Why Does My Pond Water Look Like Tea?

Fall Pond Care

Our Ecosystem Ponds are designed to look like something you would find in nature, with clear water and happy, healthy fish. If you have seen our beautiful ponds in the garden at Splash, you probably noticed how clear they are. You can count the gravel on the bottom of even our deepest pond – the Oasis – at 4 feet deep.

When pond water isn’t clear, it usually turns one of two colors: green or brown.

Brown or tea-colored pond water is generally clear enough that you can still see the gravel, but the water has a bit of color to it. (This is different from green or murky water, which we’ll talk about a little later in this article).

Keep reading to learn where this brown tint comes from – and what you can do to fix it.


At a Glance: How to Treat Brown or Tea-Colored Pond Water

  • Brown or tea-colored water has a brown tint, but is typically clear enough that you can see the bottom of the pond. (This is different from green or murky water, which are different issues that require different approaches to solve).
  • Brown or tea-colored water is usually the result of tannins: organic color compounds that come from trees, leaves, mulch or other natural things in the environment.
  • Activated Pond Carbon is the best way to treat brown or tea-colored pond water.
  • Brown or tea-colored water is typically not harmful to pond life.

What Causes Brown-Tinted Pond Water?

If you notice brown water in your pond, here are a few possible causes:

Tree Sap

If you have overhanging tree branches, or if your pond is in the middle of a forest or wooded area, sap can drip into the pond and cause discoloration. If you have a nearby walnut tree, for example, you can expect your water to be tinted all year long.

Adding Activated Pond Carbon can help temporarily remove the color-causing tannins. Keep in mind, though, that trees will constantly drip into the pond, and you will need to constantly add fresh Activated Pond Carbon to keep the water clear.

Luckily, these tannins will not hurt your pond life – so if you don’t mind the tint, you can safely let nature do its thing.

Fresh Mulch

Most mulches that you put in your garden beds have a dye to help retain the color. This dye can seep into the pond and tint your water. Adding Activated Pond Carbon can help remove color-causing tannins.

Order Activated Carbon at our Online Store

Muck and Debris

Organic debris building up on the bottom of the pond can also cause your pond to be discolored.  If you can’t see the bottom of your pond because of a thick layer of muck and debris, we would typically recommend a pond clean-out.

Click here to schedule a professional pond clean-out from Splash, or check out our DIY guide.

Other Water Clarity Issues

Green Water

While tea-colored water usually happens because of tannins in the environment, green water occurs when single-cell algae take over the pond. This is a completely different problem from tea-colored water, and it requires a different approach to solve.

The reason our ponds at Splash are so clear and not filled with single-cell algae is because of our simple Ecosystem Pond design. This setup physically filters out debris by skimming it off the surface, and then biologically removes excess ammonia and nitrites. This system is the easiest and most efficient way that we have seen to keep the ecosystem happy, with the least amount of maintenance for you.

Green water happens when single-cell algae feed on excess nitrites in the pond. If your water is green, you’ll need to create an environment – like the one in our Ecosystem Ponds – where nitrite-eating beneficial bacteria can thrive. Click here to learn more about safely preventing and treating green water.

Murky Water

Murky water is another common complaint we hear from pond owners. While tea-colored water is generally clear enough that you can see to the bottom of the pond – just with a slight tint – murky water is cloudy and brown.

Water often turns murky when something has stirred up muck in your pond, creating large amounts of suspended debris. Some common causes include clean-outs, heavy rain, mating fish and newly-added plants. Newly installed ponds will also be murky until dirt has a chance to settle.

Murky water is usually a temporary problem, but it will clear up significantly faster with help from a properly sized pond skimmer. You can also help clear up murky water by adding a pond flocculant like Rapid Clear, and/or temporarily adding an extra fine filter mat into your skimmer to catch pieces of debris too tiny to be caught by standard mats.

If your pond is chronically murky – i.e. after a long period of neglect – you might want to consider a pond clean-out to remove excess sludge and dirt.

Related Articles

How to Keep Pond Water Clear – The Ultimate Guide

3 Steps to Clear Up Green Pond Water

10 Ways to Keep Pond Water Clear