Desert (water-saving) pond


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Hi all, and thanks in advance for any advice you can give to this pond newbie with zero experience.

First off, I'm hoping I can get some advice even though I'm not trying for a koi or goldfish pond. I don't even care about anything decorative; I'm looking for something practical that I can stock with trout or catfish for meat as well as provide a habitat for some egg-laying ducks for my homestead.

We live in the mountains of northern New Mexico at around 7,000 feet. Temperatures are fairly moderate year round (usually ranges from about 20 to 80 degrees), but the climate here is very dry, and we don't get much rain (maybe around 10-12 inches total precipitation on an average year, but some years are droughts). We rely only on rainwater catchment for our home, and thus are very limited in the amount of water we can waste.

Would a pond be viable for our situation? Not sure what size I want, maybe enough for 100 pounds of fish a year plus a dozen ducks max. I'm worried about the amount of water we might lose to evaporation, and I'm also wondering if there's any way to filter the dirty water so that we won't have to replace it (and save ourselves some water that way). I know filtering ponds is the norm, but I'm hoping I can go above and beyond the average filter to remove most if not all nitrates and ammonia from the water and just recirculate for the most part. I could potentially dig a well, but that's a last resort for me. Thanks so much for any advice!
 
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Welcome to the GPF! Your questions go beyond anything I would have answers to, but wanted to say welcome and hope someone here can help you. We do have some members with larger ponds stocked with non-ornamental fish.

I can say in general I think your plan is viable. A planted wetland filtration system would be ideal. As far as how large the pond would need to be to harvest the amount of fish you hope to grow every year - I'll leave that to folks far smarter than me!

You may also want to check out this website if you haven't already:

https://www.pondboss.com/Home

I think you'll find some helpful information there! Good luck! Can't wait to see what you decide to do!
 

Mmathis

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Hello and welcome! I, like @Lisak1 don’t have the knowledge or expertise to advise you, but I would suggest some Google searches and maybe check with your state’s Wildlife and Fisheries Dept., or other entities that deal with your area natural resources. Yes, I believe you are wise to consider evaporation.

I guess one of the first things for you to do is research on basic fish-keeping (husbandry), specifically about the particular fish you are interested in — as well as filtration. I honestly don’t think there is one single solution or answer for you. Find out what gallonage will be required in order to maintain the health and wellbeing of the fish. Then look into (research) various filtration options — a hundred pounds of fish sounds like a lot to me. Oh, and ducks....? Again, do some research — they can be pretty nasty critters. Curious, though, as to how you would convince the birds to stay.

Maybe look into aquaponics — lots and lots of info out there.

Maybe @MitchM, @addy1, and a few other members can help you (addy1 has experience with desert ponds, and I do recall someone else who lives in a climate similar to yours).
 

addy1

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I'm also wondering if there's any way to filter the dirty water so that we won't have to replace it (and save ourselves some water that way).
Welcome to our group!

I filter with only a large bog, pea gravel heavily planted. Never do a deliberate water change, water is added when it rains and it can rain a bunch in MD.

When I had my pond in AZ it did lose a lot of water due to evaporation. Something you need to factor in.
 
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You can reduce evaporation by planting around the perimeter of the pond to reduce the amount of wind that reaches the pond surface and have a lot of plants that cover the surface of the pond, such as lilies.
Use a bog to filter, no water changes needed.
Stock with fish lightly.
Water quality will need to be tested and adjusted as needed. It depends on the test results.
 
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Keeping a pond for your area is possible but would require a lot more work than my area. Water harvesting can be done from public roadways or driveways if paved, you would have to pipe it into whatever you choose to collect it, you could dig a hole and place whatever you choose to collect water there.. Planting native trees around the pond for shade will help with evaporation, not sure if dessert willow will grow at the elevation where you are but if it does it grows fast and once established lives of whatever rainfall it gets. Maybe research native plants for your area that will help with shade. Good luck.
 
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I live in northern AZ at an elevation of 7200' and I typically get 20" + of precipitation in an average year, or so they say. Average though, mostly seems to be an ongoing drought. I have to say, it is amazing how fast a pond level drops from evaporation when it is hot and dry. You will think you must have a serious leak somewhere. Also, marginal plants do suck up a tremendous amount of water. I have several half barrel tubs with potted marginals growing in them and am always amazed by how fast the water level drops in the summer. Probably, submerged plants would be a good choice, and also as MitchM mentioned, surface covering by lilies should help some to shield from evaporation. My tubs with the lilies don't seem to evaporate down quite so fast. Another problem I have every year, is that herds of elk come in and suck down many gallons of water overnight. Good luck on your pond.
 
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I've done some careful tests and find that in a dry climate like mine, 4200' elevation and about 16" of precip a year, a 3.5' bush will use over a gallon a day in 80 degree weather. My 2 ponds, 25 sq. ft. bog, and 30 feet or so of stream with 18" waterfall, between lots of marginals and evaporation, uses 15 or 20 gallons a day in the same conditions. I'd guess my total pond volume is about 1200 gallons, so I have to add water every few days during the hot weather.
 
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Interesting @Stephen T. !

I've had a few friends comment on the "excessive" water I must be using to keep my pond going and I smugly tell them that a square foot of pond uses far less water than a square foot of garden or lawn. AND my pond catches and holds rain water that I am able to use to water my gardens, so my pond actually uses NO water when we're in a rainy spell.
 
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Another problem I have every year, is that herds of elk come in and suck down many gallons of water overnight.
For me, the critter that causes the biggest loss is... American robins! They are hardcore bathers and splashers, often with 5-10 in the stream and they truly soak the rocks and shore for 2-3 feet along most of the stream. It's really hard to believe how much splashing they do!
 

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