How to Build a Water Garden or Fish Pond
Steps for Building a Pond
- The first step to consider is to decide what type of pond you
want to build. You should consider what type of aquatic life you
want in the pond. Is it going to be a home for goldfish or koi? Or
is your main concern for the aquatic plants? Perhaps you only want
the pond for the sound of a waterfall. Each type of pond will need
to be planned for its specific features. Keep in mind that the most
common mistake water gardeners say they made when building their first
pond was making it too small. A small pond limits the number of fish
and plants you can add.
A koi pond is different from a water garden because koi
limit the amount of plant life available to be grown. Simply put:
koi eat some plants.
A koi pond should also be larger because koi get quite large despite
the size of the pond, it is recommended that a koi pond be no less
than 1000 gallons in volume, the bigger the better. It also needs
to have an area of the pond at least 3 feet deep, 4 - 5 may be better.
A water garden typically contains both goldfish
and a variety of aquatic plants. Water gardens in moderate climates
usually need for an area of the pond to be at least 2 feet deep. Colder
climates require a depth to provide at least 12" to 16"
of water below the freeze zone.
DISAPPEARING FOUNTAIN or WATERFALL
topic has a page of its own.
- The second step in establishing a new pond is to select the
Most ponds will be enjoyed more if they are installed
close to the home. Select an area where you can see the pond year
round. Ponds are great attracters of wildlife including birds and
butterflies. Position the pond where runoff from rain will not flow
into the pond. This may carry fertilizers, chemicals, and organic
debris into the pond. It may be necessary to alter the terrain to
accommodate this. Avoid placing a pond too close to trees. Falling
leaves and other debris will need to be removed from the pond. You
will want to place your pond where it will receive at least 4 to 6
hours of direct sun if you want to grow water lilies. Shade is fine
for fish-only ponds. Water circulation is not essential but the use
of a pump will allow you to keep more fish, it will keep your plants
healthier. A pump is required to run a filter, fountain, or waterfall.
The sound of running water adds greatly to the enjoyment of the pond.
Most ponds will benefit from the use of a biological filter. This
is essential if you are keeping koi or more than a few goldfish. We
have several types of biological filters to choose from.
- Now you need to determine the size of your pond or water garden.
The best way to do this is to use a rope or water hose and lay out
the shape on the ground. A pond for goldfish or water lilies need
be only about 2 feet deep for zones 5 or greater. Ponds built in colder
areas may need more depth to keep the pond from freezing solid. Ponds
built for koi should be close to three feet or deeper to allow these
larger fish enough space. The biggest mistake that most people make
is building the pond or water garden too small. A larger pond is more
stable and easier to maintain. Keep in mind that a finished pond or
water garden will be about 30% smaller than you visualize it. After
you have laid out the shape, measure the maximum length and width.
Add the depth twice to these measurements plus a foot or two for overlap
and this will give you the pond liner size.
- Dig the pond or water garden to the desired shape.
plants dig a shelf around the perimeter of the pond about one foot
deep and one or more feet wide. Dig the remainder of the pond with
a slight slope to the end opposite the waterfall if one is included
in the design
Position any external pond filters and/or pond skimmers and
level these in their proper location.
Pond skimmers should be buried to the proper level beside the pond.
A ditch should be dug for the plumbing from the pond to the waterfall
or external pond filter. If a pond skimmer is being used, dig a ditch
to the external pond pump and from the pump to the external pond filter
or waterfall. If you are using a submersible pump in the pond skimmer
then the ditch will be from the skimmer to the external pond filter
- Line the pond or water garden excavation with Pond Underlayment.
This can be cut with scissors or a utility knife.
You may want to tape any small pieces together to keep them from moving
when the pond liner is placed.
Place the Rubber Pond Liner into the excavation and unfold.
Position the liner
evenly in the pond. Try to minimize folds and wrinkles but some will
be necessary. After the water is added the folds should flatten out.
- Pond waterfalls and streams can be excavated now. An external
pond filter or waterfall tank can be positioned to create the first
This can be placed to spill directly into the pond in which case the
pond liner is held against the pond filter until you are able to stack
stone from the pond shelf up against the pond filter to create a waterfall.
If a small pool or stream is desired then excavate this several inches
deep and to the desired size and shape. Position the underlayment
and pond liner allowing extra material to overlap several inches into
the pond. Plumbing from the pump can be brought over into the stream
or pool or again if using an external pond filter this will be the
start of the waterfall. Streams should be dug wider than the finished
size to make room for stone that will be placed into the stream for
the edging. Stone can be secured to the liner with mortar or expandable waterfall foam. This will hold back the water allowing it to spill over
the stone creating the waterfall.
- Connect the pond liner to the skimmer, if one is being used,
following the manufacturers directions. Place the pipe or tubing
in place leaving a few inches extra to make your connections later.
- Place the stone or other coping around the edge of the pond
or water garden.
Arrange the coping stone around the edge of the
pond and fold the pond liner up behind the stone to slightly above
the water level. It is usually not necessary to mortar the stone into
place if it is of sufficient size to be stable. If using small stone
or if people will be walking around the edge then mortaring the stone
for stability may be required. Back fill with soil to hold the pond
liner against the stone. Fill the pond with water to within a few
inches from the top and then make corrections if necessary to ensure
that the pond is level. As the pond is filling remove wrinkles and
make folds as necessary.
- Other methods of edging the pond or water garden.
installations having a necklace of stone around the pond or water garden does not create a
natural appearance. If your goal is to make your pond blend into the
landscape in a natural setting then you will want to consider other
methods of edging the pond. Besides the traditional method of edging
with a thin stone on the edge overlapping the pond you can also use
one or more layers of stone built up from the shelf.
This provides a
more natural appearance and will allow the water to fluctuate without
seeing the liner. You can also create a cobblestone beach edging by
placing a large stone at the inside of a large shallow shelf and filling
the area with gravel and cobbles. You can naturalize this area by planting
shallow water plants. This will create a more natural edge with plants
partly in and partly out of the water. You can plant bare root plants
directly into the gravel or place the plant with some soil still attached
into the gravel. This will help the plant to establish quicker.
- Add dechlorinator
to the pond to remove any chlorine or chloramines.
- Add aquatic
plants as soon as possible after constructing the pond or water
garden. Many aquatic plants are great at using up the
that would otherwise feed the algae. Some of the most
include Anacharis, Water Hyacinth, Parrot's Feather, and
Bacopa. Water lilies and other plants with surface leaves can be added
provide shade to approximately 66% of the surface area if in
sun. If less than full sun then less coverage is acceptable.
Begin regular use of a packaged
bacteria to seed the pond filter and help maintain a clean and
healthy pond. Ideally, fish should be added a few at a time over several
weeks to allow the bacteria to establish in your water garden.