This page will supply tips I learned from building my first pond and applied to building my next ones. THEY ARE NOT IN ORDER OF IMPORTANCE!! I will use pictures from that process as necessary. I will also include tips from others on the net so if there are some things that really helped you, let me know and I will include them here with your name and address. Send pictures of your tips too if you have them.

This tip is so important, I am not going to number it. In the US, most utility companies offer a service that is a MUST if you have underground utilities. In North Texas, TU Electric calls their service Dig Safe. It's a free service. You call them up and they will come out, locate, and mark where your electric lines run. The gas, electric, cable, water, and phone companies will also come out and mark. If you know where they are, you won't cut them. This is serious stuff. A guy in our county was killed last year digging a pond when he hit the power line...

Tip 1: You have already seen this one. Build your own filter and use the savings for a bigger pond or for pond stuff. (me)

Tip 2: Only use 45mil or thicker rubber or EDPM liner material. It is guaranteed for life, will not become brittle and harden over time like plastic, is strong enough to be walked on and will take attachments like bulkhead fittings and drains better. (me)

Tip 3: If you are building a big pond, go to your local rental yard and rent a "sod kicker". No, us Texans kick the other stuff. A sod kicker is a great tool to strip away your sod so you can reuse it in another place. You can see the kicker in the middle left of the picture. Water the ground real well the night before and it goes real easy, even in the heavy soil I have. I did the area for the small 6x8 pond, the 3x16 stream, and the 12x22 main pond in about 3 hours. (me)

Tip 4: Whatever edging you use, pour a 2 to 4 inch concrete ledge at the proper depth for the edging to sit on. It is best if you do this afterwards, but if you forget or are redoing an old pond, you can use 10 inch steel or aluminum flashing, sold in rolls at your lumber store, and long spike nails as a form. Set the edging at the proper height and drive the nails thru the flashing, into the ground. It will hold well enough for the light pressure of the concrete and is easily removable. And you can even recycle it in places where there are such programs. Seal between pieces of flashing with good ole duct tape. I have almost completed the flashing here on the settlement pond and have also started laying in rebar for strength. (me)

Tip 5: Forget the bog plant shelves. They are not usually in the places you need them and they could erode in loose soil. I used to use concrete blocks that I have thoroughly painted with cheap latex enamel paint and a couple of 2x6 boards to add shelves where I want them. I still use the boards, but now I build small stands out of PVC pipe. I add sand to them to before gluing the last connection tokeep them from floating and then drill a couple of holes drilled afterwards to let the air out. I also use plastic milk crates or other things like that. It's a lot easier on the fish and easier to keep the water chemistry in line. Anyway, using this method, I can change and move the shelves anywhere I want them without having to tear out the liner and redig. As long as the boards stay wet, they will last a very long time. (me)

Tip 6: Use the above plastic things as supports for your lilies. The holes in the pvc pipe towers give the fish a nice place to hide. (me)

Tip 7: If you have grass close to your pond and use a power grass trimmer, you will fling grass into the pond that you will have to scoop. Thru testing, I have found that trimmers will throw the grass about 3 feet. With this in mind, I build a 4 foot wide flower bed around all my ponds. Now when I trim, I don't get grass in the pond! (me)

Tip 8: No matter what size your pond, if you are installing a flexible or concrete liner, install an overflow. This way if you overfill your pond, the excess water has a place to go other than flooding the neighbor's garden. I use the heavy duty schedule 80 plastic bulkhead fittings and install them about 6 inches below water level in the SIDE of the pond. In case they ever do leak, I won't drain my pond. I use 2 short pieces of pipe and an elbow to put the top of the overflow at water level. I attach the other side to flexible drain pipe that I have run to the street. (me)

Tip 9: If you are installing a big liner, have a liner party and invite friends over for a few brews to help you to install it. The liner for my big pond weighed over 300 pounds! Besides, it took over 4 hours to fill the pond and the company was welcome. Even grilled a few burgers while waiting. (me)

Tip 10: Test a few options with your liner edging. I used one of my test holes and tried several different styles before settling in a hidden liner edge. (me)

Tip 11: A friend told me a good tip. After you have established your pond shape and laid your hose, Drive 1x2 stakes about every 12 inches around the perimeter of your hose. Level the tops of these stakes at 1 inch below the height of the bottom of your concrete edging. When everything is level, take 1" o.d. flexible tubing and duct tape it to the top of the stakes. My friend used the flexible orange gas tubing that the utility companies use. This tubing will maintain your level line and serve as a rounded surface that will not chafe your liner when you install it later. The stakes are also a good surface to nail the flashing forms to for the concrete. (me)

Tip 12: Check the level of the top of your pond OFTEN. Measure from a KNOWN spot. I know of someone who checked the level on the width and the length and both were spot on. However, they were 2 inches different from each other! If you look at this picture, there are strings run from a vital point (the waterfall from the stream). If you go clockwise from the left, this string runs over the edge so I can measure down from the string to measure this edge. HOW level your edge has to be will vary with your edging of liner type. If you use flagstone edging or a hard liner, you need to be level to within at least 1/2 inch. Anything different looks funny. I also have a line running down my string from my collector pond/waterfall to make sure that the stream slopes down. You laugh, but if you do it wrong, it is a bear to correct. (me)

Tip 13: For streams, the steeper the slope, the more water you have to push thru it for a given depth and width. I experimented with mine by building an experimental stream using the sand that eventually put in the bottom of the pond. I did this in the middle of the yard and just laid some plastic drop cloth over it. I then rigged a temporary plumbing outfit with my pump, some pipe and a valve. I put the pump in a kiddy pool and just let the water run out the end of the stream out into the yard. I kept changing the slope of the stream until I got the look I wanted. In my case, I am putting about 3000 gph down a 14 foot stream 3 feet wide and the depth is about 1/2 inch. I have the stream sloping about 2 inches over the length of the stream. (me)

Tip 14: When you do ANY outside wiring, PLEASE USE GROUND FAULT CIRCUIT INTERRUPTER OUTLETS OR BREAKERS. GFCI outlets and breakers will trip MUCH faster than normal breakers and are a requirement in most codes for any outside outlet or any outlet that is in close proximity to water.

Tip 15: If you use a submersible pump, you will lengthen the life of your pump and reduce the chance of a pump barf if you attach a sacrificial anode to your pump. Any metal pump will corrode in water due to the electrical field that is generated by the water running thru the pump and plumbing. Since the weakest metal will corrode first, a sacrificial anode which is made of very soft material, will corrode before the pump parts. This has eliminated the leaks from my Little Giant 6ECIM pump that has been running for 3 years that everyone else has seen with these pumps.

Tip 16: If you run into a situation where real rocks just will not work, or you need support for some real rocks, say for a waterfall, you can make fake rocks like you have seen in the water parks and putt-putt courses. The form is first shaped with the re-bar. Use pictures of real rocks to give you some shape ideas.

Next attach the wire lath. This is the lath that is used for stucco work. Wire it on very solidly to the INSIDE of the re-bar form.

Wire standard chicken wire to the outside of the re-bar. If the structure is solid enough to walk on, it is sturdy enough.

Mix the concrete very dry. If you do not use pre-mixed, use 30 shovels of sand to 1 bag of cement. If you use premix bags, use sand mix, not mortar. The mix should be very dry because you don't want it to run and creep. As with any concrete, drier mixes are usually stronger.

Trowel on the first layer. The sample I saw had only 2 layers and the first was about 3/4 inches thick. Only mix as much as you can work comfortably. If you have some areas that hang upside down, you might want to rough up this section for the next layer to stick. Let this layer dry at least 24 hours.

If you are constructing a waterfall, you can lay your liner on top of the first layer. Then cover the liner with a layer of chicken wire because layer 2 will not stick to the liner.

Mix concrete for layer 2 like you did for layer 1. Once you get a section laid, rip off strip of heavy duty foil and spread over the area you just laid and, using a wet sponge, wipe the foil against the fresh concrete. Don't laugh, as the foil conforms to your shape, it will wrinkle, fold and whatever. This will give your "rocks" a more natural texture. If you leave the foil on the rock, you won't wash away the concrete you just laid when you foil the next section.

After you remove the foil, use trowels, brooms, brushes, branches, whatever to put in the cracks, and textures you see in natural rocks. The professionals use molds from real rocks for this.

Tip 17:Many people think about using fresh water mussels to help them with their filtration. I'm not a big fan of this technique. Don't get me wrong, it works, but there are better ways to do this. Mussels shoot eggs into the water to spawn. These eggs will end up in the waterways everytime your pond overflows. Nature doesn't need them. As an example, the zebra mussel. These things made it into the Great Lakes as ballast in a cargo ship. They have no natural predators here. They were first detected in 1988 and now they're everywhere posing a multi-billion dollar threat to agriculture, shipping, municipal water supplies, utilities. They attach themselves to everything and you almost need to blast them off. Take a good look at this picture. If you find them anywhere, don't throw them back into the water. Store it in alcohol and IMMEDIATELY call the Alabama Sea Grant Extension Office at (334) 438-5690 (e-mail or the Missippi Grant Advisory office at (601) 388-4710. They're turning up all over the place. I have even heard of a siting in a pond.

Tip 18: I don't use dechlorinator anymore. They don't REMOVE the chloramines/chlorine/ammonia. What they do is break the chlorine/ammonia bond. The chlorine then evaporates and the ammonia is converted by your biofilter into fertilizer. What that means is that every time you add water and add this stuff, you are asking the gods to present you with a nice algae bloom. This is even more of a problem for those people who INSIST on doing regular water changes. The more water you add, the more fertilizer you are releasing. But you have to get rid of the chloramines or kill your fish. I do this with a filter I built from about $30 in parts, about the cost of a couple bottles of "dechlorinator". It starts with a "whole house" filter. It's like those you may have under your sink but is has 3/4 inch fittings, not 1/4 inch. To those openings, attach brass or plastic fittings that go from hose to pipe. Your plumbing dealer can help find the fittings. I use brass fittings because I also attached "quick disconnect" fittings. When you make up all your connections, use teflon paste, not teflon tape. The cartridge you use will be a "taste/odor" cartridge. They come in 2 different types. One has a wire mesh around it and you can see the charcoal in the filter, the other uses a membrane. It is the second one you want. I replace 2 to 4 inches of water from my 12x22 and 6x8 ponds every week during the summer and I only replace the cartridge twice a year. Not only do you not have to add chemicals to your pond with this method, it saves you money in the long run!

Tip 19: I know I've ranted and raved about not adding junk to your pond. I'm going to make an exception and tell you about a good product called Microbe Lift PL. This stuff is a veritable bacteria soup. It was originally released to eat the bottom muck and to give your filter a kick start. The more people look at this stuff, the more it does. For instance, I've been using it and discovered that my algae problems are less. It seems that there's an anerobic bug in here that works on some of the nitrates! The best part is that since it's bacteria, when their food's gone, they die and you can scoop them out with all the other junk. So this is a product I can add and still be able to take out! It's not a replacement for your other good ponding practices. Think of it as icing on the cake. And by the way, this stuff REALLY stinks in the bottle so you need to be able to store it outside...

Don't forget, if you have any more tips or have any questions, shoot me an e-mail at

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Copyright 2003 - Chuck Rush