Water Garden FAQs

We have fitted a well-built list of common FAQ’s customers have had during our 25 years in this business. If you do not find your answers below please contact us; we will be happy to provide you answers and quality customer service.

How big should my pond be?

As large as possible as larger ponds are less costly per gallon and require less maintenance. They are more stable ecologically, safer for fish and hold more lilies and other plants. We encourage new pond clients to build their second pond first. In other words don’t start out too small and without a pump or filter. The biggest complaint from first-time pond builders is that they wish they had made their pond bigger.

How much should I spend?

Small container gardens with plants start at about $100 while full-size water gardens with filters and waterfalls run from around $1,000 to five or ten times that. Pond installation is really an investment that pays for itself. It returns dividends not only in year-round enjoyment but also in increased property value.

Should I use a flexible liner or a preformed pond?

Most times liners are less expensive and more forgiving, i.e. more adaptable to different sizes, depths and site conditions. Preforms sometimes work better as formal ponds, indoors or inside decks, but they are not easier to install. Preforms are also more difficult to filter or skim and are usually too small to overwinter fish well.

How deep does the pond have to be?

Typical depths vary from about 18 to 36 inches for water gardens and three feet to six feet deep for fish ponds. Check local codes for depth allowances and any fencing requirements. Ponds for plants only and a few fish are better shallower as they are safer, easier to clean and plants need sunlight which deeper fish ponds inhibit.

Do I need a filter?

Clear ponds can be built without a filter, but most people use filtration to clean the pond for them, i.e. less maintenance for the owner. We recommend two filters for water gardens – A mechanical skimmer filter to protect and hide the pump and skim the pond of dust & debris and a biological filter to keep the water clear and safe for fish. Without a skimmer, ponds accumulate considerable bottom sludge each year, which can turn anyone away from water gardening.

How big does the filter have to be?

In general, the bigger the better as bigger filters last longer between cleanings and handle larger fish loads. Our bog filters are usually between 1/5 and 1/10 the surface area of the pond.

How often should I clean my filter?

Mechanical filters should be cleaned whenever they slow the flow of water to the pump. Smaller, in-pond filters may have to be cleaned daily, and that is why we recommend larger bog filters and PondSweep skimmers. These are usually cleaned about once a week. It takes about 5 minutes to empty the net and clean the mats. Biological filters should not be cleaned except when they are so blocked that water flow is diminished. A large biological filter, like the PuriFalls, is generally only cleaned once per year.

Do I need a pump?

Pumps move water to create fountains, waterfalls and move water through filters. They are highly recommended to keep your pond clean and create moving water. Splashing water looks and sounds beautiful and attracts birds like no other garden feature.

Do I have to add fish?

No, but fish do eat mosquitoes and are recommended. They are very easy to care for, help eat pond algae and can be trained to eat out of your hand. They add color and personality to any pond. Be careful not to buy too many or let them outgrow the size of your pond or the filter system.

How many fish can I put in my pond?

Typical water gardens with skimmers and bog filters can usually support 5-inches of fish for every 5 square feet of surface area. A 10’X 10′ pond, with 100 square feet could, therefore, support about 20 five-inch fish with some room for fish growth. fish ponds with extensive additional filtration can usually be stocked with much higher fish loads. Remember, fish grow, but filters don’t.

How do I get rid of green water?

Create a living ecosystem in your pond. Plants, filters, pumps, seed bacteria and a decorative gravel addition to your pond should eliminate most green water. The fewer fish and the less they are fed, the fewer nutrients there will be available for algae growth.

How do I get rid of long string algae?

Remember, string algae is a tireless pond worker, helping to keep the pond water clear and feeding the fish. It is an important part of any living pond ecosystem. Good pond filters and pond care is usually all that’s needed. If it becomes excessive, it can be removed by hand. There are also mild pond additives that suppress the growth of string algae. We are looking to control algae not eliminate it.

Do I need a bottom drain?

Bottom drains promote better pond water recirculation through the filters, so they keep your pond water clearer and safer for fish. They are a must for fish ponds and recommended for any water garden, especially for water gardens over 3 feet deep. They can be added to a pond very easily if using a pond skimmer.

How do I “balance” my pond?

There are many formulas promoting so many plants, fish, snails, etc./sq. ft. of the pond. Some of these formulas do work as they are based on experience. In truth, nature will tend to balance a pond that is set up as an ecosystem. Harsh chemicals, like algaecides, damage the ecosystem and prevent nature from reaching a balance in your pond. If you find your pond growing excess algae, that usually means you are “under filtered”, and nature is responding, i.e. “Balancing” your pond by adding algae to complete the filtration process. We recommend “Balancing” your pond using the filters, plants, gravel and a pump shown in our Pond Planner. This way a natural “balance” of key ecosystem elements of plants, fish, oxygen, and bacteria can be achieved, while at the same time assuring a low-maintenance pond.

Not only “can you” we highly recommend it to balance any container pond, starter pond or water garden as described in our Pond Planner. Gravel provides a huge surface area for bacteria to colonize and is nature’s natural filter, especially when planted with aquatics. Using inexpensive gravel cuts down the cost of other pond filters and pumps as gravel acts as a tremendous pond filter and helps establish the ecosystem.

How do I overwinter my fish and plants?

Even in freezing climates like the Northern U.S. and Canada, fish and plants are best left outdoors to hibernate naturally. A two-foot deep pond with a surface aerator or heater to keep a hole open is sufficient for most ponds up to zone 4. Clean the pond of debris before the pond ices over. In colder climates and with larger fish, deeper is better as the warmest water (around 40′ F) is denser than colder water, so it forms a “warm puddle” on the pond bottom. Don’t disturb that bottom layer of warm water and turn off any bottom drains. Remove any tropical plants and bring them indoors. Tropical lilies can be cleaned and stored in sawdust.

What do I do with the excavated dirt?

Save it! 1 Most yards are flat or sloped away from the house, and the extra dirt can be used to create a planting berm to hide the waterfall filter and create a waterfall and/or stream running towards the house. If your yard already slopes toward the house you may need some of the dirt to terrace the pond wall closest the house.

What chemicals do I need?

It’s good news and a selling point for good pond design. Very few pond chemicals are ever needed with a Robin’s Nest natural pond. Unless your pond is on a well, city water must be “dechlorinated” before it is safe for fish. Beyond that, a balanced ecosystem requires very little additional pond chemicals. Nitrifier bacteria is essential to jump-start the pond’s ecosystem so green water can be avoided. Regular pond bacteria in dry or liquid form can be added weekly or monthly thereafter to help keep your pond cleaner. (Pond bacteria are friendly, and should never be considered or referred to as “chemicals”. Long string algae is the chief exception to occasional chemical use, especially in the first year or two of pond life before the ecosystem is fully matured. We recommend Pond Balance and Algae Fix for string algae control.