Revamping split level (tiered) pond, need some advice.


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Hi all, first post here, but have been doing quite of a bit of reading/research on here for a bit.
I inherited (for better or for worse) a pond system when my wife and I moved into a new home last May. Overall the pond(s) has been doing well given that it has nothing more than a pre-filter screen directly attached to the submersible pump (1200gph PondMaster MagDrive).
The layout (as seen in the photos) consists of a larger lower pond connected to an upper (slightly smaller) pond via a natural ledge stone waterfall/stream. Original owner had it plumbed (from pump to upper pond) w/ a much too small garden hose. The flow was pretty limited. I finally got around to resolving that issue by replacing the brittle and inadequate garden hose with some 1-1/4" flexible pond tubing. Flow improved drastically with this change.
Unfortunately, however, immediately after performing the plumbing swap, the lower pond has sprung a leak and I now have to top up the water daily.
Given that I will now need to tear up the lower pond to replace or repair the existing EPDM liner, I figured now is a great time to address all the other issues with the pond (poor pond edge layout, lack of filtration, liner exposed all over the place).
The pond is currently home to 7-9 goldfish (small.... biggest one is maybe 4in long) and a coulple of toads. I have no intention of adding Koi. My little 2yr old girl does love the goldfish so they will stay, but I will probably never house more 5-10 gold fish in the lower pond. That said... what should do? Current size of lower pond is 5x12 (2.5-3ft deep) upper pond is 5x9 (2 ft deep)

My goals:
  • minimal maintenance
  • low cost
  • clear water
  • ability to support a handful of smaller goldfish
  • Look natural
Current plan:
  • replace liner w/ new 45 or 60mil epdm
  • add concrete collar to upper and lower pond
  • improve overall waterfall design layout
  • make both ponds deeper and probably a couple foot bigger in diameter.
  • Bring in larger rocks an improve (more natural) pond perimiter
  • Add filtration?
  • Add skimmmer?
Other bits of info:
  • Current pond set up utilizes natural slope for waterfall/stream.
  • We have large (tall) big leaf maples towering above the area, so the pond will see some leaf loading
  • Pond only gets full sun briefly during the day.
  • Located in Portland, OR (no freezing to worry about).
I am open to most anything from a filtration perspective. Id like to utilize the existing pump, however id like a bit more flow over the falls, so I am open to replacement. Key things that come to mind.... pressure filter? skimmer? bottom drains? bog filters? UV needed? I think alot of my confusion comes from the two-pond tiered pond setup... alot of what I read applies to one large pond fed by either a built up water fall mound (water flowing through a waterfall filter) with out any actual upper pond... Not quite sure how to properly filter and plumb a tiered pond setup such as this. So any advice would be great! See the pictures below.

image.jpeg image2.jpeg photo.JPG
 
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Meyer Jordan

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Welcome aboard!

Your plans sound like a fun project to keep you busy for a while.

To address your 'Leak'. Are you losing water in the lower pond while the pump is running or with the pump off? If while the pump is running, leak could be most anywhere but the likely locations would be either the waterfall area or the stream or both.
What are your propose dimensions for the pond upgrade?
Considering that the ponds are connected, they should be considered as one body of water.
Many questions, lots of time for answers.
 
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The leak started only a week ago and I have been to busy with run a little science experiment to determine its approximate location. I, up to this point have only speculated that it is in the lower pond as that is where things were disturbed the most when I replaced the pump plumbing. I did let it go several days before topping up to see if it would reach a certain level and stabilize... but it did not got low enough to almost expose the pump inlet to air. So this would suggest either a leak in a very low spot of the lower pond, or as you suggest, a leak in waterfall area or in the upper pond.
I will disconnect the hose to the upper pond tonight and just let the pump circulate water in the lower pond and see what happens....

Proposed dimensions would only be marginally bigger. We have other plans with the overall space (fire pit, some hardscapes etc etc) Perhaps 7' x 14' lower pond (5-6 ft deep) and 6' x 12' (4ft deep) upper pond.

I do prefer the look of a pond with rocks and such in the bottom of it, but I know this does not support a bottom drain setup. I also don't know if I need to go down the path of bottom drains (id imagine i'd need em in both bonds???) given my low fish loading. Would a skimmer set up be all that is needed in the lower pond, and the upper pond's waterfall would be its skimmer? Should the skimmer possibly feed a bio-pressure filter w/ UV before discharging into the upper pond? I've also considered converting the upper pond into a bog filter as well. I am open to any input. End goal - low maintenance and low equipment cost. I know what the liner and underlayment will cost, as well as the stone. Its kind of a matter of determine how to elegantly and efficiently filter the water for this garden pond w/ a few gold fish while minimizing time spend cleaning the pond & its equipment. I would like to find a happy balance and get the pond mostly self sustaining....Perhaps this is impossible :)
 
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Well, I have determined that neither the upper or lower ponds are leaking. therefore the leak must be coming from the waterfall area. Still looking for advice on filtration. Skimmer + pressure filter? Skimmer + bottom drain? No Koi, just a few gold fish... medium sized pond...
 
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I'm a fan of a bog style filter. They require little maintenance and can be left outside year round.
Yes to a surface skimmer.
A bottom drain requires a fair amount of work but will result in a cleaner pond overall. Not necessary in your setup, in my opinion.
 
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