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Pond Construction Tutorial

Information is provided for educational purposes only. We recommend that a qualified and competent contractor install all new systems and replace existing pumps and motors. Failure to install in compliance with local and national codes and manufacturers recommendations may result in electrical shock, fire hazard, unsatisfactory performance, and equipment failure.The following basic guidelines will help make water-gardening an enjoyable experience. There is no absolute in water-gardening; however, following these basic concepts will create a pond requiring a low level of maintenance.

Contact Local Utility Companies

  • Contact your local utility companies (gas, electric, telephone, water and cable) and have them mark all buried utility lines for safety reasons and pond location considerations.

Pond Location

  • Decide if the pond is to be a focal point. If so, then it should be located by a patio or check area where people can relax and enjoy the tranquil setting.
  • A pond can also be placed in a flower garden area to be enjoyed privately.
  • No matter where it is placed a few basic guidelines should be followed:
  • Provide as much sunlight as possible. Water lilies and other blooming aquatic plants require a minimum of five to six hours of direct sunlight for the plants to produce blooms. Less sunlight will not produce as many flowers.
  • Another consideration is water runoff. Try to keep the location away from low-lying areas. If not possible, raise the perimeter of the pond 1-3" above ground level. It is also possible to use a French drain system from run-off, or a combination of the two.
  • Avoid locating the pond near trees that lose their leaves in changing seasons. Also, trees, which emit pollen, such as pine trees, are believed to cause ponds to develop a green color. Avoiding trees is not a must, but more maintenance will be required in the fall and/or during the pollen-emitting season. Protective pond netting is also available to keep debris from falling into your pond.

Pond Size

  • What size should the pond be? Before digging, it is wise to measure and determine what size liner you will need. The liner must fit the pond and overlap the edges for proper fit.
  • Layout the shape and size with a rope, string or garden hose. Try to avoid tight radius or elaborate curves.
  • To calculate, determine the longest length and widest width. Decide how deep you will dig. (You should check local building codes regarding depth of pools and ponds. In some areas ponds deeper than 18" require safety fencing)
  • Length of Pool + (Depth x 2) + 2' = Length of Liner, Width of Pool + (Depth x 2) + 2' = Width of Liner
  • Pools of water at ground level have an illusion of appearing smaller, so when possible, make the pond larger. Leave room for marginal plants that give the pond its personality.

Pond Construction With Liner Material

  • Lay out the shape and size with a rope, string or garden hose. Try not to have tight radius or elaborate curves. Take the time to study your outlined pond from the area where it will be viewed most.
  • Excavate the soil leaving marginal shelves, 9" - 12" below ground and up to 12" wide. There is no need to put shelves completely around the pond. Do not put shelves on the side that is closest to the viewing area. Some plants grow five feet more and could block the view if placed in the front portion of the pond. The sides of the pond should be angled inward 55 - 70 degrees toward the pond bottom. The sandier the soil, the fewer angles is needed. Sandy soil should need no more than a 55-degree angle.
  • A good pond depth is 18". If fish are going to be added, the pond should be deeper. Check local building codes regarding depths of pools and ponds, In some areas, pond deeper than 18" require safety fencing.
  • Check the level of the pond using a 2 X 4, a yardstick or tape and a carpenter's level at various locations to ensure an even distance between the top of the water and coping. You may need to add or subtract dirt from one end of the pond to allow the water to fill and sit evenly.
  • A shallow, 12"- 15" wide edge should be cut beyond the pond rim for coping. The edge should be at least on inch in depth.
  • The bottom should be flat. Al areas must be free of rocks and any roots should be cut back.
  • The complete excavation should be lined first with a cushion such as damp sand, damp newspaper, indoor/outdoor carpeting or the special underlayment materials now available.
  • Now the liner can be draped loosely in the hole. After it has been evenly distributed and in place, weight the edges of the liner on the outside of the pond.
  • Fill the pond with water to below the coping.
  • Coping can now be applied. A variety of materials may be used for the coping. Anything from native stone to brick, or a combination of materials.

Sizing A Pump

  • This section will assume that only aquatic plants are going to be present.
  • It is recommended that the water in a basic pond be turned once per hour. A 500-gallon pond should have at least a 500-Gallon Per Hour (GPH) pump.
  • When sizing a pump for a pond there are a few other considerations.
  • How high will the pump have to pump water?
  • Will there be a waterfall, a fountain, and/or small statuary?
  • Will there be filters?
  • All these variables reduce the amount of flow, which, in turn, could affect water quality and clarity.
  • In most situations, adding 25% more pump capacity is adequate. Therefore, using the example of a 500-gallon pond with a 3' waterfall, the pump's flow rate should be a minimum of 625 gallons per hour. Keep in mind that restricting the discharge with a valve or a clamp on the vinyl discharge tubing can reduce the flow of a centrifugal pump. A 700 GPH can be reduced to 625 GPH, but a 500 GPH pump will only pump a maximum of 500 GPH. When a biological filter is used, care should be taken not to oversize the pump. Biological filters require a certain amount of flow. Check with the manufacturer of the filter for correct pump size.
  • The basic formula to compute the gallons of a pond is: Length x Width x Depth x 7.5.
  • Example: 10' x 20' x 1.5 x 7.5 = 2250 gallons.
  • The pond should have a pump capable of pumping 2250 gallons per hour (not using a garden hose, but using the full discharge).

Adding Fish

  • Fish may be added in a few weeks after chlorine and other additives have left the water. Fish add a completely new dimension to a pond and its care. Fish require increase control of the water quality. Biological filtration is necessary to convert ammonia produced by fish waste, decomposing fish food and plant material. In nature, the ammonia evaporates from the surface. But the small surface area of a garden pond does not efficiently remove ammonia. Ammonia can be toxic to fish and can kill them in low concentrations.
  • The joy fish bring to a pond far outweighs the additional care that is necessary. One final note about fish; add only a few at a time. Ask the store how long the fish have been in stock and choose fish that are not "brand new" This way, you know that you will have healthy fish, free from disease. Before adding them to the pond, isolate them for a couple of weeks to make sure you are not adding sick fish to your pond and contaminating the current stock.

Pond Water Quality

The basis for a low-maintenance and healthy pond is good water quality. The normally does not happen by chance, but must be planned. It is easy to create an ecologically balanced pond by following these basic guidelines.
  • Submerged Plants
    • Add one bunch of submerged plants for every one to two square feet of pond surface. A pond in the shade, having only three to four hours of sunlight, will need fewer, while a pond with greater than seven hours of sunlight will require more.
    • Examples of submerged plants are Anacharis, Cabomba, Myriophyllum, Vallisneria and Dwarf Sasittaria.
    • A pond with a 4' x 8' surface in six hours of direct sunlight will require from 32 to 64 bunches of submerged plants.
  • Pond Surface
    • Covering the pond surface is done by using lilies or floating plants. Shading for water keeps the water cooler (beneficial for fish), and limits algae growth. Coverage should be from 50 to 70%. Smaller ponds (under 1,000 gallons) need more coverage; large ponds require a lower percentage of coverage.
    • Examples of surface covering plants are water lilies, water four-leaf clover; floating heart, snowflake, water poppy, and water hyacinth.
    • Ponds require a minimum of three (3) hours of direct sunlight to produce healthy blooming aquatic plants. Having more sunlight normally means not having many trees. The falling leaves can seriously change the ecology of the pond. If a pond has the possibility of leaves getting into it, cover the pond with pond netting. Obviously, try to keep the pond away from trees.
  • Pump/Filter
    • Pumps and filters are highly recommended. A pump will keep the water recirculating while the filter will assist in maintaining a healthy and ecological environment.
    • Connecting a fountain or waterfall to the pump discharge will oxygenate the water, as well as add the sound of rushing water to the pond environment. You and your fish will each enjoy having these additions.
    • A filter will collect decaying organic matter. Pond water should be filtered and recirculated once per hour. To assure complete filtration, place the pump and filter at one end of the pond. Run the discharge tubing to the opposite end of the pond.
    • A 1,000-gallon pond should have a pump capable of recirculating a minimum of 1000 gallons per hour.
  • Scavengers
    • The same guidelines apply as in submerged plants: one to two scavengers per square foot.
    • Examples of scavengers are snails, tadpoles, and clams. The 4' x 8' pond will require from 32 to 64 scavengers.
  • Fish
    • Fish are an integral part of balancing a pond; keeping submerged plants from growing too large and consuming some of the algae. Fish also keep mosquitoes and their larvae out of the pond.
    • Some examples of fish are goldfish (Shubunkin, Fantails, Comets) and Koi
    • See "Adding Fish" section
  • Biological Filter
    • For added filtration use a biological filter. These are usually placed outside the pond. They consist of different layers of filter media to catch debris and provide a stable environment of "good" bacteria that will convert poisonous fish waste into fertilizer. These are designed for various pond sizes (by gallons). All will require a pump to deliver the water to the filter. Most filters allow the water to return to the pond via gravity.
    • It is best to have a mechanical filter and biological filter functioning simultaneously. One pump with diverters and control valves can control the flow of water to both filters but it is better to have two pumps- one for each filter. Advanced pond ecology is easily achieved with a little research and by asking questions. Products are available today that will cure any pond problem so you can be assured of having fun and enjoying your water garden.

    Handy Pond Formulas

    • Quantity of Water in a Pond
      • Approximate gallons of water in a pond = length x width x average depth x 7.48
    • Approximate Quantity Of Rocks To Use In A 2' Deep Pond
      • Quantity of boulders used in the pond (tons)= length x width /65
      • Quantity of 1/4-3 inch gravel used in the pond (tons)= tons of boulders used x .45
      • Quantity of boulders used in a stream (tons)= 3/4 ton per 10 ft. stream length
      • Quantity of 1/4-3 inch gravel used in the stream (tons)= 1/2 tons per 10 ft. stream length
      • Approximately 3/4-1 1/4 tons of boulders to build around the face of your Standard BIOFALLS(R)NOTE: Quantities of stone may differ depending on type of stone used.
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