DIY Water Garden and Koi Pond

About 5 years ago, my husband and I decided to create a small koi pond in our backyard. We had big dreams of a beautifully landscaped pond with beautiful flowering plants and a waterfall. Well with a lot of hard work, we were able to achieve this.  This is definitely a project that any DIYer can tackle.  The hardest part about this project was moving the rocks that we used to create a wall for our raised bed pond and the moving all the dirt and gravel into our backyard.  This is certainly a labor of love.   If you are going to skip having a raised bed  then this could easily be done in a weekend. For us it took about 3 weekends and lots of help from friends and my dad.

I thought I would write a post about this with the hopes of inspiring some weekend warriors to take on this project. We have truly enjoyed our pond and it was certainly worth the effort.  So let’s get started.  There are two main things you need to keep in mind when picking the location for your pond.  The first is sunlight. It is important for your pond to get some sunlight, but not full sun. If the pond if small (less than say 1000 gallons) the water will get really warm if it gets too much sun leading to frequent algae blooms and problems with your fish.  Our pond gets about 4-6 hours of sun a day in the summer and that seems to work well.  The second thing to remember is that you will need electricity at your pond to run the filter and uv sterilizer. Without this the pond will just become a breeding ground for mosquitoes.  We were lucky enough to have my handy Dad help us on this one and run the new electrical box for us.  If you are going to need to run electric to the location and hire an electrician, it will certainly save you money to have the pond near your house.

After we chose the location of the pond, we created an 15 inch high wall around the perimeter of the water garden area. We chose to use a beautiful granite that we got a good deal on from someone on craigslist, but really any sort of rocks would work.  It takes quite a bit of patience to create a wall around the garden to get  the rocks to fit well together. I think we moved each stone about 10 times before it made it to its final resting place.  Again, this is truly a labor of love but the result is beautiful and totally worth it.  Next we outlined the shape of the pond. We used a preformed pond liner which made this easy.  The next step is to completely fill the inside of the rock wall with pea pebbles to help with drainage and so that all of the dirt around the pond does not just wash away when it rains. This took a huge amount of gravel, but 5 years later it is still holding up well so it was worth the effort and investment.  Once the gravel is in place, dig out the area inside the outline of the pond and level it out. This is very important if you want your pond to be level when it is filled.  We used sand under the pond to make sure to was completely level before putting the pond in.  We dug out about half the depth of the pond so that the top of the pond would be level with the top of the wall.  Once you have done this, you are ready to place the pond on the level sand foundation you have created and fill around the pond with dirt.  Here is what it will look like.

Our pond filling for the first time!

One part of this project that was tricky was building the waterfall.  I can not take credit for this part though as this was my Dad’s work and he did a great job.  We did use and adhesive foam in a couple of place to keep the stones in exactly the right place.  The foam is initally black (yuck, an eye sore if you ask me) but within a couple weeks the sun bleaches it and it become the color of the stones.  You can hardly even notice it now.  One of the things that takes a lot of trial and error is picking a stone for the water to run down to create a water fall and then creating the correct placement for it. There is no right way to do this. It is really just trial and error until you get it right. Then once you have it right you run the hose from your pond pump through the back of the waterfall and presto…you now have a water feature.    One tip, don’t use the foam until you get the stones in place because it makes them permanent and it is horrible to remove.

Almost ready to plant flowers

Water running, a few flowers planted and mulched. Time to relax!

One of the things that you will notice is that we had to put a stone under the waterfall. This is because when we turned on the waterfall the splash from the water was splashing out of the pond. This was a simple way to fix this.

I hope seeing the pond that we created in our backyard will inspire all you weekend warriors to take on this project.  Like I said before, this projet does not take a lot of skill, just hard work and patience.  Our pond does have a filter and uv sterilizer which I will discuss more in another post.  I will also discuss pond fish and their care in a future post.  If you have questions about this process please feel free to email me.  Good luck and happy water gardening!

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30 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    laura said,

    This is awesome! And actually sounds like something we could accomplish. It looks great.thanks for the inspiration.

    • 2

      kellycy said,

      Yes Laura it is definitely something that can be done. The manual labor really is the hardest part. Good luck and please let me know if you take this project on and how it turns out!

      • 3

        William said,

        Hello. Your pond and the mulch and plants and waterfall look so serene and beautiful. Do you ever put any water plants or fish in it and can they survive the winter there? Do you get cold winters where you live? I’m just trying to estimate how deep a pond I would need so the fish would survive the winter. We can’t get much personal help here because there aren’t many nurseries around here, and the staff at these nurseries don’t seem very experienced with ponds. I want to do it right the first time. Thanks.

      • 4

        Kelly Y. said,

        Hi, yes I have plants and fish in it. It is very cold here and the pond stays frozen for much of the winter. The trick is getting a small 100w.heater to run all through the winter months. Here in CT that prevents the pond from freezing solid and my fish and plants seem to have no problem at all. I hope this helps! Good luck. I would love to see and hear how your pond turns out.

  2. 5

    oneanna65 said,

    Very clever !!!!!! Thanks !

  3. 7

    ed garceau said,

    ty for the inspiration me and my wife are about to start ours we have purchased a preform pond as well thanks for the great ideas

  4. 9

    justine said,

    How do you have the water getting to the top of the waterfall. Did you use a pump, if so, where do you put it?

    • 10

      Kelly Y. said,

      Hi,
      Yes i have a pump. They come in all different sizes. The one that I used pumps approximately 800 gallons per hour (gph). Even though my pond is only about 300 gallons having a stronger pump will help the water reach the top of the waterfall more successfully. So the pump goes in the pond and has a tub attached to it that runs from the pump to the top of the waterfall. There are tons of different pumps out there if you look on the web. I suggest not getting the cheapest model as they do not seem to last very long. Remember that the size of the pump you need will not only depend on how many gallons your pond is, but also the height of rise to the top of the waterfall. Higher rise= a need for a more powerful pump. Good luck and let me know if you have any more questions!

  5. 11

    Mike said,

    It looks really nice! Do you have separate pumps for the filter and waterfall? Or do you have one pump that does both? Please let me know!

    • 12

      Kelly Y. said,

      Hi mike, thank you! One pump does it all. The pump first pumps the water through the filter and second to the waterfall. Good luck!!

  6. 13

    Chris C said,

    Do you remember where you got the preformed liner? I found one just like this on the side of the road, but I was looking for the manufacturer info.

    • 14

      Kelly Y. said,

      I actually do not remember where I got this specific one but they sell them at many of the big garden stores. I know that you can also get them online and I have seen them on different websites with free shipping.

  7. 16

    melissa daer said,

    Hi,
    Your pond is gorgeous. How did you build the waterfall?
    Thanks

    • 17

      Kelly Y. said,

      Hi, thank you! The waterfall was created through a lot of trial and error. I just simply stacked the rocks the way i liked them making sure to have them sloping gradually towards the ponds. Then run a tube from the pond pump to the top of the waterfall. They make a spray from that is safe for ponds that you can your to fill gaps and hold the stones together. Let me know if you have any other questions. Thanks!

  8. 18

    paula said,

    Hi. Thank you so much for sharing this with us. Your pond ia beautiful. Im very excited about my pond project. I live in a small town and am having a hard time finding a rigid preformed pond liner the size I want. I would like at least 300 gallons to about 500. You mentioned you can get this at a garden store, do you know of one specifically? Ive not found one like i described at lowes or home depot or anywhere online. Ive seen the size i want but they are flex liners and im wanting a hard one. Any suggestions on where i can look?

    • 19

      Kelly Y. said,

      I am so glad to hear you are excited about you pond. That is wonderful. Creating a pond is a lot of work but totally worth it. I have seen them at some of the smaller pond stores. I am luck to live in an area with many options for pond supplies. Try looking online. I have seen smaller ones on amazon. I will keep my eyes open for them and post where I see them. Good luck and let me know how it goes.

  9. 20

    Gwen george said,

    Thank you so much, your information was very helpful. I have one and it is in the shade and constantly getting too much algae. I would like to do another though somewhere else in the yard.

    • 21

      Kelly Y. said,

      I am so glad it was helpful. Definitely consider getting a uv clarifier. They work wonders on algae. Good luck with you next pond project.

      • 22

        Chris C said,

        I’ll second the UV clarifier. I attached mine about a foot away from the pump – I bought one for $80 at Lowe’s that is submersible. In three days (removing and cleaning the filter mesh twice a day) we could see the bottom of our 18″ pond.

        A side effect was that ducks ate the smaller goldfish because they could see them. I bought some water hyacinth to provide cover for the fish!

  10. 23

    Jerri said,

    Hi, your pond is beautiful. Thank you for such good information about the process, waterfall and the uv sterilizer. I think the sterilizer would work wonders for my pond. I read that you would post information on koi but am having a hard time finding it. Could you please point me in the right direction? I have a few fish and am always looking for tips on caring for them. Thank you 🙂

  11. 24

    Crystal Baroni said,

    Hi what kind of maintenance do you have to do for the winter?

    • 25

      Kelly Y. said,

      I just add a small pond heater (about 100 watts). This keeps it from freezing solid. That’s it really. Just plug in the heater and wait until spring.

  12. 26

    Carmen said,

    I love how you transferred a boring wall area to outdoor oasis. It is truly buitiful and classy Thank you for your step by step as well as the photos. I would love to see how it looks today. All my best. Keep Pinteresting Carmen 😀


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