Building a Pond in Chicago Area - Advice Gladly Taken


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Hello all,

I am looking to add a pond for goldfish and plants to our Chicago (Galewood/North Austin area) backyard over the next two weeks. Digging will start as soon as we can get 3-4 consecutive days without rain. Our backyard is rather small at 18’x21’. We have 6’ tall fencing along with the detached garage to secure the backyard. We have been adding a number of plants and landscaping since we bought the house about 18 months ago. See the pics attached for an idea of the space.

Our goal is to have a pond that allows us to more of a nature feel to the backyard with goldfish to view, plants to view, a calming waterfall sound, and the ability to attract more birds and butterflies to the yard. I want to do nearly all the work on my own and I have slightly above average “work around the house” skills. Except for new sod, we have done all the landscaping work on our own. I am also trying to be rather cost conscious on the pond build with a budget of $1,000.

I have also had fresh and saltwater aquariums ranging from 10 gallons to 95 gallons over the last 20 years. At one point, I had four aquariums going that totaled about 300 gallons. I know how to care for fish and look forward to the added challenge or a pond.

Here are the current details of the pond:

1. 7’x5’x3’ (LxWxD); generally a rectangle with curves to break up the symmetrical shape. I estimate the pond to be 800 gallons.

2. For the pond perimeter, thanks to advise from another post, the pond will be dug with a 4” wide by 4” long top shelf with rocks to hide the top of the liner. I think I will use reataining wall stones of the heavy sort for this purpose.

3. After the 4”x4” pond perimeter, there will be a shelf (across the entire perimeter) that is 12” wide by 6” long for plants. After that will be the final ”hole” down to 4’ deep and across the width of the pond.

4. I plan to add underlayment though I am not sure what I will use between, felt paper, remnant carpet, or landscape weed control fabric.

5. I will add river rocks across more the base of the pond and the 12”x6” shelf with rock from 3” to 10” in diameter across the shelves to both hold the liner in place and for visual interest. We will be sourcing rocks and plants from a good friend who apparently has a ton on his property in the Chicago suburbs, Craigslist, and anywhere cheap and suitable.

6. Filter A will be a TetraPond 26596 Waterfall Filter, which is rated for ponds up to 1,000 gallons and includes. I will run this of a TetraPond Water Garden Pump rated at 1,000 gallons. I really like to due to economy and it gives me the waterfall my wife really wants. Nothing tall, though I may use dirt to build up an area about 18" tall that the water fall can use to fall down into the pond.

7. Filter B will be a Pond master 700 GPH Pond Pump with Filter and Fountain Set because I like the added filtration and the fountain effect.

Before I get started, please let me know of an advice you have or areas where I can do something different or better.

The final pic, which I thinking I found on the this site, is visually closet to what we would like to our pond to look like once completed, with a waterfall.

Thanks for any advice.
 

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Sounds like a well thought out plan.
Make sure you call the utility locate company before you start digging.
The last pic looks like it could use more of a berm to prevent runoff into the pond. Make sure you build up enough of a berm to prevent that.
It depends on how well your backyard drains excess water.
Allow enough time for fishless cycling. (3 - 4 weeks)

When you say that you're going to add rocks along the base of the pond, are you talking about rock on the bottom?
Keep in mind that if you're going to have a plant shelf, you may need to add netting in order to protect your fish from herons.
 
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Thanks for the reply. The yard does drain well, much better than when we moved in 18 months ago. The neighbor on the other side of the fence has all concrete for a backyard and his rain water created a pond for us. We added a few inches of topsoil, new sod, and added a topsoil under the fence to keep water on his side. I do plan to have a burm that is about 18-10" on the back side of the pond, which will be on the fence side. The remainder of the pond will have a burm of about 6".

I have heard of herons, but I am in a very dense area of Chicago. I am not sure, but I highly doubt I will see them in my area. (Hopeful)

If you can offer advice on this I would appreciate it. Nearly all "how to" videos on ponds include a skimmer and filter combination. I understand the benefits, but is that type of filtration really needed? It is expensive compared to the approach I am taking. I see one on Craigslist for $150. See attached pic. I am considering it for the price.
 

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Keep your fish population low and your plant population high and you won't need a lot more filtration in addition to that.
A skimmer is a necessity and that waterfall filter looks like it would give your wife the waterfall she wants.
Any additional filtration is your preference, really. If you like tinkering with the mechanical aspect of different manufactured filters using different media, then you can set things up that way.
If you prefer a more natural approach, you can incorporate a bog style filter where the filtering is done with gravel and plants.
 
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I have a Savio skimmer and love it. I have both my pumps hidden in it. I couldn't tell from the picture how the filter set up works. There are two sizes of Savio skimmers, I'm thinking for the size of your planned pond the smaller size would be adequate.

Given your neighbor's yard run off, I'd build up your berm, to prevent run off.
 

addy1

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I will add river rocks across more the base of the pond and the 12”x6” shelf with rock from 3” to 10” in diameter across the shelves to both hold the liner in place and for visual interest.
There are huge debates about rock in your pond, some like it some don't.

One thing to think of, once you get some debris, dirt, algae, the bare liner won't look like liner. And unless you are really good about cleaning your pond the rocks will disappear over time. (been there done that) I ended up pulling all the rocks boy did it stink (my arizona pond) My new pond has no rocks in the bottom unless some fall in. The bottom looks rockish like.

This is the bottom of mine with lighting at different times of day.

Also the rocks take away water room from the fish.
Capture.JPG
Capture1.JPG
Capture2.JPG
 
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150 bucks i would buy that Savio Skimmer before its gone
the filter is worth something too
 
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DrCase. Thanks for the reply. Attached are two more pics. Do you see any obvious concerns? It does sound like a solid deal.

The skimmer appears to have the filter whereas the filter or return for the weir (i think that is the right word to use) simply has a pipe that comes up the middle. I presume on the weir I can just add bio balls for extra bio filtration and something to create a lid, which is not included.

The deal comes with both the skimmer and the filter.
 
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Opps. Here are the pics
 

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DrCase

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The skimmer is worth 150
with a little work you can make a bio filter, out of the 2nd piece
 
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Welcome. That skimmer is definitely worth $150.00. I use the Savio skimmer also and it works very well.
 
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I picked up the Savio and waterfall/weir today for $120. They are HUGE! I got them just in time as a buyer from Ohio was looking to pay more to the have them shipped to him.

I am curious about the waterfall/weir. Can it be buried about 10" into the ground. I am looking for the installation instruction online now. It is taller than I would like for the waterfall as I really would need more linear space to make it look more natural. Guess I can do it if needed. Sucker is about 16-18" tall

Or, could I simply add the Savio weir that is shown in the pics below?

Finally, I scored several rocks form a good friend. I will likely get about 15-20 more pieces from him next weekend. He has at least 50 more pieces in his yard that he will give me for free. Will have to take him and his wife out for a nice dinner!

Thanks in advance for any advice.
 

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DrCase

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Can you take a few more pics of the back of the skimmer
 
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Here are more pics. There is one of each side of the skimmer and a few of the waterfall/weir.
 

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sissy

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Would have been better to take the pics outside so they are lighter and you can see more .
 
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Would have been better to take the pics outside so they are lighter and you can see more .

What exactly are you looking to see? Let me know I can will make sure I get a better pic. Most that I post are fairly clear shots.
 
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