Skip to main content

Water garden ponds are one of the most popular types of landscape features among homeowners in various parts of the country and there is little question as to why.  Beyond ordinary architectural features, which can add drama or comfort to an outdoor area, or pools and fountains, which allow for the enjoyment of water’s relaxing qualities, ponds bring a whole other dimension to your outdoor living space.  That’s because they are more than a water feature…they are a miniature ecosystem.

That’s right; ponds provide living space and sustenance for plants and animals as well as bring us endless enjoyment.  You may choose to stock your pond with fish but even if you don’t, you’ll find it attracting all sorts of wildlife, including frogs and insects.  This can provide you with a chance to observe the life cycle of these creatures as well as cultivate and grow a whole range of plants.  It can be educational as well as fun for the entire family.

In fact, water garden ponds have become so popular that pond design is now a flourishing section of the landscape business.  There is almost no limit to pond design in terms of size and shape and type of wildlife involved.  You don’t have to have a huge amount of space in order to enjoy your own pond; even the smallest yards can house a fascinating pond environment.  Before choosing a pond for your yard, though, it is important to understand the various components that are involved.

All ponds include a variety of basic components.  These include pond liners, pumps, biofalls filter and skimmers.  Each of these pieces plays an important role in ensuring that your pond environment is healthy and stable for the plants and creatures inhabiting it.  This will also allow you to enjoy your pond for many years to come.  Understanding each of these components and how it contributes to the overall ecosystem is crucial for any type of pond design.

Liners serve water garden ponds the same way a subfloor serves a room in your home.  Simply speaking, this is an extra layer between the actual floor of the pond and the earth itself that protects from damage caused by shifting of the ground and water seeping up through the earth.  The liner can also help a pond to keep its shape and serves as a foundation for the rest of the structure that the design is built on.  Not surprisingly, then, you can see why having the correct type of liner can make a big different.

Pond liners can be made from several different materials including concrete, plastic or flexible rubber.  The material you use for your liner will depend on the size and intricacy of your pond design. In the Capital Region area concrete liners are not recommended used for fountains and ponds. Our harsh winters can simply crack concrete with the freeze/thaw cycle we experience. Since it is such a hard substance, concrete can crack over time so it will require expert knowledge to lay it properly and regular yearly maintenance to keep it in good shape.

Pre-formed plastic liners are another option for small ponds.  Plastic liners can’t be molded into intricate shapes so they are not ideal. Pre-formed ponds are difficult install and its rigid form make it an unnatural design.

For small, medium or large water garden ponds in various designs rubber EPDM liners are the better choice.  These liners are flexible, weather and puncture resistant and come with a long warranty. All liners will require an extra layer between them and the ground itself to protect the liner from sticks, roots and rocky soil.  Sand or a specially made felt-like material called pond liner underlayment can be used for this purpose. Best practices are to stay away from using other materials such as synthetic carpet as it will attract critters to live under your liner.

Aside from a liner, arguably the most important component of any pond is the pump.  As with a swimming pool, the pump serves to aerate the water, keeping it continually circulating.  This makes for a healthier environment for plants and fish and prevents the buildup potential biohazards.  For water garden ponds pumps are submersible and the size of your pond will dictate the size of the pump you require.

Submersible pumps can either reside within the pond itself or be housed in a skimmer to hide the mechanics.  A skimmer makes accessibility easy as you’ll need to be able to reach the pump in order to maintain it.

Filters work hand in hand with the pump to rid water of any toxins or pollutants and keep pond water clean and clear.  Again, there are different types of filters including mechanical and biological filters.

Mechanical filters called skimmers the hide the mechanics of the pump and plumbing and skim debris similar to pool skimmer. Skimmers include a net, fiber mats, or brushes to remove particles and to trap larger pieces of floating debris acting as a pre-filter to protect the pump.      Skimmers usually use a basket to trap debris but many also employ some sort of fiber mat or other media to mechanically filter smaller particles as well.  You will need to remove the basket from the skimmer to discard any built up debris and the best designed skimmers allow you to do so without ever getting your hands wet.

Biological filters are the best choice for water garden ponds, as they use naturally occurring beneficial bacteria to clean the water.  Biological filters also called biofalls allows the water to pass through the filters as it flows over into a waterfall and circulates back into the pond.  Beneficial bacteria grows and colonizes on the filter pads in the biofalls.  Beneficial bacteria is crucial for debris break down in the pond.  The aerobic bacteria and the other microorganisms colonized on the rocks and gravel all over the pond bottom help eat up the excess nutrients in the pond. Once broken down, these substances are absorbed as nutrition by the plants completing ecosystem cycle. The biological filters in the biofalls are filter that are not cleaned throughout the growing season.  Cleaning the filters will result in washing away the healthy beneficial bacteria and throw the ecosystem into shock.

Since all water garden ponds are not created equal, you need to be sure that you are using the proper equipment for your particular pond so that you can ensure the healthiest and safest environment possible. Of course you may have other decorative components to your pond, but these are the basic pieces of equipment that are essential to the proper maintenance of any pond environment.  The exact configuration of pump, mechanical filter and biological filter that you use will be dependent on what kind of plant and animal life you have in your pond as well.  Ponds that contain fish, for instance, may require different levels of filtration and clarification than those that contain only plant material.

The important thing to remember is that all water garden ponds are living, growing environments and it is up to you, as a responsible owner, to care for them properly.  This means making sure that all parts of the environment have what they need to thrive.  Naturally, the elements can wreak havoc on a pond so having proper liners and pumps can help to keep your pond stable and secure in even the worst weather.

Filters and skimmers can keep potentially dangerous contaminants from entering the water and disrupting the entire ecosystem. Biololgical filters work on a microscopic level to keep the balance of bacteria and water clarity where it needs to be in order to sustain life.  All of this together makes for a healthy living environment and that’s why it is so vitally important for your pond.

If you are considering the idea of water garden ponds, be sure to consult with an expert like those at Decker’s, to make sure that you are creating a feature that will not only look nice in your overall design but also work properly for all of the living creatures that will call it home.  There is so much more to an effective pond design than just placement of rocks and plants, so you need to be sure you’re taking the right approach from the ground up.

The other benefit that an expert designer can give you is a knowledge of your area, from knowing what kind of wildlife you might expect to see to designing with specific weather conditions in mind so that you can get the most enjoyment out of your pond.  This is particularly true in the Albany, Saratoga and Rensselaer county area where cool temps and mountain terrain can make for some unique challenges when it comes to designing and building ponds.

Nothing brings more enjoyment to the whole family than a beautiful, natural pond environment. If you’re considering making a pond part of your outdoor living space, then make sure you do your homework and understand everything that is involved.  Then consult the experts at Decker’s and find out just how you can turn your dream into a reality.  Together you can bring the magical world of water garden ponds to your own backyard!