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Building a Sunken Garden Pond

Starting to build a pond can be a daunting task, so we have some tips to make the process more straightforward.  Many products from our online aquarium store will help, but there is a lot more to consider.  Seeking further advice from experts like ours is a good idea for more complex projects, but here are some general ideas.

Where (and when) to start

Late winter is actually the ideal time to begin, so if you spend a few weeks in January constructing your pond, by spring it should be off to a great start.  Choose the perfect spot in your garden first, ideally away from overhanging trees. It needs enough sunlight to succeed and you want to avoid spores and leaves dropping into it too much.  Bear in mind the sun can heat up your water, though, which might affect your fish and will probably lead to a lot of algae. Also, think about the views you’ll get from your windows when finding the right place, too.

When working out the size and shape of your pond, you might find it easier to base it roughly on the liners you can easily get hold of, letting you cut down on wasted materials and money.  Leaving plenty of space around the perimeter for marginal plants and maintenance access, mark out your shape with wooden stakes and string or a warm hosepipe, having cleared any grass from the area.

What to do next

As a general rule, you should dig out the entire area to at least 12 inches deep, with a deeper (2-3 feet deep) hole in the centre for some of your pond life to hide or hibernate in.  If possible, create some extra raised beds plus a gentle slope at one side for hedgehogs and small animals to escape if they fall in. Keep the sides flat and solid as much as possible so the lining fits better later.

After clearing out any rocks and roots that might damage your lining, add a layer of sand and some old carpet or newspapers (or better yet, special pond underlay) to further protect it.  Next you can lay out your main lining – get friends to help get it right, pinning it down carefully with rocks as you gradually add water until it fits the pond perfectly. Cut off the edges with scissors or a sharp knife leaving 12 inches of excess around the edges, so you can secure it.  This can be done with rocks or slabs, then to achieve an attractive finish cover the lining with soil or turf up to the edges.

How to add life to your pond

April - May is the perfect time to buy new plants, but if you’re accepting donations you can add them at any time.  Most marginal and pond plants will take without much effort, but some will require more careful planning. If you want to add a lily, for example, pick a manageable one and keep it somewhere within reach so you can easily trim it back.

As long as your pond is safe for other animals, don’t do anything else to encourage frogs and insects if you want to keep fish.  Likewise, plants getting overgrown will pose a danger to your fish although it’s important to keep some to oxygenate the water. You might also need to protect your fish from cats and birds by covering your pond.

To help you choose the right aquarium supplies to get you set up, speak to our experts who can talk you through your options.  Some examples of things you should consider might include:

  • - Treat tap water with a dechlorinator to remove chlorine, which can be harmful to fish.  
  • - Test pond water before introducing fish to make sure the water quality is good.
  • - Setting up a filter will keep the water clean and stop nitrate levels from building up in the water. These can be teamed with decorative fountains for added visual appeal.
  • - Test water regularly to monitor for any changes which may require a partial water change and monitor fish for any illnesses that may require treatment.

When introducing fish to the pond you need to acclimatise them first.  Once your pond has been set up for six weeks, leave them in the bag of water and float them in the water for around 15 minutes.  Open the bag and slowly introduce water from the pond into the bag over the next 15 minutes, and this will allow the fish to adjust to the new water.  Finally you can submerge the bag completely and allow the fish to swim free!