Pumps, Fountains, Filters and Toys for Dummies

Our Team of Experts

Pond Plumbing for Dummies...and useful hints for the rest of us.

SKIPPY SEZ: One of the attractions of having a pond is the sound of running water, it soothes the soul. Also, running water has a very beneficial effect on the life of the pond. We are not going to get into which life likes moving water and which life likes dead still water except to say that most of us like the type of life that likes running water and needs it to survive, so we are only going to talk about ponds where the water moves around a bit...which means some type of pump. AND there are a bunch... all types, sizes, shapes, with every horsepower, amp and GPH rating vs. head height etc. you could think of. Let us give you just a few simple explanations of some of the terms you will running into when considering a pump.

Amps... go hand in hand with watts which simply put is the money you pay to your electric company. If that explanation is to simple for you, then go talk to an electrician. Lower amps = lower cost. Take our word for it.

SKIPPY SEZ: A sump pump that is designed for sucking out a basement may at first look like a good buy, but check the amps. That pump may cost you a bunch in the long run, remember it runs all the time in a pond situation.

GPH... Gallons Per Hour. A rating that goes hand in hand with something called head height. The best way to explain head height is to think of it this way... a pump is used to pump water from one place to another, usually this is uphill. The head height is where the water ends up. The height the pump has to pump the water. The reason it is rated is that as you increase the height that the pump needs to pump the GPH rating decreases.
Just a small variable here.. that rating which is printed on most boxes that pumps come in, is assuming a straight up measurement. If you are also pushing this water some distance away from the pump as it raises then the efficiency of the pump is also decreased somewhat, the pump is working harder and the head height rating is even lower. BUT, do not get nuts about all this, the two main ratings which concern us are GPH and Head Height, there is a long complicated formula for all this which includes such things as hose size, length, height, time of day, rotation of the moon, weather...NO, not all that, but a formula none the less that needs a rocket scientist to explain it. For most of our applications just worry about GPH and Head Height. Unless the run from the pump's inlet is real far from the outflow you will not see much difference in performance, that is subject to head height. You might be amazed at how fast the rating of a pump decreases as you raise the head height.
Example: a lot of 250 GPH pumps will not raise water over 6 feet, the pump actually stops. So if you got a 2ft deep pond and a 2ft high water fall then the flow out of that 250 GPH pump would not be confused with Niagara Falls. On the other hand a 5000 GPH monster pushing water through a 1 1/2" hose down a 1 foot steam would make a sound that would keep neighbors awake two blocks away. Which brings us to why all this GPH, Head Height, etc. is important...balance and common sense.

The last two examples of pump use hopefully will cover the common sense part and as far as balance is concerned here goes... Almost every book we have read tries to come up with some type of formula which compares the amount of gallons in the whole system (the pond) to the size of the pump and yes there are some guidelines which should be observed, but keep in mind this is your pond, your rules, your problems and your enjoyment. Some people like a gushing waterfall while others like just a small trickle. When it comes to life in your pond there are also some considerations to keep in mind. Which we will go into in a moment. The water flowing through a filter and that filter's effectiveness because of the flow is also important. Which is the topic we will cover first.

SKIPPY SEZ: We would like to meet the "pond guru" who knows exactly the ratio of gallons per flow rate for every type of filter in use. There are just to many variables to take into consideration. Water hardness, number of fish and their size, filter medium, cubic inches of filtering material etc. just to name a few. But, also let us not get nuts over this. Most filter manufactures have done the work for us. They will tell us in their propaganda the pump size and pond size that they recommend for their products. As a rule of thumb, if you stay in the guidelines and the basic filter design is not flawed, they work fairly well. (Note: We want so badly to make a few recommendation here on our own about filters, to tell you what works and what we have found out is just plain junk, but that would take up a book.) So, Click here to send us E-Mail and we will, if we have tested a filter you are considering, give you the best advise we can. This is a free service. Mostly because we have not figured out a way to charge for it yet, so take advantage. One thing we will state here is that we really like "out of the pond, flow through" type filters. AND the very best system we have used is the Rubbermaid stock tank conversion, up flow filter, acting as a waterfall. You can get more information on this type of filter by contacting us by E-Mail or take a look at Building a Bio-Logical Filter for your Ponds.

Back to pumps and flow rates and like that... when you consider a pump keep in mind the work you want it to do...i.e. gushing waterfall vs. trickle, towering fountain or calm bubbler. Consider the manufactures recommendation on what pump to use with the filter you choose. And also consider the Toys. Toys are all the fountains, spitting frogs, aerators, etc. you may want to incorporate into your water garden landscape. You can use one pump for each toy you add or with a little forethought have just one pump run the entire system. Keep in mind each outlet, each flow of water is a separate head so the more the toys the bigger the pump. Again common sense.

SKIPPY SEZ: Here's a double tip... Here in Michigan where it gets cold, we sometimes experience a hard water problem.... called ice. We let our main pump and waterfall run as long as the forming ice does not divert the water where it might flow out of the pond. Late in the fall before the surface of the pond ices up, we install a deicer (floating heater). This is necessary to keep a hole in the ice open during severe cold to let gases escape from the still living pond and protect the fish. By using strings, we attach the deicer so it floats over the deepest part of the water. A problem with these deicers is that they are watt burners; sometimes 1500 watts or more, therefore they are money grabbers, so we use an aerator box. Click here to see one we recommend. This aerator box will keep a good size hole open in the ice most of the winter and is very energy efficient (only about 45 watts). Saving us money due to the fact that we only plug in the deicer when it is absolutely needed. One more thing.... the aerator box is very beneficial when used all year in helping enhance the entire biological process of the pond. We recommend you have one in your pond.

Second part of the tip... once you have decided on the pump and toys etc. put the system together (plumbing etc.) before you do your landscaping both in and out of the pond. Get it up and running for a day. It is much easier to correct a problem without moving two tons of river rock to get to a hose line, we did that and it was a pain.

What were we talking about? Oh yes... pumps and such. With all that said, some of you may still want a recommendation which states some type of guideline which in turn states pump size vs. pond gallons. Okay, okay here goes...
Use your head...common sense should always prevail. For example do not attempt to re-circulate a 50gal whiskey barrel pond with a 5000gal per hour pump. Try to stay within the guidelines set up by the filter manufacturer. We will even say this: use the smallest GPH pump you can get away with, taking into consideration, the type of filter you use, the amount of waterfall flow you want and the toys. Which brings us to the other extreme of the above example: a 5000gal pond being re-circulated by a 50gal per hour pump, just does not get it either. We feel due to trials and a lot of errors that you should find a pump that's going to pump around your total gallons in your pond every hour or two but take into account that because of all of the above variables , nothing is chiseled in stone.
One more thing about circulation....and that being... the flow of water and it's effect on the biological filtering process. No long winded explanation, and if you have not heard the term "biological filter" you soon will, just go into any place were pond people are. Simply put, the biological fitter process is the process that Mom set up in the beginning to break down waste matter into more suitable compounds. This process takes time, that is the way she set it up, we got to deal with it, in fact we want to deal with it. The process works, but we have to give it time and the reason it is important is that it is beneficial to our ponds. The process takes place in the entire pond, but is real effective when it happens in the filter.

Like we said, a lot of this bio-stuff takes place in the filter and it takes time. If you are over pumping your filter, pushing it past the recommendation of the manufacturer, then that biological filtering effect has a hard time taking place. Unlike swimming pool filters that are designed to completely filter out anything that comes along, a pond filter needs time to trap things, let them biologically decompose and the beneficial stuff gets returned to the pond. Swimming pool filters are not designed to biologically decompose matter, they just trap the stuff that the chlorine killed. A big difference from pond filtration. Now if you just want a pond for the running water effect with no plant life or animal life in it, you have read to far, go back to the beginning and see where we said use bleach, it kills everything. By the way if you are a bleacher, then thanks for coming, see ya later, have a nice day. You do not need to go on reading for we are going to talk about... Life.

Whether you have an established pond or are just thinking about putting your first one in, check out our FREE ADVICE PAGE and then we invite you to call our Help Line:
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Last updated September 7, 2013 -- Page Creation by Carl W. Richardson -- Check out Carl's Web Page