Your Microscopic Pond
The term algae loosely defines a group of photosynthetic organisms. Due to its photosynthetic properties, algae is commonly identified by its vibrant green color. While green is the most common color, some algae species, such as Red Tide may not follow this general rule. Filamentous or string algae is most recognizable, but planktonic algae is just as prevalent. Planktonic algae or phytoplankton is typically single-celled and invisible to the naked eye. Both filamentous algae and phytoplankton serve an aquatic ecosystem in multiple ways. Both types of algae produce oxygen for other organisms through photosynthesis. Filamentous algae is also important for a stable ecosystem because it provides shelter where small organisms can hide from larger predators. Algae can become detrimental to an aquatic ecosystem during an "algae bloom." An algae bloom is frequently due to pollution or runoff that causes a surplus in nutrients within the water. Algae blooms cause a rapid increase in algae density. Depending on the size and intensity of the algae bloom, the bloom may be dangerous for other aquatic life.
Cyanobacteria describes a group of bacteria commonly referred to as blue-green algae. The common name, blue-green algae, describes the general appearance of cyanobacteria. Cyanobacteria is visually similar to a normal algae bloom, but cyanobacteria may have a slight blue tint. While cyanobacteria is visually similar to algae, it is far more dangerous. Cyanobacteria produces toxins knows as cyanotoxins. Cyanobacteria and cyanotoxin exposure can be highly dangerous. After exposure, people and pets may become sick or develop gastrointestinal issues. Cyanobacteria relies on the same nutrients that can cause algae blooms to form. If the correct nutrients are present, cyanobacteria will continue to reproduce and harm the aquatic ecosystem. If there is a possible cyanobacteria bloom it is best to have the bloom sampled. It is not always possible to identify cyanobacteria without lab testing. After the sample is tested and confirms cyanobacteria is present, the bloom should be treated. Avoid the water until the treatment is complete to prevent the cyanobacteria from spreading or causing illness.
Microorganisms are a group of organisms that are only visible through a microscope. While algae and cyanobacteria represent to one or two kingdoms of life, microorganisms are present in each kingdom of life. Most microorganisms come from the Bacteria, Protista, and Animalia kingdoms. Microorganisms from the Animalia kingdom are also known as zooplankton. When organisms come from different kingdoms, they can look drastically different than each other. One of the most noticeable differences in microorganisms is the number of cells. Some microorganisms are unicellular, meaning they only have one cell. Other microorganisms can be multicellular and have thousands of cells. The Animalia kingdom has multicellular microorganisms such as rotifers. The multicellular aspect of rotifers directly contrasts some microorganisms in the Bacteria and Protista kingdom. The presence of microorganisms indicates a healthy pond with an established food chain. Many microorganisms feed on plant and algae life before being consumed by larger organisms.