Water features are still growing in popularity
for many good reasons. A water feature, whether a pond or fountain,
enhances any yard or garden. The sound of moving water creates
a mood that is soothing. Moving water also attracts birds and
other wildlife. The ecosystem that develops in a water garden
provides the opportunity for children or anyone with the interest
to study nature close-hand. The life cycles of many animals can
be observed. The observation of the life cycle of fish, frogs
and dragonflies is a great learning experience as well as entertaining.
A pond provides other textures and dimensions adding interest
to the garden. Waterlilies add not only visual interest but many are also very fragrant.
So you have decided that you want to enjoy some of the many benefits
that a water garden offers. The first thing you should do whether
you are planning to build the pond yourself or have it professionally
built is to become acquainted with the various components that
make up a water garden. If you choose these products carefully
you should have a great pond experience.
For a formal fountain with an intricate shape the best choice
may be concrete. Concrete however is not the best choice for an
ornamental pond, especially if owner-built. Concrete requires
expertise to make a stable pond lining. Concrete requires yearly
maintenance and you must wait a few months after completion before
pond life can be added.
The average person who decides to build a pond will use either
a plastic or rubber flexible liner or a preformed hard plastic
liner. Preformed plastic liners are generally too small for a
suitable pond. They also do not allow for you to design the shape
of the pond and they have a short life span. Plastic liners are
available for a cost that is less than hard liners in most cases.
Plastic liners are a good choice for large ponds (1/4 acre or
larger) as this material is light weight and can be made in single
sheets to cover ponds up to approximately an acre in size.
pond liners are generally the best choice for most ponds.
This material is very flexible (even in cold weather), puncture
resistant, UV resistant, easy to install, and will last a lifetime.
Although plastic and rubber liners are very puncture resistant,
one should install a material under the liner to protect the liner
from sharp rocks and roots. Sand can be used although it is difficult
to adhere to the sides of the excavation and it tends to move
with ground water. Old synthetic carpet can be used if carefully
inspected for pins and tacks. The best material to use is a commercial
material available simply called pond
liner underlayment. This looks like a thick felt. This material
does not decompose in the ground.
Most ponds will require a pump.
A pump allows you to move water from one place to another, such
as from the pond to a waterfall or through a fountain. This action
aerates the water and improves the water quality. A pump is also
necessary to operate a filter that will further clean the pond.
There are several things to consider when selecting a pump for
your water garden. Some pumps are submersible which simply means
that they are submerged in the pond water. Other pumps are external
and are placed outside the pond. If your pond is small to medium
then you will most likely use a submersible pump. Submersible
pumps come in many sizes and generally last from two to eight
years. These pumps are of two basic types: magnetic drive and
direct drive. A direct drive pump has a shaft that penetrates
the pump housing through some type of seal. This is the weakest
part of the pump and the source of most failures. Since the shaft
is in direct contact with the motor you get a pump that is capable
of pumping at high head pressure. This means the pump can raise
the water to high levels but costs more to operate than a magnetic
drive pump. A magnetic drive pump uses a magnetic shaft to drive
an impeller. The shaft does not penetrate the motor housing but
spins floating on magnetic waves. Because of this, the pump should
last longer than a direct drive submersible pump but has a lower
head. This means that the pump will cost less to operate but will
not pump water as high as a direct drive pump.
External pumps are usually more efficient for moving large volumes
of water and are most often used in medium to large ponds. A good
external pump should last six to twelve years. External pumps
designed for water gardens have a similar appearance to swimming
pool or spa pumps but are very different. Because of the types
of filters used in swimming pool applications the pump must have
a high head. This type of pump must work much harder than a water
garden pump, therefore it will not last as long and it costs much
more to operate. They also make a fair amount of noise. External
pumps designed for water gardens are very economical to operate
using about to 1/3 the power consumption of a swimming pool
pump. They are relatively quiet and should not be heard over the
sound of the water.
Several types of filters
are available for water gardens. There are chemical filters that
use some type of chemical (carbon is one) to remove toxins from
the water. These are not the most common filters in a pond. There
are also mechanical filters that physically remove particles from
the water. A mechanical filter may use paper cartridges, reticulated
foam, fiber mats, brushes or other forms. The design of the filter
allow for particles to be trapped in the filter media requiring
frequent rinsing of the media to remove the trapped particles.
This type of filter will remove the suspended particles in the
pond water but requires frequent cleaning to be effective.
Biological filtration does most of the work in improving the
water quality in a pond. A biological filter may take many forms
but basically it is a container that holds a filter media that
the pond water flows into or is pumped into and then back into
the pond. Several types of bacteria then live on this media and
do the work of cleaning the pond water by converting one chemical
into another. This makes the water safe for fish and helps reduce
the amount of algae. Some of the more common types of filter media
are plastic shapes, fiber mats, ribbons, and synthetic or natural
gravels. The major differences are reflected in the efficiency
of the material, how often it requires cleaning, and the ease
of cleaning. A biological filter can be in the pond or out of
the pond. Most biological filters will also provide some mechanical
filtration as well. When installed in a pond the filter must be
small enough to be easily removed for cleaning purposes therefore
an in-pond filter is only suitable for small to medium ponds.
Depending on its type, an external biological filter will be installed
in the ground next to the pond, inline with the plumbing leading
back to discharge into the pond, or behind a waterfall. A filter
that is installed behind a waterfall is most often a gravity type
filter, meaning that the water is pumped into the filter and it
then flows back into the pond by gravity. This type of filter
requires very little cleaning.
A pressurized filter ultima
ll and its plumbing can be installed at any level since the
water in it is under pressure. This type of filter most often
looks like a swimming pool sand filter but is very different.
The inside of the filter is different as well as the filter media.
The filter material most often used in these filters is a plastic
media. Sand filters are for very clean water and are not a good
choice for ponds.
When using an external biological filter it is recommended that
you also use a prefilter, which will serve as a mechanical filter
to remove the larger solids. This is the filter that will be cleaned
most often so you should look for one that is easy to clean. A
skimmer is the easiest prefilter to clean and is preferred for
can be installed on most ponds. Some skimmers can mount inside
the pond but most are installed outside the pond with the water
entering the skimmer through a floating weir. Skimmers have some
type of basket for catching floating debris. They may also have
a fiber mat or other media to provide mechanical filtration as
well. There can also be some mechanical filter media to provide
enough biological filtration for smaller pond sizes. A pump will
sit inside the skimmer and pump the water to a waterfall or another
filter. An external pump could also be hooked up to the skimmer
pulling water from the skimmer and then on to the pond. A well-designed
skimmer will allow you to remove the basket and or mechanical
filter media without you even getting your hands wet.
Sterilizers and ultraviolet clarifiers are considered another
type of filter. This device uses a germicidal lamp to kill algae,
germs, and virus. It can be inside another filter or skimmer or
as a stand-alone unit that is connected to the plumbing in your
water garden. There are many sizes available. They are rated in
lamp wattage. When used as a clarifier you can use a lower wattage
unit. In this application the UV unit will provide relatively
clear water. When sized as a sterilizer you should be able to
maintain crystal clear water as well as reduce the number of parasites
and harmful bacteria in the pond. Even though a UV can sterilize
your pond water as it flows through it, it cannot and should not
sterilize the pond. Not all UV's are created equal. Manufacturers
may state that a particular size UV is suited for a specific pond
size. You need to know if they are sizing the unit for clarification
(in which case you will need about 2/3 of the pond surface covered
with plants as well as the proper number of underwater plants)
or they may mean for sterilization. Also some UV lamps are more
efficient than others. You will also want to look for a design
that does not restrict the water flow from your pump.
The Perfect Pond
To sum it up, you can have an in-pond filter with a submersible
pump attached to it in a small to medium pond as your only filtration.
This set up will work but the filter is in sight in the pond.
It also takes more effort to clean, as the filter must first be
removed from the pond. A better option for this size pond would
be to install a skimmer that also has filter media to provide
mechanical and biological filtration. You would have a choice
of a submersible or an external pump for this set up.
The best option for a medium to large pond would be to have a
skimmer installed to provide mechanical filtration since cleaning
the media in a good skimmer is very quick and easy. Also you should
have a biological filter sized for your pond. The best choice
would be a pressurized filter with super efficient plastic biomedia
installed. This filter allows cleaning by simply operating a valve
to backwash the filter. However this comes at a price. If your
budget is tight then I recommend using a skimmer with a waterfall
tank biological filter. This type of filter would usually
be installed behind a waterfall and only requires cleaning about
once a year if a open media like the Bio
Ribbon is used. A UV is also recommended installed either
in the skimmer or inline. The UV will insure that the water is
clear year round. This setup will provide the least amount of
work and the best water quality so that you can spend more time
enjoying your pond.
Choosing pond supplies does not have to be complicated. However,
in order to do it right, it will take a little research or the
advice of a trustworthy expert.