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How to Build a Small Water Feature for a Patio or Garden Corner

Half of a whiskey barrel can make a fine small garden pond or water feature; maybe pond is the wrong name although it can certainly hold a few pond plants and even a few small goldfish will also do nicely in one.

This page discusses building a small patio pond in some detail and it is not confined to using a whiskey barrel. Almost any small container of about 70 to 100 litres (20 gallons or thereabouts). You'll need to give thought to the creation and after care. Think about ...

  • Water quality

  • Aquatic plants selection

  • A few small goldfish

  • Equipment like a pump and maybe a filter

  • Ongoing maintenance factors

We you are going to use a wooden barrel then you'll need to line it with a waterproof membranes and Bradshaws supplies various pond liner materials to do this job well for you. A section about 1.5 metre square will do. Fit this to the best of your ability and you will have a few folds to contend with. Just pleat the liner as best you can.

If you do put fish into this small pond I would strongly suggest you place a few lumps of Alfacoral or larger pieces of Alfagrog that are available in the UK. If you can't get Alfagrog then ask Bradshaws what they would suggest as a good low cost filter media. Some of the filters supplied by Bradshaws do contain Alfagrog (eg those made by FishMate). This porous ceramic filter media called Alfagrog or Alfacoral will enable large colonies of bacteria to grow in the small volume of the pond and so long as the pond is not overstocked the water will remain ammonia free and healthy.

In these small ponds it is normally best not to feed the fish and if you do, feed them tiny amounts only and occasionally. Insect life that will appear in the pond quite naturally will sustain your little goldfish.

When you first fill the small patio pond with water let it stand a day or so then add a few suitable plants including oxygenators and maybe a small water lily. When you add the fish start with 2 small goldfish and you can increase to about 5 gradually. Don't stock koi not even small ones since they become stressed far more easily than goldfish. Be prepared to change about 20% of the water in the small pond every week or so and this will keep nitrates down to acceptable levels.

Pond plants you can use in the small patio type pond

Aquatic plants ensure the small patio pond is pleasing and interesting. Do include at least one flowering plant. The following four types of pond plants will do well in this small confined environment ...

are desirable for a balanced ecosystem:

  • Pygmy water lilies

  • Hardy oxygenating plants (Canadian Pondweed and Hornwort are good examples)

  • Floating plants (water lettuce, duckweed which goldfish will eat although you'll probably have to remove with a net occasionally too) and if you create a shallow section try some

  • Bog, or marginal rather tall accent plants (rushes, reeds, cattails).

The plants that need soil should be planted in individual containers specially made for aquatic plants. Be sparing with the fertilizer although to get the best from your water lily you will need to use now and again. To help minimise algae growth restrict sunshine by using plants and allow them to cover most of the surface (say 75%), plants should cover 75-80% of the surface of your pond.

Snails bought from your aquatic centre will help to remove debris but take advice from the aquatic centre first.

It is probably that if you plant as suggested and add only a few small goldfish that you will not need to buy a pump, or UV or pond filter. An small air pump on standby when weather is hot might be useful to have around.


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