Farm Pond Management - Vegetation Control

​General Benefits of Aquatic Vegetation

While aquatic vegetation is normally thought of as a nuisance in Kentucky farm ponds, it often provides much needed benefits to the pond, the fish in the pond and wildlife surrounding the pond. When it comes to dealing with vegetation in and around the pond, one of the first steps is to determine the uses of the pond. In ponds where the primary intention is swimming, vegetation can offer no benefit to the use. However, in ponds where fishing and wildlife habitat are the primary uses, a little vegetation can offer many benefits and keeping a portion of the vegetation may be the best option.

Aquatic plants stabilize the banks or substrate, which reduces erosion and helps to increase water clarity. As aquatic vegetation dies, the decomposition by bacteria and fungi provides food, called “detritus”, for aquatic invertebrates. Finally, ponds with native aquatic vegetation rarely have populations of invasive aquatic plants. When native plants occupy this niche, exotic plants are not able to proliferate.
Below is a list of the different types of aquatic vegetation and some benefits they may provide.


Planktonic algae are the base of the aquatic food chain. The abundance of planktonic algae in the pond ultimately determines the poundage of bass and bluegill the pond can support. Planktonic algae will shade the bottom of the pond and limit how deep other aquatic plants can grow.

Non-Rooted and Rooted Floating Plants:

The seeds and plants offer a food source to many species of waterfowl (blue-winged teal, green-winged teal, wood ducks, gadwalls, American widgeon, northern shoveler and grebes). Flowers of many of the rooted floating plants are aesthetically pleasing. Floating plants provide valuable shade to the fishes within the pond. Shading also will limit the light penetration, and limit the depth at which other aquatic vegetation will grow.

Submerged Plants:

Submerged plants offer small fishes protection from predation by bigger fish. Submerged plants provide homes for large numbers of aquatic macroinvertebrates, which are a food source for bluegill and smaller largemouth bass. Many species of waterfowl: blue-winged teal, green-winged teal, wood ducks, gadwalls, American widgeon, northern shoveler and grebes, feed on the aquatic macroinvertebrates in the vegetation and the vegetation itself. Herons, egrets and other shore wading birds feed on the fishes within the vegetation. The byproduct of the photosynthesis in the submerged plants is oxygen, which is vital to maintaining a healthy fish population. Submerged plants provide long term storage of nutrients. Binding the nutrients into this type of storage prevents their use by other aquatic vegetation types.

Emergent Plants:

The vegetative structures of the plant offer nesting opportunities to many species of birds, including song sparrows, red winged blackbirds and wrens. Emergent plants can be vital resting habitat to migrating birds such as rails and herons. Many types of mammals feed on the vegetation growing above the water surfaces, and seed heads offer a food source to many waterfowl species.

Control of aquatic vegetation

Aquatic vegetation can be one of the most difficult problems to deal with in a pond. Below, pond owners can find a guide for identification of the most common vegetation found in ponds across Kentucky, as well as treatment options for removal of the vegetation. In order to effectively control aquatic vegetation, it first must be identified. This guide will assist with identification and the individual species pages will detail the best management options.  ​If you would like assistance from KDFWR staff to help identify the vegetation in your pond,​​​​​ use this Guide for Submitting Photos for Aquatic Plant Identification​ before co​ntacting your local district biologist.  Detailed photos will assist the biologist in their identification and recommendations for control.​


Aquatic Vegetation Identification

Chemicals used to treat one type of vegetation may not work on another type, some aquatic vegetation may not be controlled by grass carp and some species of aquatic vegetation can be beneficial to your pond and may not pose a problem.  Given these factors, along with the cost of chemicals and grass carp, identification of your aquatic vegetation is the first step in proper aquatic vegetation management. Generally speaking all of the aquatic plants found in this state can be grouped into 5 major categories of plants: Algae, Non-Rooted Floating Vegetation, Rooted Floating Vegetation, Submerged Vegetation, and Emergent Vegetation.
Instructions for using the Aquatic Plant Identification Guide:
     1. Determine which of the categories your plant falls into in the diagram below.
     2. Click on the category to be taken to that section.
     3. Search the pictures to find which plant most represents what you have in your pond.
     4. Click the species for a specific information page.
     5. Read the description and determine if your plant is described.  If it is not, go back one page and try again.
     6. Read the treatment options, and determine which method should be used to control the aquatic vegetation.

Five major groups of plant types found commonly in farm ponds

Algae:Very primitive plants. Some algae are microscopic (planktonic algae), others are thin and stringy or hair-like (filamentous algae), while still others are large and resemble higher plants but without true roots (branched algae).
Non-Rooted Floating Vegetation: Rooted plants that are not attached to the bottom. They come in sizes from very small (duckweed) to over a foot in diameter (water hyacinth). Most have roots that hang in the water from the floating green portions.
Rooted Floating Vegetation: Plants that are rooted in the lake bottom, but their leaves and flowers float on the water surface (water lilies).
Submerged Vegetation: Rooted plants with most of their vegetative mass below the water surface, although some portions may stick above the water (milfoil, eel grass).
Emergent Vegetation: Rooted plants that are often found along shorelines that stand above the surface of the water (cattails, reeds, sedges).


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