Selecting the best location and size for your pond

The thought of having a pond should be one of excitement. The first thing most people think about is how big it should be. This is important but to answer this question you need to know the goal of the pond first. In other words, why do you want a pond, do you want to see beautiful waterlilies or perhaps to feed some beautiful Koi or to have a waterfall? One of these is not exclusive to the others but the decision on why will take some planning, to assure your goals are met. As an example, Koi do not play nice with plants. In fact, large Koi will eat many plants especially water lilies. If your desire is to have the sound of water and a large waterfall you need to plan appropriately to have enough water volume to balance with the waterfall. All goals can be accomplished with a little planning.

Chairs by a pond

If you are looking for a water garden with a nice balance of plants and fish, then the first step will be to identify the best location for the pond and the best size based on the selected location.  

The location should be where you are going to spend the most amount of time to maximize your enjoyment. Locating a pond on the far side of your property where you rarely visit limits your enjoyment. If you locate the pond where you can easily see it than you can enjoy it more and see the many subtle changes that occur through the seasons. Locating the pond off the outdoor deck or directly out your window or both will allow you and your guests to get the most out of your pond. People often think that summer is the best time to view a pond. Certainly, the summer is when you are most likely to go pondside, but so much activity happens throughout the year as well. In the fact during the spring and fall a pond is very active with visiting birds, frogs, and many other creatures that are naturally in the yard. If your desire is to have beautiful foliage and flowers than sunlight is essential. The sunnier the spot the more variety of plants you can choose from and the greatest opportunity for plants to flower with multiple blooms. The growing plants are the answer to controlling algae and maintaining crystal clear water. The pond can be placed in a shady area, you can select plants to obtain good foliage in shade but the ability for many plants to bloom will be limited. Most importantly you want to place the pond within easy view from your most used outdoor space. The pond location should also be accessible to a water source and electrical line for pumps and lights.  

One you find the best location you can then think about the size. To judge the best size for your location lay a garden hose or rope on the ground in the shape the fits the area. Stand back and look at the shape and adjust the garden hose or rope so you can envision your pond. Keep moving the garden hose or rope to gain the best size for your selected area. Once you have a design that meets your needs, you can then identify the size. Simply measure the longest point and widest point and record those two measurements for the surface. Determining the depth depends on the intent of the pond. In most areas 18” to 24” is the minimum to allow fish to survive through the winter. Ideally, going deeper to at least 36” is better, both for fish living under the ice in the winter and for summer cooling. One thing people do not think about is the bigger the pond the more types of plants that can be accommodated and the more room for fish to grow and thrive. A bigger pond is easier to maintain than a smaller pond. Think of it as the more water volume the easier a pond is to keep stable. As fish grow, they consume more food and produce more waste. Plants also produce waste through decaying leaves and flowers. These factors provide greater build-up of organics and sediment. The larger the pond the more area for all this to take place. The larger the pond the easier it is to keep things in balance and maintain.  

Once you have the two measurements (length and width) you can determine if a preformed plastic pond is feasible or if a flexible liner is a better choice. A flexible liner is often easier to install than a pre-formed rigid plastic shape. The size of the flexible liner required for the pond (regardless of the shape and size or location of any marginal planting shelves), is easily calculated using a simple formula. All you need to know is the length of the pond and the width of the pond and the maximum depth. First for the length of the liner, record the overall length of the pond plus twice the maximum depth, plus two (2) feet. Second for the width of the liner, record the overall width of the pond plus twice the maximum depth, plus two (2) feet. The two extra feet for the liner allows you to have an edge area to place decorative edging stones around the perimeter and finish the installation with ease. As an example: a pond with overall dimensions of 6 feet by 12 feet and a depth of 3 feet will require a line of 14 feet by 20 feet.

If you are planning for a waterfall or stream aesthetic for your pond it is often advised to think of it as an add on feature. Waterfalls and streams are best with a separate liner that overlaps the main pond liner to keep all water and splash contained. A pump will move the water from the main pond via a hose to the waterfall or stream and the water will cascade back into the main pond. Having a separate liner for your desired water feature is a best practice. Follow the pump manufacturer’s guidelines to accommodate the height and width of your feature.  

It will be important to know how many gallons of water will be in your pond once you determine the size. Knowing this can help you determine the number of fish the pond can hold, calculate partial water changes and dose with water conditioners as needed to make tap water safe and balance your pond water. The surface area will help to determine the type and number of water lilies and other plants the pond can accommodate. Knowing how much water is in your pond makes maintaining a healthy environment much easier. Many water treatments and fish remedies depend on proper dosing to work effectively, and most directions specify an amount for a particular number of gallons or liters. If you don’t know your pond’s volume, you may improperly dose a product and disrupt your pond’s ecosystem! All API® pond products are formulated for best results when the directions on the package are followed correctly, and in order to do so, it is crucial to know the volume of your pond. An easy to use pond calculator is available on our website here. Simply choose the shape of your pond on the website and enter the measurements of your pond and the calculator does the rest and will easily calculate the volume of your pond!

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