Convert swimming pool to natural pool/pond


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Hello everyone, I'm a complete newbie here. Tried to do some search of how to convert swimming pool to natural pool/pond here, but did not see one in the same situation. Anyway, I have a swimming pool (used to be chlorinated, but haven't maintained or added any chemicals for over a year now). The water has turned green with lots of algae. The size is about 18ftx24ft with about 6ft depth, and it's made of concrete and lined with tiles. It has pool pump and vacuum. There are a 18x5 area with 5in depth, and a few steps of 2ft or 4ft depth in the four corners.

Now I don't want to add any more chemicals to the water (kids and myself are very sensitive to chemicals). I want to convert it to a natural pond. If we can still swim in it that would be fantastic. But I don't know how to get started. Should I start with cleaning the algae manually? Then bring in the plants? Should I add pea gravels or sand bags to build a plant area? Any suggestions are welcome. Thank you!
 
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sissy

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Welcme and there are lots of videos on youtube how to do it .Have you thought of changing the pool to a salt water pool .I have a friend back in NJ that changed hers and she loves it and she says much cheaper to maintain and safer ,she changed it because she wanted a pool in the new house and got it but found out what it took to maintain .She went to a pool supply house and they gave her info and lots of support .She now has her dream pond with less work and smell
 

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Hello and welcome! Where are you located? Are you going to have fish?

Yes, there are lots of YouTube videos out there, but I have no real advice for you other than that.

BTW, algae is your friend, and in a pond, it’s going to happen — part of the ecosystem.
 
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Welcme and there are lots of videos on youtube how to do it .Have you thought of changing the pool to a salt water pool .I have a friend back in NJ that changed hers and she loves it and she says much cheaper to maintain and safer ,she changed it because she wanted a pool in the new house and got it but found out what it took to maintain .She went to a pool supply house and they gave her info and lots of support .She now has her dream pond with less work and smell
Thank you for your reply. I thought about changing it to salt water pool, but learned that it's just a different way of generating chlorine for the water -- I completely hate chlorine. So I was so happy when I found the option of using plants to regulate the pool environment.
 
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Hello and welcome! Where are you located? Are you going to have fish?

Yes, there are lots of YouTube videos out there, but I have no real advice for you other than that.

BTW, algae is your friend, and in a pond, it’s going to happen — part of the ecosystem.
Thank you! I am in North California. I don't want fish, as I read that fish gives more trouble if we still want to swim in the pool.

I watched some videos, but almost all of them drained the swimming pool water and dug everything out and applied a new pond liner... I don't want to go through that much trouble, I really wonder if there is a convenient way for me to skip those steps (as I already have a pool there) and just work on building the ecosystem.

I am ok with algae. Actually my pool is full of algae now. If I bring in plants now, will they clear up the algae (at least to a degree that one can swim in safely)?
 
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Thank you for the links! I see both of them put a lot of hard work into the conversion. I wonder if it is possible for me to just add the plants directly to the water, maybe add some pea gravels here and there, add some air pump and bio filter and then wait for the water to be clear?
 

j.w

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Plants will grow in gravel, 100% clay kitty litter etc. but would have to be secured so as not to float away. In pots or w/roots down it the medium, whatever it is to anchor them. A rock or a few could be placed over the plants roots too to hold them in place. W/o fish to fertilize the plants you will have to add plant food somehow so they get nutrients I would think. I'm no expert on swim pool ponds tho.
 

addy1

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Welcome!

A nice wet land filter/ bog / a pump water flow and should have a nice set up. The main thing is to have good filtration.
 

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Plants will grow in gravel, 100% clay kitty litter etc. but would have to be secured so as not to float away. In pots or w/roots down it the medium, whatever it is to anchor them. A rock or a few could be placed over the plants roots too to hold them in place. W/o fish to fertilize the plants you will have to add plant food somehow so they get nutrients I would think. I'm no expert on swim pool ponds tho.
as j.w said; without fish or some sort of animal inhabitants, the plants will not do well. You'll always have some algae, maybe just not the free floating kind. Algae is like cockroaches; indestructible but can be managed. JMHO
 
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Plants will grow in gravel, 100% clay kitty litter etc. but would have to be secured so as not to float away. In pots or w/roots down it the medium, whatever it is to anchor them. A rock or a few could be placed over the plants roots too to hold them in place. W/o fish to fertilize the plants you will have to add plant food somehow so they get nutrients I would think. I'm no expert on swim pool ponds tho.
Thank you for the reply. I'm okay with putting plants in pots, or adding a few rocks to hold them in place. I just don't want to add like ~10yards of pea gravels into the pool.
 
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Welcome!

A nice wet land filter/ bog / a pump water flow and should have a nice set up. The main thing is to have good filtration.
Thank you! Could you please suggest what filter and pump I can use?
 
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as j.w said; without fish or some sort of animal inhabitants, the plants will not do well. You'll always have some algae, maybe just not the free floating kind. Algae is like cockroaches; indestructible but can be managed. JMHO
Thank you for the information. I thought plants alone would be enough. What fish should I introduce to the pool? With the whole pool water being green right now, do I need to clean the water with some pool vacuum first, or just directly add plants and fish? Thank you.
 

addy1

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Thank you! Could you please suggest what filter and pump I can use?
I only filter with a bog type filter which is pea gravel and plants. You could make one in your pool and or outside of you pool.


The pump you need is based on the amount of water in your pond. My bog filter is big I turn over my pond water about every two hours.
 

j.w

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@sherry I love the Shubunkin type goldfish. They aren't a lot of money as Koi are and they are very pretty w/their various color combo's.

1609525175189.jpeg
 
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I am ok with algae. Actually my pool is full of algae now. If I bring in plants now, will they clear up the algae (at least to a degree that one can swim in safely)?
More then likely your pool at this time is NOT a healthy environment Left alone pools neglected and stagnant can be a very bad place. Mosquito haven for one.

You can change over a chlorine pool to a natural swim pond without destroying your now set up . but you will need to build a bog. this can be done to one end or along one side of the pool by building a raised bog like a 2 or 3 foot tall retaining wall and underlayment rubber liner and,2" pvc pipe and 3/8" pea stone. run the rubber so that all the water runs back into the pond and have to pools ump push the water back into the bog. it upflows into the bog and out a water fall back into the pool. whats better then that HOWEVER you will have algae growing on the rocks and or pool wall,.
 
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If I were to be in your situation, first do all the research on what you want and how to achieve it. You want a chemical free pool. Start by testing the water. Then treat as needed for chemicals present. We recommend the API pond test kit. This will tell you if you have any chlorine remaining, ammonia, etc. If the pool hasn’t been tended in a while, expect ammonia, nitrite, nitrate. That will be from fallen leaves, bugs, and what ever nature blew in. Then, if you have decided that yes, you want to try to make it a pond, research the bog filter. There are threads on here about it. Plan to dedicate a large area to it, and possibly a decent chunk of change, as you will need a strong pump, pipes, ( if above ground, a liner, some form of frame,) and pea gravel. Ideally, you want 1/3 of the surface area of the pool/ pond, and about a foot deep, but others have found success with different ratios, and if you don’t have fish, you could possibly go smaller. For me the first step if the pond was not maintained would be a basic cleaning. Net out and debris, run what ever pump it had, with filter, till the water had no more obvious particles in it, just algae, and didn’t stink of stagnant water. If you have been maintaining it, but are just tired of green water, skip that step. Then buy a pond pump. The ideal rate is to turn the water volume over 1 1/2 times per hour, but that’s for a fish pond, so you decide how much you are willing to spend, and find a good pump that you can work with. For sure go for one that is more than 1000gph, that’s gallons per hour. Let that run just for water movement, and build your bog. Be sure to rinse the gravel well prior to filling the bog, but expect some dirt to end up in the pool. Then once the bog is plumbed, filled, and ready, run it a while with out plants just to see how the water flows. This will show you areas that may not be level, or need a bit of tweaking to get right. Then add plants, and do your research on them. Canna lilies, elephant ears, taro, iris, mint, creeping Jenny, cardinal flowers, various edible plants. I would use my bog as a garden, beautiful and with food, so I can hop out of the pool, and gather garden fresh veggies for a salad or meal and enjoy the flowers at the same time. Now, to supply the nutrients that they will be lacking from the lack of fish, there are various plant root tabs designed for water lilies and lotuses. Or you can decide if fish in the pool are right for you. If you just want beautiful fish, big and colorful, consider shubinkin. They are the calico looking goldfish with long flowing fins, they reach about a foot long Not including tail at adulthood. If you prefer more solid colors, comet goldfish have the same long fins but come in orange, reddish orange, white, or bi colored. The small ones with black on them usually loose the black. Common goldfish come in the same colors but lack the flowing fins. There are other fish options out there. As you are in a typically warm area, research what your low temps are and find fish that can take that weather. Now in high summer, you’ll need floating plants to provide shade, and if you string together pool noodles, you can use that to coral the floaters together for when you choose to swim. You mentioned having kids? If they are younger, I wouldn’t spend much money on fish or in pond plants just yet. Kids enjoy splashing and jumping in, which could damage plants or hurt fish, definitely scare fish. So unless you are blessed with the rare kids who don’t splash around, don’t jump in, want to do belly flips and cannon balls, or other such activities, I would hold off on those. Calmer teens who understand fish like calm, waterlillies like calm water, and are content to just swim peacefully, then try out a few fish. Start small there if/ when you do, like 5 fish ( if goldfish) to let nature grow the beneficial bacteria needed to break down their waste. That becomes plant food after various bacteria break it down. Just remember fish need fed, and pick healthy fish to start with. After that, quarantine new fish in a separate container of water for about a month to observe them for illness or parasites. This lets you treat just the newest batch of fish in a smaller container if it’s needed. If you later add new plants in the pond, there are dips you can do to remove any external parasites, but leaving them in a quarantine container at least for a week let’s you observe them for any creepy crawlers or hitch hikers such as fish eggs that then become unexpected fish.
As for how many fish to get ( if you do) remember that they are living animals, and if you have any male/ female mixing, you’ll have babies. Goldfish can have lots of babies. As in, hundreds. And koi are just bigger, more expensive, more sensitive, goldfish.
 
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I only filter with a bog type filter which is pea gravel and plants. You could make one in your pool and or outside of you pool.


The pump you need is based on the amount of water in your pond. My bog filter is big I turn over my pond water about every two hours.
Thank you for the link. I am reading your thread on how to build a bog. I am thinking of going for the partition bog, but not sure if it should be raised or in the pool (I just want one with minimum amount of extra work :p). Below is the picture of my pool (forgive my poor drawing):
pool.jpg

The pool has about 20000 gallons of water, so I guess I need a strong pump.
 
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If I were to be in your situation, first do all the research on what you want and how to achieve it. You want a chemical free pool. Start by testing the water. Then treat as needed for chemicals present. We recommend the API pond test kit. This will tell you if you have any chlorine remaining, ammonia, etc. If the pool hasn’t been tended in a while, expect ammonia, nitrite, nitrate. That will be from fallen leaves, bugs, and what ever nature blew in. Then, if you have decided that yes, you want to try to make it a pond, research the bog filter. There are threads on here about it. Plan to dedicate a large area to it, and possibly a decent chunk of change, as you will need a strong pump, pipes, ( if above ground, a liner, some form of frame,) and pea gravel. Ideally, you want 1/3 of the surface area of the pool/ pond, and about a foot deep, but others have found success with different ratios, and if you don’t have fish, you could possibly go smaller. For me the first step if the pond was not maintained would be a basic cleaning. Net out and debris, run what ever pump it had, with filter, till the water had no more obvious particles in it, just algae, and didn’t stink of stagnant water. If you have been maintaining it, but are just tired of green water, skip that step. Then buy a pond pump. The ideal rate is to turn the water volume over 1 1/2 times per hour, but that’s for a fish pond, so you decide how much you are willing to spend, and find a good pump that you can work with. For sure go for one that is more than 1000gph, that’s gallons per hour. Let that run just for water movement, and build your bog. Be sure to rinse the gravel well prior to filling the bog, but expect some dirt to end up in the pool. Then once the bog is plumbed, filled, and ready, run it a while with out plants just to see how the water flows. This will show you areas that may not be level, or need a bit of tweaking to get right. Then add plants, and do your research on them. Canna lilies, elephant ears, taro, iris, mint, creeping Jenny, cardinal flowers, various edible plants. I would use my bog as a garden, beautiful and with food, so I can hop out of the pool, and gather garden fresh veggies for a salad or meal and enjoy the flowers at the same time. Now, to supply the nutrients that they will be lacking from the lack of fish, there are various plant root tabs designed for water lilies and lotuses. Or you can decide if fish in the pool are right for you. If you just want beautiful fish, big and colorful, consider shubinkin. They are the calico looking goldfish with long flowing fins, they reach about a foot long Not including tail at adulthood. If you prefer more solid colors, comet goldfish have the same long fins but come in orange, reddish orange, white, or bi colored. The small ones with black on them usually loose the black. Common goldfish come in the same colors but lack the flowing fins. There are other fish options out there. As you are in a typically warm area, research what your low temps are and find fish that can take that weather. Now in high summer, you’ll need floating plants to provide shade, and if you string together pool noodles, you can use that to coral the floaters together for when you choose to swim. You mentioned having kids? If they are younger, I wouldn’t spend much money on fish or in pond plants just yet. Kids enjoy splashing and jumping in, which could damage plants or hurt fish, definitely scare fish. So unless you are blessed with the rare kids who don’t splash around, don’t jump in, want to do belly flips and cannon balls, or other such activities, I would hold off on those. Calmer teens who understand fish like calm, waterlillies like calm water, and are content to just swim peacefully, then try out a few fish. Start small there if/ when you do, like 5 fish ( if goldfish) to let nature grow the beneficial bacteria needed to break down their waste. That becomes plant food after various bacteria break it down. Just remember fish need fed, and pick healthy fish to start with. After that, quarantine new fish in a separate container of water for about a month to observe them for illness or parasites. This lets you treat just the newest batch of fish in a smaller container if it’s needed. If you later add new plants in the pond, there are dips you can do to remove any external parasites, but leaving them in a quarantine container at least for a week let’s you observe them for any creepy crawlers or hitch hikers such as fish eggs that then become unexpected fish.
As for how many fish to get ( if you do) remember that they are living animals, and if you have any male/ female mixing, you’ll have babies. Goldfish can have lots of babies. As in, hundreds. And koi are just bigger, more expensive, more sensitive, goldfish.
Thank you very much for the detailed instructions! I am working on the basic cleaning with the pool pump and filter as the first step, while researching how to build a bog. I am still not clear how to build a separation between the pool and bog in the concrete pool. For pond pump, I read some recommendations for laguna submersible pump, but if my pool has about 20000 gallon water, I don't see any model that can turn it over 1 time per hour.
 

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