How to start building a pond?


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We want to build a pond, but we are unsure of where to start. We have a relatively small backyard, but we want a comparatively large pond. We were thinking about building a circular pond, with the deepest parts being 3 feet deep, and the circle is cut into two kidney shapes, separated by an island with a bench in the middle and a shallow strip of water connecting the two sides around the island with a stepping path to cross to the island. Will water just one or two inches deep be enough to separate the two sides? We were wondering if on one side we could keep native fish and on one side ornamental goldfish. This brings me to my next question, if we wanted to attract wildlife and make the fish population on the native side relatively self-sufficient, what type of fish should we include? We were looking into sunfish, but how many and is that a good idea? We are looking for plants and animals native to north Texas. Thank you, we need help on how to make the island, the two sides, the organisms, and just how a pond works in general, so if someone could also explain oxygenation, filtration, etc. that would be great. We are looking at using a corner of our backyard, is 13 by 13 feet big enough for the whole pond?
 

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Hello, you say you are unsure where to start but your plan seems more complex than anythinges I have seen! Start slow, simple hole in the ground. Do lots of research. Do you have any pond experience? Welcome to GPF!
 
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addy1

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Welcome to our group!

Two inches won't stop the fish from co-mingling, eggs, fry etc will travel between the two ponds.
Make it deep, helps keep the pond cooler
 
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Wow. That's a tall order! Welcome to the GPF by they way. Lots of knowledgable, helpful people here.

But I'm going to be honest - you're basically asking for a crash course in pond building while doing little or no research on your own. There is so much great information on the internet - this forum being one great spot to learn; YouTube being another - but it would be in your best interest to do the initial work on your own. Trying to have someone teach you how to build what sounds like a very complex pond in one post is really not realistic. Check out the Ponddigger on Youtube - he has a great video series on building a backyard pond.
 
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Thanks, I've tried to do research but I don't really understand most of it. Do you think sunfish or goldfish are a better idea? Can they live in the same pond or will they not be compatible? I read somewhere that having 1 bass for every 3 sunfish can keep them in check, is that true?
 
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If you're asking for my opinion, goldfish are a much better choice for a garden pond. They are colorful and look good viewed from the top. They are also social by nature and will respond to your appearance pond side eventually. Wild fish are exactly that - wild. Just an opinion though as I've not attempted keeping anything other than goldfish and koi. But you're getting way ahead of yourself worrying about how to keep fish "in check".

What part of pond building do you not understand? Start here and watch this series through to the end - he walks you step by step through the process. You can't go wrong if you follow his advice. It'll take you a few hours to watch, but it will be well worth your time.

 

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@Huy Truong Hello and welcome! And I totally agree with what @Lisak1 is saying! You need to do your basic research into ponds and pond-building — you’re going to need the knowledge and understanding of the processes involved.

When I first joined, I had a basic goal in mind — build a pond that would provide a “watering hole” for my non-aquatic box turtles — but no concept at all of WHAT I wanted or HOW to go about getting there. I was probably on here for at least 6 months, lurking and asking all sorts of really stupid questions (yes, I’ve gone back and read some of my old posts.....embarrassing!) before I felt confident enough to get started. I got all kinds of advice from the folks here — some, I ignored, some I took to heart, and some that came back to bite me. But, ultimately I learned.....a lot, and am still learning.

Anyway, a good place to start: make a list of things you need to learn/know about. Then, pick one “thing” at a time and focus on learning about that aspect. Before you know it, you’ll be starting to put all that learning together and it will start making sense — you’ll start to grasp the BIG PICTURE!

Beginning as a ponder can be overwhelming!! Start small, break the learning process into smaller bits, then put it all together. Ask tons of questions, and use as many sources of information as possible.


WHAT ARE SOME BASICS TO LEARN ABOUT: (just off top of my head)
  • water quality / nitrogen cycle / what makes a pond “healthy” and balanced
  • Filtration: mechanical / biological / chemical
  • Water testing (goes with the first 2)
  • Pumps and water movement / aeration
  • The physical aspect of digging the pond: shapes / determining gallonage, etc. /construction methods / surface area / depth
  • Types of liner material and the pros/cons of the types
  • Plants vs no plants
  • Rocks vs no rocks
  • Choices for fish: what is compatible / determining fish load
  • How to keep your fish happy and healthy
 
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13 by 13 feet big enough for the whole pond?
It can be big enough but seeing you want to have completely different sides to hold different fish species gets a little harder. Check with your area, some need a permit for native species a some are not allowed at all. I would not connect them at all with water if housing different species, do more with a dry bed look with a bride maybe going to both. I personally would do 2 separate filtrations systems too. As like already said, do not worry about the fish yet. Do some drawings, research, make a budget including pumps, filtration, liner, plants, rocks etc. It all addes up in a hurry. As Lisa posted the ponddigger has some great videos, as does the Aguascape company. Put in the time now and you will avoid issues later for sure. If you want to install it yourself then you will need a good understanding of it first then ask questions, it will be easier that way.

If you want to keep the same species on both sides then I think you could design one with the 2 sides like to want with a bog filter in the center with the 1" to 2" of water like you want flowing into both.
 
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I've been watching the videos and doing more research. Remeasuring the yard, the pond will actually probably be 16 by 16 feet. If the fish intermingle, is it possible to keep koi with native fish? If so, what ratios and what sizes will keep the native fish in check while not bothering the koi/goldfish?
 

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I've been watching the videos and doing more research. Remeasuring the yard, the pond will actually probably be 16 by 16 feet. If the fish intermingle, is it possible to keep koi with native fish? If so, what ratios and what sizes will keep the native fish in check while not bothering the koi/goldfish?
I think that koi do better as a single-species fish. How many gallons do you estimate for you pond? Koi need a lot of space — and they don’t do well overcrowded — so keep this in mind. I think the general rule of thumb is 1000 gallons for the first koi, and you really don’t want shallower than 3’. If you are in North Texas area, your climate is similar to mine. Deeper is better because a shallow pond can heat up very quickly. Again,
 
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Here's a question back to you - why the interest in keeping native fish? What is it about the idea of native fish that is so intriguing to you?

Again - I feel like your cart is way out in front of your horse. You need to start with step one - how are you going to dig a hole that big? That's a lot of dirt to move. What's your budget? Where will you source rock? Are you experienced with any kind of DIY landscape project? Will you need to rent equipment? Do you know anything about plumbing? Do you have any helpers for the heavy lifting? SO MANY QUESTIONS before you worry about whether you can keep your native fish population under control.
 
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Okay so I've decided to simplify the pond by taking all of your suggestions. It will be a simple (mostly) kidney-shaped pond with a small waterfall in the back and a bulge in the front for viewing and seating. I will probably put koi or large goldfish in the pond first, but I still have a few questions. I was doing research on the required materials to build the pond and I'm confused on the pumps and filters. First of all, my measurements were wrong and it will likely be more like a 16 by 16 foot pond with a maximum depth of 3 feet. Given that the layers are going down and it is not a perfect square, but more of a circular/natural/freeform shape, how many gallons per hour would the pumps and filters need to support that size pond, a chunk of fish, and a small waterfall? I really don't want a waterfall, because that is probably more expensive and more hassle with the HOA, but I couldn't find any information on how to build a pond without a waterfall. Is it possible to build a pond without a waterfall, and if so, what pumps and filters would you recommend at a reasonable price for a pond this size? I was looking at Aquascapes skimmers, biofilters, and pumps, but I was wondering on those if (a) I could find any cheaper (b) a skimmer is required (c) the biofilter can be used in a way other than a waterfall. I'm new to all of this and I don't know if I'm making any sense, but basically I'm asking if any of this is possible without a waterfall, and if so how do the pumps work in conjunction with the other parts.

Sidenote: I have a yellow bellied slider, that is currently living in a tiny tank without any of the turtle requirements, but we really can't get him a better indoor setup because my parents don't want to and I don't feel comfortable feeding him the live insects or fish (keep in mind we bought him as an impulse buy when I was younger and I really regret that and only want the best for him.) I think my best option is to find him a loving home but I am having trouble with that. My next best option is to put him in our pond. Is it possible to put a yellow bellied slider in a pond with koi, and letting him eat the insects and minnows/mosquitofish in the pond? I want to know if he can safely live and stay in the pond, so I want to know what special considerations should be made for a turtle. My main worry, other than his well being, is that since he is not a native species to my area, he will escape somehow. How should I prevent this and help him live in this pond with the koi? Is that even possible?
 
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If you're asking for my opinion, goldfish are a much better choice for a garden pond. They are colorful and look good viewed from the top. They are also social by nature and will respond to your appearance pond side eventually. Wild fish are exactly that - wild. Just an opinion though as I've not attempted keeping anything other than goldfish and koi. But you're getting way ahead of yourself worrying about how to keep fish "in check".

What part of pond building do you not understand? Start here and watch this series through to the end - he walks you step by step through the process. You can't go wrong if you follow his advice. It'll take you a few hours to watch, but it will be well worth your time.

This was going to be my suggestion not only have i watched it several times. And even still as I get to each part of my build I watch that segment again and do a search for key words applicable to that section. The other big item to decide is filtration...mechanical, biological, both? For me I was going to go mechanical till I realized I had no place to hide big equipment and that I wow want a ace to put marginal plants. It was at this time I decided to go with a bog
 
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Maybe the earliest stages of the Pond Guy video series covers this, but there are a few bits of advice about WHERE to put your pond that are the absolute starting point:

1) Make it as big as you can. No one ever said "my pond is too big"
2) Put it near your house, not far away so you can enjoy it.
3) Put it on high ground, not in a depression. This seems to be a common misconception.

Then figure out what kind of pond you want. Size, shape, formal or "natural" looking..

As for a "waterfall", keep in mind that waterfall does not have to mean "3 foot drop into my pond" You can put a waterfall filter basically at the level of the pond so its just a way to flow water in. You can put it at the head of a long stream. You can do all kinds of things.

Many people here would advise you to use a bog filter instead of a waterfall filter for a pond your size. All possibilities.
 
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You are actually building two ponds so you will need two of everything and that gets expensive. There will be elevation issues between the two ponds so the one inch probably won't work unless your yard is perfectly flat.Also the bridge area would have to be pretty wide otherwise it would collapse. Being wide it would make your pond (s) smaller.
 
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Welcome and good luck,
you already have lots of experts helping.
Did you mention which part of the US you are located? it makes a difference on your pond design
I also suggest posting my pictures of your yard, ideas you would like to incorporate from internet photos and lastly sketches of you plans. I was in your shoes last year and it was and still is a constant learning for me
 
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@mgmine - sounds like @Huy Truong has opted to go with a simpler design.

@Huy Truong there are many options for pond equipment, but one rule of thumb I like to follow is don't skimp on any portion of the pond that will be difficult to replace later. For example - it's imperative to use a good quality liner as that would require tearing your pond apart to replace. A pump is an easier replacement, so you may get away with saving some money there.

There are online pond calculators that will estimate the size of your pond. At 16x16 and 3 feet deep you're looking at about 5500 gallons. But most likely it will be less as your pond probably won't be 3 feet deep all the way across. And if you're measuring the total area you have available for the pond, you'll want to make is smaller to allow for space to walk around the pond. But that's a starting point. In general your pump should circulate the entire volume of the pond 1.5 to 2 times per hour - so a 10,000 GPH pump is what you'd be looking for.

Read up on bog filtration here on this forum - easy to build, easy to maintain and lots of people here (myself included) use a bog as the only filtration on our ponds.

As for a waterfall - you need some way to keep your water moving, but your waterfall doesn't have to be a giant crashing falls. You can return the water to the pond via a long stream or a series of short falls. All depends on your pond design.

Can I ask - is this your home? Or your parents' home?
 

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Plenty of good advice on pond set up.

So I will just answer the turtle questions, since I’ve kept various species outdoors in my ponds for years. Turtles in ponds are fine. The turtle will not easily be able to catch and eat healthy fish in a large pond. Mine ignore them. If a fish becomes ill or weakened then all bets are off. Sliders will eat plants, insects, tadpoles etc. However, you will still need to feed it. Keep in mind sliders can be hard on pond plants, as well.

You will need to fence in your pond to keep the turtle in the pond otherwise it will leave. Turtles are escape artists they will climb over things you didn’t think they could, so it is important to build this part of the enclosure correctly, as it is a non native species.

The pond should be setup with basking spots where the turtle can get out of the water to sun itself. Create some basking spots,( driftwood works)near deep water, so the turtle can drop off quickly and hide when spooked. I have a large piece that I drilled a hole in and attached a line tied to a brick on the bottom, so it creates a floating basking spot.

Depending on how cold it gets where you are located the turtle will brumate in the pond during winter. I created natural planting beds in my pond and have areas where the plants grow loose in the pond to create spots for the turtles to winter over below the freeze line in my pond.
 
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Mmathis

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@Huy Truong Just a comment about turtles..... They are notorious and expert escape artists. They climb and dig. Unless you have a totally contained “enclosure,” they will find a way to leave. And by “totally contained,” I mean fenced in with a solid barrier below the fence. And the fence can’t be climbable. Only you can decide what to do with your reptile friend, but your first concern should be his/her health, happiness, and safety.

You mentioned a HOA. Have you talked with them, and looked into your city’s requirements for a pond?

After you dig out a 16x16 foot pond, is that going to take up the entire yard? You have to factor in HOW you’re going to excavate this space and what you’re going to do with the dirt that’s removed — you’re talking about a tremendous amount of dirt! Now, if you have someone dig it for you, they might haul the extra dirt away for you, but this is something you have to find out.

You’ve also brought up the issue of the waterfall. A lot of people use the dirt from their excavation to build up a waterfall area — same for a bog.

It would be very helpful for us if you could post pictures of the area of the yard you are talking about for the pond. The more pictures you can take, and including as many views and angles — the better.
 

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