Yet another newb pond construction thread


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Some good points brought up here.
I'm also an advocate of letting my pond continue in a complete natural form.
I never add any chemicals or additives. No store bought beneficial bacteria is necessary in my opinion. It will occur naturally, no need to waste money on that.
After adding the bog, there isn't really much I do to maintain my pond.
I'm able to enjoy it much more since I don't have to clean filter pads or backwash filters.
I don't put anything in my ponds either, I know my supplier hates me for this
 
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Some good points brought up here.
I'm also an advocate of letting my pond continue in a complete natural form.
I never add any chemicals or additives. No store bought beneficial bacteria is necessary in my opinion. It will occur naturally, no need to waste money on that.
After adding the bog, there isn't really much I do to maintain my pond.
I'm able to enjoy it much more since I don't have to clean filter pads or backwash filters.
I don't put anything in my ponds either, I know my supplier hates me for this
I'll do my best to support my local pond store but I don't plan on buying any snake oil.
 
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So....about this berm.

One of the most stressful aspects of this entire build is waterfall design and construction. My goal is to mimic nature. The problem is the rest of my backyard is relatively flat and is just grass.

It's hard to visualize how a waterfall would naturally come out of a pile of dirt and flow back into a body of water.

I have been watching YouTube videos for a month straight and made a playlist of some of the best and most educational waterfall/stream videos I found. It can be found here:



To me, the look of a waterfall can either make or break a water feature. It needs to be proportional to the surrounding landscape and follow the rules of nature in order to avoid looking man made.

Some of the most critical things I've learned over the last few weeks about waterfall construction are:

- "Be the water", This means understand where it will flow once it leaves the outlet. Think about what you see in a natural stream and how it always travels in the path of least resistance.

- Each cascade almost always consists of 2 framing stones and a weir stone in between. In nature a waterfall is formed by water eroding the soil away and leaving the rocks behind.

- Let the stones tell you where they need to go. As a complete rookie I wanted to have an exact idea of what my waterfall will look like. It turns out it doesn't work like that. You can't plan how the waterfall will look until you have the stones. I've learned you can only plan the path and the number of drops, the rest is up to the stones you have to work with.

- Don't be afraid to change. This is especially true when placing boulders. If you find a boulder that doesn't look right no matter which way you twist and turn it, move on. Throw it back on the pile and find one that works.

- During construction take the time to stand back and look from different vantage points. What looks amazing from one angle may not look right at all from somewhere else.

- Start at the bottom and build your way up.

These are just a few things I've noted in my research. It is such an amazing art form that takes years to master. I'm not going to lie and say I'm not nervous about building my own but I think with these concepts in mind the end result will look much more natural and appealing to the eye.

One of the best articles I've found on waterfall construction is this one:


Even armed with all this in mind I'm still super nervous about my waterfall looking like a man made staircase going down a volcano.
 
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You've got the basics down. Avoiding the "volcano" look is key in my mind. Remember that you don't need height to build falls. You can build an effective waterfall that drops no more than a foot from top to bottom - just add some length by twisting and turning it a bit. Another key to me is concealing where the water comes from. You can do that by turning the source water at a 45 degree angle from the viewing angle if that makes sense. I'm not familiar with the Helix equipment - is one of the things you mentioned a biofalls? If so, then turn your biofalls so you aren't looking straight at it from your most likely viewing spot, but rather viewing it from the side. That's your first "turn". Does that make sense?

Alternatively, you can build retention behind and around a waterfall berm so it looks more flat from the front with the height at the back.
 
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TheFishGuy

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I have lots of experience with aquariums, ponds are definitely a different animal but the science is the same just on a larger scale.

Pond construction however...the amount of forethought and planning is a struggle.
I have almost given up with freshwater aquariums, they are just so hard to get right, ponds are so much easier.

saltwater is just so much easier to make look nice and function well, although the same probably couldn't be said with a saltwater pond.....
 
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I'm still super nervous about my waterfall looking like a man made staircase going down a volcano.
I was going to add - the fact that you can SEE that man made staircase going down a volcano is step one. Step two is to remember that the rocks form the waterfall - not the ground. Sometimes we see people trying to carve a waterfall out of the dirt and then fill it in with rocks. The group provides the foundation to hold the rocks. The rocks create the shape.
 

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While I may not have what most here consider a "bog" I do have 2 very wide, low flow, shallow shelves that will be heavily planted. These are considered "bog" areas. They were suggested by my local pond supply store who designed the pond and calculated filter and pump size. I have already purchased the equipment so if I were to remove the "internal bog" areas it adds more volume to the pond and my equipment is longer adequate.

Bog, wetland filter, whatever you want to call it is just an area of low flow for high demand nutrient loving plants to grow. The area I have for that just happens to be in the pond.
There's a misconception here; what you're going for is truly a 'bog'. What most of us have are properly called 'upflow wetland filters'. There's a distinct difference. So, when you're advised to 'do a bog', what is really meant is 'upflow wetlands filter'. A true bog is a large wide area OVER which water flows. It's effective as a filter BECAUSE it's so large. It needs to to get a large surface area for the colonization of the beneficial bacteria. What you're going to do is inadequate for this purpose. Hence, upflow wetlands. With this system, there's a lot more area via volume to get the bio portion working for you. This type of filter is not meant to be a mechanical filter and it's mainly for establishing a worthy nitrogen cycle. The plants do their part by taking up what the bacteria leave behind; nitrates. What is going to happen in your system is not a lot of denitrification and a build up on the surface of your 'bog' area because over time, the substrate will get clogged. An upflow wetland filter FORCES water up through and past all the gravel/bacteria. You won't get this with your system. Clogging will only occur if you force too much water through the gravel and are allowing solids to get into your pump system (your pump should be OFF the bottom 12" or so, at least) or if your upflow wetland filter is too small for the amount of water you're pushing.

If you're set on keeping your low areas (bog), I'd find a way to pump water UNDER your substrate and cordon off this bog area from the rest of the pond, mimicking what I outlined above. Or just build a upflow wetland filter (see why we use 'bog'? Takes too long to type all the time!) proper the first time around. You'll not regret it. If you look at my more recent vids showing my pond from an underwater view, you'll see the far side of the pond, which is over 14' away. That's how clear you can make the water.

Hope this helps.
 
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brokensword

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So....about this berm.

One of the most stressful aspects of this entire build is waterfall design and construction. My goal is to mimic nature. The problem is the rest of my backyard is relatively flat and is just grass.

It's hard to visualize how a waterfall would naturally come out of a pile of dirt and flow back into a body of water.




Even armed with all this in mind I'm still super nervous about my waterfall looking like a man made staircase going down a volcano.
What you CAN do is extend the area behind/sideways where you want your watefall, to give a more gentle, falling slope. In essence, you'll be re-landscaping the yard to incorporate your new water feature. Think of it as your pond garden and out of the middle of it, some water pours and falls. The landscaping around it will make or break whether you have a 'volcano' or not, imo. Using the same rocks you're planning for your pond as part of this new extended garden, will tie it all together.
 

brokensword

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and lastly, I changed my waterfall for 7 straight years until I finally 'got it'. Don't be afraid to tweak and let something grow on you. Eventually, you'll know how your waterfall has to be. When I expanded, I was almost afraid of having to 're-create' what it took me 7 years to figure out but I found it wasn't that hard at all, even adding another fall to the mix! Like the extended landscape mentioned earlier, plants can help alleviate that 'pile of rocks' feel.
 
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I have almost given up with freshwater aquariums, they are just so hard to get right, ponds are so much easier.

saltwater is just so much easier to make look nice and function well, although the same probably couldn't be said with a saltwater pond.....
funny, most would say an aquarium is easier than a pond. I know I never had issues re aquariums and had to learn re a pond but that's because nature didn't have much say with my aquarium! They're basically the same, after Mother Nature is left from the equation. And I thought saltwater was much more maintenance than my freshwater aquariums. Then I sort of applied what I'd learned from ponding to saltwater and now, it isn't much different there, either. Most people would be surprised to learn I've kept saltwater for over a decade now WITHOUT any filter other than live rock.
 
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@brokensword exactly! Lots of old aquarium habits were carried over to the ponding hobby (i.e., salt in the pond) until people started to question some of those practices and how the applied to this hobby. The aquarium is in an environment that essentially never changes. The pond environment changes daily. They both have water and fish... and everything else is just a variable.
 

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funny, most would say an aquarium is easier than a pond. I know I never had issues re aquariums and had to learn re a pond but that's because nature didn't have much say with my aquarium! They're basically the same, after Mother Nature is left from the equation. And I thought saltwater was much more maintenance than my freshwater aquariums. Then I sort of applied what I'd learned from ponding to saltwater and now, it isn't much different there, either. Most people would be surprised to learn I've kept saltwater for over a decade now WITHOUT any filter other than live rock.
When I did my first saltwater setup, I cheaped out, and am using a 10 gallon rated hob filter, not sure it is doing much other than water movement, which the powerhead is doing better.

I am having zero problems, no protein skimmer, no sump, and literally all the algae that grows on my rocks looks pretty nice!

that is my main problem with most freshwater systems I do, I can't bring myself to set up a pink gravel spongebob house tank, so I go out and buy fluvals new plant light, and seachems nutrient gravel. Then it all just turns into a slimy noxious algae mess.

I now only do 10 gallon and under freshwater, because I still enjoy that densely planted forest look, but when it comes time to clean every few days it isn't such a chore. and of course frameless low iron panoramic viewing tanks are cheaper ;)


oh but I forgot to mention I do understock my saltwater tanks, like a lot. My smallest one right now, a 20 gallon has two small clownfish and a candy cane cleaner shrimp.

I don't do much coral, just stuff like zoas and gsp, but I do enjoy macroalgae, if you get the right stuff it is hard to kill, looks nice, and grows fast!
 
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Tonight's activity. Tapering out the berm and getting away from that "volcano" look.The yard is flat the waterfall needs to basically be a short stream with a few drops. It's becoming easier to visualize the path.

Speaking of path....being the berm is now tapered out so far I had to dig a path back through it so I can dig a trench for the electrical, flex hose going from the skimmer to the pumps as well as the the bottom drain to the pump.

It sucks digging dirt that you have already dug a couple times but it didnt make sense to run the line all the way around.
 

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Welcome to the next level.
I too had the reef aquarium but i did so in the days before kalkwashers . The infancy of bio balls and live rock. My avatar here is actualy a picture of that the next step that was divorce she got my money and the salt talk and i built a planted tank. And i heard the same there you can do that you cant do this it won't work. if you weren't detered by 15 years of fish keeping i imagine you know the fundamentals and can make about any design work. The planted tank i had was open toped where i started with desk lamps quartz halides. not only did it work i placed 148 in the ada competition. sorry i don't remember the year but the tank can be found typing padarium vivarium i am unsure but i think you'll like. . The next evolution was to build a waterfall on the top of the open fish tank . which then became a water proof shelf basicly creating a bog with peat long long long before this bog stuff ever came out. and to top it off i placed two finches in this area by simply running window screen down from the ceiling.
But enough there the point is don't be affraid to give things a shot i believe strongly i can make my system work with minimal effort but to someone else not so much and vise versa.
You have some fantastic top soil there and lots of it . how ever thats something you'll need to be very carefull with as n matter how much compaction you may add just add enough water and it will wash out. On the plus side sprinkle a little grass seed and the roots can stablize your soils rather quickly.
Your bottom drain for it to work really well you may want to concider the bottom of the pond as a bowl with the drain at the deepest point. which brings the next point. and a member here back then gave me this tid bit that by code i had to have two drains on the sam pipe so if someone got it the deep water they could no get held down by a drain check with your local building codes.
You have the shelve all around you build but they are very even and round did out a corner even if it's only a foot deep and three feet as a jog can do A lot to make it look natural and it was always there. Whoops just noticed the closest wall is not rounded.
I don't know your particular soil but as was mentioned if it is as i believe i would have a tarp to cover the pond and keep the water from ever seeing the edges of your selves.
If you dig out one area of your middle self and bring it down to the bottom of the pond it's a fish cave you only need a large piece of flag stone or similar and trust me your fish will love it especially in the winter.
Ok enough of my two cents nice bones thus far looking forward to your build.
Oh yeah and i whole heartedly back the bog as well.
i to make a area / island for bog plants but as they will absorb through there roots they can do what a bog filter does.
If you think this response is long my build can be found this in the blue text below
 
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Tonight's activity. Tapering out the berm and getting away from that "volcano" look.The yard is flat the waterfall needs to basically be a short stream with a few drops. It's becoming easier to visualize the path.

Speaking of path....being the berm is now tapered out so far I had to dig a path back through it so I can dig a trench for the electrical, flex hose going from the skimmer to the pumps as well as the the bottom drain to the pump.

It sucks digging dirt that you have already dug a couple times but it didnt make sense to run the line all the way around.
One issue to keep in mind you have to keep that beautiful top soil from washing into your pond water run off into the pond is BADDDDDD
 
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One issue to keep in mind you have to keep that beautiful top soil from washing into your pond water run off into the pond is BADDDDDD
I was thinking most of the berm would be covered with underlayment and then covered with mulch. The berm will also be heavily planted.
 
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This could be one of the most important designs for your pond that you may do. id try to pitch the water away from the pond d another rock wall maybe a completely differant rock then what is in the pond like a flat field stone and river rock in the pond
 

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