How to Create a Natural Style Pond

Is a water feature for me? Despite the obvious attraction, consider the cost to install, operate and the time it will take you to maintain. Pets and natural predators will often eat fish if precautions are not taken. Safety is a concern for young children.

Costs, Functions and Sources

  • Power to site: A 120v waterproof power source beside your feature with a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter to prevent electrical shock is required to operate your pump and optional heater and underwater lights.
  • Pump: A pump maintains water quality and clarity by adding oxygen via splashing and passing water through an optional filter. It can also provide aesthetic interest in the form of a recirculating waterfall or fountain. For smaller ponds the pump should recirculate all the water every hour, though this is not a strict rule and once per day works fine for larger ponds. Tsurumi and Oase are two quality brands I use.
  • Pump operating costs: Over time the power costs significantly more than the pump so pay attention to this cost and purchase an energy efficient model.
  • Liner: 45mil EPDM I use this tough, flexible liner on most water features for its life span, ease and unwillingness to rip. Sturdy pre-formed liners can also be used for smaller features and are easier to install but limit flexibility and preclude using a skimmer.
  • Padding: Used to protect flexible liners, you can usually find a carpet contractor happy dispose of waste carpet for free.
  • Stone and pea gravel: This is used to cover the entire surface of flexible liners 4″ thick inside the pond and provide surface area for water cleaning organisms to grow on.
  • Pond Rim: Slate, pavers, concrete, soil – the options and prices are endless.
  • Plumbing: I use flexible PVC pipe and fittings. Plumbing is used to automatically top off your pond using an inflow valve attached to a live water line, pipe overflow water away and carry the water from your pump to your filter and on to your fountain, stream or waterfall. Use opaque pipes to avoid algae growth inside.
  • Skimmer: A skimmer, similar to those used in swimming pools, removes surface particles and fallen leaves from your pond and gathers them in a conveniently hidden net. It also holds the pump, auto inflow valve, overflow pipe and does some water filtering. It makes maintenance easier and hides gadgetry from view but is not necessary.
  • Bacteria control: A live inoculant regularly added to maintain water clarity.
  • Biological Elements: Plants, fish and other water critters can help maintain water clarity by creating a balanced ecosystem. Due to raccoons, otters, herons and other predators I suggest an area at least 3’ deep and a few cover plants for fish to hide under.

Designing your water feature

Because of the cost and appeal place your water feature by the front entry or another area it will give maximum enjoyment both through windows and outdoors.

The style, scale and materials should be chosen to tie into surroundings. The larger the surrounding space and objects the larger your feature will need to be to fit in. For natural style ponds use granite river rock or boulders for your feature stone or waterfalls with either pebble, pea gravel river rock, sand or native soil used to screen the liner from view.

Shape the surrounding areas and the pond itself so that surface water could plausibly fill it. Water falls should be built into a slope of some sort to create the illusion of running down from higher ground. A winding stream, the beginning unseen, culminating in a waterfall is one nice way to handle this.

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