ready to move muck and point them in whatever direction you want. As a bonus, muck blowers are also excellent aerators, helping air enter the water from the atmosphere and circulating oxygen-rich water to the bottom.
Most brands of muck blower are fairly customizable. Almost all blowers are available in different motor strengths, and you can often buy additional brackets and stands that allow you to place them in different spots. Some brands also offer programmable oscillators to make using their muck blowers even more hands-off.
Although muck blowers take away most of the exertion, they also come with flaws. Blowers can be decently effective for moving muck, but they don’t usually work well for removing rooted weeds. Additionally, blowers don’t actually remove muck, they just push it somewhere else. This may be fine as a temporary way to get rid of excess muck, for example on waterfront property along a large lake or pond. For smaller ponds, though, there’s no reason to have a muck blower, since there’s not as much space for the muck to go. You’ll also need to be careful not to blow muck towards any neighbors’ property. Finally, in some areas, using muck blowers on the bottom is restricted, since they can create troughs that severely damage plant and animal habitats.
|Lake Muck Blowers|
In terms of automated, electrical tools, water vacuums may be the most economical choice for removing muck and floating weeds from small private ponds. These devices typically consist of a wheeled holding tank with a vacuum nozzle and a discharge tube. Essentially big mobile pumps, water vacuums suck water at rates that usually fall between 1,500 and 2,000 GPH. After passing through a mesh-like bag that collects large debris, the mucky water sits in the holding tank until it’s pumped out via the discharge tube. To maintain optimal suction, you’ll need to clean the collection bag periodically.
Water vacuums usually have fairly long suction and discharge hoses (over 30 feet in some cases), allowing users some control over where they send the dirty water. Most brands don’t recommend returning this water to the pond, since it contains the small particles of muck, algae, and other debris that you were probably trying to remove in the first place. Some may include a very fine filter bag to put over the discharge hose that strains out fine particles, but even then, this may be counterintuitive unless your area is experiencing a water shortage. As a result, you’ll need to find someplace for the discharge to go. Luckily, the dirty water is full of nutrients, making it great for fertilizing your lawn or garden.
Water vacuums do have a few significant shortcomings. The first is that they’re not very practical for large waterbodies, with most having maximum operating depths of 4 to 6 feet. These tools are best for ponds smaller than 3,000 gallons, where everything is easy to reach. Another issue is that water vacuums aren’t very effective against rooted weeds. They should be able to suck up most loose or drifting plants, but they’re rarely able to pull out vegetation by the roots, which is key to making sure weeds don’t regrow in the future.
|Water Lake Vacuums|
Lake groomers are automated tools designed to remove weeds and prevent future growth in larger waterbodies. Most models follow one of two designs. The first includes several large cylindrical rollers that radiate from a central post. These rollers, which are made of metal and usually measure something like 7 feet long and 8 inches in diameter, rotate directly along the bottom, uprooting weeds and agitating accumulated muck. The maximum operating depth for these models is typically about 8 feet. The second design features two or more arms that float about a foot above the bottom (rather than touching it) and turn about a central pivot. These arms, which are also about 7 feet long, drag rakes or chains along the bottom to pull up vegetation. Both varieties of lake groomer can be effective, hands-off ways of addressing weed problems.
Lake groomer are meant to operate mostly continuously, creating a circular area where weeds can’t grow and muck can’t accumulate. They’re good choices for maintaining clear swimming areas, although you may have to turn them off when swimmers are actually present, and you’ll have to prepare to pay more on your electricity bill. Groomers also offer their owners a bit of flexibility. Many brands sell extra rollers and extension kits that increase a groomer’s operating depth and radius.
That said, lake groomers can be somewhat difficult to assemble, and although many are fairly lightweight, moving them around to cover different areas of a lake isn’t always practical. Also, because they operate at the bottom, they’re not a solution for floating weeds and muck. And while groomers may be able to prevent muck from accumulating, they won’t do much to remove thick layers of existing bottom muck. Like muck blowers, most lake groomers have electrical cords that run through or near the water, which can be a safety hazard.
Weed-eating fish are the ultimate hands-off method of removing weeds. The species most commonly used for this purpose is the grass carp, or white amur. Grass carp eat many common freshwater weeds, including hydrilla, elodea, and chara, and they have enormous appetites. Healthy fish can eat 25% to 300% of their body weight per day! Grass carp are considered an invasive species in the US and UK (they’re native to eastern Asia), and when released in the wild, they can severely damage local aquatic plant populations. For this reason, in most areas it’s only legal to use triploid grass carp, a variation of the species that can’t reproduce. Even then, you’ll likely need a permit to stock them, and you may only be allowed to purchase from certain licensed sellers. Fortunately, at $5 to $15 each, triploid grass carp are relatively inexpensive, and you’ll probably only need 3-10 fish per acre.
There aren’t many other species that work well for removing weeds. Common carp kill aquatic plants by stirring up sediment and pulling up roots while feeding, and rudd eat some submerged plants, but neither is very effective on its own for weed control. Tilapia eat some types of plants, including duckweed and watermeal, but they don’t adequately control most common weeds, and they can only live in water temperatures above 55° F. Grass carp are your best bet.
No species of weed-eating fish is a perfect fix. For starters, fish like grass carp may take up to a year before they’re grown enough to control weeds, and you may have to restock every 5 years or so as individuals age and die. On the other hand, if you overstock, the fish may eat too much vegetation, leaving you with an unbalanced ecosystem that could take up to a decade to recover. Also make sure to stock fish that are likely to eat the weeds in your waterbody, since not all species eat all plants. Fish rarely eat muck unless they’re starving, and even grass carp won’t eat hard-stemmed weeds like lilies and cattails.