Do It Yourself (DIY) Pond Filters – Our Favorite Designs

Of all the pond devices that you’ll see used in a small pond, few have ever been reinvented or replicated as much as a pond filter in the diy realm. DIY of course stands for do-it-yourself and the relatively simple design of most biological pond filters easily lend themselves to someone who wants to build one from scratch.

The purpose of any pond filter is to help remove physical and elemental contaminants from the water. For instance pieces of leaf debris or single cell algae particles would be considered physical in nature. Elemental substances by our definition would include things like ammonia or nitrites that are created from the breakdown of fish waste. The reduction and elimination of these is very important because they are toxic to fish.

Pond filters in a broad sense, come in two varieties. Some may be physical filters only. Like an oil filter in your car, for example, these are simply designed to take out some of the larger particles of stuff that are floating in the water. This debris get’s caught in the mesh or foam, and filtered water is allowed to pass through. Many very small ponds, and those without fish, may use these and they can be helpful at keeping a pond cleaner.

A more powerful, and we think, useful pond filter is the biological filter. This particular filter may or may not have a mechanical pre-filter included in it, but within a biofilter is material that will grab some of the organic debris that passes through it. The important part though is what’s also inside the filter. The “biological” component is actually beneficial bacteria and this is the real cleaning tool of the device.

As material get’s trapped, and this is specifically relating to organic material, this will be broken down, or in a sense, eaten by the bacteria. These good bugs will also convert ammonia and nitrites into harmless nitrates which is very important work for fish ponds.

Of course there are many commercial varieties of pond filters available and many of them are very good. Some, such as the fully enclosed bead filters can be quite expensive which is one of the reasons why many people want to save money and try to do something for themselves.

Of all the designs we’ve seen online, two stand out as being very good and useful although there are many that you’ll come across that will be quite functional, and who know’s you might even come up with something from your own creative mind.

DIY Barrel Pond Filter

The first uses a 55 gallon barrel. Often these are blue in color and can be found quite easily if you know where to look. Many factories and companies use these to hold liquids. Ideally if you know someplace that uses these for food grade products rather than chemicals of some kind you’d be better off. What’s nice about the barrels are their holding capacity and they can be found inexpensively. In some cases you might find them for free but you can also get them on ebay for around $20.

Barrels make good filters because of their round shape. This provide a very nice vortex or circular motion of the water internally which can help add a bit of oxygen to the water prior to it rising into the bio-chamber. Multiple barrels can be daisy chained together to help provide filtration to bigger ponds.

drum or barrel pond filterPvc pipe is installed internally within the barrel, along with some screen, filter foam or screen for prefiltering, and some type of media that can provide a home to the bacteria. The photograph included here show’s a nicely designed barrel filter in use in a fish holding tank. Water can be pushed into the filter by use of a submerged or external pump, and discharge takes place through an outlet pipe near the top of the barrel.

To get more details on this filter design and view more detailed photographs please visit this website.

The Skippy Filter

Perhaps the most popular DIY pond filter online is called the Skippy filter and this uses a stock tank for the filter body rather than a box or barrel. Stock tanks also provide some circulatory motion of the water much like barrels and they will also have water enter at the bottom of the tank and this will rise up through the filter media, which is made up of numerous brillo like pads that not only filter the water but they also provide home to the bacteria as well.

skippy filterOnce filtered, the clean water will exit near the top of the tank. In this way the Skippy filter can serve somewhat like a waterfall filter and it can be hidden behind rocks or plants.

Comparing the two designs you’ll find many similarities. Really the main difference is that the Skippy uses no prefilters or pads, just the loose scratch pads, to filter the water.

To get more details and information on the Skippy filter please visit this page.

One key point that you’ll read about concerning these biofilters is that they generally don’t require too much cleaning, in fact as the Skippy information will note, you may not want to clean them at all. It’s important to note that both of these designs and really any biofilter will need to be primed with bacteria and this is easy to do. Simply add your favorite blend to the pond water and it will circulate into the filter. This may need to be done from time to time to keep bacteria counts up, and it certainly should be done at every spring start up or following a period of downtime where water flow is not going through the filter.

The most important thing to remember is that you don’t need any great construction skills to make a good, useful DIY pond filter. With the information resources provided here, you can experiment and learn and ultimately create the perfect filter for your pond.

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6 Responses to Do It Yourself (DIY) Pond Filters – Our Favorite Designs

  1. Jeff Akers June 18, 2012 at 6:05 pm #

    I 've built a Koi pond at the end of last summer. My pond empties via waterfall into another smaller preformed pond. This has a larger screen to screen out leaves then several layers of filter matting. Although not stagnant also acts like a settleing pond which I add flockulant in small doses. before being fine filtered and pumped back into main pond via three waterfalls which I alternatley switch with cutoff valves from all three to just one to change circulation patterns within the main pond and to suit asthetics at a whim. With the multiple water falls (4 in all) really keeps the water airiated and has no dead spots in the main pond. Reading the above articles gives me a bit more confidence in what I have built and a few ideas of what I might want to change as time goes on. All my Koi are healthy as well as the Bull frogs that has taken up residence at the pond. I use a 2 speed pool pump mainly on low speed but that still pumps 1400 gallons per hour.

    • Mark Washburn June 18, 2012 at 8:31 pm #

      HI Jeff…I think this sounds like a great set up and it should work well for you. That's not to say tweaks might be needed if various things crop up but I like the plan! Best wishes with your pond.

  2. jim May 20, 2013 at 7:45 pm #

    how can i connect two skippy pond filters together

    • pondtalk June 4, 2013 at 9:18 pm #

      Hi Jim,
      Basically you just couple them together with the upper out port connecting to the lower in port on the second filter in the line…then the discharge from this last filter goes through the upper out port and back into the pond.

  3. Alan August 19, 2013 at 8:23 pm #

    I just recently completed my 10ft x 10ft x4ft pond and filtration is via a water butt ( 25 gallon) sunk to the level of the pond this is 14 full of alpha frog topped of with filter foams. Water enters via a bottom drain in the pond. The pump (6800 litres per hour) pulls from the top of the barrel into a slightly higher pond (10ft x4ft x2 ft ) and feeds back over a series of waterfalls.However I have been told that because the water is passing through the alpha frog first the filter will not be efficient, is this the case and would a U V clarifier be a good investment please? incidentally I have Koi ,goldfish and a Diamond back sturgeon and it looks great.

  4. jennapearl8 December 16, 2017 at 11:28 pm #

    Ok so my parents burried an old boat in the ground and waterproofed it. the pond has ha d fish in it for years but dad hasnt been able to come up with a filter design that works well and keeps the algae down. He estimates the whole thing is 7500 gallons and the filter runs all winter to keep the water open for the fish. Would you reccomend one of these filters for that application? if so how would one go about purchasing the bacteria?