How to Keep a Water Trough Free of Algae

Updated April 17, 2017

Algae grows in almost any wet environment. It seems to thrive in troughs and water buckets and although you scrub it away, it keeps coming back. The algae, as it begins to grow and decompose, can become toxic to your animals. Animals can detect the toxins and will refuse to drink the contaminated water. This can lead to dehydration of your animals. Controlling algae is a constant battle, but there are ways to keep your water troughs clean and your animals healthy.

Clean and scrub your troughs regularly. You must dump out the old water and scrub the trough thoroughly using hot water, bleach and a scrubbing brush. A wire scrubbing brush used for cleaning pools is an excellent choice for scrubbing troughs. You will need to perform this step once or twice a month depending on the conditions and size of the trough.

Treat the water in your trough. Add 2 tablespoons of Clorox bleach to the trough every three to four days, or dissolve copper sulphate crystals in warm water and add to the trough. For a 700-gallon trough, dissolve 1 tsp of crystals in 88.7ml. of warm water and pour in the trough. The small amount of chemicals will not hurt the animals.

Add commercial products to keep troughs clean. Commercial products, such as Clear Water Tabs, are pre-measured tablets containing dichloroisocyanirate acid and sodium salt. This algicide is widely used on farms and in food processing plants to disinfect water. Use one tablet every three to five days for a 75- to 100-gallon trough.

Keep a hose dripping very slowly on the bottom of the trough. This keeps algae from attaching to the trough. The animals will have a slow, continuous flow of freshwater as they drink the "older" water on top.

Move the trough out of the sun and excessive heat. Heat and sun accelerate algae growth; moving the trough out of the sun and heat will slow algae growth.

Add goldfish or catfish to the trough. The fish feed on the algae; the livestock gets used to the fish quickly while the fish keep the trough clean.

Use smaller troughs or buckets so there is less standing water. Smaller troughs are easier to empty, clean and fill again which deters algae growth.


Never add more chemicals than recommended. They can be toxic in large amounts.

Things You'll Need

  • bleach (or other chemicals)
  • scrub brush
  • hose
  • goldfish or catfish
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About the Author

Michele Moore has been a freelance writer and editor since 1996. Her work has appeared in numerous magazines and trade publications such as "Senior Golfer" and "PGA Magazine." Moore has a Bachelor of Arts in geography from University of California, Los Angeles.