The Ultimate DIY Garden Pond Guide - Building, Types of Ponds, & Maintenance

August 22, 2019

The Ultimate DIY Garden Pond Guide - Building, Types of Ponds, & Maintenance

Ponds or waterscapes add a lot of serenity and visual appeal to your landscaping. Just stepping out of home to view your own backyard paradise is a great way to reduce stress, relax, and enjoy your home. The pleasant sound of water and the added wildlife that comes with the pond turns your home into an oasis, adds home value, and visual appeal for you and your guest.

Ponds and waterscapes can be a really intimating to first to think about. Most of us think of massive Koi Ponds we see at restaurants and garden magazines. While they are great inspirational works of water art, they are unrealistic for most of us. There is also the discussion of costs and maintenance. You will find out in this article that there are a variety of garden ponds and some of them can be done for low costs and some of them are relatively maintenance free.

Just a quick note that this post will include affiliate links for which I may make a small commission at no extra cost to you should you make a purchase. With that disclosure out of the way, let's talk about ponds!

Types of Garden Ponds

There are many type of garden ponds that you can build and several of them have kits that make it easy for yourself or your contractor to build for you. The more research you do about it, the better you will be aware of what your options are and how to get the best looking pond possible. There are several types of garden ponds that you can build:

  • The Koi Pond
  • The Goldfish Pond
  • The Planted Water Garden
  • The Patio Pond
  • The Pondless Waterfall

The Koi Pond

The Koi Pond

When I refer to the Koi Pond, I'm referring to a Koi aficionado pond. These ponds are typically large. They are usually going to be over 1,200 gallons and around 3 feet in depth. These ponds are usually fish only, due to the fact that Koi are known for eating pond plants, the added sensitivity of Koi over hardier pond fish like goldfish, and ease of medicating fish if there is a disease outbreak. The key concept with the Koi pond is to have a bottom drain. This is either done with a bottom drain installed on a concentrate pond or a pond liner kit that has a Pond Skimmer opposite of a waterfall filter where the water flow goes into the skimmer.

Bottom drains installed on a concentrate pond is out of the scope of this post and is the most expensive type of pond you can purchase. They require a licensed contractor, lots of planning, may require permits, and are very expensive. Koi Pond Kits made of pond liner, can be purchased and be installed either by yourself or with the assistance of a contractor for a much lower cost. The kits are made so you have all the major parts that you need to do the install. The main extras you will need are tools, rocks, and landscaping to decorate around the pond. The pond liner is made of high quality EPDM rubber and last for many years. Plants with Koi ponds are usually going to be placed outside of the pond. Some of the best outside of pond plants for Koi ponds are going to be plants such as ferns.

The Goldfish Pond

The Goldfish Pond

The goldfish pond is ideal for those who are building smaller ponds and want an easier to take care of pond in the long-term. Goldfish ponds are an ideal backyard pond due to the smaller footprint. Because goldfish come in a variety of sizes, you can fit them in virtually any pond kit you can purchase. Goldfish have incredible resiliency compared to Koi. They are extremely hardy and more tolerant of temperature signs. Their smaller size makes them easier to hide in shallower ponds over Koi and they are much cheaper than Koi. Nearly all goldfish ponds are going to be made of EPDM liners or even a Rigid Pond Liner. Gold fish can also be placed in patio ponds as long as you stay on top of maintenance and water water changes. Goldfish can also be mixed with Koi so a larger pond can have a mix of both, which is a good compromise if you are on the lower end of the gallon size minimum for Koi. Goldfish in general are going to be less destructive with plants so they also make a better candidate for water gardens over Koi.

The Planted Water Garden

Planted Water Garden

The Planted Water Garden is a pond that has aquatic plants inside the pond. These are what most people think of when they image a pond. Aquatic plants are great for nutrient reduction, filtration, shelter, and food but there are multiple considerations to keep in mind if you want plants in your pond. Having plants in your garden will hamper your ability to manage diseases in your pond if an outbreak occurs as many medications will kill off plants. There are also fish that are not great with plants, such as Koi. You will have to consider plants more appropriate for Koi or think about better fish for plants such as goldfish, mollies, guppies, paradise fish, and white cloud minnows.

Most planted water gardens can be installed with a planted water garden kit and are made of EPM pond liner. They will require a pond skimmer and a filter waterfall. Most the kits available will have everything you need to get started. A well maintained setup makes a great and enjoyable backyard pond.

The Patio Pond

The Patio Pond

The Patio Pond is very popular among those who live in apartments, small homes, or want to accent their outdoor patio with a water feature. They can contain fish or just be a true water garden. Some of them won't even have fish and are simply there for the water sounds and effect. They are compact and very painless to install. All you need to do is find a place for it and fill with water (don't forget water declorinator if you are adding aquatic inhabitants or plants) and you are good to go. Ideal fish for these small ponds are going to be small fish like white cloud minnow and guppies. You can add goldfish like feeder goldfish and fancy gold fish in the short-term, but most of these kits are going to be too small long-term. Example of plants for patio ponds would be water lettuce, creeping jenny, and anacharis. Patio ponds are also ideal setups for solar powered pond pumps where the pond can power the entire setup and not use electricity from the grid.

The Pondless Waterfall 

Pondless Waterfall

The pondless waterfall is a water-feature that is beautiful, yet extremely low maintenance for the owner. It brings all the benefits of a water feature to your home with the additional wildlife and the sounds of water, the added aesthetics, but without the major task of maintenance. If you have ever owned a pond before, you are well aware that having fish in your pond adds a lot of the maintenance. You have to maintain the bioscape you have created, watch out for predators, and need to feed and care for your fish if they ever get sick or injured.

The pondless waterfall is all about aesthetics, which honestly is what a lot of folks who want a pond look for. It is one of the most popular waterscapes installed today for good reason. They can also be installed indoors. The best pondless waterfalls are going to be complete kits with everything you need. They will be made of EPM liner, a waterfall spillway, and a waterfall vault that will catch the water from the waterfall. They are easier to install and cheaper then other ponds since they have less parts. They can be installed by yourself with just hand tools. Waterfall kits will give you a backyard pond without the added maintenance of sustaining aquatic animals.

Building A Garden Pond

Installing Backyard Pond

As you have seen when discussing the types of ponds, many ponds these days can be installed with pond kits. These kits give you all the major parts you need in order to do your install can can be installed with hand tools. Here are a few tips you keep in mind when installing a garden pond:

  • Call before you dig - call your local utility company and get your gas lines, water lines, etc marked in your yard before you get started. This will prevent you from hitting a major line when installing your garden pond
  • Choose a level site - This will make your install easier and keep additional expenses from happening like having to build up a retaining wall
  • Avoid trees that can cause damage - Pine trees are the worst trees to have near a pond as the needles will clog and damage your filters. You will also want to watch out for large trees that have invasive roots that could damage your liner over time.
  • Get proper tools - while these pond kits can be installed with hand tools, there are a few tools you will want handy in order to complete your install

How To Install A Garden Pond

Installing a garden pond isn't as difficult as you think with all kit available these days. The main trick is keeping everything level, the set up of the stones, and evacuating the dig site for filter and the skimmer. The video below from Savio, one of the best pond equipment manufacturers, illustrates how to install your Garden Pond.

If you aren't planning on installing your pond or water feature yourself, keep these tips in mind when selecting a contractor:

  • Make sure your contractor specializes in water features. Waterscapes are a work of art and requires a lot of creatively and taste to pull off a great looking finished work. If this is what they do for a living, they likely know about aesthetics and the biology of a pond
  • Make sure you look at the contractors past work. They should be able to supply you sample of the waterscapes they have done and they should have references and reviews on their business profile or web page
  • Make sure you work with a licensed contractor. If you are going to hire someone, having a licensed contractor protects you and gives you resource in the event something goes wrong
  • Lean on kits over custom equipment. It's easier to maintain kits and to find replacement parts for these over custom packages. Custom filters and high end equipment is mostly something for the Koi aficionado. High end koi ponds are a small percentage of pond installs that are done in the industry - especially for residential installs 

Maintenance Of A Water Garden Pond

DIY Garden Pond Maintenance

Here are a few quick tips on maintaining your water garden pond

  • Clean you pond regularly - pond-less waterfalls will have the least maintenance but you should inspect your pumps regularly
  • Manage plants near your pond - Prune plants near your pond
  • Manage ice with a deicer - Pond De-Icers keep a small hole in the ice during the winter months and keep your fish alive throughout the winter.
  • Control Algae Growth - Maintaining lower nutrient level and getting a UV Sterilizer will keep algae outbreaks at bay
  • Maintain your filters and pumps - A broken piece of equipment can be disastrous for your pond inhabitants. Always keep up on maintenance 
  • Maintain your water level - Water evaporation is a major issue in the summer. Make sure you check your water levels and top off your level with chlorinated water 
  • Test your water - Pond Test Kits can be purchased so you can regularly check your levels. Test frequently (at least once a week) to ensure your levels stay consistent.

Closing Thoughts

A pond is a great centerpiece to have in your yard. They are very enjoyable to own and with so DIY kits available now, the prospect of building your own pond or waterscape is easier than ever to do. Hopefully this article help narrow down what you are looking for. As I release more content over the weeks, I will add supporting links to each section so you can see what equipment is available and what is recommended to use. Happy building!


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