Cattails - those pesky aquatic weeds that look like tall stalks of grass - can be difficult to get rid of. Whether you own a pond on a farm or are trying to enhance an aquatic feature on your property, you know that cattails always seem to appear and take over.
Naturally, cattails are part of nature – offering food and shelter to birds and other wildlife. But when allowed to thrive and blossom, they can quickly become an eyesore and choke out your pond’s other vegetation.
So, what should you do to take care of pesky cattails? Are there natural and safe ways to get rid of them? At Living Water Aeration, we are happy to help guide you through different methods to take care of your pond’s cattail problem.
In this guide, we’ll look at:
- What are cattails?
- How to get rid of cattails in a pond safely.
- How to get rid of cattails without chemicals.
- What are some tips to keep cattails out of your pond for good?
Let’s start by looking at cattails - what they are, and how they can be so troublesome in a pond.
What are Cattails?
While most cattails look the same, there are actually 30 different types of Typha that exist in nature. Identified by their long, reed-like stems and the fluffy brown tops of their seeds, cattails can grow up to 10 feet tall in marshes, lakes, and ponds!
Cattails are often considered a ‘nuisance species’ due to their ability to quickly proliferate in nutrient-rich waters. Left unchecked, cattails can overtake a pond, blocking out light and oxygen for other aquatic life while choking off natural shorelines.
Are Cattails Nature-Friendly?
As with most things in nature, cattails are both beneficial and dangerous. While they can rapidly take over a pond, they also provide valuable habitat for birds, amphibians, and aquatic life.
Cattails act like natural water filters, removing pollutants from the water while providing food sources for animals. In fact, a small batch of cattails can capture unwanted sediment or runoff materials in your pond, and beneficial microorganisms love to attach to the long stems.
But here’s the challenge - how do you take advantage of those filtration benefits without the harm? As a fast-growing plant, cattails can easily overtake a pond and choke out other aquatic life.
Like mud, clay, or other light-blocking materials, cattails can prevent sunlight from reaching the bottom of the pond. This affects plant and animal life which are dependent on the sun’s energy for photosynthesis and growth.
How to Get Rid of Cattails in a Pond
What kills cattails - and are there ways to get rid of these pesky reeds without damaging the rest of your aquatic environment? Looking for information on how to get rid of cattails without chemicals?
Let’s break down a few of the different cattail removal methods:
Natural Methods and Fish that Eat Cattails
First and foremost, natural methods can help get rid of unwanted plant life in your pond while boosting the health of its inhabitants. Thankfully, there are natural methods that can help you keep cattails under control. Introducing certain fish that eat cattails can help reduce their presence in the pond.
Method 1: Fish that Eat Cattails
If you want to help keep your cattails and algae in check, consider adding popular gamefish to your pond. Cattails serve as vital cover and feeding grounds for sought-after gamefish like largemouth bass, crappie, and various sunfish species. However, this requires careful balance - as you don’t want to underfeed your fish or allow cattails to grow and spread uncontrollably.
Method 2: Environmental Changes
In addition to introducing fish that eat cattails, you can also make certain environmental changes in your pond to help control the growth of cattails. For example, reducing the amount of sunlight reaching the water body by adding trees or shrubs around it can limit its ability to grow.
Mechanical Methods for Cattail Removal
Want to learn how to get rid of cattails without chemicals? Pond owners often look to try mechanical removal of cattails before they turn to chemicals and other methods. The mechanical approach usually involves physically cutting back the cattail reeds near the water line or using excavators to uproot the plants.
Method 1: Mowing Cattails
Mowing cattails is an effective way to control their spread since it can reduce the water depth in which they grow. You can do this manually with hand shears, but using a weed whip or brush mower may be more efficient. However, simply mowing down the visible cattails does nothing to the roots, so you may need to keep mowing every few weeks or months.
Method 2: Hand Pulling Cattails
Hand pulling is another way to remove cattails from your pond. Grasp a handful of reeds and pull them up from the roots. This can be time-consuming and difficult, but it is an effective way to remove a large amount of cattails without using chemicals or renting machinery.
Method 3: Aquatic Excavators for Cattails Removal
Want to kill cattails at the source? Consider renting or hiring an aquatic excavator for cattail removal. Aquatic excavators have powerful machinery that can pull out the entire root system of cattail plants, thus killing them and preventing them from growing back.
This is an excellent option for those who may have massive cattail overgrowth or those who want to fully remove their cattail problem without fear of interfering with the other aquatic plants and animals.
Chemical Methods for Cattail Removal
Sometimes manual methods for killing cattails aren’t enough. EPA-approved aquatic herbicides can also kill cattails if manual removal is difficult or not practical.
Method 1: Algaecide
These chemicals - such as liquid algaecide and endothall - must be applied according to the manufacturer’s instructions and per local regulations. Remember, these herbicides can also damage non-target species when not applied correctly, so it is essential to only apply them when necessary and in very precise amounts.
Method 2: Contact Herbicide
Contact herbicides can be applied directly to the cattail plants and are typically more effective against these weeds than algaecides. These products should also be used carefully and according to instructions to minimize any negative effects on other wildlife.
Method 3: Systemic Herbicide
Systemic herbicides contain active ingredients that penetrate the plant tissue and are absorbed by the roots. These herbicides can be effective against cattails but should only be used cautiously, according to the manufacturer's instructions, as they can also affect other plants in the area.
Tips for Long-Term Cattail Management
When caring for your pond, proactive actions always beats reactionary steps. Here are a few steps that can help you manage cattails and keep them from getting out of hand:
- Remove excess nutrients from the pond. Cattails prefer nutrient-rich soil, so reducing the amount of available nutrients can help discourage their growth.
- Create a buffer zone around your pond. Plant native species like rushes and grasses in this area to provide competition for new cattail sprouts.
- Mow or trim cattails regularly. This will prevent them from flowering, and therefore reproducing.
- Manage water levels in the pond carefully. Cattails prefer shallow water, so cultivating deeper areas can help discourage their growth.
- Introduce predators into the area that feed on cattails. These can help keep their population in check.
- Encourage natural competitors by planting native species around the pond. These can include rushes, grasses, bulrushes, water lilies, and more.
Protect Your Pond with Quality Aeration Products
Cattails don’t need to be a pest - with the right tips and preventative measures you can take the fight back and keep your aquatic environment thriving.
- Know how to identify invasive species of plants – and take steps to remove them.
- Consider natural, mechanical, and chemical methods to control the growth of cattails.
- Invest in quality aeration products to keep your pond oxygenated and healthy.
- Always check your local EPA and state regulations before taking any action.
- Consider adding a pond fountain to keep the water circulating and discourage cattail growth.
Healthy ponds are better equipped to fight off invasive plants like cattails. Aeration helps create a balance in the water, so other aquatic plants have an opportunity to thrive as well.
At Living Water Aeration, we offer a full catalog of aeration tools and products that are designed to keep ponds and other aquatic ecosystems healthy and thriving. For personalized solutions, contact us today!
Together, we can make sure that our aquatic environments are safe and thriving for years to come.