Thinking about digging a pond. Need suggestions. - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 12 (permalink) Old 10-08-2013, 01:18 PM Thread Starter
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Thinking about digging a pond. Need suggestions.

Now that we finally own our house, putting in a pond seems like something I want to do. However, I've never had one or set one up before and could probably use some pointers. I have a 10x15 area to work with and would like to work a waterfall into it. Probably go about two feet deep or so. Is there a best type of liner? Filtration? Pump sizes?

Is something you wish you added or wish you would have left out? What would you do differently next time? Am I over thinking this? Just rent the bobcat and go nuts?
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post #2 of 12 (permalink) Old 10-11-2013, 02:19 AM
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I would use the thickest liner that you can afford and put down an underlayment under the liner to protect from punctures from below. I used a EPDM 45mil liner with underlayment under mine. As far as filtration if you plan on putting in a waterfall I would look at some of the kits that have skimmer box and waterfall box and then use a pump that will pump the gph that you will need. I use a Tsurumi pump as I need a pump that can pump high flow at over 20' away. Your taking all the fun out of it using a Bobcat. Digging the hole is hard work so any way that will make that part easier is worth it. If you have any other questions feel free to ask.

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post #3 of 12 (permalink) Old 10-11-2013, 02:36 PM
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I'd say, as a general rule if you can make it easier on yourself do it. If you can afford a Bobcat and filter kits that is probably the best way to go. Also, go big. As big as you can. It sucks doing all that work and a year or so later thinking "what if I add..." and then having to mess with the whole thing over again. For me the trick is finding something large enough I can keep expanding, with out it being so large the maintenance drives me mad.
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post #4 of 12 (permalink) Old 10-12-2013, 03:09 AM
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Ditto the 'go big' idea.

Aquascape is one company that has the waterfall and skimmer boxes, and a nice website with lots of 'how to'.

Here is a nice feature I did with my pond, but it takes some space:

Upper pond is a 45 gallon preformed box (this was in the days before they made water fall boxes. A waterfall box will do the same).
The water falls into a streambed, but it is not just a stream. I excavated an area about 8' wide and 12' long, but only a foot deep over most of it. I made a winding stream through it, excavated a bit deeper, but not much. Few inches by 18" wide. Underlayment and pond liner over the whole area.
Fill almost all of this with peat moss except the stream area.
Use some weed mat (a very soft one that will give and make nice curves) to hold the peat moss out of the stream.
Line the stream with cobbles and smaller river rock. Cobbles about 6" to 10" holds the peat back (with the help of the weed mat) and smaller rocks are the stream bed.
The peat moss makes a bog garden. The water never gets higher than the peat moss, but there is a surprising amount of water movement through the peat moss.
Japanese Iris, Canna, Calla, certain sedges, and other marginal plants thrive in this area.
At the end of the stream is a bit of a dam, not much, but just enough so the water builds up a bit to flow over the main falls evenly. Expanding foam filler (black stuff especially for ponds) is great for this.

Pump sizing:
Width of the waterfall in feet = 1000 gallons per hour. This is as wimpy as you would want to go.
I would upsize mine, but I would have to redo the plumbing, too.

Upsize the plumbing.
Mag drive pumps are more efficient use of electricity, but they need a bit larger pipe size. They are not great if there is a lot of head, but for most average pond and stream set ups they are very good.

What I do instead of trenching in a larger pipe:
Drop another pump into the pond right below the main falls and camouflage some tubing up to the top of that falls. An extra couple of hundred gph makes a lot of difference in the sound and looks of that last, largest waterfall.

As you lay out the waterfall and build it, make a space behind the waterfall so it overshoots into the stream or pond. (easy to do if the water is directed over a large flat rock) The void behind the waterfall acts like an echo chamber, amplifying the sound of the waterfall.

Oh, yea...
2' deep is not nearly enough. Raccoons can harvest that pond SOOOO easily. :-(
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post #5 of 12 (permalink) Old 10-12-2013, 04:08 AM
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Go deep dude. I'd go 4' at an absolute minimum.
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post #6 of 12 (permalink) Old 12-12-2013, 11:59 PM
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Here's an issue: you want a deep area so the frogs (they will show up) and fish that you put in there can get out of the cold (not sure how cold it gets in your part of the state of Jefferson) so it is important to have a hole somewhere where they can bury themselves in winter. In VA I basically need two to three feet so frogs can safely get down in the mud when the pond freezes. (You also have to think about O2 in deep areas -- you don't want the "frog hole" to get into an anaerobic state so it needs to be somewhat cleaned out of leaves. Some people use a small bubblers that they ccan turn on in winter and situate it in the deepest part. This can also help keep ice off.) But deep is potentially dangerous for kids. In VA the building code basically says that if your pond is more than 2' deep you have to fence it. So best check into that if you are concerned the local fence police might come knocking. Or if you have toddlers or drunks walking through your yard.

Deep is good but so is shallow -- IME there is more activity and interest in a foot deep planted area than a three foot deep area. So maybe create an area in the pond that is only, say 1.5' deep near where you can sit. Plant stuff in pots there -- the frogs will hang out in the shallow areas. Everyone wants koi, of course, but they are crap machines that demand clear water so you need super-filtration if you go down that road. Another method is to make the pond and create a "bog filter" or a waterway like the one described above where bacteria laden gravel, iris and other plants and floaters can absorb excess nutrients. Then pump water over or through that system. Then go catch some appropriate fish somewhere and, the best part, let nature fill in the gaps. Frogs, salamanders, newts and all manner of cool insects will appear. Throw a few shovels or buckets of river gravel and mud from local ponds in there to jump start the bacteria, insect and, possibly, invert population -- those big trapdoor snails are pretty neat. I had a heron come by and snack on my goldfish when I had them in a pond. I'm building one right now using concrete which I need structurally to hold a trellis in place. I'll then cover it in EPDM. EPDM is great stuff and the trick is to get a good level edge over which it can be folded and then trap it and hold it down with flagstones or something -- you need to keep the sun off it unless they have improved it since I last bought it. One thought: some people put the EPDM down and then line the pond with rock OVER the EPDM which is great for bacteria and critters and looks good. Another thing: birds come by to bathe if you have a shallow area -- I've seen IR camera trap photos of owls bathing in a garden pond which is pretty cool.

IME a bobcat/skidsteer is not the best choice -- a small tractor, with both backhoe and front loader, is better because a bobcat can't dig DOWN very well. Either way, call Ms. Utility before digging. (Last week, truly, a guy was working on landscaping at my neighbor's house. First he cut an old propane line that fed a pool heater. Then he cut two electric lines that nobody knew about. And, for the finale, he cut a sewer pipe that some nitwit had installed six inches below grade. He was unhappy.

My new pond is going to be about 10' by 12' with another 8' of bog/plants and I'm going to dump a 15 or 20 foot piece of locust in there (it will be about 14' long) and let it sink in the middle and hang over one edge and see if I can get some moss to grow on it. Oh, and when you install pumps or whatever, think about an underwater camera. With a wifi hook up. So you can watch the fish on your phone. Ponds are way cool in part because there is a lot of initial work but you don't have the co2/fertilization/algae issues that we have in smaller tanks -- especially if you put in a bog/gravel/plant filter.
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post #7 of 12 (permalink) Old 12-13-2013, 12:12 AM
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I'll toss my two cents in and say go deep as well. 6' or don't bother, because the @#€@ing raccoons WILL kill all of your koi.

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post #8 of 12 (permalink) Old 12-24-2013, 03:24 PM
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First: Like everyone said, go deep or go home. (mine is 7')

Second: You need to do this right the first time. Pond filter systems are MUCH different.

I highly recommend you spend several weeks reading through threads and stickies over at before ever touching the dirt with a shovel.
They will show you how to dig and build the pond, to liner or shotcrete it, how to do a gravity feed bottom drain filter system that can handle the high solids loads you get with an "outdoor aquarium".

You also need to decide what kind of pond you want. Do you want a water garden with floating plants and couple of gold fish or do you want a real koi pond ? (a real koi pond will not have plants, the koi just make a mess of them, but you can do a small mini bog pond next to it that overflows into the main pond - these make great nitrate filters too)
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post #9 of 12 (permalink) Old 12-24-2013, 09:51 PM
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I used a piece of carpet to line mine when I did it - but I agree, go deeper. I thought I went "big" when I did it, and it wasn't nearly enough. The educational value of the link I am about to provide you, will be limited, as I literally just made it up as I went and took a few pictures of the mess I made doing it, but it may help you

Small but important note - when you are doing the part where the liner comes out of the hole you have dug and over the edge of the dirt - this is a critical spot. Be sure to fully fill in the area behind the liner - I had some gaps that eventually the dogs put a hole in by stepping on it, because there wasn't support behind it.

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post #10 of 12 (permalink) Old 12-25-2013, 10:32 PM
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I have a beckett pump in my pond. It's a terrible design and breaks almost every other year but they've got a nice warrantee program and I haven't paid for a new one in years.
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post #11 of 12 (permalink) Old 02-02-2014, 06:42 PM
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Whats the news , did you get started yet

The idea of sharing is to find someone who could make use of my experience and continue where i couldnt . -
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post #12 of 12 (permalink) Old 02-06-2014, 09:29 PM
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a little food for thought that I put together for another forum......

There are a few things you may want to consider before the shovel hits the dirt, and by consider we simply want you to think before you get started, ask lots of questions so you can build the pond that truly works for you and enriches your life.

These things work off of each other in determining the kind of pond you build.

Lets start with size. If you are considering keeping koi you are going to need a pretty big pond, most koi keepers agree a basic rule of thumb is 1000 gallons to start off with, and at least an additional 350 gallons per adult koi. This may be an issue in determinating the location of your pond, is there room? So you dont have enough room in the spot you have chosen for that large of pond then a smaller pond can happily support a nice school of colorful goldfish.

From another angle take a look at location. Perhaps it is a flourishing water garden in your dreams. Tons of colorful lilies, lotus and marginal plants! You know just where you want it too...but did you know to bloom most water plants need a mininmum of 6 hours of direct sun? so if colorful blooms are your heart's desire then reconsidering the location is needed if the shady side of the yard was where you were considering putting it.

Think about what you want to acheive from your pond, a quiet reflection, big colorful carp, a crashing waterfall? Ponds come in many atmospheres, but in basically 3 kinds. we can have a look at a brief summary of all three.
koi ponds
blended ponds

Water gardens are generally fairly shallow and still, plants like 18- 30 inches of water and of course marginal plants like to have just thier feet wet. Plants also prefer still waters. Though many water gardens have a waterfall feaure to them, lilies definitely stay clear of the splashes! Goldfish thrive in water gardens and are gentle on the plants. Some watergardens have little to no filtration and they are built in all sorts of sizes. Often there are shelves built in to the wall of the pond for putting plants at their favored depths. Generally there is a big spring or fall clean out of a water garden pond. The amount of sun this pond receives is a big consideration for location.

Koi ponds are built specifically to house koi. They are four plus feet deep, they run with good current to the waters, are large and heavily filtered! here is a good explaination from the Atlanta Koi Club

The controversial blended pond, despite the fact that there are many reasons not to put koi into watergardens, it is done and done often...thus the blended pond. The bottom line is plant and koi needs are on opposite ends of the spectrum. Koi LOVE plants, they are omnivores. Koi love to root in the mud and a 20 inch koi can easily root a plant from a pot and will have a grand time doing so. Plants need shallow waters and koi need deep. Koi thrive better in strong currents and plants of course do not. The debate rages on of whether the two types of ponds can/should be blended into one. The mix of types will take away from the koi growth and plant growth potential, but if that is your dream, so be it. Although more challenging to strike a balance with, there are successful blended ponds out there. If this is your chosen monster to tackle we can only promise to be truthful with our answers to your questions.

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