How to Effectively Control and Remove Hydrilla from Your Pond

How to Effectively Control and Remove Hydrilla from Your Pond

If you're a pond owner, you know the importance of maintaining a healthy, balanced ecosystem. However, sometimes invasive species can throw that balance off, causing harm to native plants and wildlife. One such invader is hydrilla, a rapidly growing aquatic weed that can quickly take over your pond if left unchecked.

Hydrilla, also known as water thyme, is a submerged plant native to Asia that found its way to the United States through the aquarium trade in the 1950s. 

Since then, it has spread to water bodies across the country, choking out native vegetation and disrupting aquatic ecosystems. If you've noticed this pesky plant in your pond, don't despair. 

In this guide, we'll explore effective methods for controlling and removing hydrilla so you can restore your pond to its natural beauty. Plus, we’ll see how proper pond management practices can prevent and control future invasions.

Why Hydrilla Can Be A Pond Problem

One of the main reasons why hydrilla can be such a nuisance is its knack for showing up quickly and sticking around. This aquatic weed is incredibly adaptable and can grow in a wide range of conditions, from shallow ditches to deep lakes. It can even tolerate low light and fluctuating water levels.

The most alarming aspect of hydrilla is its exponential growth rate. The plant can expand up to an inch per day, swiftly forming dense mats that obstruct sunlight and deplete oxygen in the water. 

This not only endangers native plants but can also lead to fish mortality and the creation of stagnant, mosquito-breeding environments, underscoring the urgency of its control.

Hydrilla spreads easily through fragmentation, meaning even a small piece of the plant can take root and start a new infestation. It also produces potato-like tubers that can remain dormant in the sediment for years, making it difficult to eradicate.

Hydrilla Control Methods: Mechanical, Biological, and Chemical

Mechanical Control 

Mechanical control involves physically removing the plant from the water using tools like rakes, cutters, or harvesters. This method can be effective for small infestations or as a maintenance technique after initial treatment.

Types of mechanical control:

  • Hand pulling: For small areas, hydrilla can be manually removed by hand or with the help of a rake. This method is most effective when the plants are young and have not yet developed extensive root systems.
  • Cutting: Specialized aquatic weed cutters can be used to trim hydrilla growth near the water's surface. This method can help improve boat access and reduce the plant's ability to spread through fragmentation.
  • Harvesting: Large-scale mechanical harvesters can be employed to remove hydrilla from more extensive areas. These machines cut the plants and collect the debris for disposal on land.


  • Immediate results: Mechanical control provides instant gratification by removing the visible portions of the plant.
  • No chemicals involved: For those concerned about the use of herbicides, mechanical control offers a non-chemical alternative.
  • Can target specific areas: Mechanical methods allow for targeted removal in high-priority areas, such as around docks or swimming zones.


  • Labor-intensive: Mechanical control requires significant time and effort, especially for larger infestations.
  • Fragments can spread infestation: If not collected properly, plant fragments created during mechanical removal can drift and establish new populations elsewhere in the pond.
  • Temporary solution, requires ongoing effort: Mechanical control does not address the root system, so regrowth is likely, and repeated treatments will be necessary.

Biological Control

Biological control uses living organisms to manage hydrilla populations. The most common approach is stocking grass carp, a fish species that feeds on aquatic vegetation.

How grass carp control hydrilla:

  • Stocking rates: Grass carp are typically stocked at a rate of 10 to 15 fish per acre, depending on the severity of the infestation and the pond's specific conditions.
  • Feeding habits: Grass carp are voracious feeders and can consume up to three times their body weight in vegetation each day.
  • Long-term control: As the grass carp grow and continue to feed on hydrilla, they provide ongoing control over the plant population.


  • Natural, long-term solution: Grass carp offer a natural way to manage hydrilla over an extended period without the need for repeated treatments.
  • Cost-effective for large areas: For larger ponds or lakes, grass carp can be a more economical solution compared to repeated mechanical or chemical treatments.
  • Eco-friendly alternative to herbicides: Biological control reduces the need for chemical herbicides, which may be a concern for some pond owners.


  • Grass carp may consume desirable plants: In addition to hydrilla, grass carp may feed on other aquatic plants that are beneficial to the pond ecosystem.
  • Requires proper stocking rates and management: Overstocking grass carp can lead to the complete elimination of aquatic vegetation, while understocking may not provide adequate control.
  • May not provide complete control: Grass carp may not eradicate hydrilla completely, particularly in heavily infested ponds or those with extensive tuber growth.

Chemical Control 

Chemical control involves using herbicides to kill or inhibit the growth of hydrilla. There are several EPA-approved products available, but it's crucial to choose the right one based on your pond's specific needs and follow label instructions carefully.

Types of herbicides for hydrilla control:

  • Contact herbicides: These herbicides kill the parts of the plant they come into direct contact with, such as the leaves and stems. They are best suited for spot treatments or small infestations.
  • Systemic herbicides: These herbicides are absorbed by the plant and move throughout its tissues, killing the entire plant, including the roots. They are more effective for larger infestations or for long-term control.


  • Fast-acting: Chemical control can provide rapid results, with visible plant die-off occurring within a few days to a few weeks after treatment.
  • Effective for large infestations: Herbicides can be applied to larger areas more efficiently than mechanical methods, making them a good choice for extensive hydrilla growth.
  • Can target specific areas: Spot treatments with herbicides can be used to control hydrilla in specific locations without impacting the entire pond.


  • May impact non-target species: Some herbicides may harm desirable aquatic plants, fish, or invertebrates if not applied correctly.
  • Requires proper application and safety precautions: Herbicide application should be done by licensed professionals or according to label instructions to ensure safety and effectiveness.
  • Potential water use restrictions after treatment: Some herbicides may require temporary restrictions on water use for irrigation, drinking, or recreation following application.

Implementing an Integrated Approach to Removing Hydrilla

The most effective way to control hydrilla is often a combination of methods tailored to your pond's unique situation. For example, you might start with herbicide treatment to knock back the initial infestation, then introduce grass carp for long-term maintenance and spot-treat any regrowth with mechanical removal.

  • Maximizes control effectiveness: By combining multiple methods, you can target hydrilla at various life stages and in different pond areas, improving overall control.
  • Reduces reliance on any single method: Integrating mechanical, biological, and chemical control reduces the risk of hydrilla developing resistance to any one management technique.
  • Allows for adaptability: An integrated approach enables you to adjust your management strategy based on the pond's response and the effectiveness of each control method.

You’ll also want to address underlying factors contributing to hydrilla growth, such as excess nutrients from runoff or waterfowl droppings. Planting native vegetation along the shoreline can help absorb excess nutrients and provide competition for invasive species.

Restoring Balance to Your Pond 

Dealing with hydrilla can be a frustrating and ongoing battle, but with the right knowledge and tools, you can successfully control this invasive weed and restore balance to your pond. The key is knowing why it’s there in the first place – and how to prevent it from coming back.

Remember, each pond is unique, and what works for one may not work for another. Don't hesitate to seek advice from aquatic plant management professionals or your local cooperative extension office for personalized recommendations.

With patience, persistence, and a proactive approach, you can say goodbye to hydrilla and hello to a beautiful, vibrant pond that you and your local wildlife can enjoy for years to come. Shop Living Water Aeration’s full product list to find the pond treatments and aeration equipment you need to maintain a healthy, balanced ecosystem.

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What is hydrilla, and why is it a problem?

Hydrilla is an invasive aquatic weed that can quickly take over ponds and lakes, outcompeting native plants and disrupting ecosystems. It grows rapidly, forms dense mats, and can reproduce through fragmentation and tubers.

How can I identify hydrilla in my pond?

Hydrilla is a submerged plant with small, pointed leaves arranged in whorls along the stem. It can grow up to an inch per day and forms dense mats on the water's surface.

What are the main methods for controlling hydrilla?

The three main control methods are mechanical removal, biological control using grass carp, and chemical control with herbicides. An integrated approach combining these methods is often most effective.

Can I eradicate hydrilla from my pond completely?

While complete eradication is challenging due to hydrilla's persistent tubers and ability to spread through fragmentation, control methods can significantly reduce infestations and prevent them from taking over your pond.

How can I prevent hydrilla from spreading to my pond?

To prevent hydrilla infestations, educate pond users about cleaning boats and equipment, monitor your pond regularly for signs of new growth, and maintain a healthy ecosystem by promoting native plants and managing nutrient inputs.

Should I tackle hydrilla control on my own or hire a professional?

Depending on the severity of the infestation and your comfort level with various control methods, you may choose to manage hydrilla yourself or seek the help of a professional pond management company for personalized advice and treatment options.

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