How Do You Get Rid of Algae in a Bird Bath

how do you get rid of algae in a bird bath

How do you get rid of algae in a bird bath? Give it a proper clean! Soaking the bird bath in vinegar will help to kill any algae that may have found its way in.

Keeping a bird bath clean is a task all by itself but it becomes even more difficult when there is algae present. Although the algae won’t harm the birds, it makes the water unattractive to them and so they won’t visit your garden.

If you want to continue enjoying feathered visitors at your bird bath, make sure that the water stays clean. Here is all you need to know about algae in bird baths and how to get rid of it.

What Causes Algae in a Bird Bath

Algae is rootless plant that often grows in damp conditions, like a bird bath. Once it establishes itself, it quickly reproduces – in other words, algae can spread quickly in a bird bath under the right conditions.

It travels as spores in the air or carried on the bodies of insects and birds from other locations where it is already established. Examples of sources are plants or a nearby pond or river.

Algae, like all plants, reproduces by photosynthesis – the sun’s energy. How fast the algae colony spreads depends on the nutrients available in the water and in the air, specifically oxygen, phosphorus and nitrogen.

When a colony spreads in your bird bath, it removes all the natural nutrients in the water. This is sometimes referred to as choking the water.

Birds like clear fresh water, the opposite of a bird bath contaminated with algae. So, the birds don’t leave because the algae is dangerous but they avoid it because it is unpleasant to them.

Algae is not always a bad thing, there are also algae variations that serve as a vital link in a food chain. However, the algae that grows in a bird bath does not fall under this category.

Red Algae

Red algae, also known as Haematococcus pluvialis, is the most common type of algae occurring in bird baths. It gives the water and the sides of the bird bath an slimy red tinge.

This type does especially well in full sunlight and hot weather which is why some recommend moving it to a more shady spot. Keep in mind however that this shady spot should not be directly under any trees because algae spores could fall down into the bird bath.

red algae in bird bath

How Do I Keep Algae Out of My Bird Bath?

Preventing algae from establishing in your bird bath keeps you from having to come up with solutions on how to get rid of algae. There are several simple hacks to prevent algae in a bird bath.

  1. Place bird baths away from trees and hanging plants
  2. Keep the bird bath in a shady spot
  3. Regularly replace the water
  4. Regularly clean the bird bath
  5. Sun dry the bird bath in between cleanings
  6. Install a fountain or aerator to keep the water flowing
  7. Add enzymes that are safe for birds
  8. Throw in large copper objects

The last tip on copper objects is still debated. The saying goes that copper objects, like copper pennies, prevents algae from growing but there is no consensus on whether this truly works.

How to Get Rid of Algae in a Bird Bath

If it wasn’t possible to prevent algae from growing in your bird bath it is time to take action and stop the algae from spreading. Generally, getting rid of algae follows the same steps as how you would clean a bird bath normally.

Step 1: Remove all the water in the bird bath

Step 2: Throw away any leftover debris

Step 3: Scrub away bird poop and other things that get stuck on the surface

Step 4: Soak with a diluted white vinegar solution

Step 5: Carefully scrub away all the algae still stuck on the sides

Step 6: Throw out the cleaning solution and thoroughly rinse the bird bath

Step 7: Let it dry out completely in the sun

Step 8: Add fresh water

The key difference when dealing with algae is step 4 and 5. Vinegar is very effective in removing algae but you may have to test out different strengths depending on how resilient the algae is.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Is It Safe to Clean a Bird Bath with Bleach?

Bleach kills birds so it is not a recommended cleaning product for bird baths. On the other hand, it is a very effective cleaning solution and it is also important to keep the bird bath clean.

If you choose to use bleach for cleaning a bird bath, make sure that it is a very diluted solution. Also be thorough in rinsing it away and letting the bird bath dry properly before adding new fresh water.

Do Copper Pennies Prevent Algae?

Placing copper pennies in a bird bath is a popular method for preventing algae. However, it does not always work. The debate on whether copper prevents algae from developing is still going on.

How Long does It Take Vinegar to Kill Algae?

Vinegar is a great natural solution to removing algae from a bird bath. It takes approximately 10 – 15 minutes for the vinegar to kill the algae, depending on the strength of the vinegar solution and the resiliency of the algae.


Algae can develop in bird baths when the water is not replaced often enough and when it is not cleaned properly. That is why the best way to prevent and remove algae is to keep your bird bath, including the water, fresh and clean.

Other ways to prevent algae is to keep the bird bath in a shady spot but away from trees. Some people may choose to add bird-safe enzymes into the water, enzymes that kill spores.

Keep your bird bath clean and the algae won’t stand a chance.

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