Throughout the ages, water was life for all civilizations. Water is everpresent in the lives of rich and poor. It played an important role in the gardens of royal castles and everywhere. Today, you can recreate a piece of nature when you create a pond in your garden.

In the past garden, ponds were difficult to create due to technical and financial requirements. But nowadays anyone can create a source of water even if you are on a budget. Specialized online shops and garden centers now sell everything you need at a cost everyone can afford.

The dream of having a pond in your backyard or in front of your home is within every gardener’s reach.

Having a garden pond will allow you to learn about growing various plants like water lilies, reeds and water iris. If your pond is large enough, you might even have some fish in there for your family’s enjoyment.

Imagine you relaxing on a deckchair, listening to the sound of a little cascade or of water rippling over the rocks. Do you need more convincing?

Is pond water good for gardens?

Pond water, unlike tap water, may contain some elements that could harm your plants. Garden pond water is not suitable as water intended for herbs, vegetables or fruits. Fungus and water-borne infections can be found in some garden ponds. This is more likely with untended, natural ponds. In stagnant garden ponds where little oxygen makes its way into the pond water, anaerobic bacteria can thrive. Through water, fungal infections such as anthracnose can reach your plants. This type of bacteria can kill plants by producing toxic compounds.

Near microscopic and microscopic life can infiltrate the root systems of your plants, cutting off access to soil-based nutrition. This type of microscopic life favors the moist areas around garden ponds. Filtering pond water may reduce the likelihood, but will not completely prevent damage from such life forms.

Do garden ponds need a pump?

In backyard ponds, plants, soil, and animals live together in harmony. If your goal is to build a natural pond with no fish or circulation, you don’t need to worry about pumps. The water in your pond will remain oxygenated and stay clean without a pond pump. But if you want fish in your pond, a pump is recommended.

Why do I need a pond water pump?

A well-functioning ecosystem pond needs a reliable pond water pump.  A water pump is critical equipment in a healthy garden pond for multiple reasons. Pond water pumps will water healthy and clear by oxygenating it with constant movement. This is especially important if you have fish in your garden pond. Having a pond pump will support plant health. Pumps will also reduce mosquito larvae, and can prevent stagnant green water.

How does a pond water pump work?

Garden water pond pumps operate on a basic principle. The submersible pump is designed with an electric motor that runs externally to a GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) electrical outlet power outlet. As the impeller turns, the pump draws in water through a vacuum action. With the same motion, the water is pumped out, generally through a waterfall, fountain, or an output hose. To collect gunk from the pond water, a water pump may also have a sponge filter. Water flow depends on the size and motor of the impeller. A larger impeller will pump more water, but it will require more electricity to run.

Where is the best place to put a pond in a garden?

Partial sun is ideal for garden ponds because too much sunlight promotes rapid algae growth. And if there isn’t enough sunlight, your aquatic plants will be slow to grow. Don’t build your pond directly under trees that shed leaves.

How deep should a fish pond be?

For fish to survive in your garden pond, the water should be at least two feet deep, but four is even better.  If your pond is too shallow turtles, frogs and fish might struggle or not survive. Deeper water also provides animals protection from predators. And, the deeper the garden pond water, the less likely will it freeze up during winter. It’s critical to keeping the water running even during the cold seasons to keep frogs and fish. If your pond freezes, the animals in it will do too. If you live in warmer climates such as Florida or California, freezing pond water is not a danger.

Pond Insects

The secret of creating a successful garden pond lies in the ability to create a complex ecosystem in which insects play an important role, as they, unintentionally, provide essential food for fish and batrachians.

The slightest water source buzzes with life. Whereas fish and plants can be installed by human effort, insects are put in place (almost) entirely by nature. And nature is evidently well organized, as within a few weeks of the installation of a pond many types of insects inhabit the water. These insects, which are brought by the wind, provide an essential food source for the fish and batrachians in the pond – that is, if the pond has been well designed, of course. To ensure that these insects survive, create a space for them – a pond should include a place where the water level is shallow, to protect them from adult fish. A similar space should be created for smaller, weak fish.

Mosquitos are generally the first insects to arrive. These insects, though not very pleasant for the fragile human skin, are very much welcomed by fish, as their larvae placed on the surface of the water provide delicious eating for healthy fish. Apart from mosquitos, other insects, such as the graceful dragonfly, inhabit the area little by little. Detritivores, phytophages, insect-eating predators, as well as strictly aquatic species like water bugs and predaceous diving bugs will also be attracted to this humid area.

These insects will in turn attract batrachians and birds. Generally speaking, they preserve biodiversity without disturbing the internal harmony of the pond. But certain species should be kept under surveillance. The caterpillar of the lily moth (a small butterfly) and galerucinae (a small beetle) should be controlled as their larvae devour the leaves of aquatic plants.

Greenly should be “drowned” from time to time by simply plunging the infested leaves underwater to protect the lilies from the carnage. The greedy greenfly will immediately provide a feast for the nearby fish.

The wide variety of insects attracted by stagnant water ensures the ecological balance of the pond. To preserve this balance, ban all pesticides from the area.

Batrachians

Having batrachians in your garden could quickly lead to complaints from your neighbors, as they tend to make quite a racket. Their presence in a town garden is particularly unadvised !!

As frogs, toads, tritons and salamanders are protected species, it is strictly forbidden to collect their eggs or to capture adults in the wild. It is also illegal to introduce exotic species, sold in pet shops, into your garden.

In any case, adult frogs tend to return to their place of birth to reproduce and lay eggs. If you wish to have frogs in the garden, you just have to wait until they come themselves. They require a particular biotope, such as the presence of a second source of water to migrate to, and a pond with plenty of sunlight, rich in insects. If you have these installations, they will come themselves. In winter, they bury themselves beneath the mud to hibernate, so you require a pond of at least 60 cms. deep with a good layer of mud at the bottom. This is sufficient for their hibernation, except if the winter is extremely cold.

You may also find that tritons, salamanders and toads come to colonize your pond. Again, don’t install them yourself, as they will not stay.

Cats love to hunt batrachians, so install the necessary protection around the pond, otherwise, straying cats will have a feast.

Fish Ponds

The installation of fish in your pond isn’t very difficult, provided that certain precautions are taken. Here’s some advice to create a fish pond bursting with life. Follow this advice to create a pond with fish of different types and colors, which bring to life the stagnant water.

First of all, make sure that the water is clean. Pesticides and fungicides must therefore be banned close to the pool. The second essential thing to do is to encourage insects to the area. The installation of aquatic plants will help attract these sources of food for your fish, on the condition that you create a shallow part in the pool where larvae can develop without being eaten by the fish.

In general, wait for a month after the pond has been dug before installing your fish. This time is necessary for the pond to develop enough microbic fauna for a harmonious biological balance. When this has been achieved, you can now go in search of your fish. But be careful to make the right choice.

Indeed, some fish are incompatible. Some live peacefully together while others eat each other. It is therefore advised not to mix different species. Goldfish are best suited to small ponds. These small fish, measuring around 40 cms., live peacefully together. The species includes many varieties: red, black, orange and white, those with simple gills, or with wavy gills (comet).

In bigger ponds, it is possible to mix goldfish with Japanese carp – providing they have enough space, these species live together in perfect harmony. But be careful – the carp is quite a big fish. It can grow up to 1 meter long, so make sure you have enough room in the pond for them.

The other species which are suited to garden ponds are the Sarasa (20 to 23cms.), with its red back and white stomach, the shubunkin (20 to 23 cms.), whose body is multicolored blue, black, red-orange and white, the ide (35 to 50 cms.), which has a bright orange back, and the tench (30 to 60 cms.), with its pretty green color.

The Shubunkin

The shubunkin (Carassius auratus) is a fish from the Cyprinids family with a shape similar to that of the common goldfish. It is however smaller and more colorful. It is of Chinese origin and likes living in still freshwater and in waterways with little current.

Shubunkin are calicos, mostly bluish with long red markings and with smaller black markings scattered throughout their body. There are three varieties of shubunkin: the Bristol, the American (more slender and with shorter fins than the Bristol) and the London shubunkin, slightly smaller again than the Bristol. It has shorter tail fins, narrower and less lobed than its Bristol cousin, whose fins can be up to half as long as the fish itself. The pectoral and pelvic fins are even in number, whereas the dorsal, anal and tail fins are uneven. Those of the females are generally more voluminous.

In its country of origin, the shubunkin lives in calm freshwater. It is resistant to the cold but not to strong frosts. In suitable regions, you can install it in your pond where it will feed on small elements found in the foil, which it loves exploring. It is omnivorous and delights as much in mosquito larvae as in algae. In cold regions it should be put into the aquarium in winter, making sure to provide a minimum of 20 liters of water per fish. Feed it with pellets and chopped cooked vegetables.

When the weather warms up in spring, the spawning season begins for the fish which have reached sexual maturity, that is, those aged about two years old. The male is adorned with small white spots on its operculum as well as on the first stripe of its pectoral fins.

After a few encounters between male and female, the female leaves her eggs where she can and the male fertilizes them by releasing his soft roe. The eggs stick to nearby plants and surfaces. Incubation can now begin and after three to six days, depending on the temperature of the water, larvae appear and the swimming bladder is allowed to develop. This takes about 2 to 4 days. The small fish will gather up enough strength to swim in order to look for food. If the conditions are right it can live a long life, up to 20 years.

Goldfish

The goldfish is a classic fish for the garden pond. A member of the carp family, it is an easy fish to manage in temperate regions as it supports progressive changes in temperature, whether it is very hot or very cold.

The goldfish has its origins in China, where it has been bred regularly and selectively for over a thousand years. At first, it was a rather dull-colored Asian carp but has become colored due to cross-breeding and hybridization.

It came to France in the 17th Century when it was offered to the French court by visiting Chinese traders. A member of the Cyprinidae family, it is a close cousin of the carp, but is a lot smaller, making it suitable for small garden ponds or indoor aquariums.

Like the carp, many different varieties exist. The most common variety has a stocky, compact body and is entirely reddish-orange in color. It generally measures no more than 25 cms. in the aquarium, but can grow up to 40 cms. in an outdoor pond. All these varieties reproduce easily in outdoor ponds, and with more difficulty in aquariums due to the promiscuity and voracity of the adults.

The goldfish is very resistant to changes in temperature and can easily support a temperature of -10°C outdoors, on the condition that the change is gradual. Likewise, once the change is not too abrupt, it can adapt to very hot weather.

The same cannot be said for the variety of goldfish called “sail-tails” or comet which don’t survive big changes in temperature outdoors. Many other varieties have been created over the centuries, some of which bear no resemblance to their origins. Among the weirdest ones are the lion-headed goldfish which have bulges on the top of their heads, telescopic goldfish with their protruding eyes, and the shubunkin which have dorsal gills and very long tails. Reddish orange is the classic color of goldfish, but many species have different mixtures of colors: red and white, bronze and white, deep black, etc…

They generally live between 5 to 10 years in an aquarium and often up to 15 years in an outdoor pond. They continue to grow until their death.

The Japanese Carp

The Japanese carp is a popular fish in the garden pond because of its pretty colors, its size and because it is at ease close to people.

Like the common carp, it is a cold-water fish appreciated by gardeners with an outdoor pond. The Japanese carp originated in China. It is a descendant of the MagoÏ carp, which resembled the European carp, as it was mainly grey in color.

Introduced to Japan around the year 200, these carps became, around the year 1000, decorative species raised exclusively by the Japanese nobility. They acquired many contrasting colors over the centuries and today they look like very big goldfish, measuring up to 60 cms. long.

The Japanese carp was introduced to Europe after World War Two. They are different from other species in that they are creatures of habit, with a peaceful temperament and behavior. They are at ease in the presence of humans. If they are fed at regular times, they will soon come to touch the hand that feeds them.

Some Japanese carp will even allow themselves to be stroked. The big advantage of Japanese carps is that they are mainly herbivorous. They live side by side with all varieties of goldfish, which gives the pond an esthetic look, as the basin can thus be filled by fish of differing sizes and colors.

Many types of Japanese carps exist, among which are the scaly carps, which are typically Japanese, the common carp, with its large scales along its back and its hooked gills, the German carp with no scales, and the American carp with its sail-like gills. The dominating colors of the carp are red and white of the classic Kohaku carp, but many varieties are otherwise available, such as the Sanshoku (red, white and some black scales), the Tancho (with a round red mark on its head), the Shiro Itsuri (black and white), the Ki Utsuri (orange and black), the Shiro Muji (all white), the Ki-Goi (bright yellow), and the Goshiki (5 colors: black, red, white and different shades of blue).

Did you know?

The Japanese carp is quite an imposing fish. To give it enough space, place no more than 10 or 12 carps measuring 15 centimeters in a cubic meter of water and only 1 or 2 carps measuring more than 45 centimeters in the same volume of water.

Attracting Butterflies to your Pond

Chaos theory holds that an action as seemingly humble as the beat of a butterfly’s wings could reverberate through time and change the very course of history.

Wouldn’t it be cool if it happened in your backyard?

Mathematical theories of time and space aside, butterflies are always a welcome addition to the garden pond, and their fractured flight can inspire adults and children alike.

Butterflies are important for the environment and its infinite complex cycles. In the caterpillar stage, they provide food to birds and hence will also attract birds into your garden. If a caterpillar makes it to the butterfly stage, this winged creature becomes an agent in pollination, carrying pollen from one flower to the other as it feeds on nectar. It is also important to note that birds and butterflies are sensitive to their habitat (as are we humans!). Herbicides, fungicides, and insecticides intended to ward off unwanted creepy-crawlies will also kill caterpillars and affect the diversity of the habitat. Keep it in mind, and look for natural alternatives when possible.

So what can we do to attract the butterfly? Here are some tips:

There are 1000s of butterfly species. Finding out in rough detail which wildflowers will provide for each stage of the butterfly’s lifecycle (egg, larva, pupa, adult) will bring them into your home. Adult butterflies want food (nectar), caterpillars want host plants (adults lay eggs on plants that provide food for the caterpillar), and areas of shelter (stone walls, leaf or stick piles etc.) for resting adults and overwintering larvae will do the job.

If you want to go the extra step, try finding out which species are in decline in the area, and provide species of plants that will provide for them.

Water and Butterflies

Any context for water, whether it be an elaborate water feature or a shallow pond of pebbles and sand, will attract the butterflies (as well as many other forms of wildlife!)

Aquatic Pond Birds

If you wish to accommodate birds in your pond, whether they are wild or pet birds, some preparations are necessary. A few changes are needed to make their stay easier and to maintain the biodiversity of the area.

When we create an ornamental pond or pool in the garden, the first thing we tend to think about is how to accommodate the fish – we usually forget about the birds. This is a mistake because even if we don’t want pet ornamental birds, the pond will inevitably attract wild birds. Many birds, like wild geese, barnacle geese, ducks, herons and swans, like to gather around sources of water. It provides a place for them to swim, eat and drink.

Therefore, the water source you create must be prepared to prevent these birds from disturbing the balance of the biotope. For example, it is a good idea to install fencing above the shallow water near the banks in order to protect tadpoles. Failing to do this gives future frogs no hope of escaping the voracious appetites of passing birds.

If aquatic birds frequently visit your pond, it is recommended to cover the floor of the banks with pebbles or plastic covering. This prevents sludge from developing. When a duck drops by, it will not be tempted to look for food in the soil, as the mud. It digs up dirties the water.

If the pond is frequented by a lot of wild birds, it is essential to install big fish, as small ones will quickly be devoured by the birds. The same precautions should be taken if you choose to have pet ornamental birds. You should also install a fence around the water to prevent your birds from escaping and to stop predators like the fox from dropping by for dinner.

There is a huge range of ornamental birds available. One hundred sixty varieties of duck are domesticated, ducks like mandarins, shovelers, shellducks, wigeons, pintails and wood ducks. Other birds like teals and common and barnacle geese are also domesticated.

These birds don’t require much looking after. If you have a small pond, you may need to feed them from time to time. They should be treated for worms twice a year – this will keep them in good health and preserve the water quality.