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Garden Ponds

Natural and Sustainable Backyard Water Features

The addition of a garden pond to your landscape creates an ecosystem that can breathe new life into your home. Develop a serene atmosphere that is great for relaxing and providing a fulfilling hobby. Backyard ponds attract birds, butterflies, frogs and can sustain a variety of fish. This natural, scenic addition puts the finishing touch on your exterior property.

Transform an ordinary space into something extraordinary. Ponds can be as unique as you and customized to any configuration.
  • 8:38 min
    World's Most Beautiful Backyard Ponds
    Aquascape presents our new Create a Paradise video featuring inspirational footage of some of the most beautiful ecosystem ponds in North America. Follow along as we take this journey into the world of cascading waterfalls, meandering streams and gorgeous water gardens that will give you all the ideas that you need to create your own paradise. Listen to present water feature owners talk about the benefits of upgrading their outdoor spaces with the wonders of water. Start living the water feature lifestyle today
  • 11:56 min
    How To Build a Backyard Pond
    See how easy it is to transform your outdoor living space with the Aquascape DIY Backyard Pond Kit! Your pond maintenance is greatly reduced when you use an ecosystem approach to create your garden water feature using an easy-to-install kit.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I decide where to install a new pond?

Take a good look at the available area and make sure that the location of the pond can be enjoyed from any decks and windows. Pull out the garden hose and create the pond's shape right on the lawn. Experiment with it for a few days and observe how both the sun and slope of the yard will effect the space you have chosen.

What do I need to keep in mind about ideal pond placement?

Plan the pond so that you can easily add a waterfall or a second pond in years to come. Most  pond keepers continue to improve and grow the size of their ponds from year to year.

  • A pond deeper than 18" is considered a pool in many municipalities. This will require the yard to be fenced.
  • Place the pond away from where run-off flows. Run-off could deliver fertilizers and other toxins to any fish.
  • Install a GFI outlet near the pond to avoid cords across the lawn and electrocution.

How deep does the pond need to be?

For fish, a deep spot is needed that is just below the frost line. This deep section only needs to be large enough to accommodate the fish and plants you keep in the pond in the winter. Contact local sources to determine the frost depth in the desired area.

What types of pond construction are there?

  • Preformed ponds come in a variety of shapes. They are extremely durable and less susceptible to tears and punctures. Preformed ponds are easy to install and clean, but require more skill to fit the hole in the ground with the shape of the pond. Also, when properly supported, preformed ponds are ideal for above-ground, indoor, and patio setups.
  • Pond liners are ideal for the more experienced water gardeners. They allow for easy and very forgiving installations, which consequently promotes greater creativity. Because you can create various shapes with pond liners, it is possible to construct larger, and deeper configurations (when compared to preformed ponds).
  • Skimmer (liner) pond kits are for the professional pond installers. The installation of a skimmer and a bio waterfall filter requires extra planning because additional external cavities need to be dug beside the pond. The installation of a skimmer also involves seaming the liner to the opening of the skimmer. Tubing considerations are paramount to proper skimmer and biofalls installation.
  • Concrete installations usually require a professional installation. Concrete is a medium that tends to crack as the ground freezes and thaws.

What about water runnoff?

  • The easiest way to avoid runnoff is to install the pond in a location that is not at the bottom of a slope or hill.
  • It is a good idea not to install the pond underneath any rain gutters - leaky eavestroughs may also prevent a rainwater runoff problem.
  • If you install the pond on sloping ground, insall run-off routes around the pond to help prevent rainwater and melting snow from getting into the pond.
  • Install the pond liner in a soil that is more clay-like than sand-like. Sandlike soil will move very easily when it is wet.

What is a typical backyard water garden composed of?

A typical Back Yard Water Garden consists of a Skimmer/Biological Waterfall Filter. These systems are usually 18-24” deep (Local Building Code dictates depth if there is not a fence around the feature) and various sizes from 5’x5’ to 30’x30’ and even larger. These systems rely on a biological waterfall for proper filtration and must be sized accordingly. These ponds are good for a small fish load. Aquarius has many “Kits” available to simplify your needs.

What is a no-pond water feature?

These systems consist of a waterfall terminating in a bed of river stone. They have become very popular in recent years. The benefits and sound of a waterfall without the maintenance associated with a pond. Aquarius has many kits available including the “FILTRIFIC” system which can only be described as the Cadillac of the industry with its innovative design.

What is a statuary fountain basin?

A Statuary fountain basin has become the latest trend in our industry. This is simply a basin that gets buried in the ground and holds water and then statuary is placed on it and a decorative stone covers the basin to hide the grate.

What is a Koi Pond?

Koi Ponds are for the fish enthusiasts. These ponds are typically designed to a depth of 4’ with steep sides without plant shelves to prevent water fowl from climbing in and eating prized fish. These ponds also consist of external pond filter, pump and UV Sterilizer with suction lines originating from a bottom drain or a combination of a bottom drain and a skimmer. The bottom drain helps facilitate the removal of fish waste and other debris. Although they may seem complicated the qualities of components have a long service life and make an easily maintained product.

Can you customize?

No body of water is beyond the design and engineering capabilities of Aquarius. Our goal is high quality value engineering in the design stage to minimize installed cost and more importantly the lowest cost of ownership. We usually gain the lowest cost of ownership by utilizing the highest efficiency pumps available. Our designs often may not look “pretty” in a CAD format but the end result is often ½ the expected cost with a better end product. Often the design of a “Bog Filter” is utilized for filtration if space is available. A Bog Filter uses a bed of gravel and plants with underwater piping to create a large biological filter.

What are the safety concerns?

Consult your local building department regarding the maximum depth allowed without a fence or the need for a fenced in area.  You may need to look at the likely foot travel routs within the property and provide adequate space to allow movement without the risk of falling in. Adequate lighting so the pond can be seen at night. Proximity of any electrical wiring or device that may fall into the pond (there are state and local codes governing the proximity of electrical devices to water features). You must also call 811 “National call before you dig”.

What are the aesthetics?

A well designed pond should look natural within the property. Take into account the viewing area and any natural elevations the pond can be incorporated in.

Are there environmental issues?

Ponds should not be placed in low lying areas that may be subject to flooding and possible contamination with pesticides, herbicides and animal waste. Also do not place under trees that tend to drop leaves, berries or blossoms that will increase the maintenance unnecessarily. The site should have 4-6 hours worth of sunlight each day. It is always best to dig in undisturbed soil to avoid settling.

Are there rules for incorporating fish?

The homeowner may say “No Fish” and later want fish. It is always best to “overbuild” and exceed expectations. You can never have enough filtration. A general rule for success for a water garden with a filtered pond with a skimmer and biological waterfall is approximately 3 to 4 inches of fish for every square foot of pond surface area. A Koi pond can handle a much larger fish load.

How should I size the pond?

When thinking of a pond size budget is usually the first concern. However, it is very often the case where a homeowner usually regrets installing too small of a water feature. When proposing a pond think bigger and better. You can always downsize the project. It is also not uncommon for a homeowner to have a small water feature replaced with a larger one as they evolve in their new hobby.

What size pump should be installed?

There are three primary concerns; the ecological stability of the body of water itself, the visual expectation of the homeowner as well as energy consumption.

  • The ecological stability of the body of water: As a general rule for Backyard Water Gardens we like to see the total volume of the pond turned over ½ - 1 times per hour.
  • The Visual Expectations of the Homeowner: Some people may want a trickle and some may desire “Niagara Falls”. It is important to ask what ones expectations are as you don’t want to disappoint. Common waterfall widths are 14, 16, 18, 24, 26 and 50” usually the one used is determined by the filtering requirements of the pond. Once a falls width is determined we recommend asking how thick of a column of water one desire coming over the falls. Usually ¼ - ½ of an inch over a perfectly level weir is adequate but 2” is not unheard of. It all comes down to ones choice. There is a formula below #5 to help you calculate your pump delivery needs.
  • Energy Consumption: We have eliminated all but the highest energy efficient pumps from our product offering as energy consumption is the single highest cost of ownership. For the people who desire “Niagara Falls” it is not uncommon to install two pumps and run one full time for ecological demands and run the other in “party mode” for the effect.

What type of pump should be installed?

Submersible pumps have been the overwhelming choice of pond pumps since the inception of the exploding pond market. This is primarily due to the ease of installation and a short learning curve. However the demands we ask of these pumps to run 24/7 is astronomical to say the least. Without exception this is the primary complaint and “Pain Point” for installers and homeowners. There is more insight as to why pumps fail in the “Why Pumps Fail” section below. The best option regarding pumps is the installation of External Pond Pumps. These pumps tend to last many times longer then submersibles due to their design. They utilize TEFC (totally enclosed fan cooled) motors and ceramic seals and are completely rebuildable. High Efficiency External Pond Pumps operate at 1,725 RPM (rotations per minute) compared to their pool counterparts which operate at 3,450 RPM. This and their design lead to High Output Volume and Low Head Pressure. The disadvantage to be overcome with the installation of an external pump is they need to be hidden which can be overcome with landscape plantings or faux rock covers. The plumbing is also more complicated but easily overcome. External Pumps may also need more maintenance to make sure they do not clog and lose their prime and burn up the seals. If a pond will not be maintained it may just be the best option to use a good quality submersible that will have a thermal overload that will shut it down when it is not covered with water to cool it down.

How do I size a pond liner?

  • Width: Width + (2 x Depth) + (2 x Overlap). So a width of 10’ with a 1.5’ depth and 1’ overlap = 10+1.5+1.5+1+1= 15’. So the liner would need to be 15’ wide.
  • Length: Length + (2 x Depth) + (2 x Overlap). So a length of 15’ with a 1.5’ depth and 1’ overlap = 15+1.5+1.5+1+1= 20’. So the liner would need to be 20’ long.

How do I determine the water volume?

To Determine What the Volume (Gallons) of Water are in a Rectangular or Square Pond:

  • Step 1 Cubic Feet: Width x Length x Average Depth = Cubic Feet. For the above pond with a Width of 10, Length of 15’ and an average depth of 1.5’. 10 x 15 x 1.5 = 225 Square Feet.
  • Step 2 Determine Gallons: There are 7.5 gallons per cubic foot of water. 225 Square Feet x 7.5 Gallons per Cubic Foot = 1,687.5 Gallon Pond.
  • To Determine What the Volume (Gallons) of Water are in a Round Pond:
    • Top Diameter (In Feet) x Bottom Diameter (In Feet) x Depth (In feet) x .785 = Cubic Feet of Pond. Cubic Feet of Pond x 7.5 Gallons per Cubic Foot = Gallons in Pond. For Example 3’TD x 3’BD x 2’Depth: 3 x 3 x 2 x .785 = 14.13 Cubic Feet x 7.5 Gallons per Cubic Foot = 105.98 Gallon Pond.

How do I determine the quantity of rocks to include?

It has become a popular practice to line the entire parameter of the pond with stone as well as covering the entire liner. This has been done for two reasons; to create additional surface are for biological habitat filtration as well as aesthetics and protecting the liner. There are now many who believe that the stone after a short period becomes completely packed with debris and anaerobic (dead) material. This leads to a much harder pond to clean and some say they are forced to completely drain the pond and power wash the stones to remove all the silt and debris. So the true amount of stone actually needed depends on your philosophy. But most definitely stone will be needed for the perimeter, waterfall and stream bed. The data below is for entirely covering the water feature.

Pond Project Rock and Labor Estimation Chart

Pond Size

Sq ft (LxW)

Gravel (tons)

6-12" Rock (tons)

12-18" Rock (tons)

18-24" Rock (tons)

Estimated Man Hours

8'x11'

88

.5

.5

1.5

.5

30

11'x11'

121

.75

1

1

1

35

11'x16'

176

1

1

2.5

1

40

16'x16'

256

1.75

2

2.5

2

45

16'x21'

336

2

2

4.5

2

50

21'x26'

546

3.75

3.5

6.5

3.5

65

Stream and Waterfall Project Rock and Labor Estimation Chart

Description

Liner (Stream Length + 5')

Gravel (tons)

6-12" Rock (tons)

12-18" Rock (tons)

18-24" Rock (tons)

Estimated Man Hours

10' Stream

10'x15'

.25

.25

1

.25

10

15' Stream

10'x20'

.5

.5

1

.75

15

20' Stream

10'x25'

.75

.5

2

.5

20

18" Waterfall

na

0

0

.5

.5

4

26" Waterfall

na

0

.25

.75

.5

6

50" Waterfall

na

0

.5

1

1.5

10

How do I determine the amount of water required for a waterfall weir?

When designing a waterfall by the effect of the water flowing over the weir it is not really up to you to choose the pump. Your feature will choose it for you. Spillways and formal water features often only need +/- ½” thick water column to look good. The chart below will be very helpful in determining what size pump will be required for your desired effect. The important thing is to take into account the elevation to the waterfall and the “head loss” in your piping system to determine how much water from the pump will actually reach the waterfall weir. For this reason we recommend you always upsize the pump to guarantee the desired effect will be reached and the water feature effect is not undersold.

Estimated Water Flow Over a Weir or Waterfall

Depth (Inches)

Discharge Per Foot of Weir Width

Depth (Inches)

Discharge Per Foot of Weir Width

Cubic Feet Per Second

Gallons Per Minute

Gallons Per Hour

Cubic Feet Per Second

Gallons Per Minute

Gallons Per Hour

0.5

0.03

13

780

3.25

0.47

211

12660

0.75

0.05

24

1440

3.5

0.53

236

14160

1

0.08

36

2160

3.75

0.58

262

15720

1.25

0.11

50

3000

4

0.64

287

17220

1.5

0.15

66

3960

4.25

0.7

315

18900

1.75

0.19

83

4980

4.5

0.77

343

20580

2

0.23

102

6120

4.75

0.83

372

22320

2.25

0.27

122

7320

5

0.9

402

24120

2.5

0.32

142

8520

5.25

0.97

433

25980

2.75

0.36

164

9840

5.5

1.03

463

27780

3

0.42

187

11220

5.75

1.1

495

29700

What is pond plumbing hydraulics?

Pond pump performance is rated in “Feet of Head” or “Elevation”. “Feet of Head” creates “Pressure Loss” and thus flow loss because the pump is pushing water up an “Elevation” making it work harder. The higher “Feet of Head” the lower the flow. One fact that is usually forgotten is the “Friction Loss” in all the pipe and fittings before the water ever reaches the waterfall. This “Friction Loss” can be calculated to determine additional “Feet of Head” which further diminishes the output of the pump. The “Feet of Head” loss in the pipe and fittings is almost always MUCH greater then the actual “Feet of Head” loss due to the elevation of the waterfall. All of this may seem overwhelming but it doesn’t need to be. Usually the solution is to just look at the pump specifications and use the 10’ performance curve even though the waterfall may only be at a 3’ elevation. This does come into play on larger water features and an Aquarius Associate can help demystify this concern. Please note that all submersible pumps that are not of the “magnetic drive” variant need back pressure to prolong their service lives. Read more in “Why Pumps Fail” below.

How do I properly install a submersible pump?

Submersible pumps are put under extreme operating conditions in a pond application and fail 90% of the time due to abuse and misuse. Careful attention and proper design and installation techniques will help eliminate these failures:

  • Low Water Level: “Run Dry”. Submersible Pumps are water cooled. Although they have “Thermal Overloads” to shut them down when they are overheating this “Cycling” is like driving your car without any coolant until the computer turns it off and then letting it cool down and driving another mile. It won’t be long until you blow a gasket and it’s all over. The following solutions are easily done with little time and effort and pay for themselves fourfold compared with the time of replacing a “defective” pump and possible loss of fish. One visual sign of run dry is rings of sludge burnt onto the pump motor housing.
  • Auto Fill Valve: Relying of the owner of a pond to fill the pond 100% of the time is unrealistic. An Auto Fill Valve is a must. Aquarius has easily installed valves that use a ¼” line that can easily be “Slit trenched” into the ground with a spade. Aquarius also has electric level controls that turn on a solenoid valve for unlimited fill capacity.
  • Low Level Pump Switch: A Low Level Pump Switch shuts down a pump when the water level gets to an unsafe level. These are extremely easy to install with wire ties on the discharge plumbing and with small pumps they are ‘Plug and Play”. Again this is a must for all installs.
  • Clean The Skimmer Filter: It is imperative that the homeowner understand that the skimmer filters get dirty and need to be cleaned. If they are not cleaned properly the Auto Fill Valve will introduce more water then necessary because of the drop of water level in the back of the skimmer and a visual high water level will be seen. If a Low Level Pump Switch is installed the falls will be “cycling” on and off. This cycling is also not good for the pump but better then burning the pump out.
  • Improper Head Height: This is an “unspoken” silent killer of pond pumps that plagues our industry. There are two types of submersible pumps; “Direct Drive” which are motor driven pumps which have a motor connected directly to an impeller and “Magnetic Drive” which have a fixed magnet impeller assembly and an electric magnet which drives the impeller assembly. Direct Drive units have higher head and come in many volume sizes. The Magnetic Drive units are lower head and lower volume.
    • This problem is associated with Direct Drive units. Submersible pumps are designed to operate at a certain RPM and Amperage Draw. Contrary to popular belief the higher the “head height” (back pressure) the lower the RPM and the lower the Amp Draw. In testing it is found that smaller direct drive pumps need about 10’ of head backpressure to reach their amp “sweet spot” without effecting performance. All larger pumps in the 1HP and above need anywhere from 15 to 30 feet of head backpressure to ensure a long service life. In informing one experienced pond professional with this information his response was “that’s amazing, when I think about it all my larger ponds with 10’ high waterfalls I have no problems with the pumps it is all my 3’ waterfalls that I have nothing but pump problems with”. The way to address this problem is as follows:
    • Install a Friction Loss Device: All pond professionals should own an “Amperage Probe” and be willing to dial in their pumps. Simply install a gate or ball valve and simply reduce the flow of the pump until the operating amps of the pump is reached. It is that simple. If the motor does not have an Amp rating WATTS /VOLTS = AMPS. This simple procedure can double and triple the life of a pump. For large pumps this can prolong the pump life from weeks to years. A pump that is not “dialed in” is the same as a car running at “redline” until it explodes.

How do I properly install an external pump?

External Pumps are technically referred to as “Close-Coupled End-Suction Self-Priming Centrifugal Pumps”. These pumps are of the design that have been running industry and supplying our homes since the birth of the industrial age. Most of the problems with these pumps come from improper installation techniques. The following are some good installation practices to insure maximum pump performance and service life.

  • Same concerns as Submersible Pumps: As above regarding Submersible Pumps install an Auto Fill Valve, Low Level Pump Switch and if a skimmer is use make sure it is maintained as well as the filter basket on the pump.
  • Suction Line Installation: External pumps Suck/Draw water much less efficient then they Push water. The more efficient the suction lines the better the performance.
  • Suction Line Size: To reduce friction loss the Suction Line Size should be increased a minimum of one size larger then the inlet of the pump. If it is a 2” inlet use a 3” pipe. For a 3” inlet use a 4” pipe. Flow velocity should never exceed 6 feet per second, as low as 3 feet per second is ideal.
  • Suction line Length: As a rule of thumb the closer a pump is to its water source the better. The reason is the farther away the source, the greater the friction loss. However, the need to put a pump farther away from the pond is easily overcome by using correct suction line sizing. It is all about reducing friction loss and getting the most water for the energy used. Please note the further away the longer time it takes to get an initial prime.
  • Suction Line Orientation: It is necessary for the suction line to gradually rise up to the pump for air to escape. Undulations cause air to be trapped and restrict flow.
  • Entrance to Pump: It is necessary to install an “Eccentric Reducer” when downsizing the pipe entering the pump. An Eccentric Reducer has a flat top and a beveled bottom which allows air to flow out of the suction line ensuring a clean flow of water. A short piece of pipe should be installed between the eccentric reducer 2 times the diameter of the pipe inlet size. A short piece of pipe installed before the eccentric reducer should be as short as possible but at least 4 times the diameter of the pipe. All this leads to the most efficient flow of the water into the pump.
  • Pump Installed Height: As the pump inlet point related to the water level it should be as close as possible. If the pump is below the water level ‘Flooded Suction” that is the best case scenario as it will have a positive inlet pressure.
  • Check Valve: It is necessary to install a check valve on the suction to prevent the need of priming the pump every time it shuts down. Use a swing check as they have the least friction loss compared to spring checks which greatly reduce flow.
  • Discharge Pipe: As always our main goal is to reduce friction loss. The larger the better and this usually depends on how far the pump is away from the pond and what other devices that causes friction loss like Bead Filters and UV lights will be installed after the pump. If the pump is relatively close usually the same size as the discharge or one size larger is sufficient.