Pond and Water Feature Basics

The interest in having your own water feature has risen dramatically in the past few years. If you are thinking about installing your own pond or water feature, there are some basic principles  you need to keep in mind if you want to get the most enjoyment out of all your planning and hard work.  The following is a brief checklist of pond basics you should know before you start your project. For more in-depth pond articles and other pond blog entries, click here.


If you are thinking of placing your pond in a far corner of your yard, stop right there! Unless you plan on spending a lot of time in the far reaches of your yard, cross that off your list of possible locations. It will take away most of the features of your pond that you’ll enjoy the most!

Put your pond close to your house or patio where you can enjoy it. Listen to the sound of the waterfall cascading down to  small stream. Watch your new fish and get to know each one…which ones are shy? Which one seems to always be the first one to the food? Enjoy the water lilies blooming. Arrange a few stones here and there, or even dangle your feet in the water on a hot day.
In addition, try to locate it where it can be enjoyed from the inside of the house. You can open your windows on a summer evening and enjoy the sounds of the waterfall, or the wildlife that will be attracted to it.
Full sun is best, but I constructed mine (see photo) in light shade, and it is doing just fine.

Try to make your pond and waterfall look as natural as possible….like it belongs there. Make liberal use of water plants and bog plants.  Make the falls look as if they are spring fed by building up the soil higher behind them with boulders or berms.  When you choose your Koi or goldfish, pay special attention to how  they look  from the top rather than the side, because that’s that’s how you’ll be seeing them in your pond. A quality seller of Koi will display them in a large blue tub about 3-3 1/2 feet high so you can easily see them from the top. Don’t use native fish, because because they will be camouflaged against the natural stone bottom. Having lights in your pond will greatly enhance your enjoyment in the evening when it gets dark.

Mechanical and biological filtration. The mechanical filters (located in the skimmer and waterfall container) take care of debris while the biological filter (which is “good” bacteria that you add to the pond periodically) keeps the green algae to a minimum by out-competing it for nutrients.

Water pump and plumbing. The pump sits in he skimmer basket, where the pond water begins its journey through the filtering system.  (See photo at left, in the foreground). The pump then circulates the water through an underground flexible PVC pipe to the opposite end of the pond, where it passes through another series of filters and into the biofalls before plummeting into the pond as a waterfall.

Liner and underlayment. The liner, 45 mm thick, prevents water loss (obviously) while the underlayment protects the liner and also allows gases to escape from under the liner.

Rocks and gravel These elements are crucial to your system. They protect your liner from ultraviolet radiation,  andprovide a home for the bacteria to colonize.

Plants and fish. Plants remove nutrients from the water that the algae would ordinarily feed on, and provide shelter for fish.The fish snack on the algae, control the mosquitoes and other insects and fertilize the plants with their waste. Read my other blog entry about what to do with your fish in the winter.

Eliminating any of these factors will result in an out-of-balance ecosystem, which will in turn will result in more maintenance and decrease the enjoyment of your pond!

Most important point:  Celebrate a job well done!!









Written and posted by Doug Grove, Grove Landscaping, Northfield, MN