Basic Pond Construction for Dummies

Our Team of Experts

Basic pond construction for dummies...and useful hints for the rest of us.


Before we get started with all the ins and outs of basic pond construction, we would like to give you a little background on why we are the so called "experts" when it comes to water gardening. It is because we have made all the mistakes... we literally have either tried or done every stupid thing you can possibly think of in building and maintaining a pond. What follows is a short list of dumb things NOT to do if you want your pond to be fun instead of work.
  1. Just dig a hole in the ground and add water. A pond unless it was made by Mom (Mother Nature) needs something to hold the water other than just plain old dirt, like some kind of liner, but more on liners, proper design for waterfalls, flows and such later.
  2. Do not circulate the water or use some type of filter system. Unless you are making a cesspool instead of a pond you will need to move that water around a bit. More on filters, pumps etc. later (be patient)
  3. Put what life (both plant and animal) you want in the pond. This you can do, that is if you are ready to except the consequences. Do you really want to do the care and feeding of a 8 ft croc... as in odile that is. We will talk about what you can safely add to the life that Mom adds to make your pond as compatible as possible later under the heading Life.

That is the big three... The 3 biggest mistakes you can make when building a pond. All problems associated with failed ponds seem to come from these mistakes or at least some variation of them. As we go through this text about ponds we will try to show you some things that have worked and a few that have not. This is not a contest, sure someone, somewhere will find a way to make something work where we have failed, but... so what, this is a beginners help page, and as such we have attempted to give you some advice on how not to do things as well as how to... in an effort to save you some problems. After all we have made all the mistakes for you, no need to thank us, it is our job.

If you get into this hobby and start talking to pond people, you soon will be hearing about "balance". Pond people are those who have gotten their feet wet as it where. People who have built one, ran one, and had or have one... a pond. The term "balance" refers to the state of the pond where it is for the most part self sustaining.
NOTE: Balance is a subjective term at best, an "ideal" state for a pond to be in, but that "ideal" state is defined by the individual. AND since ponds are subject to the environment in most cases, which means constant change, balance should be considered a goal, a goal which requires some work to obtain. The amount of work that is needed is entirely up to you and the type of balance you decide you want.
Example: You can very easily balance a simple 50 gal pre-formed single fountain pond with no life what so ever by pouring bleach in it every day. Bleach kills life, you want a no-life balanced pond use bleach. Done deal. DO NOT USE BLEACH IN YOUR POND IF YOU WANT LIFE TO LIVE THERE. (WE HOPE THAT IS CLEAR) BUT... if you want life then a few other rules apply...

We do not like rules, rules are made by someone so that someone else will follow them. The basic concept of rules is contrary to our nature. Who wants to follow when they can lead. As far your pond is concerned, you are going to build it, maintain it, enjoy it etc. SO... when it comes to your pond make up your own set of rules, with these three exceptions... which are MOM'S RULES:
Rule #1.
Life finds a way, Rule #2. Mom is always in charge, Rule #3. Mom makes the rules.
Mom being of course: Mother Nature. To illustrate a point about rule #1. If you took a kiddy wading pool, put water into it and did nothing else... Soon life would come to that crude pond. Microscopic plant and animal life would soon start the life cycle. Breed, grow, live and die. Now this type of backyard pond may not be what most would consider an attractive addition to the landscape, but it is a pond no less. Few would want to have the boss over for a bar-b-q next to a smelly, green slime cesspool. Which means we want the type of life we want, not what just comes along. Mom put life there because it is... simply her job.
Which brings us to rule # 2. Mom is always in charge and has all the time in the world. Unless you want to engage in a constant running battle with her you better learn right up front that the best way to introduce the type of plant and animal life we want in our pond is to let Mom know in such a way that she will except it, not just do it and hope for the best. Mom does not care what type of life we have in our ponds, just that there is life there. We can put what ever we want in the pond as long as we can show Mom we can care for it under her rule.
Rule # 3 is simply a re-cap of this understanding of the nature of Mom. You can get what you want as long as you suggest, not force it, upon Mom. Maybe a good illustration of this balance concept is to realize that the entire world is in balance. That is the way Mom set it up. Every aspect of life as we know it, is in complete harmony. Life begins, lives and dies. The world works.

WHAT??? you might be saying to yourself right now... "how about oil spills, air pollution, the all out assault on the forests, chemical overkill, war, and about a thousand other bad things... balance? The world is in total turmoil all the time, not at all balanced." Well, according to who and on who's time table? Remember Mom is in charge, she does not care what life is here, just so long as there is life. Another thing to think about is that Mom works at her own pace. If that Valdez oil thing in Alaska had not been cleaned up by us, she would of done it just fine. It may have taken her a few million years to do it, but she does not care how long it takes, we do. We want what we want and we want it now. That also goes for our pond. That is okay, after all we built the pond and it is our right to have it the way we want it. Right? Yes to some extent, just remember it is Mom who gave you the knowledge, materials and tools to do it. Which brings us back to why Mom's rules are important. If we do what we need to do to show Mom what we want in our pond in a way that is not completely in opposition to her rules then she will let us have it. More detail on this later, we just wanted to give you a short overview of the concept of a natural balanced pond which you will soon be hearing about and the fact that the only way to achieve it is to follow Mom's rules.


SKIPPY SEZ: Do Not Get Nuts! Water gardening is a fun and relaxing hobby. You can build a pond and enjoy it. Take your time and gather as much information as you can. Ask for advice.
Learn from other's mistakes and do not beat yourself up over your own mistakes.

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 November 21, 1999
Page Creation by Carl W. Richardson (