Will Food Coloring Ruin Your Water Feature?

Last update:

There are different options you can try if you would like to dye the water in your water feature, but some are better than others.

Food coloring can ruin your water feature if you use too much or the wrong kind. It can dye the concrete, ruin the pump, and erode the surface of the fountain. Certain food coloring could also be harmful for birds and wildlife. However, pond dye is a safe alternative.

What should I do if I still want to dye my water but I don’t want to ruin my water feature? Which water dyes are best to try?

Food Coloring Versus Pond Dyes

Oil based food coloring should not be used in water features. It has certain acidic chemicals that will erode the surface of your water feature over time. Some food coloring are highly oily and acidic, which can ruin your water pump. The acid will break down your pump just like the surface of the water feature. The oil in the food coloring will also gum up your pump over time.

Food coloring is likely to stain anything it touches, including cement, plants, even animals. If you do not want your water feature itself to be stained, then you should avoid using food coloring. The oily properties of some food coloring can also be harmful to fish.

If you are determined to use food coloring in your water feature, make sure to only use small amounts and to stay away from oil-based food coloring.

If you still want to dye the water in your water feature, but you want a safer option, you should consider trying pond dye. Pond dye can be used for small or large water features, such as a small fountain or a lake. It is safe and beneficial for both wildlife and plant life.

The dye helps to block excessive sunlight and helps to slow the growth of algae and other unwanted aquatic plants. If this is your main reason for dying your water, then you should consider using a black dye. The dark color blocks the most UV rays and will help kill algae.

Pond dye can also be beneficial for wildlife by helping to lower the temperature of the water in the summer. The dye not only blocks out sunlight but it also blocks the vision of predators from above, protecting your fish from birds or animals along the banks of your pond or lake.

Unlike food coloring, pond dye will not dye or erode the surface of your water feature. It is still a dye, so you might want to consider using gloves during application, but once the dye has been diluted by the water, it will not dye surfaces or skin and is safe to touch.

Pros and Cons of Water Dyes


  • Dyes give water a pleasing appearance
  • Dyes block out sunlight
  • Dyes decrease algae and other unwanted aquatic plant growth
  • Dyes are safe for plants and animals
  • Dyes are safe to swim in
  • Dyes are safe for wildlife to drink
  • Dyes make it harder for predators to see inside the water
  • Pond dyes will not dye the surface of water features
  • Dyes make shallow water look deeper
  • Dyes can last around 6-8 weeks


  • Dyes do darken the water, so if you want crystal clear water, pond dye might not be the best idea
  • The dye could permanently dye your clothing upon application
  • Certain pond dye colors do not mix well with muddy waters
  • Some dyes can dilute easily, so if it rains you will need to apply more dye
  • It can be expensive to upkeep if it rains a lot in your area
  • You can stain your water feature or rocks in your pond if you accidentally use too much dye

Different Colored Dyes


Dyes can typically be purchased in three different colors: blue, turquoise/aqua, or black. You might want to try all three and see which one you like best, but all three colors are good for different reasons.

Blue dye is great if you have a lot of green foliage next to your water feature. The contrast of the blue and the green really makes the colors stand out. Blue dye is great if you want naturally beautiful looking water. It does a good job at blocking out the sun rays to slow the growth of algae in your water feature.

Turquoise/aqua dye is another good option if you are looking for a more tropical feel. The water will be a lighter color and more clear than blue or black dyes. However, because the dye is lighter, it will allow more sunlight into the water and will not help as much with algae control.

Black dye is recommended for larger bodies of water, especially during the winter. In the winter, the dark water creates a mirror effect, which goes great with a white winter. In the summer, the dye will still have a strong reflection, which can be beautiful if your pond or lake is surrounded by a lot of foliage. Black dye also blocks the most sunlight, which helps your fish hide from predators and stops algae growth.

Pond Dye Brands


This dye has shown to work well in fountains to reduce the amount of algae growth. An 8 ounce bottle can treat up to 1,880 gallons of water. You can learn more about it on Amazon (FYI – we receive commissions on qualifying purchases at no extra cost to you).

EasyPro Pond Products

This product is great for both fountains and larger bodies of water. One ounce should be used per 1000 gallons of water. You can learn more about it on Amazon (FYI – we receive commissions on qualifying purchases at no extra cost to you).

Microbe Lift

Along with all of the usual benefits of pond dye, this dye also reduces bad odors that may be coming from your water. You can learn more about it on Amazon (FYI – we receive commissions on qualifying purchases at no extra cost to you).

Don’t Forget

Pond dye is not just for ponds! Pond dye can be used for any water feature you might have in your yard. If you have a small fountain, all you need to do is use a small amount of dye, and you can still have the color you want but with a safer dye than food coloring.

Are you also thinking of painting your water feature but don’t know what paint you’ll use? We got you covered. Check out our article on the best paints for water features.

Photo of author


We always wanted a fountain of some kind at our house, but professional installation was just too pricey. So, we decided to make our own little fountain and after learning how, we thought we should share our experiences to help people in our same situation.

Leave a Comment