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What Causes Algae and How to Prevent It

Posted by Austin Allgaier on

Keeping on top of algae can seem like a never-ending battle when it comes to an animal’s water. There are many things that need to be taken into consideration when keeping water clean. First you have to know what makes it grow.


To be able to effectively eliminate and prevent algae, you have to understand what causes it to take over your water dish in the first place.

There are four ways to approach an algae problem:

  • Food
  • Light
  • Slow or non-moving water
  • Temperature

FOODMiraco Waterers

Preventing the algae from having food is nearly impossible with most livestock.  When they drink dust, food bits, saliva, and other nutrients fall into the water that algae can feast upon. You can, however, prevent some water contamination through the placement of your water source, as mentioned later in the article.


Just like any plant, algae require light to grow. Depending on what kind of algae you have determines how much light. Again, placement can help discourage algae growth and may even prevent it entirely.


Algae does not grow well in moving water. This is why buckets and troughs are ideal breeding grounds for algae. There are some products out there to help prevent this by providing agitation to the water.


Water temperature is essential to algae's ability to grow and thrive. Often the warmer it is, the faster algae grows. This is why many find that they do not have as much work keeping their buckets clean in the winter in comparison to the warmer summer months. There are some refrigeration products to maintain water temperature. However, many find these to be excessively priced and do not eliminate the need to maintain a regular cleaning schedule.



Maintaining a clean bucket, trough, or other water container is the first and most important step to getting rid of and preventing algae growth.

Simply rinsing out the container does not do the job. You must scrub the container, and many choose to use bleach as it will kill any harmful bacteria as well as algae spores. This can make your container go longer between cleanings without difficulty. It is important to thoroughly rinse the containers out after using bleach.

At the very least, a weekly cleaning with good-quality soap is recommended. Fountain and automatic waterers need to be maintained and thoroughly scrubbed at least once a month. During this cleaning, it is important to open the device and to follow the manufacturer’s cleaning instructions. You should also check behind the spouts to ensure that there is no food stuck in behind there.


Placing your watering container out of direct sunlight is the easiest method of algae control. It is also important to prevent contaminants such as dust, hay, and other debris from entering the water. While this is impossible to prevent fully, you can reduce it by not placing the water next to where you feed your horse and by eliminating as much dust in the barn as possible.

Where possible, raising the container above the ground will also reduce the amount of contaminants that make their way into the container.


Some people add things to their animal’s water. While these are sometimes effective, often they can pose the risk of flavoring the water so that the animal is less likely to drink, or even causing a potential health risk to your animal.


Some people use chemicals in the water, and there are even some tablets, powders, and liquids that you can add to the water that have been designed for this use. It is important to do your research on these chemicals and to determine any health risks that they may pose or flavor changes that may cause your animal to avoid drinking. Bleach, hydrogen peroxide, pennies, and other such things have been added to animal’s water in the past with varying risks and successes. It is very important to consider these potential risks before adding anything to your animal’s water.


Some cattle farmers use goldfish to help them with their algae problems. While it can be effective, if you have too many fish the ammonia can build up to a dangerous level making the water unsuitable for your animals.




Large water troughs are an excellent option for a horse field, and really the only option for fields containing a large number of animals such as cattle or pigs. These are also the most difficult to clean thoroughly as they cannot be moved easily and the ones with drains often leave a little sludge at the bottom that will not drain that contains spores for an algae infestation.

By taking care in your troughs placement and making sure, you are staying on top of regular maintenance will allow your trough to stay cleaner longer than their smaller counterparts, the bucket.


Buckets are commonly used by horse owners throughout the world. They are easy to fill, dump, carry, and clean. This makes them ideal for horses both in the field and in a stall.

Unfortunately, even with ideal placement, buckets get dirty very quickly as they are small. However, they are easy to clean and should be wiped out daily.


Automatic waterers are an excellent option for stalls. Unlike buckets, you never have to worry that your horse will run out of the water. They also have the advantage of moving water as your horse drinks which will eliminate some risk of algae. They are more difficult to move around or clean than a bucket, however.


There are some fountains and aerators available for all type of watering containers. They have varying success depending on other factors, however, as a whole, they are very effective. This is simply because they keep the water moving which prevents the algae from getting a chance to grow. If you have these turned up too high, however, you may find some animals nervous of them at first. This is often overcome in a number of hours, however.

Here at Miraco, we know these are problems.  That’s why we’ve developed our unique ball founts –They keep your water fresh and clean by closing when the horse isn’t drinking.  Still, we all have to do some cleaning once in a while.


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