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How To Create The Right Pond For You ... Map Out Initial Design and Construction Ideas

This section is important don't make a mistake here. Once the hole has been dug, the liner installed and your pond construction completed it becomes difficult to change your mind. Maybe the most important part of any pond building project is the thinking, designing and planning stage. It's by far the best idea to make the mistakes on paper. Winter is a great time to plan and think about your new water garden and then it could be ready for the full burst of Spring.

Type And Location Of Pond

Only you can choose but we can help you make a wise choice! The initial choice is between an above ground or an in ground pond. Both have their pro's and con's. Then you'll be faced with liner versus preformed shape, and then what method of construction ... hand digging, hire of landscaping equipment, use of concrete and brick surrounds or reinforcements for sloping grounds and so on.

In Ground Pond or Above Ground Pond?

Essentially there are two types of ponds: above ground and in-ground.

  • The aboveground pond is by far the easiest if a pre-formed design is selected. Lightweight preformed ponds made from fibreglass as much as 3 metres long needs only 2 people to lift it and place it in position. On the other hand aboveground ponds can be difficult to build from scratch without good bricklaying skills if they don't come complete with edgings or sides.

  • In-ground ponds obviously need a hole to be dug that then has to be lined using a flexible liner, a preformed design or a concrete or fibreglass shell installation.

Since the pond is the starting point of the project, it should be sited correctly with the following points uppermost in your mind. The pond installation, if it is to be dug into the ground, is the most cumbersome and therefore the most difficult part of the total project so do your best to get this right. Seek help if you do not feel comfortable with doing the job yourself. Most important do not rush it - take your time, get it to fit well into the hole, create good back fill and edging support where necessary and get the pond level in its hole if it is a pre-formed unit.

Pre-formed ponds are best for volumes less than 500 litres because they are ready to install and in the case of the glassfibre features come complete with surround built in so once the pond has been installed there is no further work required to give a finished effect.

Remember an in-ground pond will always appear significantly smaller once installed than it looks out of the ground. Be aware of this when you are looking around the garden centre or you might be disappointed when you finish the job.

For a pre-formed pond installation do TAKE trouble to get the pond level. If you do not the pond will certainly appear lopsided once filled with water. Use a spirit level.

To assist in this task and before you fill the pond to the top check that the water is level after filling with only a few centimetres of water. Then if not level it will be easy to remove the pond water and do a bit more excavating and levelling.

Flexible Rubber or Plastic Liner Ponds

For larger ponds use a rubber or PVC plastic liner designed for pond building.

The ideal liner thickness for most ponds is 500 micron (0.5mm) but go thicker if you think you need to; it just gets more difficult to handle the liner and of course more expensive. In virtually all aspects of pond keeping bigger is better.

Do NOT use a liner if your animals like to swim in the pond. They will damage it in a short space of time with their sharp claws and your pond will leak and you will tear your hair out.

However do not be scared of using a liner - many smaller dams are made with this material. An important point with a liner is to ensure that the exposed liner above the pond surface is protected from continuous direct sunlight by creating an edging that will shade the exposed liner surface. Plastics and rubbers tend to suffer from UV attack especially under strong sunlight conditions.

Shapes and Sizes for DIY Fish Ponds and Water gardens

pond shape with hose In deciding the shape of the pond take a hosepipe and create a shape with it. View the shape from a distance; can you see it from your house? Can you sit close to it? Are there no sharp corners or edges? Is the ground level? No large trees nearby?

Using A Water Garden Liner Initial Considerations

It is important to measure your liner properly before ordering. Use the method outlined below to decide what size liner you need to buy to fit your desired pond dimensions (all liners come in square or rectangular form).

  1. First of all the width of the liner ... You need to know the width of the final pond at its widest point and add at the very least 60 cm for edging. You must then also add the depth and the depth again. For example if you want a pond 2 metres wide and 1 metre deep the width of liner will be 2+1+1+0.6 (for edging) = 4.6 metres.

  2. For the length repeat this process. For example if you want the above pond to be 3 metres long then the length of the liner must be 3+1+1+0.6 (for edging) = 5.6 metres.

  3. The complete specification for the liner must be 5.6 metres by 4.6 metres. Do not forget to allow for the edging.

All liner ponds will have folds or pleats of liner within them. Do not let this bother you because after a while you will not notice the folds which will become even more disguised as beneficial algae will build up on the sides of the pond.

Pond Depth ... do you want big fish or just a nice garden pond?

You will often be told that a pond should be at least 1 metre (3 feet) or more deep. This is quite simply wrong for many garden situations. Unless you want a large pond and you have a particular interest in wanting to grow large fish then a depth of between 35 cm and 60 cm is perfectly adequate for a basic garden pond. On the other hand there is nothing wrong with deeper ponds and there are some advantages such as less temperature fluctuation, greater protection from birds and so on.

There is one condition where a deeper pond is a definite pre-requisite even for small ponds and that is where winters are long and cold. In these circumstances even deep ponds can freeze to a level, which makes it impossible for fish to survive the winter.

Here is a good general guide:

Depth Of Pond Guidelines

If the pond surface area is up to 5 sq metres (50 sq feet) then a depth of about 60cm or 24 inches is OK in many cases. If the pond surface area is between 5 to 12 sq metres (50 to 120sq feet) then a depth of about 1 metre or 40 inches is OK. For serious koi ponds there should be at least a section of depth 6 feet or more.

In colder climates be aware that a shallow pond will tend to freeze more easily than a larger one.

300 litres (75 gallons) of water and 3 sq metres (10 sq feet) of pond surface should be around the minimum consideration when designing your garden fish ponds size. This means not less than a 30cm (12 inches) depth for a pond 1 metre by 1 metre in area (3 feet by 3 feet)- please note converted units are approximate.

Avoid building overly complex shapes. Keep the pond simple and use plants to create form and shape. For smaller ponds do consider buying a pond with the edging already built into it. You will be pleased with the result and it will save an enormous amount of effort.

Black is an excellent colour for a pond since it creates contrast for the fish and plants and also gives an illusion of greater depth. Sooner or later however all surfaces will become a rich green colour as there is a natural and desirable algae build up. Your fish will forage in this field.

If you are going to build a liner pond then before placing the liner in the excavated hole it is important to line the hole with a specially designed underlay, and soft, fine sand or something like this to prevent possibly sharp stones finding their way to the interface with the liner and possibly puncturing the liner.

Don't Forget The Aquatic Plant Planting Shelves

Whatever type of pond you install ensure that you create a couple of shelves at different levels to accommodate later planting of aquatic plants. Some plants prefer a deeper planting than others. Water lilies for example do best in deeper water say 40 cm and more. Others prefer to be just submerged, and bog plants like to have their feet wet most of the time. While on the subject of water lilies these plants do not like water that moves too much - they will not tolerate splashing for example and therefore should not be close to a waterfall or running water.


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