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smelly water in my rain barrel

I have installed a 55-gallon rain barrel to provide for my garden but I'm hesitant to use the water due to it being green and smelling rancid. Any suggestions as to why this is happening and what remedies there are.

Re: smelly water in my rain barrel

You might not want to use that water to water things you are going to eat, but it should be fine for grass or trees.

Re: smelly water in my rain barrel

The bacteria is probably anaerobic and will die as soon as the water hits the ground. It may even supply some nutrients. It should be perfectly safe to use on food plants or any others. I wouldn't spray it on a vegetable that I'm going to pick and eat right away, especially raw and unwashed.

I have heard that a few bits of Kibble or other dry dog food will clear it up, so would a bubbler for a fish tank or a windmill aerator. A small decorator waterfall would also work. The Japanese bamboo pipe waterfall would be neat and I've seen them on 55 gallon barrels in Japanese gardens.

Re: smelly water in my rain barrel

Go to your local petstore and get some "Feeder goldfsh". We generally sell them for 25 cents apiece. These are the same kind of goldfish you win at a carnival. Set the bag in the water, then add 1/4 cup of water from the barrel to the bag. Wait 15 min and do it again. Repeat this at least 4 times, then dump the fish in. They will eat whatever algea/plant matter is making it green as will as eat any mosquito larvae that may be in there. Good luck!

Re: smelly water in my rain barrel

Thanks for all the suggestions.

Re: smelly water in my rain barrel

I second the recommendation for goldfish. I used them when I had rainbarrels in a previous location. They worked extremely well. The water was very clean and it was great fun to watch the fish!

One note: goldfish are invasive. Do not dump them in a stream or river at the end of the season. I recommend finding a small child with a fishtank; returning them to the store (some will take them back); or giving them a 21-flush salute.

I loved having no smell, no mosquitoes, etc., with just a couple of fish nibbling away.

Re: smelly water in my rain barrel

There is a great system for rain barrels called RainReserve. It is a closed system to prevent mosquitoes, bugs and critters from getting inside your barrel. It also sends overflow back out the downspout. Mine came with all the tubing, fittings and spigot. So far it has survived heavy rains and winters. It is a definite must have if you have rain barrels.


Sidney Fife
Re: smelly water in my rain barrel

The goldfish seems like a good idea, unless they're for watering veggies. Many fish carry parasites, like flukes and tapeworms. We stopped using them in our aquarium (feeder fish) as we never knew if they were causing infections in the other fish. They also excrete feces in the water, which isn't good. And if they die, then you're using water with dead animals in it!

A bit of chlorine won't harm your veggies (it degrades into water and hydrogen) but will take care of both algae and bacteria.

Here's a link on that:


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