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Guidelines for Planning and Building Your Koi Pond

Pond Schematic

  Before You Build Your Pond...

Some of the simplest plumbing maintenance features, added during construction, will save you a considerable amount of time and money in the long run. We offer here a few suggestions to keep the maintenance portion of the pond experience at a minimum and the enjoyment portion at a maximum.

  Pond Construction...

Whether a watergarden or a fish pond, it is preferable to construct your pond at a depth of 3 feet. Not only does this create a more stable water temperature throughout the year but this depth generally discourages raccoons and birds such as egrets and herons from investigating what may be in your pond for lunch or dinner. These animals prefer to hunt in water they can stand in. The pond should be straight sided, which limits predation and creates shadows, limiting algae growth and exposure of fish to sunlight. See illustration at bottom of this page. See also: Predator deterrent.

  Sloping the floor of the pond to the drain encourages the waste to collect in the drain. Pipe sizing such as 2" and more typically 3" and 4" allows for the passage of heavy organic debris such as decaying leaves and fish waste. Larger pipe also reduces the velocity of the water and waste as it flows through the pipe which aids in the beginning stages of the biological breakdown of this waste. The drain should be located at the deepest end and the waterfall should be at the opposite end. Use ABS fittings rather than PVC to reduce friction loss. Never use galvanized metal pipe. Install an overflow standpipe for rain run-off at the drain end. The water level of finished pond should be 2" - 4" above the finished grade of the landscape to protect pond water volume from rain run-off.

  When installing a pond, no matter how small, it is always to your minimum- maintenance advantage to install a pond bottom drain or bulkhead fitting as a drain to which an inlet screen can be added. A bottom drain is one of the least expensive and most useful single basic elementof any pond construction maintenance feature. It also is the most difficult and aggravating component to install after the pond is constructed, landscaped and stocked with fish. If the installation does not permit this drain to be gravity fed away from the pond, it can always be connected to the suction side of a pump or preferably, to a settling chamber. Even if you do not plan to install a filter system right away this plumbing line can be capped for eventual hookup. Retrofit existing ponds with an Aqua Art RetroDrain.



  Probably the most common mistake is the use of a high pressure, low volume pump (typically found on swimming pools). High volume, low pressure pumps are the more appropriate choice.

  Most pumps, especially high volume, low pressure pumps perform better, last longer and provide the least amount of maintenance if the pump is located outside the pond, below water level of the pond and near the source from which they draw. Pumps prefer to push water only. Pipe sizing is also a critical factoring achieving maximum performance with minimal maintenance. See "The Art of Calculations" for information on calculating the size of the pump you need for your system.

  Ponds as large as 8,000 gallons can be run continuously for a little over 1.00 a day! Ponds as small as 500 gallons can successfully operate on the amount of energy required to run a 25 watt light bulb. Recent advances in pump design have led to a new generation of oilless, ceramic magnetic-epoxy encapsulated coil pumps for use on small ponds - 1,000 gallons and under. These pumps are submersible or open air. We prefer to remove the pump from the pond and either install in-line or in a "wet" pumphouse outside the pond & below water level. This provides for the use of a leaf trap prior to water entering the pump. This also gets the pump out of the pond and provides easier access, vastly improves esthetics in the pond and minimizes electrical hazards. Simultaneously there are advances in centrifugal pump design for ponds 1500 gallons and up being made which have increased energy efficiency by as much as 40%. These pumps are extremely quiet.


Biological Filtration System...

  Unmodified rapid sand swimming pool filters, for the most part, are inefficient technology for a fish pond or water-garden as a main filter. New media are being developed for specific use with pressurized swimming pool filters which show a significant measure of promise. Dedicated biological filters provide constant biological breakdown of organic materials produced in, or blown in to a pond. It is important to understand that this is a slow and ongoing process. The basic elements of a biological filter are: 1) to provide optimum oxygen-rich environment for the cultivation and propagation of non-pathogenic aerobic bacteria and 2) to rid the system of bacterial mulm. See Nitrogen Cycle Illustration.

  Regardless of what filter system you choose, we suggest the addition of a settling chamber before your bio system. The settling chamber removes solid waste in a relatively undisturbed state prior to water's entering the pump and or balance of the filter system. It makes little sense to grind up solid waste and then deliver it to any filter system and expect that filter system to efficiently process the pureed waste. Typical set-up: settling chamber, prefilter with brushes, biofilter with springflo media.

Filter Setup Schematic

More Illustrations for Filter Set-up Configurations



  A water retention pocket should be provided for the waterfall stonework to be built within. Without this step, leaks are probable. The retention pocket which is located under the waterfall acts as a "bib" and returns water to the pond. One of the least expensive and simplest methods for creating this retention pocket is with the use of 45 mil EPDM flexible liner material. The illustration at the bottom of this page depicts a liner under the waterfall stonework. "The Art of Building Waterfalls" gives more detail.

  As a general practice, on most waterfalls, we prefer to install 3" drains at the lowest pool on the waterfall prior to water returning to the pond. This provides the pond owner with the ability to open this drain and literally hose down the waterfall as you would your driveway. This feature dramatically reduces maintenance. This drain eliminates waste collected in the waterfall from entering the pond.

  Waterfall rock work is then mortared to the top layer of concrete. This method protects the liner from sharp heavy rocks during construction. We recommend the use of drains in each pocket of the waterfall. Over time, these waterfall pockets collect waste materials, which can be easily drained off. Simple ABS male threaded cleanout plugs serve as plugs for these drain lines. Bulkhead fittings make the transition from pipe to liner.


Pipe Sizing...

  Even extremely small ponds should use a minimum of 2" suction lines, and 1" pump discharge lines. Gravity return lines should be a minimum of 2". Of course, larger ponds will need larger plumbing. Typical non-pressurized open bed gravel filters that rely on gravity to return water to the pond through a waterfall generally use 3", 4" and 6" pipe. Remember, water running through a pipe, using gravity to carry the volume has very little pressure. A general rule for gravity-fed plumbing is 1/4" drop to every 1' of horizontal length.


  Surface skimmers reduce maintenance and add a pristine surface appearance to your pond. Surface skimmers can remove blown-in waste before it has a chance to settle at the bottom of the pond.

  Ultraviolet light sterilizers not only play a fundamental role in the elimination of planktonic (split pea soup green) algae spore but also act as an ongoing prophylactic against free swimming disease-causing organisms.


Profile Elevation Schematic

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