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Whether it's a small, quiet reflecting pool or an elaborate waterscape complete with a bubbling fountain, a well-designed ornamental pond provides hours of enjoyment. Use this guide to select the right components for your dream water feature.
You'll need electricity if your pond includes underwater or perimeter lighting or a pump. When in doubt, call a professional electrician to set up the system for you. Many communities require that a licensed electrician perform any electrical work involving water or outdoor wiring. Obtain advice and use equipment especially designed for garden and pool use, and always follow the manufacturer's instructions.
To determine the size of pump you need, first calculate the volume of water in the pond. Choose a pump that can move half the total volume in one hour. For example, if your pond holds 1,000 gallons of water, buy a pump that delivers at least 500 gallons an hour. If your water feature includes a waterfall or stream, it needs a more powerful pump. When in doubt, buy a more powerful pump.
The most successful garden ponds are 18 to 24 inches deep. This depth is considered optimum for growing water lilies, other aquatic plants and for raising most types of fish. However, provide an area at least three feet deep where Japanese koi can escape heat in the summer and frozen water in the winter.
Pond capacity is important when you size the pump and filter, and when you determine correct dosages of plant fertilizers, algaecides and other chemical treatments. The most accurate way to determine pond capacity is to attach a flow meter to the faucet or water supply line and record the number of gallons needed to fill the pond. A less accurate, but easier and less expensive method is to follow the basic formulas listed below:
Flexible PVC pond liners allow you to create ponds in any size or shape. They’re also relatively inexpensive and easy to install.
Flexible EPDM rubber liners are more durable than PVC because they're stretchable and more resistant to ultraviolet light. Thicker liners of any type generally last longer, too.
Preformed shells can last from five to 50 years depending on composition, thickness, quality and installation conditions. These are most commonly made of polyethylene.
To estimate the amount of liner you need, determine the actual size of your garden pond. The liner must fit the pond and overlap the edges. Follow these easy steps:
Filters help maintain a healthy, balanced pond and significantly increase water clarity. Some types of filters also remove ammonia and other toxic chemicals. If your aim is to have a small ornamental pond with a few fish and plants, slightly cloudy water from time to time may not be a problem. If you want crystal-clear water or will be raising large numbers of fish, install a filter.
There are two basic types:
For inspiration, see Water Feature Ideas
Fish control mosquitoes by eating their larvae and control algae too. Popular types include goldfish (Red Comet, Calico Fantail and Shubunkin, as well as the common variety), Japanese koi, catfish and mosquito fish. Don't overfeed your fish — this is the most common mistake pondkeepers make.
Snails also make a big contribution to a pond's ecosystem by feeding on algae.
Floating plants require no soil. Small ponds usually require a 50% to 70% coverage to keep water cooler and limit algae growth. There are several common types of floating plants:
Submerged plants grow entirely underwater, providing food and hiding places for fish.
Before adding aquatic plants or animals, check with the supplier for care instructions to ensure you select the right varieties for your pond. Your water most likely contains chlorine. Allow it to dissipate by letting the water stand for several days to a week before adding plants. Then allow two to three weeks before adding fish, snails and other aquatic creatures.
Before beginning any excavation, call 811 to check for underground utilities.