Building a Pond: Step-by-Step Guide
Drs. Foster & Smith Educational Staff

The birth of a backyard water garden
The birth of a backyard water garden

Have you ever fantasized about sitting in your living room or on your deck and looking over a clear, peaceful body of water? You may be dreaming of a backyard pond. A pond can reward your family with all sorts of benefits, from providing a peaceful place to meditate to attracting birds and other backyard visitors.

Building a pond does not have to be an impossible dream. Nor does it require a pond-building specialist. Careful planning before installation lessens the work as well as the cost. The bigger a pond is, the easier it is to maintain, so plan the largest pond your budget and landscaping will allow.

We built a pond specifically for you to see what is involved in this process. Keep in mind several things when planning your pond:

Location: We chose a place on our property with a good mixture of sun and shade. We also chose to build our pond on a natural hill so we could put in a waterfall using existing terrain.
Style/Size: We wanted a rock-lined pond and decided on a 2,400-gallon size (see our pond specs, below).
Maintenance commitment: We wanted a very low-maintenance pond.
Whether you want fish: We chose to have fish since it was the perfect way to bring life into our pond and our backyard. Fish also eat mosquitoes, eat algae and help fertilize plants.
Whether you want plants or not and what types are appropriate for your climate: We wanted hardy plants that would survive our cold winters and provide natural filtration.
Whether you want a waterfall or not: We decided that a waterfall would be worth the extra work because we wanted its soothing effects.
Helpful accessories
We also found we needed some accessories that would make maintaining our pond simple. For general maintenance:
Kneepads
Skimming Net
Heavy-Duty Aqua Gloves
Pond Netting, to make fall leaf clean-up easier.
Telescoping Net
Mosquito Dunks, for summer mosquito control.
PondCare Pond Master Liquid Test Kit, to keep the pond and its inhabitants healthy and to keep the water crystal clear.
AlgaeFix®
Pond Salt
Refractometer, to test the salinity of the pond water. A little salt is good for the fish while too much will kill the plants.

With some initial decisions made, we needed to consider:

  • What depth would we need for the fish? In northern Wisconsin, we need at least a 48" depth.
  • How many levels would we need for plants? We chose two levels since we wanted bog plants as well as lilies.
  • What would be the most comfortable way we could enjoy the pond and feed the fish?

Before
Before
After
After

Step-By-Step Instructions
Step 1
Step 1 - Marking Contours: We marked 2 levels since we wanted bog plants as well as lilies. In northern Wisconsin, we need at least a 48" depth for fish to survive winter.
Step 2
Step 2 - The Digging: With the help of friends we dug the pond in a weekend. Excess dirt was used to build falls, elevated areas, and to level the pond's edges.
Step 3
Step 3 - Installing Equipment: Our 2,400 gallon pond is low-maintenance because of the top quality Skimmer/Falls system we used.
Step 4
Step 4 - The Liner: After the liner was placed over the pond, one side was secured as the rest was gently formed and folded to fit pond curves.
Step 5 Step 5 - Adding Structure:
We covered the liner and edged the pond with 15 tons of rock, carefully building the waterfall, plant ledges, and fish hiding places.

Following are the components that went into this pond and where you can find them online:
Koi Koi: We have seven Assorted Butterfly Koi and one Black Koi. They quickly learn to eat from your hand, making them quite a joy to feed. Azoo Koi Growth Plus Koi Food Azoo Growth Plus Koi Food: We chose the best food we could find to keep our fish healthy.
Rembrandt Bog Plants: (Yellow Iris, Pickerel Rush, Variegated Sweet Flag), Floating Plants: (Parrot's Feather, Water Hyacinth), Water Lilies: (Albert Greenberg, Rembrandt, Chromatella). Plant Baskets Plant Baskets: For easy placement, maintenance, and removal of plants.
Microbe-Lift Concentrated Aquatic Planting Media Microbe-Lift Concentrated Aquatic Planting Media: Easy to work with and specially formulated for aquatic plants. BioBalls BioBalls: This biological filtration media was chosen for the Savio LivingPonds Filter. It was placed in mesh bag included with the filter.
Savio Skimmerfilter Savio Skimmerfilter: Easy to remove skimmer basket makes maintenance a breeze. The skimmer also houses our pump and UV unit. Savio UV Unit Savio 25W UV Unit: Efficient and effective for keeping our water clear.
Black Magic Carbon Activated Carbon: This filtration media cleared discoloration in our well water, which has high iron content. 3.5L fits perfectly in the 11" x 11" media bag. Handi-Foam Black Straw Handi-Foam Black Straw: An absolute necessity to keep waterfall rocks in place.
Pond Liner Pond Liners: One 19' x 21' piece and one 10' x 10'. This liner is particularly rugged and long-lasting. Liner Underlayment Liner Underlayment: Three 10' x 15' pieces of underlayment help prevent roots and rocks from puncturing the liner.
Flexible PVC Pipe Flexible PVC Tubing: 50 ft. of this heavy-duty tubing runs underground from the skimmer to the waterfall.    

  
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