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Lake Liming and Fertilization

How important is lime/fertilization for a pond?Ā For pond owners interested in starting a fertilization program or improving the water quality you may need to lime your pond first to raise the alkalinity and hardness levels. Alkalinity is a measure of bases in the water that help neutralize acids. Alkalinity levels should be above 20 ppm in order for a fertilization program to be effective. Liming a pond makes phosphorus more available, which is essential in phytoplankton growth. Alkalinity can be measured using a simple water quality kit or AES can provide this service for you.


Alkalinity is the buffering capacity of the water in your lake and helps buffer pH changes. The higher the alkalinity, the more stable the daily pH cycle will be. Improving the alkalinity just to increase the buffering capacity alone can be of great benefit for the fishery. Certain species of fish, such as hybrid striped bass, will have better performance in waters with higher alkalinity.

The alkalinity is typically increased to make a fertilization program more effective by making the phosphorus in lake fertilizers more readily available for phytoplankton uptake, thus increasing phytoplankton growth. Fertilizing a lake with low alkalinity (<20 ppm) will yield little results. Alkalinity is typically increased by applying agricultural lime at a rate of 4-6 tons per acre. However, for smaller lakes with limited access for equipment needed to apply agricultural lime, Aquatic Environmental Services can increase the alkalinity with the use of a liquid lime.


Aquatic Environmental Services uses different formulations of water-soluble fertilizer to improve and maintain the fertility of a lake. Lakes are fertilized to stimulate green phytoplankton growth which is the base of the food chain in a lake. All species of fish consume plankton (phytoplankton and/or zooplankton) at one point in their lifespan, typically after hatching once their yolk-sacs are depleted. Proper fertilization increases available food throughout the food chain, thus increasing the carrying capacity of the lake (pounds of fish per acre). When done properly, a fertilization program can increase the carrying capacity of a pond from 100-pounds of fish per acre up to 400-pounds per acre. Fertilization alone does not grow bigger fish but creates the environment needed to maximize the growth of the fish. Proper fertilization combined with a proper management plan, and you are on the road to bigger fish.

Liming and fertilization are not for all lakes and fishery goals. Please contact our office to speak to one of our biologist to discuss if liming and fertilization is right for your lake and fishery goals.

Secchi Disk Reading Management Action

  • Greater than 24 inches: Fertilize
  • 18-24 inches: Good Bloom (Do nothing)
  • 12-18 inches: Dense Bloom (Watch Closely)
  • Less than 12 inches: Very Dense Bloom (Aerate at night)
  • Less than 6 inches: Fish Kill Likely (Aerate)