Another newbie seeking construction advice


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Hello to the forum from an absolute novice. I'm delighted to have found this site - it's apparent that there's a lot of knowledge here. I'm in the process of digging out my pond. I've watched some videos to get tips and read some blogs, but have some questions that are specific to my set-up. I've heard horror stories of pond fails that result from inexperience, so I'd value any advice that you all who have been through this can provide. Also, If there's a particular construction thread here that is a must-read for a newbie, please point me in its direction.

So here's a summary of my plan and objectives:

* Pond will be horseshoe-shaped with a small waterfall. Middle part of the horseshoe is 24' long and will be spanned by a prefab metal bridge which I already own. One end of the horseshoe has the waterfall and is approximately 10'x8'. So far I've dug around 2 - 2 1/2' deep and don't plan to go any deeper. The other end of the horseshoe is 16' long and tapers in the form of a stream to the end. The water will come from the berm's peak at about 3' high, drop once, and then drop again from about 2' into the pond.

* It'll have two ledges. I've formed the first ledge, which is around 6-10" down, and I've started on the second ledge.

* Soil is fully clay. Grade is an extremely minor slant. To be honest, I didn't do any more technical slope analysis.

* Main purpose will be for ambiance. There's a patio area off to the side for viewing, and I plan to put a bench in the center of the horseshoe.

* I like the look of koi, but after a lot of thought, I don't think they'll work for my needs (primarily due to the cleaning, daily feeding, and predator protection requirements).

* I plan to optimize the opportunity to incorporate water plants that work in my hardiness zone (9b).

So here are the immediate questions that I could use help with:

1. As I said I kind of ignored the minor slope (stressing "minor"). Is eyeballing it okay to determine it won't be an issue, or is there a specific step I should take?

2. I'd like the circulation system to be basic - a skimmer on one end and the falls on the other. But I've seen references to things like bogs and bottom drains that I don't really understand or know if I'll need. Does basic work for my purposes?

3. As mentioned, I've ruled out koi. But are there other fish that can thrive in 2', are low maintenance, won't eat whatever plants I incorporate, and won't make the water murky? As far as predators, we're not in a high predator area. Luckily I haven't seen raccoons here. There are herons. I don't want to have to add any mesh over the top so the fish would be on their own.

4. As I'm pretty close to done with the digging, I think I need to work on the berm and start building the path of the water as it comes down - but I feel stuck on this. Are there any good threads that give tips on how to best construct this?

5. Lastly, please let me know if there's anything with the design or shape that you'd suggest I adjust, for example the tapering to the skimmer at the end? After I post this, I'll login with my phone and put a couple pictures up.
 
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nice pond i feel drains are overrated if you have to drain the pond just throw a pump in there and pump it out. a bog is a natural water filter for ponds a good alternative to a pump filtration system if you want fish . check out the forums tab on the top left, i browsed that and got a lot of good info. i am looking at that bridge so i can make one like that for my pond. goldfish would be good there. thanks for the pics and welcome
 

addy1

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I'd like the circulation system to be basic - a skimmer on one end and the falls on the other. But I've seen references to things like bogs and bottom drains that I don't really understand or know if I'll need. Does basic work for my purposes?
Basic works but you still need some filtration. You could build a bog type filter into your system. I don't have a bottom drain see no need for one. Filter with only a large pea gravel and plant bog. The water fall end / stream/ you could build a bog filter there, feed the water into the bottom and have it waterfall back into the stream. A great place to grow plants and keeps you water in great shape.

I have mainly shubunkins, easy to care for and pretty.
 
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Nice work!

You can address any concerns you might have about the slope by building up the edges - as long as the edge is higher than the surrounding area, you shouldn't have run off issues into the pond.

As far as "basic" filtration - simple is always best in my mind. You can use a bio-falls filtration if you want. Or you could build a bog into your waterfall - very simple and almost maintenance free. No filter pads or filtration media to clean, just some gravel and plants. There's LOTS of information on this forum regarding bog building and the benefits of filtering with a constructed wetland filter if you're interested.

Your horseshoe shape may give you some issues with water flow. You might find you have some dead zones where the water flow is low. But that's just a maybe - much depends on how much water you push over your waterfall.

Bottom drains - no need. They are mainly installed in dedicated koi ponds with extensive filtration and a heavy bio-load of big fish. Your pond is well suited to goldfish - many varieties to choose from. You should avoid koi not because they are hard to care for - they really aren't - but because your pond is too small. Koi grow very large very quickly!

Here's a YouTube series I always recommend for DIY pond construction. The Pond Digger is one of the best pro builders and this series is really the greatest resource I've seen for understanding the whole process. You can watch from start to finish or just the parts that are of interest. It's a bit of a time investment, but you will save yourself lots of headaches later if you do things right from the beginning.


 
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I meant to add - he has another series on building a patio pond with a bog filter which is useful for understanding the how and why of wetland filtration.
 
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Looks like you're off to a good start. I assume that the skimmer will be at the far end (in the picture) and the return/falls will be where the largest pile of dirt is. That pile of dirt can be adjusted to accomodate a bog, and waterfall return. And look natural as well. The rest of the dirt can be used to berm the edges, to prevent rainwater washing in from the yard.
As to the slope of existing grade, A long straight 2x6, and a level, will tell you what you need to know.
 
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Your shelves should be built to what rock you have and not the rock tried to fit the size shelf you have
 
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So here are the immediate questions that I could use help with:

1. As I said I kind of ignored the minor slope (stressing "minor"). Is eyeballing it okay to determine it won't be an issue, or is there a specific step I should take?

You definitely want to stop rain run off from getting in the pond. fertilizers insecticides etc are not wanted in the pond

2. I'd like the circulation system to be basic - a skimmer on one end and the falls on the other. But I've seen references to things like bogs and bottom drains that I don't really understand or know if I'll need. Does basic work for my purposes?

A main drain in a shallow pond long pond won't do much in ways of being a benefit. circulation is more important keep the bottom moving toward your skimmer etc.

3. As mentioned, I've ruled out koi. But are there other fish that can thrive in 2', are low maintenance, won't eat whatever plants I incorporate, and won't make the water murky? As far as predators, we're not in a high predator area. Luckily I haven't seen raccoons here. There are herons. I don't want to have to add any mesh over the top so the fish would be on their own.

gold fish subunkins , sun fish, minnows, many areas require permits for bass or trout .

4. As I'm pretty close to done with the digging, I think I need to work on the berm and start building the path of the water as it comes down - but I feel stuck on this. Are there any good threads that give tips on how to best construct this?

A berm is little more then the highest area to divert water in the direction you want but becareful you don't want the water to get under the liner either . if your area is that flat and drains poorly then i would look at putting a drain pipe under the pond as water will take the path of least resistance and won't lift your liner if it has another way out.

5. Lastly, please let me know if there's anything with the design or shape that you'd suggest I adjust, for example the tapering to the skimmer at the end? After I post this, I'll login with my phone and put a couple pictures up.

I'd place your photos now before it's built in stone per say most mistakes are and can be caught before the liner is installed.
 
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Thank you all for the warm welcome and for the valuable advice. Looks like I have to educate myself on bogs and will start doing so today.

@addy1 Just to be clear on your comment, my stream doesn't feed into the main part of my pond, but instead the pond will flow into the stream. Is it still doable to have the bog at the end of the stream prior to reaching the skimmer? I'll watch the video series so maybe this'll be covered, but thought I'd ask if you think that will work. Also, do shubunkins need to be fed daily? I could be away for a couple weeks at a time.

@Lisak1 Natural filtration sounds much better than having to clean pads, so I will watch that series - thanks. I didn't consider that my shape could have dead spots, but now that you mention it I could see water stagnating in the large top shelf area that shows in my first two pictures. I haven't bought the hardware yet - is there a way that I could estimate what size pump I should buy to have sufficient water flow to minimize standing water?

@Bluerooster I don't expect a lot of runoff of rainwater into the pond, but now that you mention it I will berm the edge a bit to make sure. My minor slope concerns have more to do with water level and flow inside the pond, but from what I'm reading it sounds like that can be dealt with later - if there even are any problems.

@GBBUDD I haven't bought rock yet, sounds like you would've bought it first. So hopefully I can find rock to fit my shelves. Since my pond isn't that deep, I hope to be able to use smallish rocks for the shelves and then just gravel on the bottom. But I know I'll need some larger ones for the berm/waterfall.
 
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welcome and slope is easy to get a rough idea is to put a long straight 2x4 from the high nd to the low end ,then put a level up on he 2x4 and measure up with a measuring tape on the low end until the bubble on the level is in the middle .It will at least give you and idea of how unlevel it is .I have clay soil and sloped yard and used that to figure it out since I wanted a rectangular pond .I wanted it level and had to know how many concrete blocks I needed to get to level on 3 sides .Most trout like cooler water and bass I think are the same
 

addy1

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@addy1 Just to be clear on your comment, my stream doesn't feed into the main part of my pond, but instead the pond will flow into the stream. Is it still doable to have the bog at the end of the stream prior to reaching the skimmer? I'll watch the video series so maybe this'll be covered, but thought I'd ask if you think that will work. Also, do shubunkins need to be fed daily? I could be away for a couple weeks at a time.
For a bog type filter to work well the water needs to be pumped up through the media (mine is pea gravel) and plants then flow back into the pond. Some have build a barrier bog type filter the water just sort of flows back and forth. I have never done one like that.

Shubunkins do fine without food, I can not feed them all summer and they still do well. I do have a lot of plants in my pond for them to snack on. And bugs and whatever else occurs in a pond. I prefer not to feed during spawning time. They inhale eggs that are laid which keeps the population down.
 
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Is it still doable to have the bog at the end of the stream prior to reaching the skimmer?
Watch the video on building a bog and you'll know the answer to this one is "no". The bog needs to be part of your waterfall. In your case it would go bog then waterfall then pond then stream then skimmer. Your bog acts as the "head water" the same way a bio filter would.

HOWEVER... I'm still going to suggest that you make the skimmer part of the pond. Put the skimmer directly across the pond from the waterfall - as much as possible - and let your stream terminate in the pondless basin. The skimmer in the basin makes no sense to me.
 
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Watch the video on building a bog and you'll know the answer to this one is "no". The bog needs to be part of your waterfall. In your case it would go bog then waterfall then pond then stream then skimmer. Your bog acts as the "head water" the same way a bio filter would.

HOWEVER... I'm still going to suggest that you make the skimmer part of the pond. Put the skimmer directly across the pond from the waterfall - as much as possible - and let your stream terminate in the pondless basin. The skimmer in the basin makes no sense to me.
Lisak, your first paragraph is really helpful as I now understand the necessary order. I watched the video series on the patio bog - is that the one you recommend? It gave me an understanding of the mechanics that occur inside their box, but it's hard to visualize how to replicate that on top of a berm. I'll see if I can find another video.

I'm not quite following on your second paragraph. Using the rough drawing of my design, below, my original plan was simply going to be a waterfall at point B, the water would then flow all the way through to a skimmer and pump at point C, and then route by underground tubing back to the berm and waterfall. Then you helpful folks pointed out that my system is lacking filtration, so my new plan is to enlarge the berm and incorporate a bog at point A as you described in your first paragraph (or use a bio filter). Now if I'm understanding your last recommendation correctly, you're suggesting that I put the skimmer at point D. If I did that, I assume the tubing would go around the right side of my drawing back to the berm. What I don't understand then is what happens to all the water to the left of point D and beyond the bridge? Can you please explain that and also why the skimmer at point C doesn't make sense to you?

pond sketch.png
 
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Yes - the patio pond build was the one I intended so you could see how a bog is built in easy terms. Now imagine that you have a "box" (really a hole lined with EPDM) at the back of your waterfall. The water gets pushed up through layers of gravel through the bottom of the bog and the output is your waterfall - does that make sense? Imagine a bio filter, but the bog is the "box" portion. How big you make it and how it's actually constructed depends on your space - the bigger the better, but even a small bog is easier to maintain than a bio filter.

If you want to use a skimmer on the pond, point D makes the most sense because it will function best there. But that does mean you will have two pumps - one at D in the skimmer and one at C in a pump vault. Not unheard of, and in fact many recommend building in two pumps just for redundancy.

Putting it at C, where I believe you intend to have a negative edge and underground water storage with water passing over gravel, just doesn't compute with me. A skimmer functions by pulling water in through the opening - how deep is that pooling water going to be at C? Are you burying the skimmer in the gravel?

Sorry - I'm not great with design concepts, but your drawing helps immensely!
 
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I too would suggest you filter with a bog. I added a bog this past spring and it was absolutely the best thing I ever did for my pond (and me). No cleaning of any filter pads. Just sit back and enjoy crystal clear water.
After over a decade of inadequate homemade and expensive store bought filters (including UV lights), I finally have clear water. Previously I struggled with solid green water, even with two pressure filters and a UV light.
One of the beauties of a bog is that they can be any size. They are proportional to your size pond. The best thing is zero maintenance.

How hard would it be for you to make the pond a little deeper? Maybe a foot deeper, giving you 3 feet. Easy to do that now then later.
 
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Oh, concerning your liner...don't be tempted (like I was) into using a cheaper PVC liner. It will fail in a matter of a few months.
The #1 liner of choice is 45 mil. EPDM with the matching underlayment. The second choice is HDRPE.
The liner is the very basic component of your pond and you don't want to cheap out on that. Imagine having to rip out and replace the liner after your pond is all setup. Not good. I can tell you that from experience. I was a novice and made that mistake not knowing any better.
 
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I too would suggest you filter with a bog. I added a bog this past spring and it was absolutely the best thing I ever did for my pond (and me). No cleaning of any filter pads. Just sit back and enjoy crystal clear water.
After over a decade of inadequate homemade and expensive store bought filters (including UV lights), I finally have clear water. Previously I struggled with solid green water, even with two pressure filters and a UV light.
One of the beauties of a bog is that they can be any size. They are proportional to your size pond. The best thing is zero maintenance.

How hard would it be for you to make the pond a little deeper? Maybe a foot deeper, giving you 3 feet. Easy to do that now then later.
I read your bog post... thanks for taking the time to add that to this site. It's helpful and if you don't mind, I'll probably pepper you with some questions once I get started on mine.

For me, I just need to figure out how to fit it all in now. The irony is that I had the black fence that is visible in my photos put in last year, and I could've easily placed it further out which would've given more space, but the pond idea came after, so now I'm working in a defined space while everything on the other side of the fence is wasted space (unless I want to accept the expense of moving a brand new fence). Having said that, I do plan to enlarge the berm and add a wetland filter on top. Part B of that problem is that the one 8-ft fence panel behind and to the immediate left of my berm was intentionally bolted in for ease of removal for access. All the rest of the panels are welded. So when I get my rock delivery, they'll be dropped behind that panel and I was going to bring them in from there. Otherwise, I have a fairly long route to carry them through the nearest gate. So if I enlarge the berm, it will block access to that fence panel. Not sure how to work around that yet - maybe I need to buy and move rocks in before I build the berm, but at the same time, dirt is being excavated now and it would be best to add it to the berm pile as it comes out.

To answer your question, making the pond 3 feet doesn't involve anything more than more digging and moving dirt. But why? Can't smaller non-koi fish do fine in 2 - 2 1/2 ft? Please let me know, if it's important, I will go deeper.

Concerning the liner, thanks for the advice. I'm not going to spare expense on that. Once this pond is finished, I don't want something major like liner failure to occur.
 
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Koi are fine in 2 - 2-1/2 feet of water. I was just thinking about the winter when 10"-12" may become ice...that is depending on the climate where you are located. When it comes to koi, they can grow very big and pretty fast too. So the deeper, the better.
You might want to look at shubunkins. They are beautiful fish with long flowing fins. They don't get anywhere near the size of some koi. They don't need as much room as koi.
 

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