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Water Gardens and Fish Ponds

By Edited Feb 4, 2016 3 13

Many homeowners add a water garden or fish pond to yards and gardens as a focal point and to add visual interest to their property. Outdoor fish ponds also house water plants which help balance the eco system in the garden-pond along with beautifying the space. Choosing a pond, size and location along with deciding what fish, water flowers and other wildlife to add are all important considerations when planning a pond. Watching fish swim or tending to the upkeep and maintenance of the garden-pond are both enjoyable, relaxing experiences.

Building your own outdoor pond is definitely a project for a handy do it yourself type homeowner. Ponds come as prefabricated shells or some people choose to create their own size and shape – the choice is yours. Many garden centers sell pond kits which come with the garden-pond shell, filers, aerators and water pumps, but the size is limited to what is in stock or the size the manufacturers deem appropriate. Building your own pond allows you the freedom of making the garden-pond as large or as small as you like and your yard can accommodate.

Fish Pond and Water Garden Location

Choose your pond location wisely because the fish pond is considered a permanent structure.

Prior to deciding on a location, contact your local utility companies and town or city inspector to mark your property designating gas lines, water lines, electrical lines and easements. Regardless if you are digging with a shovel or a backhoe, hitting a utility line can cause damage which is expensive to repair. Hitting utility lines can also cause injury.

Avoid placing the garden-pond under trees. The tree roots can displace the garden-pond over time and the falling leaves will require constant upkeep along with the fact that ponds require a minimum of 4 to 6 hours of sunlight per day.

Choose a flat and level location. Never install a fish pond at the bottom of a hill because the dirt will slide down the hill into the garden-pond. During severe weather, mud may slide down the hill and destroy your pond along with the fish, plants and other wild life living in it. Plus as the dirt slides into the pool it can carry deadly insecticides, pesticides and fertilizers.

Locate the garden-pond within reach of electrical boxes and a water source unless you intend to run electric and water.

Pond Sizes

Create a pond that will enhance the beauty of your yard and garden.

Building a stable pond requires approximately 60 square feet of water surface and a depth of 18 to 30 inches. If you live in an area with severe cold weather and plummeting winter temperatures the depth of the pond should be 6 inches below the frost line so the fish can stay outdoors through the year.

Ponds should not have narrow tunnel like channels because ground pressure will cause them to collapse which may kill your fish.

Building the Fish Pond or Water Garden

Mark the ground in the proposed size with powdered chalk.

Dig the hole for the pond by hand with a shovel or if you choose to create a large water garden or fish pond rent a small backhoe. Set the dirt at least 10 to 12 feet away from the hole.

As you dig slope the sides with the top being wider than the base of the hole.

Add some variations in depth to create the ability to sustain and grow a variety of water plants along with allowing the fish to explore depths.

Buy a thick rubber pond liner that is the length of the pond plus 2 feet plus the width of the pond plus 2 feet and the depth multiplied by 2.5.

Stretch the pond liner out and pull it as taut as possible. Leave the liner outside, lying flat for a day or two to help remove wrinkles. The heat of the sun will also make the liner easier to work with.

Lay a string from corner to corner across the liner. Lay a second string from corner to corner to form a large “X” . Mark the center point of the liner with chalk.

Lay a string across the hole from corner to corner and repeat for the two remaining corners. If your pond is circular, gauge, by eye where the corners would be. The strings across the pond hole will also form a large “X”. Mark the pint in the base of the hole where the strings intersect. Marking the center of the liner and center of the hole will make laying the liner evenly easier.

With the help of a friend or family member, pick up the liner, one person on each side, line up the center points and place the liner in the hole.

Add water pumps, aerators and water feature accessories.

Begin Filling

Place a garden hose into the pond and allow the pond to fill. As the water fills the pond, pull on the liner to keep it straight and flat.

Adding Plants for a Water Garden or Fish

Choose water plants and submerged water vegetation based on the type of fish you plan on housing in the basin and based on what will grow in your area.

Let the plants acclimate for two to four days.

Adding Decoration, Finishing Touches and Fish

Lay large flat rocks around the edge of it, building them up to approximately a 4 to 6 inch wall. The rocks add interest and help hold the rubber liner in place.

Rinse rocks, stones and water decorations with plain water from a hose to remove dust and debris. Do not clean the pieces with any soaps or chemicals as they can kill fish and plants.

Place rocks and decorations.

Add a commercially available bacteria to ready the water for fish and certain plants.

 If you choose to have fish in your pond, buy one to fish per week and add them. Avoid adding many fish at once because they will become stressed and may die.

Eco Labs 10PLG4 Microbe Lift PL Bacteria for Watergardens Gallon
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Sit back, relax and enjoy your new water garden or fish pond.



Mar 14, 2012 8:43am
Thank you for the inspiration! It is spring now, and I am thinking of some changes in my garden.
Mar 14, 2012 11:16am
Spring is the time to get the garden ready for the summer. In the spring it never seems like such a chore.
Apr 2, 2012 10:06pm
I have always wanted a water garden or fish pond, but didn't know much about them now with this info maybe I'll give it a go.
Apr 3, 2012 9:31am
Water gardens and fish ponds are so beautiful and relaxing. If you give it a go, I'm sure you'll love it.
Apr 3, 2012 12:15pm
Varying colors of koi fish should fit a pond perfectly. Great feature by the way.
Apr 3, 2012 12:34pm
Thanks! I love just sitting back and watching the fish in a pond.
Apr 3, 2012 1:51pm
Great article! Fish gardens are so peaceful. Interesting how you mentioned adding too many fish makes it stressful for them... didn't know that
Apr 3, 2012 8:14pm
Thanks -- yes, fish will get stressed if it's too crowded, a lot like people!
Apr 5, 2012 2:23pm
Great article and a great feature! Congratulations. We have 20 fish tanks and would love some backyard ponds. :-P If only we didn't rent...
Apr 5, 2012 3:48pm
Wow 20 fish tanks! I am impressed.
Apr 8, 2012 10:53pm
Water gardens and fish ponds are relating, a wonderful way to spend some down time. My sister has one, and I enjoy hers whenever I visit. Your article temps me to establish one of my own. Congratulations on being featured.
Apr 23, 2012 3:31pm
I love gardens with ponds, but due to owning a kitten and a dog am unable to have one. They look so beautiful though.
Mar 25, 2013 4:36am
I am also impressed and like to install one.
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