Floating Island - Common Questions and Answers

These are questions that ABI has encountered and our answers, to the best of our ability.

Q. Can I launch my Floating Island myself or must ABI do it?

A. Floating Islands are straightforward to launch, but there are many advantages to getting trained help. All Floating Islands come with full instructions, and without any prior training, are possible to launch. Once you get into the larger islands (130 sq ft and above) they require more manpower to assemble.

The advantage of having ABI launch your floating island is the same as with anything else: peace of mind is assured and any problems are likely to be anticipated and solved more easily. Note: Living Walkways and docks are always installed by ABI.

Q. What will grow on a Floating Island?

A: If the water in your pond is well aerated, almost any plant suitable for your planting zone will grow. If your water is not well aerated, or if you are not sure, we recommend riparian (wetland) plants that are naturally adapted to low oxygen conditions. A list of sources for wetland plant seeds and wildflower seeds, which we recommend, are available in the "planting launching & anchoring" section of our website.

Q. How long will it take my Floating Island to mature?

A: Answer: No more than one season. In fact, many experienced gardeners report that their islands develop faster than conventional gardens. Floating Islands typically green up sooner in the spring and stay green longer in the fall due to the thermal effect of water.

Q. Will ducks and geese or swans graze on my island's plants? Will fish graze on plant roots that grow through the island?

A: A carefully designed planting strategy can either encourage or discourage grazing by waterfowl, and root grazing by certain fish species. With thoughtful plant selection, Floating Islands can assist you in stewardship of your waterway. You can use your island to lure waterfowl away from other sites, to feed fish, or to provide more secure nest sites for swans, or you can select plants that are not conducive to waterfowl or fish.

Q. Can I purchase a developed Floating Island so I do not have to wait for it to mature?

A: ABI is able to grow a developed floating island for you prior to launching with sufficient notice. Due to the weight and dimensions of a fully mature, island certain sizes due to apply.

Q. Can I move a Floating Island from one pond to another?

A: Small Floating Islands, up to about 25 square feet, are easily moved. Pull them onto a tarp on a fairly level shoreline, let them drain for an hour or so, then carry them into the new location. If you are going to transport, your wet island be sure to carefully cover the entire island to prevent plant desiccation. .

Q. Is it important or useful to anchor my Floating Island in one spot? If so, how are they anchored?

A: An advantage of leaving your Floating Island unanchored is that you will enjoy a changing waterscape. However, this is not always practical. All islands come with anchor attachment points through which an anchor "rope" can be inserted. We recommend you use chain for large islands, sturdy cord for smaller islands. A heavy object can then be tied to the other end and lowered to bottom. Make sure you allow enough slack for fluctuations in the water level. Alternatively, you can tether your island to shore, which has some advantages in making it accessible. .

Q. What do I do if a tree or some other large plant "volunteers" on my small Floating Island?

A: We recommend that you remove such plants from your island. Pruning them back aggressively should also work. On the other hand, a large Floating Island can support about two pounds of additional negative buoyancy per square foot. So in other words, a 500 square foot Floating Island can support up to 1000 pounds of weight, which might include people, picnic tables, or some other waterscape option. We often use rocks on Floating Islands as habitat features. Floating Islands can be made in any size, and can be customized to achieve higher levels of buoyancy if desired.

Q. How does a Floating Islands improve water quality?

A: Many bodies of water associated with agriculture or septic systems or storm water management or lawn and garden fertilizers carry an unnaturally high nutrient load. This can result in a wide range of serious water quality problems. Floating Islands represent a holistic way to "mine" these problem-causing nutrients out of your waterway and convert them into a beautiful and wildlife enhancing floating island habitat.

Q. Will a BioHaven eliminate algae from my pond?

A: No. However, your Floating Island will help prevent algae from developing into a monoculture in your waterway.

Q. Will a Floating Island plug up?

A. We do not believe so. Even if the island is accumulating solids and biofilm inside the matrix, it is constantly being "eaten" by fish and other small (or large) life forms. The heavier stuff will tend to slough off into the sediment below. This is unlike a constructed wetland, which will tend to plug up in due course.

Q. Are Floating Islands safe?

A: Small Floating Islands do not represent a safety issue that we know of. Larger ones could represent a boating hazard and we recommend that they be well marked so as to be visible under all conditions. Unless your Floating Island has been specially designed to support human activity, we recommend that you do not walk on them, or swim adjacent or underneath them. Roots that grow through Floating Islands could represent a serious swimming or diving issue.

Q. Do Floating Islands leach harmful substances such as Bisphenol-A into the water?

A. No. Floating Islands are made from PET, which does not use BPA in its manufacture, and is not known to leach any other substances into water. It is the plastic used in most drink bottles and is safe around water. In fact, there is scientific evidence that Floating Islands are net absorbers of BPA - in other words, they remove it from water. Please see our Research section.

Q. Do BioHavens attract mosquitoes?

A: No. However, Floating Islands do attract fish, nymphs, and other insects that consume mosquito larvae. Also, carnivorous plants that eat mosquitoes occur on wild floating islands and would no doubt be readily grown on Floating Islands.

Q. Can Floating Islands be used as floating walkways to cross over my pond?

A: Yes, but such a Floating Island would need to be customized to support the specified loads.

Q. Can Floating Islands help fight bank erosion? Will they prevent wave erosion?

A: A strategically positioned Floating Island can function as a breakwater dampening wave action.

Q. How long does it take to assemble and launch a large Floating Island ….say a 250 square foot unit?

A: Two workers can assemble, launch and plant a 250 in less than three hours. No real assembly is required for the 90 square foot and smaller islands.

Q. Can Floating Islands help with removal of heavy metals or hazardous waste from a waterway?

A: Yes, and studies measuring their efficacy in this application are underway in Bozeman, Montana and Toronto, Canada. An additional study is being developed by a large research organization in New Zealand as well. While these studies are underway and data is not complete, we have measured significant uptake of suspended solids, which is a form heavy metals occasionally take, from waterways.

Q. Can Floating Islands remove pharmaceuticals from the water?

A. We are excited, relieved and encouraged by early results from a student research project that show that Floating Islands reduce levels of estrogen in water. Increased levels of this chemical are entering our waterways through human use of birth-control pills resulting in fish populations becoming sterile. Other hazardous pharmaceuticals get into our water - e.g., chemotherapy drugs - and we greatly hope Floating Islands can mediate against these too. Plenty of research opportunities here....

Q. How do I tend to the plants or weed my island?

A: In the event you want to weed your island - or tend your plants (for instance, to thin or prune them) - you can either wade out to the island and do it in place, or you can move the island onto shore. For the latter, it could make sense to tether the island to a point on the shore but alternatively you can use a pole (or similar) to gently pull a small island in.

Q. How do I go about up sizing my island?

A: You can either buy a bigger island, or join many smaller islands together with our specially designed cables and pins. Floating Islands are available in a wide variety of sizes. The number of islands you can join together is limited only by the space you have available.

Q. Can I fertilize my island?

A: Yes, but very, very carefully. We recommend using worm castings, a natural and water-friendly fertilizer. But we would strongly advise avoiding chemical-based fertilizers as it is frequently the nutrients found in fertilizer that cause water quality problems in the first place. One of the reasons we recommend native species is because they normally do not require much pampering. .

Q. Can Floating Islands be used to grow herbs, veggies, or maybe fruit?

A: Yes. In fact, doing so can be a lot of fun. You also have the option of growing some really exotic succulents like watercress or wild ginger. Fertilize with worm-castings if you are not sure about the nutrient levels in your pond. AERATION is essential when growing non-wetland species.
If you know your water has high levels of toxins, it would probably be best to avoid eating produce grown on it. However, we know that different plants have different strategies for up-take and storage of toxins in their stems, leaves and roots, so we would say investigate further, and even have the fruit tested if it is important.
***A question for you now! If you grow veggies on a floating island without herbicides, pesticides or chemical fertilizers, is the fruit organic? What if you know the water contains run-off and nutrients from fertilizer? Does this affect your answer? Moreover, what if you consider that this same water is being used to water the garden or other crops? ***

Q. What time of year is best for launching a Floating Island?

A: BioHavens can be launched any time of year. In fact, placing them in position on top of an ice-covered waterway is a method we have tested with success. Another effective approach is fall seeding of islands, which positions them for nice green up the following spring. Nevertheless, as you might expect, launching an island in the spring or summer means that your island can green up and add to your waterscape quickly.

Q. I would like to check the buoyancy capacity design of your floating island. Can you tell me what's the standard buoyancy capacity, and what's the maximum buoyancy capacity you can design?

A. The buoyancy standard for Floating Islands is 5 #'s per square foot, which equates to 55#'s per square meter. This is the standard for our 8" thick islands. We also make modules that are five feet by 8 feet by 10"s thick, which have a 12 # per square foot buoyancy standard. Adding additional buoyancy is easy, but does reduce the biomediation quotient. In other words, there will be less surface area for microbial colonization as we add more buoyancy so more buoyancy equates to less pollution reduction.

Q. What's the experience with your floating island in salt-water environments? Do you have salt-water tolerant plants that will help clean up salt-water lagoons?

A. Yes, numerous plants can flourish in brackish or salt-water settings. I know of one such launch, but we anticipate many others in the future. Keep in mind that microbial action is actually responsible for most of the nutrient uptake associated with water cleanup, and they definitely will thrive in such a setting (in fact the optimal microbes are the native species that already occur in your setting, and which will quickly colonize your island). For macrophytyes, we suggest that you plant with native species that are currently occurring along the waters edge.