Guide to Ponds


A backyard pond is the perfect way to naturally transform your surroundings into a relaxing oasis, while adding value to your property. Properly planned and executed, a pond will provide years of enjoyment and can be integrated into even the smallest spaces. This guide will help in the planning and execution of a backyard water feature, and provide education on proper use and care, reducing some of the most common challenges. The information provided focuses on pond sizes of 2000 gallons and under.

Whether you have an afternoon and a limited budget or all weekend and a larger ongoing vision, the Pond Building Series® line of products provide all the tools necessary to create a relaxing sanctuary in your yard or garden. Easy to install and use, they include the most energy efficient range of pumps available in the industry. Informative product packaging and online content offer a wealth of information to guide you in your selection and ensure product compatibility, simplifying the overall experience.

Initial Planning

Like any project, planning is the key element to a successful outcome. An important first step is to decide on the type of pond. A decorative pond is for visual and sound purposes only, while a functional pond includes these decorative aspects in addition to plants, fish or other aquatic life. Deciding on a type will help you make an informed decision of the most important components of your project: the liner to shape and hold the water and the pump(s) for proper water circulation.

The most common regret reported among beginners is failing to build the pond big or deep enough to allow for future development. Increasing the size of the pump or liner to the next largest size generally pays big dividends down the road if you decide to add new features, plants or fish. See the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section for more on this, with recommended project components and approximate costs.

Choosing a Location

Before you begin, serious consideration of safety is advised when choosing a pond location and style, especially if children or pets have access to the area. Ensure the area is free from any underground utilities and always “Call before you dig!”. Check local building codes regarding maximum depths, and whether fencing or protective barriers are required to restrict access.

An ideal location will include clear viewpoints from the most commonly used areas of your yard, deck or patio, with a line of sight from inside your home, yet away from children′s play areas. Most importantly, find an area that offers enough level ground for the entire plan in a raised area of your yard. Uneven installations will cause the pond to look lopsided in relation to the surrounding landscape. Avoiding low-lying and soggy areas offers protection against water runoff causing flooding or hazardous garden chemicals to enter and adversely affect your pond′s ecosystem.

Depending on the type of pond (decorative or functional), an adequate amount of sunlight exposure is required. An average of six hours of sunlight per day is required for ponds that contain plants or fish. Ponds with aquatic life need an area that offers shade during the hottest parts of the day; excessive sunlight exposure presents a risk for algae growth. For a functional pond during the peak summer months, it is recommended that up to 60 percent of the pond surface be covered in plants to reduce stress and prevent overheating.

While a balance of sun and shade is ideal, ponds should not be located directly under trees as they can cast excessive shade and shed unwanted debris into the pond. Furthermore, their root systems can cause damage down the road that could puncture your liner. Consider adding netting or other protection from leaves and other organic debris that can decompose in the bottom of your pond adding potentially toxic elements to the environment.

Access to GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) power at a safe distance (five feet or more) is another important consideration. Please follow all local electrical codes and use properly rated wiring when completing this aspect of your project.

Size, Shape, Depth and Retaining Considerations

The size and shape of decorative ponds are limited only by your imagination and available space. The depth is not as critical of a component as it is with a functional pond, and must simply be deep enough to provide sufficient water for your pump and to hide the plumbing components from view.

Functional ponds should be a minimum of 18 inches in depth to accommodate plant and small fish life, with deeper areas in the 24 to 36-inch range as a minimum, for larger or exotic Koi fish. Deeper areas are not as susceptible to extreme temperatures that can harm your fish. Ideally, a functional pond would contain multiple depths, with shallow areas for plants and deep areas to successfully support fish.

Creating shelves near the perimeter, approximately six to eight inches below the intended water surface, provides an area for plants and helps secure the liner. Plants and rocks can be used in these areas help to hide plumbing components and power cords. Creating a slope to the walls at an approximately 30-degree angle provides a smooth transition and makes the liner easier to install. Most importantly, this helps protect the liner if water is left inside over the winter, as it helps push the ice upwards instead of against it.

The location of your pond impacts the decision of a flexible liner versus a pre-formed shell. While both offer unique benefits, the flexible liner offers more size and shape variations in a below-ground installation, while the pre-formed shell offers an easier ability to create above-ground ponds when properly supported.

Overall, flexible liners are easier to install than pre-formed alternatives. They also offer the best value regarding cost per volume and allow freeform shapes that accommodate your space and landscape surroundings.

Careful consideration is required for the finished size when using a flexible liner, which will always be smaller than the liner itself to account for shelves and walls. This finished size and the volume of water that your pond will contain is an important piece of information and will affect the other components required. Most importantly, it will impact your choice of pump to circulate water properly.

Pond Types and Styles

The most common type of pond is a natural water garden that complements the surrounding landscape. Waterfalls and streams are the most common feature of a natural pond. The use of plants, stone, slate, pavers and decorative brick are common components used to finish this type of pond.

A formal pond can be either classic or contemporary in design, and is normally built above ground using concrete or other structural material that is capable of accommodating heavy features. They also often feature a significantly sized fountain as the centerpiece. Many of the Angelo Décor® brand decorative fountains can be adapted easily for use in a pond environment.

Appearance and Sound

Most people will add a pond for both the visual and aural benefits it brings, and the sound of moving water is one of the best ways to mask unwanted noise from neighbours or traffic. Whether you desire the calming nature of a Zen-inspired stream, the visual awe of fountain nozzles or, the rich sound of a dramatic waterfall, the product packaging and online content for each will offer clear guidance in creating your vision.

The simplest and least expensive feature of any pond is the fountain nozzle. Bubbling and Bell fountain nozzles provide a reflective resonance, while the Trumpet and Multi-Tier nozzles offer a grand display along with a more resounding sound. They provide both a sight and sound stimulation while aerating the water to provide a safe habitat for fish and plants. Pump and nozzle kits offer great value and convenience as the included features are perfectly matched to the specific pump; they are available in three different size ranges. The standalone Universal Nozzle Kit offers a higher end feature experience, with plenty of attachments for compatibility to other pumps, and are best paired with Pond Building Series® Pond and waterfall pumps.

Spouting Statues add a charming accent to any water feature and provide both sound and aeration benefits. Paired with a small Fountain Pump (with PumpJacket™ pump filter), they are ideal for small container water gardens that can be planned and assembled in an afternoon; While the addition of purely decorative statues is perfect way to add a finishing touch.

Waterfalls and streams are a popular way to add a compelling visual focal point and are easy to construct using a preformed weir, which also provides an essential filtration function. Whatever the style of pond, LED lighting is the top choice by consumers to provide a dramatic, cost-effective way to enhance your features and add a stunning evening ambience.

Energy Use Considerations

These days, energy use and the overall environmental impact are at the forefront of many discussions, and so should they be in evaluating the needs of your pond project. The size of a chosen pump not only impacts the water sound the pump will generate but also directly affects the cost to operate. For this reason, many people are using a two-pump system where a smaller continuously operating pump provides the necessary day-to-day circulation and a larger pump on an outdoor timer or remote control operates the dynamic features, like a waterfall, during ideal viewing hours. Accent lighting can be integrated on the same circuit for added convenience and savings. Pond Building Series® pumps feature best-in-class energy efficiency ratings, which are fully detailed on all packaging.

Excavation and Building Tips

Tools Required

For the basics, a shovel, rake, and measuring tape are necessary, as well as a wheelbarrow if you are moving any excavations to an alternate location. Additionally, a long two-by-four and level are ideal for ensuring all sides of the dig are even. A rope or hose can be use to mark your planned excavation area and a sharp blade can be used for trimming the liner to shape at completion of the install.

Building Tips

Review the location advice provided in selecting an appropriate site for your build. Use a rake to level the excavated area and create elevation if you intend to include a waterfall. Be sure to remove any sharp objects, rocks, tree roots or branches as they can puncture and damage the liner. Create a flat area(s) for the pump to sit, ideally in a location that you will have easy access to for cleaning and maintenance.

Line the base of the excavated area with approximately 1 inch of fine sand to help protect the liner against anything sharp that may puncture it. Old newspapers, carpet, and even geo-textile underlay can also be used in this step.

Including a shallow trench to your electrical plug that will allow you to use PVC conduit to protect and channel the power cords is also advisable. If a potential for the pond to overflow exists due to overfilling or heavy rains, we suggest adding a discreet 6 inch wide by 1-inch deep channel to disperse any excess water to a safe low-lying area.

Use care not to puncture or rip the liner during installation. Once the liner is installed and ready for trimming, leave a minimum of 6 inches, (preferably 12 inches) around the perimeter to properly secure it with heavy objects. If there are any reasonably sized sections of liner remaining after the trimming process, these can be used as extra padding overlaid in parts that may be stepped in frequently or used for stream or runoff areas. When filling with water, do so slowly, while gently but continuously pulling the liner taut on each side to remove bends and folds.

Use and Maintenance

Start up

If your plans include aquatic life, you will need to condition the water properly before use to remove chemicals such as chlorine and chloramine. Testing the pH level is also recommended. Tap water is not safe for fish, and can also harm plants, as such, it′s best to let the water settle for a week before introducing any live features.

Keep it Clean

Maintaining water quality and keeping your pond free of green water and algae growth can be an ongoing challenge. Following proper circulation requirements, and the use of mechanical and biological filtration components, are the best ways to prevent these problems from occurring.

Falling leaves and blowing debris can also affect water quality as they can create sludge as they decompose and settle in the pond; A pond skimmer is a great way to keep surface debris from sinking. A UV filter is an effective way to address problems with green water. While it will not address string algae that can grow on rocks and waterfalls, it does help killing harmful bacteria that contributes to the ugly “pea green soup” appearance that can occur. Water treatments, like the Pond Water Clarifier, can also be used in combination with the above to help maintain a clear and healthy environment.

Seasonal “TO-DOs”

Spring Start-Up

Clean the pond of any debris that may have accumulated during the winter. If the water is in very bad condition, a complete replacement is advised only if you have no fish or aquatic life to consider. When adding larger amounts of new water to a pond that has marine life, you will need to treat it to remove any chlorine/chloramine, which can upset the balance and pH of your pond. It′s best to add no more than 5 percent (of the total pond volume) of new water, slowly, each day. The key is to be sure your water is safe for the re-introduction of fish. There are a wealth of online resources on this subject and these particular topics are best covered by the suppliers of these types of products.

Before replacing your pump(s), filter(s) and plumbing components, be sure to give them a good cleaning, checking seals and connections, and testing all parts before they are returned to the pond. A 30/70 vinegar and water mixture is ideal for basic cleaning, especially in removing buildup from pumps. Biological filters should be washed with water only, no chemicals, using care not to over-clean and remove any remaining healthy bacteria.

Summer months

Pumps are intended for continuous use and can be operated safely in this manner. However, if the sound is an issue for sleeping, or if there is a risk of attracting nocturnal animals, its best to turn the pump off overnight. Again, an outdoor timer can be used to facilitate this. Check and clean your pump and filters bi-monthly for any buildup or debris that may impact their operation.

Keep plants maintained by removing dead or wilted leaves, so they don′t get caught in the filters. If you have fish, follow the directions and do not overfeed. Test the pH levels of the pond often to ensure compatibility with aquatic life.

Fall / Winter Care

In cold climates, it is recommended to shut down the pond completely during extended periods of freezing temperatures. Remove the pump and components, and cover the pond to prevent debris from collecting. For best results the pump and parts should be kept inside. If the storage location experiences freezing temperatures, they must be dry.

If you have fish and decide to run the pond during this period, please properly research the detailed care, feeding, and de-icing requirements of this higher maintenance aspect.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is the best choice of material to shape the pond and hold the water?

A: Each of the options below has unique benefits to consider and are all safe for fish and plants.

PVC Liner: Easy to install and great for freeform shapes; Lowest cost.

PRO Series PVC Liner: Easy to install and great for freeform shapes; Mid-range cost, thicker material and best overall value.

EPDM Liner: Easy to install and great for freeform shapes; Higher cost but longer lifespan, and thicker than normal PVC.

Pre-Formed Shell: Pre-defined shape and size does not allow customization. Ideal for above-ground use (with proper support) with a long lifespan. More difficult to install below ground level by comparison to flexible liners. Higher cost with long lifespan.

Reminder: before installing any of these liners a layer of soft sand, geo textile, or other method of cushioning at the excavated surface should be applied.

Q: How should I calculate the required liner size I need?

A: The two basic ways of measurement depend on your project status.

If calculating based on a planned excavation:

Length = Desired Finished Length (ft.) + 2 X Maximum Depth (ft.) + Overlay (Minimum 0.5 ft.)

Example: 6 feet long + (1.5 feet deep x 2) + (0.5 foot overlap x 2) = 10 feet total length

Width = Desired Finished Width (ft.) + 2 X Maximum Depth (ft.) + Overlay (Minimum 0.5 ft.)

Example: 11 feet wide + (1.5 feet deep x 2) + (0.5 foot overlap x 2) = 15 feet total width

If calculating based on an existing excavation: Use a flexible measuring tape to measure the length and width of the full basin area, accounting for all ledges and contours, and add a minimum of one foot overlay to each figure.

Q: What is the difference between “actual” and “effective” pond volume and how do I calculate it?

A: Actual pond volume is the true amount of water your pond contains, while effective volume takes size and environmental factors into account. There are several online resources for calculating exact pond size, with many different formulas offered.

The basic calculation for estimating actual pond volume in US Gallons is as follows:

Free form shapes:

Average in feet: Length x Width x Depth x 7.5 = Volume in Gallons

Example: 3 feet x 6 feet x 1.5 feet x 7.5 = 202 U.S. gallons

Round Ponds:

Average in feet: Top Diameter x Bottom Diameter x Depth x .785 x 7.5 = Volume in U.S. Gallons

Example: 6 feet x 5 feet x 1.5 feet x .785 x 7.5 = 265 U.S. Gallons

To calculate effective pond volume, add the following multipliers to the actual pond volume:

Ponds less than 100 gallons: +25%
Depths less than two feet: +25%

Ponds in full sun: +25%

Fish levels greater than 100 inches per 1,000 gallons: +25% to +50% (based on pro-rated size increase)

Q: How much circulation does the pond water need?

A: This information helps in selecting the right pump. Ponds larger than 300 gallons need a minimum circulation rate of once every 1.5 hours of the effective pond volume. Be sure to use your pump flow guide to calculate the gallons per hour (GPH) your pump provides at your total head height.

Ponds less than 300 gallons should be circulated a minimum of once per hour. Care must be taken not to over-circulate a functional pond, as this makes it difficult for beneficial bacteria to grow and thrive.

We recommend a simple rule of circulating your actual pond volume 1.5 times per hour.

Example: A 500-gallon pond works best with a 750gph pump.

Q: Can you recommend some project component combinations and budgets for the available sized pond liners?

A: The following combinations will provide enough power for standard water features while offering proper circulation. The suggested sizes are an estimate – freeform shapes within these maximum sizes are easy, as well as doing a round shape and trimming into an equal size, using the excess to create or line a waterfall or stream. (Note: Costs are estimated and for pond components only)

Small Container or Whiskey Barrel Scenario

What you need:
5′ x 5′ PVC Liner, Small Fountain Pump with PumpJacket™ and Spouting Statue
100GPH Pump and Nozzle Kit and Spouting Statue
Approximate Cost: $80

Small Water Feature Scenario

What you need:
6′ x 8′ PVC Liner (creates 2′ x 4′ x 1.5′ finished pond), 250 GPH Pond Pump with Fountain Nozzles and Spouting Statue
Approximate Cost: $100

Small Pond Scenario

What you need:
7′ x 10′ PVC Liner (creates a 3′ x 6′ x 1.5′ finished pond), 250 GPH Pond Pump with Fountain Nozzles OR 500 GPH Pond Pump with Fountain Nozzles, Spouting Statue OR 8 inch Waterfall Spillway and Filter Box 600
Approximate Cost: $170 – $200

Small to Midsize Pond Scenario

What you need:
8′ x 12′ PRO PVC Liner (creates a 4′ x 8′ x 1.5′ finished pond) and 500 GPH Pond Pump with Fountain Nozzles
750 GPH Pond Pump, Universal Nozzle Kit, 5′ x 5′ PVC Liner (to create a small stream) OR 8 inch Waterfall Spillway, Filter Box 600 OR Filter Box 1500
Approximate Cost: $250 – $300

Midsize Pond Scenario

What you need:
12′ x 14′ PVC Liner (creates a 8′ x 10′ x 1.5′ free form, 6.5′ x 6.5′ round, finished pond size), 1250 GPH Waterfall Pump, Universal Nozzle Kit, Pond Filter Box 1500 and 8 inch Waterfall Spillway
Approximate Cost: $325

Midsize to Large Pond Scenario

What you need:
12′ x 16′ PRO PVC Liner (creates a 7′ x 10′ x 2′ finished pond size), 2500 GPH Waterfall Pump, Universal Nozzle Kit, 16 inch Waterfall Weir (@ 2′ Height), Pond/Landscape and LED Light Kit
Approximate Cost: $600

Large Pond Scenario

What you need:
14′ x 20′ PVC Liner (creates an 8′ x 14′ x 2′ finished pond size), 2500 GPH Waterfall Pump, pond skimmer 2500 (Online only) and 16 inch Waterfall Weir (@ 2′ Height)
Approximate Cost: $575

Q: How do I achieve a “balanced environment” in my pond?

A: Overfeeding fish is the number one contributor to pond problems and should be avoided. For best results functional (plants and fish) ponds should not be exposed to full sun and should have sufficient plant cover to offer shade during peak summer heat times.

Filtration is the best way to achieve the balance required for a functioning pond application. Mechanical and biological components protect your pump while improving water quality. Choose an area for your filter that hides the unit and fittings and creates a uniform flow throughout the pond. If you′re placing the filter in a hard-to-access part of the pond, we suggest attaching a natural jute string to the unit to aid in adjustments and maintenance.

We recommend Microbe-Lift® brand products to “charge up” the filters′ biological components with the beneficial bacteria necessary to convert waste and pollutants into healthy byproducts that further support a balanced pond.

Important Safety Information

Inspect all equipment before use for any damage. Any damage or missing parts should be reported immediately and before attempting use. Units with ANY damage should not be used.

  • NEVER leave children unsupervised or out of sight around ANY pond environment.
  • Always unplug power from pumps, lights or other electrical devices BEFORE putting hands in water, or if service and maintenance is performed.
  • Always use properly grounded GFCI electrical equipment and a drip loop on any power cords to prevent water from travelling along the cord.
  • Do not lift Pumps or Filters using cords or attached tubing or fittings.
  • Pond Building Series® products are intended for use with fresh water only. Do not use with flammable materials.
  • Do not combine pumps, filters or accessories beyond the compatibility ratings shown on packaging.
  • Keep the power cord away from high temperatures.
  • Do not exceed the voltage as indicated on the transformer.

Failure to follow these instructions and warnings may lead to product damage or personal injury of which Angelo Décor International Inc. will not be held liable.