How to make a water pond with plants and fish

It is suggested to look for these types of tanks at farm or ranch stores, outside of town or through a mail order source. The assortment of tanks come in many sizes and can be round or oval. A two meter deep tank is recommended if you are going to grow water lilies and have fish.

Lay out an area a few feet larger than the size of your aquatic tank, and dig out the grass or ground cover about three inches. Using a crushed granite base or paved base and level, establish a flat, stable base, by gently tamping and leveling, to place your reservoir. It’s going to be very heavy when filled with water, and you’ll want to make sure that it won’t sink on one side over time, or cause the water level in the pond to tilt.

When the tank is in place, fill it with clean water from a hose or, better if you have it, with stored rainwater. If using tap water from the hose, leave the water in the tank for three to four days before planting or introducing fish so that the chlorine in the water has time to evaporate. Once you’ve put fish or other animals in the pond, you’ll need to be careful how you add water to make up for evaporated water:- To fill small tanks, use rainwater or use a bucket of tap water that has had time to remove chlorine.- For larger tanks, can be refilled from hose water if it is only an inch or two, the volume of water in a large tank cancels out the effects of added chlorine, as long as it is not too much You will want to choose at least three types of plants for your new pond: oxygenators (submerged plants), marginal (plants at the water’s edge), and deep water aquatic (plants that sit on the bottom and have leaves on the surface, like water lilies). Water Lilies can be pretty and anything you want, but hardworking oxygenators are very important in maintaining a natural balance in the water, keeping algae on shore and producing oxygen for fish. The nursery will sell them in small packages wrapped in wet newspaper.

As soon as you get home, put the plants in a bucket of water or plant them in the pond. You will need a few old plastic pots filled with clean gravel. It doesn’t matter if the pots have holes in the bottom.

Take a tuft of your oxygenating plants and carefully insert the bottom inch or so of the stems into the gravel (pebbles) of the pot. The stems are fragile, so poking a small hole in the soil with your fingers is recommended, placing the stems in the hole, and then gravel (pebbles) around it.

Here’s a bunch already potted up. Anacharis does not have to be potted, but doing so helps protect it from being eaten by fish. The fish can eat it over time, in fact. When that happens, just buy some more.

Place the oxygenating plant in a pot at the bottom of the tank, and that’s it. Here six bundles of anacharis were used for the stock-tank-pond and three pots were filled with them. You may need more, but they can grow fast enough to keep your tank clean.

Next, you will need to build some platforms for your fringe plants. It can be whatever is at hand: stacked bricks, overturned flower pots, and cinder blocks.

Cinder blocks with holes in the center have the added benefit of giving fish a place to hide from predators like raccoons and herons.

Dwarf papyri…

‘Black Marble’…

…And this plant generically called “Pond Lily” after the guy who helps out in the nursery.

Last but not least, the attention grabbers of any pond: water lilies. Deep-sea aquatic plants like these shade the water with their large, spreading leaves, helping to keep the pond cool, covering fish, and blocking sunlight on which algae feed. The ‘helvola’, a yellow dwarf, can also be implemented.

And I recently purchased this ‘Colorado’, a medium to large coral pink lily. When purchasing calla lilies for your pond, be sure to note the size of the mature ones. Small ponds like mine have room for a single dwarf lily. Larger ponds may be able to support two or three larger lilies.

Water Lilies should be placed at the bottom of the tank, and their leaves can reach the surface. If the leaves are not that long, place the pot on some bricks to raise it up. As it grows, remove the bricks and lower the pot to the bottom of the pond. Once a month during the growing season (March or April through October in Austin), place a fertilizer tablet with your finger, driving deep into the soil of the lily pot. Do not let the tablet dissolve in water, or contribute to algae blooms. In the Austin climate, hardy water lilies (unlike tropical ones) can hibernate at the bottom of a 2-foot storage tank. deep. The water lily will die back to soft stems in the winter, which should be collected and discarded from the pond. Each year in spring, as new growth begins, divide your calla lily and re-seed in heavy clay soil in a pond pot with no holes in the bottom. Fill the pot with gravel to prevent soil from floating in the water.

With their steep sides and lack of natural shelves, aquatic ponds have the advantage of being difficult for raccoons, dogs and cats (and small children) to enter. But it’s good to make your pond hospitable to birds, insects, and other small animals that might want to drink or take a bath, or have fallen in and need a way out. I put a stone bath platform on top of a cinder block next to the rim of the tank. It gives birds and insects easy access to water, and I can enjoy watching them enjoy the pond too.

I’m going to add a fish – a gambusia or a goldfish are my options, to add color and life to the pond, and to eat mosquito larvae. In fact, I never feed my goldfish, leaving them to fend for mosquito larvae, algae, bugs, and anacharis at the bottom of the pond. Check with your supplier to find out how many fish your pond size can support. If you don’t want fish, you’ll have to rely on mosquito killer products to keep larvae out of the water.

A filter pump can be a nice addition to your pond, especially if you want the sound of moving water. But in my experience, you don’t need a water filter, mosquito control, or healthy plants. The pump may, however, be necessary if you have goldfish and it is full sun and the surface water gets hot in the summer. Goldfish prefer cold water, and a pump will help keep the water at a constant temperature by circulating cooler water from the bottom. Gambusia (native mosquito-eating fish), while not as colorful as goldfish, are more hardy and don’t mind warm pond water, therefore a pump is not a necessity for them. As for keeping the water clean and healthy, a filtration pump is not necessary. What matters is having an adequate amount of water plants, surface shading plants, and not over-filling your tank with fish.


The only maintenance needed is removing fallen leaves from time to time, fertilizing once a month during the growing season, cleaning the bottom once a year, and dividing the plants once a year. Expect a pond algae bloom, it will turn green shortly after you plant your pond and perhaps every spring when the water warms. However, by keeping the pond stocked with oxygenating plants, and being patient until the water lily leaves are ready to shade the surface, you will find that the water cleans itself without the need for any chemicals. Just as nature does.

Updated: August 15, 2009. This is what the pond looks like after only a few weeks.

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