A little bubbling in the garden fountain won't shock anyone. After all, it's moving water and that always happens. Even your hose water will foam as you fill up the watering can. However, if a carpet of foam floats on the surface of your fountain basin, you have a water fountain foaming problem. This is usually caused by some type of organic material in the water. With a few simple steps, you can get out the excess foam and make sure it doesn't come back.
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Bubbling Water Fountain
Nothing adds interest to a backyard like a water element. Nearby trees reflect beautifully off the water surface, and the sound of moving water is soothing and peaceful. Any water feature that has moving water, like a fountain or a waterfall, is going to churn up some froth. It's a reaction to water agitation. However, when it begins to look like someone poured in bubble bath or dish soap, you have a problem.
No, it's not likely that the neighbors are sabotaging your fountain. The underlying cause probably involves the water condition. The foam in the fountain water is generally caused by organic compounds and proteins. The material can be from fish or plants you keep in the pond or plant material or bacteria that was blown into the water. The materials or organic compounds become foamy when they are agitated by the falling water.
Appropriate Fountain Cleaning
A cleaning is a good place to start to eliminate the organic material causing the foam. You'll want to shut down the fountain pump, remove any aquatic plants and fish and then get rid of all the standing water in the base of the fountain or the pond. Many fountains have a drain you can use to empty dirty water, but if not, go ahead and bail.
When it is clean, scrub out the basin with vinegar and water and then rinse well, especially if you have fish that live in the fountain pond. Scrub the pump itself with the same solution and let it drip dry. Then, refill the fountain with the hose or, better yet, with distilled water. Using distilled water eliminates minerals that can encourage bacterial growth.
Schedule future cleanings for at least every six months. No matter how clean your water is when you fill up the fountain, it will build up organic matter over time from things like bird droppings and leaves.
Less Sun, More Shade
Direct sunshine exacerbates the foam issue. Hot sun increases evaporation, leaving less water with higher concentrations of organic matter that causes foam. It also boosts algae growth, which of course increases your chances of algae bloom. As algae grow and die, the cells release material that creates foam in the water. Position your fountain in the shade or create shade above it or even on the water surface with water lilies, and you can stop this cycle in its tracks.
Chlorine Removal Soap
Another cause of foam in water features in a backyard is the use of a dechlorinator. Yes, it removes chlorine to make regular hose water appropriate for outdoor pond fish like koi, but it can also cause bubbles and foam. Switch techniques and get an H2O purifier system. You can find some that connect to your garden hose and filter water as it passes through.
It's also possible to buy and add a defoaming agent to keep down the foam. Be sure you pick a nontoxic one to protect the birds, insects and plants that may come in contact with the water.
From Alaska to California, from France's Basque Country to Mexico's Pacific Coast, Teo Spengler has dug the soil, planted seeds and helped trees, flowers and veggies thrive. A professional writer and consummate gardener, Spengler has written about home and garden for Gardening Know How, San Francisco Chronicle, Gardening Guide and Go Banking Rates. She earned a BA from U.C. Santa Cruz, a law degree from U.C. Berkeley's Boalt Hall, and an MA and MFA from San Francisco State. She currently divides her life between San Francisco and southwestern France.