905-715-2447 Spring Hours: Tuesday through Sunday 10:00 am to 5:00 pm 3301 Sideroad 10, Bradford, ON Canada
905-715-2447 Spring Hours: Tuesday through Sunday 10:00 am to 5:00 pm 3301 Sideroad 10, Bradford, ON Canada

Pond Design Tips

Pond Design Tips

Tips & Advice to Help You Build You Pond Right the First Time

Most people who have ponds will tell you that they get immense satisfaction and enjoyment from their pond (or ponds in many cases). People will often spend hours just relaxing by their pond enjoying the sights and sounds of the fish in the pond and the wildlife that visit the pond. A well designed pond will bring you satisfaction for many years to come, but there are some things you should consider before putting a shovel in the ground. Here are some pond design tips to help you create the perfect pond for your back yard. 

pond design tips advice

What Type of Pond Do You Want?

There are basically four types of ponds that people generally build:

  • Plant Ponds – ponds designed for plants only, no fish. Usually built by avid gardeners who want to expand their gardening experience, and try growing new types of plants. These are usually shallow ponds with little or no circulation or filtration
  • Water Gardens – Ponds designed for a combination of plants and fish. This is the type most people picture when they think of ponds. These ponds usually have varying depths, with shelves for marginal plants, shallow areas for water lilies, and as deeper sections for the fish to overwinter. These ponds are usually equipped with moderate pumps and filtration systems.
  • Koi Ponds – Ponds designed for only koi, usually with few or no plants. Often, serious hobbyists and aquarists build these ponds. These ponds are designed much larger and deeper than most water gardens and have large specialized filtration systems.
  • Pondless Waterfalls – These water features are basically small ponds with waterfall or streams, but the pond is filled with stone so that there is no open water. These ponds are often installed by people who want the sound of running water in their yard without the maintenance of a pond, or have small children and are concerned about safety. 

4 Pond Design Tips To Consider Before Beginning Construction

Whether you are planning to build your pond yourself, or hire a contractor to install your pond, there are many things to consider before you start. If you know someone that has a pond, talk to them about what they like about their pond, and what they would change. I don’t know any pond owners who don’t wish they had done at least one thing different when they built their pond.

1. Size

WHEN PLANNING YOUR POND – MAKE IT AS LARGE AS POSSIBLE!! I cannot stress this point enough. Probably the biggest regret most pond owners have, is that they did not build their pond big enough. One customer relayed this advice that was given to him while he was planning his pond: “Plan your pond, then double the size”. He said it was the best advice anyone ever gave him.

2. Depth

It is important to make your pond adequately deep, even if you are not building a large pond. Shallow ponds tend to heat up too much in the summer months and freeze solid in the winter. The minimum deepest point for any pond should be 24″ / 60 cm. If you are planning on putting goldfish in the pond make a deep area at least 36″/ 90 cm. This will the give the goldfish extra room to overwinter below the ice during winter.  Ponds for koi should have a large proportion of the pond 48″/120 cm or deeper to give them adequate room to grow and properly develop.

Many people often don’t think that they are going to put fish in their pond, but 9 times out of 10 they end up with goldfish or koi in their pond and soon realize they wish they had made it bigger or deeper.

Shelves or ledges are important in ponds if you are considering having aquatic plants. Having level shelves to place plants on, makes it much easier than trying to arrange your plants on blocks or upside-down pails to provide them with the proper depth. Having shelves at various depths allows for placement of plants that have different requirements. Make the first shelf 6″-12″ / 15 cm-30c cm deep for most marginal plants, 24″ / 60 cm deep is great for most submerged plants and water lilies. Having shelves deeper than 24″ is not usually necessary for plants.

pond design tips

3. Location

Deciding where to place your pond in your yard can be challenging. Personally, I find it best to have your pond right at the edge of a patio or deck, so that you are close enough to the pond to really enjoy it while spending time there.

Some people have a natural hill or slope to work with in their yard. This makes a perfect starting point for a waterfall / stream combination because it will look more natural. 

Try to avoid building your pond in deep shade, especially if you want to have any success with plants in your pond. Many people build their ponds near or under large trees to provide some shade to reduce algae growth, but don’t realize that 5-10 years down the line, the tree might be twice as big, and will also drop twice as many leaves in the fall. With a properly designed pond with enough plants, algae won’t be a big problem, even if your pond is located in full sun.  

4. Filtration

Filtration is probably the most important component of a pond, especially a pond with fish. When most people build a pond, they don’t realize how important it is to have a good filtration system. We see many customers that have filters that are undersized for the size of their pond and/or the number of fish they have. These people often spend much more time on maintenance than they should have to because they need to clean their filters multiple times per week. We have even had customers that are afraid to go away for a weekend because their filters will completely clog up if they do.  

A properly sized filtration system not only means less maintenance for you, but also better water quality and clarity, healthier fish and more time for you to enjoy your pond. If you can afford it, always buy a filter that is one size bigger than what is recommended for your pond, you won’t regret it.

Common Myths and Misconceptions About Ponds

Myth #1: Pre-Formed Pond Are Easier to Install Than Liner

  • Not only is it easier to build a pond with rubber liner than a preformed rigid pond, you can make it look much more natural and make it any size, shape and depth. The majority of preformed ponds are very shallow, only 18″ to 22″ deep.  With a preformed pond, you have to dig a hole exactly the same shape as the shell or it won’t sit properly. Plus, preformed ponds tend  to heave with the frost and become unlevel after a few winters.  

Myth #2: Ponds Require a lot of Maintenance

  • While it is true that ponds do require regular maintenance, a well designed and equipped pond does not require too much time to maintain. Having the proper sized pump and filter make a world of difference in the amount of work you need to do in your pond. I often compare the amount of work a pond takes to a flower bed of equal size. In a flowerbed, there is always some extra work to do in the spring and fall, with only some minor regular maintenance like weeding and water to be done though the summer months. In a pond there is always some extra work in the spring getting your pond started up, but most people look forward to working outside after a long winter. The most common problem in the spring is battling with some string algae or free floating algae, but these can be controlled fairly easily. Once the plants get growing and the pond reaches a ‘biological balance’ the summer months often go quite smoothly, often only needing biweekly filter cleaning. Again in the fall, there is extra work making keeping tree leaves out of the pond and shutting down the filtration system before winter.

Myth #3: Plants & Koi Don't Mix

  • Although it is true that koi will sometimes eat the roots of floating plants or nip off the new growth of a water lily, this usually only happens only some of the time. On the other hand, koi really do love to ‘root around’ in mud. This is how where their carp ancestors search for food in the wild.  In fact they can uproot a freshly planted waterlily and completely empty all the soil from the pot in less than an hour, causing very murky pond water. That is why it is a good idea to put a layer of gavel on top of all newly potted plants. The bigger your koi, the bigger the stones you need to keep them out of the pot. After a while, the roots of the plants will soon fill the pot preventing the koi from doing any harm.