Before ever starting on a pond there is one question you must ask yourself – "Do I want to ever have fish in my pond?". There is a big difference in the way a water garden and a fish pond are built. Fish need filtration (and an adequate amount of it!) while a garden pond, depending on how clear you want your water, can have nothing other than the plants themselves. Also, more maintenance is needed for a pond if you have goldfish or koi.
Dig a hole, put in a liner, decorate the edges and hide the liner. Put in a pump to circulate the water, if you so desire, and add a waterfall or decorative fountain. Add plants. Bingo – you now have a water garden!
Water Gardens are quite easy and, if murky water does not bother you, there is no need to add filtration. Plants are nature’s way of filtering water and, in some cases, the abundance of plants will do quite nicely to keep your pond clear except for Algae Bloom.. Algae is also very natural.
Fish are dependent on the pond as their home and must have proper filtration and aeration to remain healthy. Therefore, there are many precautions that you must take when building a pond that will one day hold fish. For instance:
Dig Your Hole – Many people like to include a plant shelf around the edge in a Water Garden to be used for plants and safety reasons (if a child falls in he may only fall onto the shelf). Though this is decorative and useful, it can be used by a predator, such as raccoons, for a fishing hole or to stand on while catching the fish. Our advice is to leave out the plant shelf if it doesn't create a health hazard.
Put in a Liner and Decorate the Edges – No difference really except watch what edges jut out onto the water’s edge. Fish, especially during spawning, will jump up from the water. A jagged edge of a rock could be lethal.
Put in a Pump to Circulate the Water – Not just any pump will do for a pond that contains fish. We recommend turning the water at least 1 time an hour so if you have a pond with 700 gallons, you should have a pump that will circulate 700 gallons per hour.
Add a Waterfall or Decorative Fountain – You must create bubbles for fish to breath. (Yes, they need oxygen!) A simple return of the water through a pipe may not be enough or you may need to increase your bubbles at certain times. Critical times of needing increased aeration are (1) at night, (2) whenever you add chemicals or medication to the water, (3) whenever you add salt and (4) during outside temperatures of high 80's or low 90's and above. By placing a fountain, air stone and/or fountain that spits water back into the pond you should have enough. A good rule of thumb is to add this increased aeration and just leave it running at all times.
Add Plants – Fish love the tender roots of plants such as Water Hyacinths and love to punch holes in the lily pads. Though they eat them and it can be tough to have both fish and plants, plants are naturally beneficial to your fish pond and you should not go without. Consider a separate section to your pond that the fish cannot swim to, perhaps an upper pond where the water circulates through before going back to the main pond area.
Filtration – We could go on for days about the proper filtration. We will only touch on the reasons for filtration in this article. Here are a few reasons to filter your water: (1) Remove Large "Trash" in the Water – Leaves and mulm will not go through filtration material and will be removed when you clean the filter media. (2) Remove Ammonia - Fish give off waste which is ammonia in the pond water and lethal in any concentration. Nature provides good bacteria that breaks ammonia down to something harmless and useful. This bacteria needs a place to grow and that’s what a biological filter will provide. (3) Prevent Algae Growth – Again, algae is a natural pond inhabitant. Plants compete with algae for nuitrients present in the water. One way to check the growth of algae is to provide vegetable filtration (plenty of plants). The less nutrition in the soil you use for the plants, the better. Pond water has all the nutrients the plants need and any fertilization efforts feed algae as well.
As you can see there is indeed a difference in how you build your pond if you want to keep fish. This is in no way a scare tactic to keep you away from fish. We have hundreds and we find complete enjoyment not only in our beautiful water gardens but in our fish as well. We feel they are worth the extra effort.