Garden pond: How to build, plant and maintain it

Garden ponds are a complex, small ecosystem. You can find out here how to plan and create a pond, how to get algae under control and why plants are essential.

The sounds of the water, the movements of the birds and fish and a few water lilies as a splash of color on bottle-green water: A lively garden pond is something very special.

But the small ecosystem is sensitive to its environment. So that garden ponds are fun and not too much work, you should develop a stable balance in the long term. This means that there should be no silting up due to too much pond sludge or evaporating water. In addition, the algae growth should be checked and a correct level of oxygen and nutrients found. You can read here how you plan, create and maintain your very own pond.

The different types of garden pond

Garden ponds offer many more options than you think – the questions you should ask yourself: Would you prefer an accurately laid out pond with a bordered stone pond edge? Or a natural one with tall reeds and overgrown grasses? Do you want to keep fish in the pond or do you want small canals and waterfalls to walk along? If you want, you can even create the garden pond as a swimming pool.

Create garden pond: membrane pond or prefabricated pond?

There are basically two possible systems for creating a garden pond: foil ponds or prefabricated ponds.

Foil ponds have the advantage that you can specify the shape, size and course of the pond yourself. When creating foil ponds, a pit is dug out and covered with a pond foil. Concrete, bentonite and clay can also be used for waterproofing. A foil pond requires some preparation and effort. For example, you have to calculate the size of the film based on the dimensions of the pond. In addition, a film pond consists of several layers: First, a layer of sand is sprinkled on the soil, then a protective flow follows and finally the pond film. The films for garden ponds must be elastic, cold and tear-resistant so that they can survive the weather undamaged. They are made of polyethylene, PVC or rubber and are either glued or welded together to seal the garden pond. Remember: If the water volume is over 7,000 liters, you will need to obtain a building permit for the pond.

Prefabricated pools made of polyethylene or polyester that are simply dug into the ground are somewhat more stable and guaranteed waterproof. They are installed within a day. The disadvantage of the prefabricated ponds is that you cannot determine the shape and course of the water yourself.

In addition, prefabricated pools are only suitable up to a maximum size of 5 square meters and the plastic edge is difficult to conceal. Ready-made garden ponds come in different sizes and shapes, they simply have to be dug into the ground at a suitable location. The disadvantage: the transition from bank to water is very abrupt and steep. This makes the edge a deadly trap for animals and plants. It is difficult for them to settle on the banks.

The design of a garden pond – natural or formal

Whether you plan the design of the pond accurately or want a natural pond is a matter of taste. Animals prefer flat banks and retreats between stones and grasses.

Natural ponds make these hiding places possible. Their planting and design looks natural: the pond liner on the edge is covered with stones and plants, the vegetation is motley and is allowed to grow freely.

Formal ponds are accurately created. They have symmetrical floor plans, brick edges and a more rigorous planting.

Swimming ponds are a mixture of swimming pool and garden pond. Like the foil pond, they are sealed with a special foil. In contrast to a pool, the water of a swimming pond is not cleaned with chlorine or other chemicals. In a swimming pond, filter systems or microorganisms ensure clean water.

What you need to consider when planning a garden pond

A garden pond is roughly divided into four zones. The riparian zone at the edge, the wet zone to a depth of about 15 centimeters, the swamp zone (15-20 cm) and the deep zone. Every plant and every water dweller needs a specific one of these zones as a habitat.

Especially from a practical point of view, but also for optical reasons, smooth transitions between the shore, water and the various depth zones are very important. Plants and animals have an easier time settling in and around the pond.

Plan for some extra pond liner that extends beyond the water’s edge. This is the only way to secure the bank in a stable and permanent manner. It is also required to set up the essential capillary barrier. To do this, fold the outer edge of the film vertically upwards at the end and secure it with soil, coconut mats and plants. The resulting film wall prevents the garden floor from coming into contact with the pond water. Otherwise the earth would suck water out of the pond like a sponge. You can cover visible film with coconut mats, on which you can plant plants.

You can also decorate the garden pond with bridges, stepping stones and small paths. Make sure, however, that part of the shore remains undressed so that animals and sensitive plants can settle there.

To access the lake, you can create a stone path to the shore or even a small footbridge. You can also decorate garden ponds with water features, fountains or sculptures.

The correct placement of the garden pond

1.If you want to create a living biotope in the garden, you should make sure that the animals have enough rest. If the garden pond is secluded and away from the seating area, more birds and other animals will collect on it.
2.The pond is also good near the terrace or the house. Since mosquito larvae mostly serve as feed for other pond inhabitants, you will not have more mosquitoes in the garden than usual.
3. If there are (small) children in the garden more often, think of a sturdy grid or a fence to secure them! Children can also drown in a shallow and small garden pond.
4.If you are planning a filter or lighting system, you need a power source near the pond.
5.The pond and the plants in it need sunlight. However, the water should not be exposed to the sun all day, otherwise it will heat up too much.
6. Conifers or reeds are very suitable as shade providers. However, make sure that there are no deciduous trees in the immediate vicinity of the water. Otherwise falling leaves would constantly contaminate the water.
7. The area on which the pond is created should be level. Otherwise, the pond floods the surrounding lawn or vice versa, rainwater constantly flows into the pond.

Pond dwellers – of fish and plants

A pond without plants is a bleak sight. In addition, plants in the different pond zones are important to maintain the ecological balance. For example, fairy grass or thousand-leaf leaves keep the water shady, cool and oxygen-rich – the best remedies for algae growth.


– Each type of plant prefers a special water depth. There are plants that have to live at least one meter deep because they cannot tolerate sunlight. Others need a change from wet to damp soil to thrive. Specialists in retail can inform you which plant needs which water depth.

– Bags and baskets with nutrient media provide the foundation for the plant roots. The containers are provided with nutrient-poor soil and weighed down with sand. You can sink the bags or baskets with sand in deeper areas or dig them in near the shore.

– Heavy plants should be thinned out a little from time to time so that they do not take away light and nutrients from each other.

– Reeds on the bank ensure that the bank zone remains at least partially ice-free in winter. This is important for the oxygen content of the water. Underwater plants are also essential as oxygen producers.


Popular aquatic plants

-Bushes (riparian zone)
-Trollflower (riparian zone)
-Tongue buttercup (swamp zone)
-Tubes (swamp zone)
– water lilies (deep water zone)
-Fairy grass (deep water zone)

Fish in the garden pond

In general, you should decide whether you prefer an ornamental pond in which you mainly grow plants or whether you want a fish pond in the garden. To offer both, the lush flora and the fish, a pleasant habitat, can only be created with a lot of effort and aids.

If fish are to liven up the garden pond, special attention must be paid to stable water quality. If the animals are to spend the winter in the pond, they need a water depth of at least one meter. Sufficient shade is also important. If the water surface is in the sun all day, the fish pond heats up too much and the oxygen content can drop dangerously. For the oxygen content in the water, it is also helpful if some wind gets to the pond. It mixes the water and brings oxygen into deeper zones.

Fish must not be fed in winter, as they stop eating at around 10 degrees Celsius. Make sure that there are always a few spots around the bank vegetation without ice. Because even in winter the ecosystem in the pond produces gases that have to be released into the air. However, please do not chop holes in the ice, otherwise the animals can be scared or even injured. Some fish have to be brought into the house from a certain temperature to overwinter.

Algae in the garden pond

In the worst case, acute lack of oxygen can lead to the sudden death of plants and animals in the garden pond. Algae in particular are a main reason for the lack of oxygen.

Algae love light, warmth and calcareous water. In order to become their master, one should make sure that the garden pond gets enough shade and nutrients are not abundant. Excessive algae should be removed regularly.

These measures help curb algae growth in garden ponds:

– Large-leaved plants that float on the water provide shade, keep the water cool and thus counteract the formation of algae.
– Underwater plants such as frog bites and crab claws remove nutrients from the water and thus fight the algae.
– Never use plant soil as a breeding ground for the pond. The earth contains a lot of nutrients that serve as feed for algae.

Properly clean and maintain garden ponds

You should regularly remove loose leaves and overgrown plants from the pond basin. They pollute the water, rot there and can cause the biological balance to tip over.

Pond plants help keep the water clear by binding nutrients. In this way they also counteract excessive algae growth.

Thorough pond maintenance is recommended in spring. Leaves falling in autumn have sunk to the bottom and have turned into a layer of mud over the winter. At warmer temperatures, this layer of sludge can start to rot and smell unpleasant. To prevent this, you can regularly fish and dispose of algae and leaves with a hook or a landing net.

Small garden ponds should be emptied, mud removed and the pool filled with fresh water after a few years at the latest. For emptying, you can borrow a pond sludge sucker from the specialist supply.

Build your own pond – pond building instructions for everyone

At the beginning of your project, you have to decide which type of pond you want to build and what is possible in your garden. Not everyone has enough space for a large koi pond or even a swimming pond. With a little craftsmanship and the right accessories, even smaller garden ponds become a great eye-catcher in your garden.

Pond design – membrane pond or prefabricated pond?

Basically you have the choice between a foil pond and a prefabricated pond. Both have their advantages and can be perfectly integrated into your garden with careful planning.

Foil ponds are the ideal solution if you want to integrate a pond of your own individual shape in your garden. Deep and shallow water areas and swamp zones are already specified for the prefabricated pond pools or pond shells.

Ready-made ponds come in all possible sizes and shapes so that they have something to offer for every space and taste.

Foil pond – what to consider

Foil ponds are the premier class of garden ponds and the ideal solution if you want to build a completely individual pond. Ponds lined with foil look particularly natural, even large shallow water zones can be implemented as desired.

Make absolutely sure to use high quality pond liners. You will only enjoy your water object permanently with a durable, rot and cold-resistant film. From our experience, we recommend using the oasis pond liners Alfafol, Swimfol or Oasefol.

On the shore, these foils should be protected from excessive sunlight to a depth of 15 cm. Stones, special stone sheeting or embankment mats are best suited for this.

The foils are UV-resistant, but you should protect them for optical reasons alone. The larger the pond you are planning, the thicker the pond liner used.

Dark colors have the advantage that they improve water reflection. As a result, the water appears deeper than it actually is.

Please also think of a carefully prepared surface. This must be smoothed, free of pointed stones, lined with a layer of sand and covered with a protective fleece.

Prefabricated pond – what to consider

Prefabricated ponds are built with preformed pond shells made of polyethylene (PE) or glass fiber reinforced plastic (GRP). These pond bowls are extremely robust and almost indestructible, their installation is faster and easier than with a foil pond.

You only need to work exactly when digging out the pond and inserting the pool. There are now pond bowls in many different sizes and shapes, and with different surfaces.

Another advantage of these pond bowls is their mobility. When moving, you can simply dig out your prefabricated pool and reinstall it at your new home.

We have put together the individual steps for installing a pond bowl in our detailed step-by-step instructions.

Choose the right size and location

After the decision for a foil pond or a prefabricated pond, the actual planning begins. First determine the size and location of your new pond. It should be planned carefully and not hastily. This saves you changes later, which are often time-consuming and costly. Think about the size and location of the pond. Basically:

– Garden ponds with fish are best built close to the terrace so that you can watch your favorites in peace. If you prefer a natural pond, you should definitely use the width of the garden.
– Design-oriented water features and architectural waters can be perfectly integrated into the terrace design.
The ideal location for your garden pond is sunny to partially shaded. Four to six hours of direct sun a day are ideal for the water quality and the well-being of any fish. In locations exposed to the sun, shading with a parasol, border plants and extensive deep-water zones help prevent water heating and the associated increase in algae growth.
– Foliage and conifers, as well as strongly rooted plants, should be far enough from the pond. Firstly, that the leaves falling in autumn do not immediately end up in the pond and negatively affect the water quality. On the other hand, tree and shrub roots can make it difficult to dig out the pond and may later damage a thinner pond liner. Rhizome barriers curb strongly rooted plants like bamboo.
– Always plan a pond with fish stocks so that no thuja or other cypress plants are close to the pond. No amount of needles poison the water.
– To protect your pond from frost in winter, we recommend a water depth of at least 80 cm. If your pond is shallower, it is advisable to place an IceFree oasis in the pond to counteract the freezing.

Integrate stream

The pinnacle of your pond is an attached stream. This not only ensures a natural look and soothing splashing, its water movements also provide your pond with important oxygen.

A stream can be created with finished stream elements or individually with foil. To feed the stream, you need a pump that transports the water from the pond to the source of the stream.

Ideally, you combine the stream and the necessary pump with a suitable filter system.

Select fish for the garden pond

During the planning phase, think about whether and which types of fish you want to keep in your garden pond. Goldfish and smaller indigenous species do not need much space, while other species need larger ponds to feel good. The decision for or against fish also influences which pond technology you need.

Use pond technology effectively

Many examples in the great outdoors show us that basically every pond can do without technology. However, due to the interplay of natural conditions, there is a biological balance in the forest and on the meadow, which is not automatically found in an artificially created garden pond or easily gets out of joint, especially in summer.

Fortunately, however, there are now numerous technical auxiliary devices that keep the water in your artificial pond clean, combat excessive algae growth, remove excess nutrients and dirt particles and reduce toxins. With the help of test sticks you can effortlessly determine and control the water quality of your pond at any time.

Choosing the right filter technology lays the foundation for sustainably clear water. A filter system basically consists of a filter pump for feeding the filter, a pond filter, which provides biological-mechanical cleaning, and a UVC clarifier to combat floating algae and germs.

The ideal supplement to a filter system is the additional oxygen supply with the help of pond aerators.

The use of a surface extractor / skimmer has a positive support. It reliably removes coarse dirt from the pond surface before it can affect the water quality.

Pond lighting: fine-tuning with great effect

Would you like to showcase your pond in the twilight and at night with special lighting effects? When planning and building your new pond, take into account that you need cables for all electrical devices.

You need both a connection from your house to the pond, as well as various cables that then lead to the individual devices. Plan exactly which devices will find their place where, so that you can implement the cable routing as cleverly and inconspicuously as possible.

Thank you for visiting our site, take a look around our site, we have many other interesting articles about the garden.

Did you like this article?
Please leave us a comment.
You can also share the article, for example on social media.

Recent Posts