I have a total of six ponds and would like to take this opportunity to give you some sound advice on just about everything to do with pond construction, building an ecosystem that works, and animals that acclimate best in an artificial pond setting. Hopefully, you’ll avoid making the mistakes I made.
1. Plan out your pond and ecosystem ahead of time
The very first thing I recommend to any new pond enthusiast is to have a solid plan for your pond. That’s not to say situations won’t pop up along the way that you haven’t planned for. Believe me, they do. Let’s first talk about potential pond placement.
- Don’t place your pond at the lowest point of your property.
- Place your pond in an area where it drains properly during an event such as a torrential downpour.
- Avoid placing your pond too close to your neighbor’s property.
- Take rope or chalk and draw an outline of where you want to place your pond. Then, take a good, long, hard look at it while deciding if it’s the best spot to place the pond.
- Check your state and local laws about pond construction.
- IMPORTANT: Before you begin digging your pond, make sure the ground is free of buried electrical wires and water/sewerage pipes. Contact your local or county property inspector and be certain.
2. Picking a pond liner that’s right for you
What kind of pond are you building? If you’re making a small to a medium-sized garden pond, a PVC or EPDM liner will suffice. PVC is cheaper and lighter, but EPDM lasts longer. Is your pond round, or does it have turns and curves along the way? PVC works better with turns and curves than EPDM. Remember, it’s best not to have excessive curves and turns in your pond anyway because such ponds lose oxygen quicker. It’s better to go with a round, oval, or even kidney-shaped pond.
Finally, are you planning to make a large pond with significant depth or even a lake? In this case, your only practical choice is polyethylene. Don’t worry, polyethylene is good stuff, I use it for five of my six ponds. It’s cheaper and lighter than EPDM and it’s even more durable. It’s about the same as EPDM when it comes to curves and bends in the perimeter of the pond. Plan on liner folds or better yet, design your pond with fewer curves and bends. I know this isn’t always possible and have plenty of liner folds in five of my ponds. To a certain extent, they’re unavoidable. Polyethylene welds together which is why it’s suitable for large projects like lakes. It’s cut to fit whatever dimensions you need and works fine for smaller projects too. It’s my first choice when choosing a pond liner.
Talking pond liners
If I were making something extremely small, maybe a four-foot by six-foot project, I’d probably go with PVC or EPDM. If it had unavoidable curves and bends, I’d use PVC. Let me be clear about something. When I refer to PVC, I’m talking about PVC specifically intended for pond construction, not tarps you cover outdoor cars with. The PVC I’m referring to has woven fabric through its middle. Also, use a pond underlayment for added protection no matter which one you choose.
3. Have patience when building your pond and ecosystem
Here’s a piece of advice that I can put to good use from time to time. When it comes to pond construction or setting up an ecosystem for the first time, things may not progress along as fast as you think they should. That’s normal. For example, when you experience your first bacteria bloom which is highly beneficial and necessary, it may last a long time. Four to six weeks isn’t uncommon. This is where patience comes in. Eventually, depending on the atmospheric conditions, your pond will become crystal clear as long as it’s set up correctly and you’re not adding excess fish food.
Another fine example that requires patience is adding fish. Let’s say you’re like me and you want a game fish pond with largemouth bass and bluegill. It’s not a good idea to add the largemouth bass the first season because the ponds ecosystem won’t be ready for a predator so high up on the food chain. Initially, build up their food source during the first season. This means adding mosquito fish and allowing them to reproduce in great numbers. Add non-invasive snails and bluegill. It’s also a good idea to add tadpoles of all kinds. Many toads come on their own but I suggest adding bullfrog tadpoles. You can also add minnows from your local bait store. Of course, before all this, you’ve added plenty of high-quality oxygenating plants that stay completely submerged. These include plants such as hornwort and anacharis.
4. The right time to add largemouth bass to your pond
While I’d like to tell you that you could add the bass on the second season, it’s against my better judgment. It’s best to add top food chain predator like largemouth bass on the third season. By this time, your pond is ready for them and everything goes much more smoothly. If you add largemouth bass the first season, food sources are minimal and it basically screws up the entire ecosystem. This slows down progress to a crawl and an entire season is wasted.
Build a good, strong, functioning ecosystem from the bottom, working your way up to the top of the pyramid. I know this through personal experience and as much as I love largemouth bass, they are like a freshwater version of a shark with voracious appetites. They need self-sustainable food that’s already in place. When you think about it, it’s simply common sense.
5. Electric pumps, filters, fountains, waterfalls, and other electrical add-ons
I make no secret about the fact that I don’t use any electrical equipment to filter or oxygenate my ponds. My ponds depend completely upon their own ecosystems to keep them in check naturally. That’s not to say I have absolutely no maintenance during the season to tend to.
For the most part, maintenance includes removal of occasional cattails, duckweed, and algae. I also have to replace sod in certain areas near the waterlines. This past summer, I spent a total of $25 on maintenance fees for my six ponds. This is the way I do things, but may not be right for you.
You may want a creek leading into your pond, or a waterfall, or fountain. A waterfall constructed correctly makes a stunning addition to just about any pond. To do this, you’ll need a good pump at the very least. There are also automatic fill valves and other electrical add-ons on the market.
I have two pieces of advice for you if this is the way you choose to go. First, I just want to make you aware of the fact that with such equipment, yearly maintenance fees will apply. How much they cost depends on what you have and how badly it’s broken.
6. My final word of advice on building your own pond
Assuming you’re okay with possible yearly maintenance fees that come along with electrical equipment, I’ll proceed with my last piece of advice. When it comes to electrical wiring and even water pipes (essentially, consider this plumbing), hire a professional to do the work. This is for safety reasons.
Don’t mess with electrical wires, even if you watched a tutorial on YouTube. Mistakes made with electrical wiring often lead to fatalities. The whole idea of building your pond is to relax and enjoy life, not end up six feet under. Be smart and be careful but at the same time, have fun and enjoy it!