This may seem like a strange topic for pond building. Most of the older books, pamphlets, catalogs, videos, whatever that you get will do a 4 to 6 step process to build a pond. If that's the approach you take, you won't be happy with the result within 6 months of your installation. The minute you finish those steps, you will start to find out about all the things you SHOULD have thought of, but no one told you about. So I take a different approach. I have you start the thinking process first! What a concept!!! You will find that you will be doing a lot of this... You have a lot of questions to answer such as:
  1. How big will the pond be? How deep? Where?
  2. Do you want fish? Plants? Both? What kind?
  3. Do you want a formal or informal pond?
  4. Do you want it above ground or below?
  5. Liner type or rigid? Filtration?
  6. What are you going to do with all the dirt?
  7. What will it all cost?

The answers to these questions are all related as they apply to the big picture. You need to keep all these in mind as you start your next section, Research... As part of your thinking process, you need to start a little research now. Can't think without a little fodder to think on, can you? Start looking for pond building seminars. Look around for local pond societies. The Austin Pond Society maintains a great list of local pond societies, check it out. Also check out the web for other pond sites and link pages like the one I have at this site. Part of your thinking process is preparing for your research process by collecting information. You won't get all your answers here, so talk to people. Visit the library. Get on the mailing lists of lots of mail order pond suppliers. (Good list in the Library... section.) You would be surprised what you can find out in a catalog. I don't expect you to necessarily buy from them unless you don't have a local supplier. They really keep the ponder going during the winter when your fish are just vague shadows moving under the ice. They also are the first place you are likely to see new products.

You can start answering some of your questions now. The first advice anyone will give you is to build the biggest pond you can afford. The only regret that anyone ever has after building a pond is that the pond isn't big enough. Also, a pond big enough to actually get in is a lot easier to take care of than a smaller pond. You can get to your plants at waist level rather than bent over on your knees. Contrary to what you might think, a small pond can be harder to keep clean because there is less room to maneuver your tools to clean the bottom. The exceptions to this are small container gardens. These work great on a patio, apartment, condo, or front yard. They also make a great way to highlight some of the smaller water plants.

So much for size. Depth is a little complex. If your pond is only going to be a reflecting pond or a bog pond, 12 inches is fine. If you plan on having lilies, you are going to need at least 18 inches. If you are also thinking koi, you need at least 24 inches. The thing is that you are limiting yourself with a small pond. If you just want a reflecting pond now, you might wish to change your mind later and add a water lily, but if your pond is too shallow, you can't do it. Depth never hurts except by needing a little bigger liner. By the way, any pond without fish is a mosquito factory waiting to happen. Heat and cold dictate your pond depth too. If you want your fish to over-winter outside, you need water at least a foot deeper than your thickest ice. If you are in a really hot area, you need deeper water to keep the water cool enough to not boil your fish, unless you have an abundance of tartar sauce.

I live in North Texas. By the first of July we usually have LOTS of days with temperatures over 100 degrees. Depth helps but water lilies also help to shade the water and a large waterfall helps, too. My main pond with both koi, and plants is 32 inches (my inseam - so I can get in it in cold weather). My highest water temps are around 85 degrees. I have found that below the Mason/Dixon line, 30 to 36 inches is a good depth for fish/lily ponds and for the pond keeper.

Where to put the pond? Good question and the first answer that comes to mind for non-ponders is "the low spot". Actually, the low spot is about the worst place. See, this is where all the runoff from the rest of the neighborhood collects. Your neighbors have lawn services, fertilizer, pesticides, herbicides, ... dogs? Do you want all this to end up in your pond water? If you're planning on having lilies, they require 4 to 6 hours of sunlight a day. Some varieties are more shade tolerant. Bog plants run the gamut from full shade to full sun. Put your pond where it will be accessible to a water and electrical supply. Of course, you can install these things, but why make your job harder? Put your pond where YOU will get the most good out of it. See where other people have put their decks. Maybe what you do with the dirt will affect where you put the pond. I built a hill behind my pond with my dirt so I had to make room for all the dirt. More stuff to think about before you get out the shovel.

Fish and plants are a personal choice. You can get some ideas about your choices from your research. I like both fish and plants for a number of reasons. Any body of water will invite mosquitoes and the best defense against them is fish. Water gardening is also just about the only way I want to garden in Texas. The variety of plants available is amazing! The plants also help to use up the wastes produced by the fish and help keep the water clearer. I get into more of this later in the Plants and Fish... page. There is some good stuff there that you might want to read to help you decide.

The choice between formal and informal ponds is a matter of choice. The architecture of your house may dictate your pond style. Formal ponds are very geometrical in shape. They may be above or below ground. Informal ponds are just about any shape and are usually below ground, but not always.

Above or below ground is usually dictated by how much work you can or want to do. Dig a test hole where you think the pond will go to see how much trouble the work will be. It may change your mind about where the pond will go or whether it will be above or below ground. Maybe a little of both if you only dig down part way and use the dirt to make a berm for the sides.

Pond liners fall into 4 different types - natural liners, flexible liners, hard liners, and concrete. All but the hard liners allow the builder complete flexibility in shape and depth. Natural liners use the natural tendency of clay soils to hold water and are probably the cheapest. They may be reinforced with mixed in additives to help out leakage but it will not completely stop it and increases your costs. These are usually used for very large ponds and the water quality is not as good as that for other liner types.

Flexible liners are sheets of flexible materials such as rubber or plastic that lines the pond. Your limitations with this type of liner are available liner size. They come in rolls up to 100 feet wide and long, and larger custom sizes can be ordered. Plastic liners are the cheapest but the plastic becomes brittle over time. Rubber is a little more expensive, but will last you a lifetime. Do yourself a favor. If you are going to use a flexible liner, use the rubber.

Hard liners are molded plastic or fiberglass liners. The shapes and depth are determined by the manufacturer and the biggest hard liners are not really very big. They are difficult to install properly in ground, but they may be used above ground easily and are almost indestructible. They are also about twice as expensive as the flexible liners.

Concrete liners have been around a long time. They are more difficult and expensive to install than flexible liners and may eventually crack and may need relining with a flexible liner. They are also among the most expensive liners to put in unless you can get a great off-season rate from a local swimming pool company for a gunnite job.

Your catalogs will give you an idea of the costs you can expect. Make a list during your research of everything you think you will need and add another 50% to the total. Catalogs will also give you an idea about liner sizes available, both hard and flexible. I do all my planning from catalog prices so that I am always figuring on the high side.

Don't forget, if you have any more links or have any questions, shoot me an e-mail at

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