Cleaning the algae out of water troughs is not an easy job, but is something that must be done. So far, I've not found anything that really keeps the algae out, but there are some things you can do to help minimize it. Keeping the water trough or bucket clean is important for your horse's health.
You like to have fresh water and so does your horse. When algae and other debris accumulate in the bottom of the trough it makes the water less palatable and your horse may drink less which can lead too colic.
Here are some tips:
Scrubbing – I've found that scrubbing is the most effective way to get the algae out of the tank. You can use toilet bowl brushes or other stiff brushes when scrubbing the tank. I spray vinegar in the trough to clean it out while others us a bleach mixture. Another useful tool is to use a metal sweat scraper. The smooth side of the scraper really helps get the stuck on algae loose.
Power Washer – if you have access to a power washer that will really get the trough clean. Most of us don't have access to a power washer or want to take the trough to the car wash so we have to use other methods to clean it.
Apple Cider Vinegar – this has a lot of health benefits and is great to clean the trough with. When cleaning the trough you can use the white distilled vinegar, but when adding it to the water make sure you use apple cider vinegar. When filling up the trough I add a cup of apple cider vinegar to a 100 gallon tank. Apple cider vinegar improves digestion and normalizes the acid level in the gut. Most horses love the smell of apple cider vinegar.
Bleach – Some swear that by cleaning the trough with bleach and then adding it when filling up the trough will keep it algae and slime free. Make sure it is plain bleach as you don't want to use any that is scented. Also, be careful when using bleach as you don't want to splash it on your clothes or get it in your eyes. Just be aware that some horses may not like the smell or taste and you sure don't want your horses going without water.
Make sure you wait an hour before allowing your horse to drink the water. Bleach is toxic and is something I choose not to use. Would you want to drink from a glass that had bleach poured in it then rinsed and filled with water? There are no health benefits to using bleach so why not use apple cider vinegar instead as your horse will get lots of health benefits from using it?
Fish – Some swear that putting goldfish or small catfish in the trough will keep the algae cleaned out while others say this does not work. You will also need to take into consideration the droppings from the fish. If you put fish in the trough you will need to remove them during the winter months.
Another thing you can do is use a fish net to clean out the bugs and other debris that get in the trough. Cleaning out the trough on a weekly or bi-weekly basis will ensure cleaner and fresher drinking water. The other benefit is that you are dumping out any mosquito eggs that have been laid.