Pond Design Tips – Getting Started

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Written By Mark Washburn

Mark has 20 years of experience as a professional pond management consultant.

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One of the hottest trends for home owners today is the addition of a backyard pond or watergarden on their property.  Small ponds provide a wonderful esthetic addition to a home, and they also create a relaxing oasis for people who want to get away from the rest of the world for awhile.

When you’re considering a watergarden for your backyard one of the most important parts of the process is to come up with a design that not only looks great but it also needs to work, or function great as well.

In this particular article we won’t go into the nuts and bolts of pond design and building but we will address some of the fundamental things that you’ll want to keep in mind as you lay things out.

What’s Your Budget?

Although opinions may differ, we think your budget should be high on the list of things that determine just where you want to go with your design. It’s a fact that larger ponds will cost a good bit more money in materials, landscaping, mechanical devices like filters and pumps and will use more supplies over the long term.

If your set on building something, it would be a good idea to plan out a budget and decide just what you’re able to afford. Getting the pond built and then not being able to support it, or scrimping on a filter or pump just to save some money isn’t going to work well.

Just remember when you’re adding things up to include all of the things we mentioned above and not just the initial cost of getting the pond up and running.

Plan For The Space

Your yard size, shape, and terrain, will often vary a lot from your neighbor or anyone else for that matter, and with respect to that, it’s important to do the proper planning in terms of the size and shape of the pond.

An initial step in the planning and layout stage is to fit the pond to the area as best you can. Too large a pond in a small area looks very cramped and confined sometimes while a small pond in a big yard can seem insignificant. Look for a balance between the two, while maintaining a respect for your overall budget and goals.

The choice of pond liner material will also have a bearing in size and shape because a preform liner will pretty much be set in terms of the layout it provides, while an epdm liner will have the flexability to create about any size and shape you want.

Preforms are normally smaller in terms of the gallon capacity they’ll hold. This doesn’t make them a bad choice for the right setting however. If you have a smaller yard or area where you’re planning to build the pond, a preform liner will usually work out great.

If you have the room and the ambition, a larger pond will have less limitations.

All in all though, you should try and fit the size of the pond

Don’t Get Cheap When It Counts

As we mentioned before, certain things are necessary for a pond to operate well. Pumps and filters are the two most common mechanical additions that help keep a pond clean, balanced, and in a sense, alive.

It’s a good idea to shop around for these items because prices can vary a good bit as can the quality level. Most important of all however is to make sure what you buy or have installed is more than adequate for your pond needs.

Here’s a few examples.

One of the common issues that pond owners run into is algae. Once the weather get’s hot, pond water can turn green or string algae can grow wild. Part of the reason this grows in a pond is the presence of nutrients that feed the plant. These can come, in part, from fish waste, which is not biologically processed, and this is usually the job of the biofilter. If this filter is undersized or too small for the pond gallon volume, or the amount of fish in the pond grow’s beyond it’s capacity, certain elements will be left in the water that can lead to algae issues, or high ammonia levels which are toxic to fish.

An undersized pump may also be a problem because these need to drive water through the filter and possibly a waterfall and the entire system must circulate an adequate amount of water in a set period of time. If this happens too slowly, then again, certain parts of the process won’t keep up as necessary and water quality issue may develop.

Like everything else, larger pumps and filters will cost more money, but this is not a place to cut corners. In fact it’s a good idea to over estimate the demand and size these items accordingly. Also include in the estimate that you may want to add fish to a pond later on, and that these fish will grow and multiply, which also increases the demand on the system.

If you’re able to foresee some of these things ahead of time, it will make managing the pond a lot easier later on.

Try Your Layout

Once you have some of this initial planning out of the way you can then begin to layout the formation of the pond. It’s easy to do.

Simply take an unused garden hose and move it around defining the shape of your ideal pond. You can move this all over the place to get the size and shape you want and it will help with your visualization of the pond.

Nothing is really set in stone until you start digging so have fun with this part. You can work with an estimated lenght and width and with a preplanned depth you can figure on the overall gallon size using a pond calculator. For reference though you can simply multiply the length x the width x the depth in feet and then multiply this number by 7.5 to get the gallon amount.

Once you’ve finally come up with a shape and form you like, and one that fits will into your landscape, you can then take a bit of spray paint or marker and run this along the edge of your hose layout. This will create a guide for you to begin digging out the pond. You can make this a fun (well sort of) diy project, or hire a landscaper or pond builder to help bring your pond project to completion.

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