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Planning a Pond - Types, Maintenance & Budget

Drs. Foster & Smith Educational Staff
Planning a pond Of the major decisions that you need to make when planning a pond, these three will probably make the most difference in your final cost.

Type of Pond

There is a big difference between koi ponds and water gardens. Deciding what type of pond you want to plan is a must before picking up any shovels. Here is an overview of the two types:

Water Gardens

The overall idea of a water garden is to create a balanced ecosystem that completes your backyard paradise and practically takes care of itself.

  • Water gardens can be the size of a barrel, or virtually as big as you can imagine.

  • Water gardens are often designed to be part of the landscaping.

  • If the water garden will be a year-round fixture, make the deepest part 18"-24" with shelves in some areas that are 6"-12" deep for bog plants. In colder climates it may be necessary to bring plants and fish in during the winter for them to survive.

  • Water gardens should have 60-80% surface coverage of aquatic plants (less with larger ponds) with a balanced number of fancy goldfish and scavengers.

  • Water gardens should receive between 6-10 hours of direct sunlight.

  • Water gardens need low- to medium-duty filtration.

Koi Ponds

Landscaping is designed around a koi pond. A koi pond is made specifically to keep koi happy. Those who own them, most importantly, want to see the fish.

  • Minimum recommended size for a koi pond is 1,000 gallons, or roughly a pond minimum size of 5' x 10' by 3' deep. Koi can get up to 36", so they need room to move.

  • Koi like to eat plants so there is no need for shelves other than to make it easy to get in and out.

  • Lilies or lotus can sometimes survive koi if put into netting, but since a koi pond's purpose is for viewing the fish, plants are not important. They will, however, help with the control of algae.

  • The more time in the shade, the better. Since there may not be a sufficient amount of plants to limit the algae, less sun can be a big help. Koi are prone to sunburn so they either need a safe place to retreat from the sun, or 4 hours or less of direct sun.

  • A koi pond needs heavy-duty filtration.

  • Koi need to be fed more than once a day when they are small and when it is warm, but underfeeding is better than overfeeding for the overall pond environment.

Pond plant Maintenance

Maintenance is controlled by design, location, filtration, and pond balance. The type and quality of filtration you choose greatly impacts the amount of maintenance needed. The more efficient the filter, the less work.

  • Internal filtration is easily hidden and depending on your climate can stay in year-round.
  • External filtration is easier to clean, but will be in full view and may need to be disconnected in freezing temperatures.

Algae, the number one complaint from pond enthusiasts, is best controlled by balancing a pond. A balanced pond has filtration with enough waste-removing bacteria and enough live plants so that ammonia and nitrite levels are zero, the water is clear and the fish and the plants are healthy. A new pond or a spring pond may normally turn green for a week or two, but if everything is set up correctly, this stops when the pond balances out. To speed up this process, bacteria additives and AlgaeFix can be added weekly.

The best filtration you can afford yields the best results and helps avoid costly disappointment later.


A basic setup includes filter, pump, plumbing parts, and liner (or preformed pond). Deciding on a budget beforehand helps immensely with planning a successful, thriving pond.

A great benefit to installing your own backyard water haven is that any mistakes can be redone relatively inexpensively. This is not true for all home improvement projects!

Related Information:


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