Starting from scratch.


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I've taken on a job renovating a pond and waterfall system that runs through a miniature golf course. It consists of a "cave/mountain" at the top. Water is pumped (via a pool pump) from the bottom pond to the top of the mountain. (the "mountain" is a large, concrete structure with a "cave" underneath as part of the course) From there it cascades off the top of the mountain on three sides. The back side has a catch basin. It's approx. 40 feet long by 8 feet wide and has a depth of roughly 10". There are also cascades that drop to a stream that carries the overflow from the mentioned catch basin to the first pond. (Approx 20 feet in diameter and 18" deep in the center) There is a final cascade that flows down the front to that same pond. From that pond, the overflow travels along a shallow waterway to a smaller pond. (Abt. 12 feet in diamter and 16" deep) From there it overflows to a smaller stream to the main pond. (Approx. 30 feet by 16 feet and 3 feet deep in the middle) That pond contains the intake to the pump system. We estimate (really rough numbers) it to be 12-15,000 gallons.

Sorry for the long description but I'm trying to set a visual.

When we started, the whole system was filled with rotting vegetation. Leaves and twigs and black walnuts. We also found lot and lots of frogs. The whole system was at one time chlorinated. Treated more like a pool than a natural water feature. After spending an entire day catching and realeasing frogs (humanely released into the neighboring stream), all the water was pumped out and left to dry for two weeks. The entire waterway was repaired with thinset mortar and waterproofed with a latex clearcoat. Seeing the frogs, the new owner thought they'd be great to have in the system. They'd lower the mosquito count and the kids would love to see them.

This is ending soon, I promise...

So the question is, quite simply, where do I start? We'd like to add plants to the ponds. We want to keep the water clean without chemicals. And we want to have a nice environment for the local wildlife. We also want to know how to set it up so we don't have to disturb the frogs (and anyone else that moves in) in the winter.

I hope I haven't made this too confusing. Please ask me any questions you like for clarification.

Thank you all in advance.
 
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Sounds like an awesome project. Pictures would help a lot. As for where to start, it sounds like you need a good solids filtration and some massive bio filtration for that many gallons, especially since it’s a pretty shallow system.
 
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Here are some pictures
 

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Thanks for the photos. I'm struggling to see where the 15-18,000 gallon estimate comes from. Is it all in the streams? Maybe just hard to see the scale from the photos. It kind of looks like if you turn the pumps off, there wouldn't be enough pond to catch all the water coming down the hill.
 
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HMM not sure i would choose white as a base color for a natural ponds . More than not it's not going to look all that pleasing when stains and algae etc start to grow. a black bottom would help conceal a lot . The best of ponds often have string algae issues when there is fast moving water i don't think thats the natural look you'd be after. I might lean toward two systems one for the falls and a second for a pond and maybe a slower moving stream if you have one
 
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Thanks for the photos. I'm struggling to see where the 15-18,000 gallon estimate comes from. Is it all in the streams? Maybe just hard to see the scale from the photos. It kind of looks like if you turn the pumps off, there wouldn't be enough pond to catch all the water coming down the hill.
The ponds hold their own water. The only way the water travels is by overflowing each pond and going down to the next pond via the streams. When the pump is turned off, only the water in the connecting streams flows down to each pond until empty. They're just inches deep. On top of the mountain are large basins that fill to start the flow. And there's a conatinment area up there as well. That water sits when the pump is off. My estimations are just guesstimates on size right now.
 
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If you have large basins ontop of the main falls that maybe a place for a bio filter in a bog but it would be SHAME NOT TO SHOW IT OFF TO THE KIDS
 
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HMM not sure i would choose white as a base color for a natural ponds . More than not it's not going to look all that pleasing when stains and algae etc start to grow. a black bottom would help conceal a lot . The best of ponds often have string algae issues when there is fast moving water i don't think thats the natural look you'd be after. I might lean toward two systems one for the falls and a second for a pond and maybe a slower moving stream if you have one
It's not actually white. The pictures make it look much brighter thsn it is. More of a tan. It's the color of New Jersey sugar sand. The streams don't move very fast. They sort of trickle down. The waterfalls are sort of the same. They're spread out and are broken up so they appear to be fuller than they actually are.
 
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Theres no circulation in anything but the lower pond other than over flow which appears to be only a couple inches wide?
 
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If you have large basins ontop of the main falls that maybe a place for a bio filter in a bog but it would be SHAME NOT TO SHOW IT OFF TO THE KIDS
We have an area at the bottom that might be used for something like that. Sort of a flat area that we talked about making a watery rock garden...if that makes sense. About 20' x 12' and about 8" deep. It could go deeper by adding height to the spillway. It's dry now but we could add a supply line to it. Do bio filters have to have the full flow through them?
Theres no circulation in anything but the lower pond other than over flow which appears to be only a couple inches wide?
There's circulation through the whole system. The pump lifts the water to the upper basins. The main feed splits. It feeds a basin on the front that feeds the front falls. Then a basin in the back that feeds the rear falls. Part of the rear flows to a catch basin which has the water flow equally over the edge and feeds a few areas of cascading water. All of that water then joins together in the top pond. It overflows from there into a stream. That streams is about 12 inches wide and a few inched deep. That repeats into the lowest pond and the pump collects that water and sends it back up. So all the water circulates through the system.
 
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HMM not sure i would choose white as a base color for a natural ponds . More than not it's not going to look all that pleasing when stains and algae etc start to grow. a black bottom would help conceal a lot . The best of ponds often have string algae issues when there is fast moving water i don't think thats the natural look you'd be after. I might lean toward two systems one for the falls and a second for a pond and maybe a slower moving stream if you have one
I used the word "trickle." I guess I was comparing it to a whitewater stream. There's a healthy flow through there. But it doesn't come crashing into the pond and rush across the top. I'll try to get some pictures of the connecting streams. We're a day or so away from filling the sytem and turning it on.
 
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that's exactly where it loves to grow.. chlorine is by far the most eye appealing way out for the masses . if you want nature it may loose some customers because it is slimmy.
 
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that's exactly where it loves to grow.. chlorine is by far the most eye appealing way out for the masses . if you want nature it may loose some customers because it is slimmy.
We're out in the country. Slimey doesn't bother folks around here as much as it might in a more "refined" area. And if the kids could learn something while they're putting little pink and purple balls around a mini golf, that's great. My own kids have grown up on a salt water river with eagles, ospreys and otters and up to their butts in muddy salt marshes finding creatures. Kids tend to love the "gross" stuff. Especially if there's a big, fat bullfrog staring up at them. The thought of putting chlorine back in this system is wholly unappealing. So I'm all for figuring a way to avoid that.
 
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If you have large basins ontop of the main falls that maybe a place for a bio filter in a bog but it would be SHAME NOT TO SHOW IT OFF TO THE KIDS

Agreed.

We have an area at the bottom that might be used for something like that. Sort of a flat area that we talked about making a watery rock garden...if that makes sense. About 20' x 12' and about 8" deep.

Tell us more about this rock garden. A biofilter needs MASSIVE surface area for bacteria to colonize, so what I am picturing as your rock garden would not cut it. If you filled the whole thing full of pea gravel and pumped water through it from the bottom (an active bog filter), you'd be getting closer to what might do the trick with your estimated water volume. Especially since the rest of the system does not appear to have much surface area (can you add rock/gravel elsewhere in the system?)

Active bogs typically need to be at least 12" deep or the root systems of the plants that colonize the top of the filter can foul up the distribution piping.


Do bio filters have to have the full flow through them?

Not at all. In fact, too much flow lowers their efficiency.
 
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Thank you for your responses. I will try and get more accurate details about the whole system and its size today. It's been a mad rush to get things done so the focus has been on the repairs and stopping water loss. The more I think about it, I'm a bit off on volume and a bit conservative on pond sizes/depths.
 

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Are you planning on fish or just for decoration?. Peroxide will help clean the water and does not harm anything . Remember come summer with heat and lack of rain you will get more water evaporation . NJ is called the garden state but goes into the dry season come July . Heat and water flow will cause water to evaporate faster and During storms it will overflow .I still remember the storm that hit Metuchen NJ and I had 4 feet of water rushing down my road and washing it away . My son got flooded out during the Sandy storm also . Lost everything . Nor esters are the worst there . From winter ones to summer ones .
 
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Are you planning on fish or just for decoration?. Peroxide will help clean the water and does not harm anything . Remember come summer with heat and lack of rain you will get more water evaporation . NJ is called the garden state but goes into the dry season come July . Heat and water flow will cause water to evaporate faster and During storms it will overflow .I still remember the storm that hit Metuchen NJ and I had 4 feet of water rushing down my road and washing it away . My son got flooded out during the Sandy storm also . Lost everything . Nor esters are the worst there . From winter ones to summer ones .
Mainly decoration. The reason we want to avoid chemicals is because of the frogs. And we want the frogs for the mosquitos. We don't want to put fish in it just yet. Maybe never. We have a lot of herons and egrets here. The heat is why I wanted to coat the ponds with a lighter color. As you know, NJ has huge temperature differences between summer and winter. Especially in the farmlands and open spaces of the southern half. This mini golf is connected to a custard stand. The condensation from the ice cream machines and the air conditioning is collected and used as make up water for the system. That way there's minimal need for topping off from the domestic water. We'll have to monitor how much water is lost as the weather gets warmer. As mentioned above, the idea of a bog filter is appealing. These are all great suggestions. I'm trying to learn as much as I can from experienced people.
 

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