More pond questions with pictures this time

KaraLynn(z9 FL, Inverness, Citrus)April 15, 2010

I posted a couple weeks ago asking questions about how to set up a pond in a preformed pond liner. Well, the more I looked at the liner the more I disliked it. So I've decided to use a pond liner and come up with my own shape for the pond. The plus side is that I can now have a bigger and deeper pond. The down side is I think I'm getting in over my head.

I need to know how steep I can make the sides of the pond. How do I secure the edge of the liner around the pond? Can I use limestone rocks around the pond edge without hurting any fish I put in it? Do I need to put anything between the dirt and the liner? I have a large clump of umbrella sedge growing next to the pond area and know it can be a water plant. Is it's roots likely to go through the pond liner trying to get to the water?

I don't plan on putting in a waterfall but I will have a water spitter, one that's shaped like a fish.

I haven't bought the liner or pump yet. I want to wait until I've finished digging and know the final size of the pond before I order them.

Here's some pictures of the pond in progress and the surrounding garden as well as some of the raw materials I have on hand to use around the pond. Any advise or suggestions would be very welcome.

I have a lot of limestone rocks so I would really like to use this around the pond if possible.

This is fieldstone thats leftover from when I redid the front sidewalk but I don't have much of it left.

I also have several piles of river rock that were given to me by a friend.

Thank you,


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Pond stores sell a type of fabric underlay that goes between the ground and the pond liner, but I've heard of people using newspapers or even old carpet or similar recycled items. LIners are pretty tough, but it's best to protect it as much as you can.

You can go pretty steep on the sides, almost vertical in fact, and I recommend it rather than using plant shelves because it allows access for predators. They can walk right in. The water is heavy and "push" against the sides to help prevent them from caving in.

For securing the edges, your limestone rocks will be just fine. I've had limestone on the edges of my pond for years with no ill effects. It has not raised the ph, my fish are fat and happy.

For the edges, you can make a "coping shelf", which is a shelf that will be right at the level you want the water to reach. Excavate about a foot away from the pond, place the rocks on top of the liner, and then cut the excess liner to the desired length. Leave a foot or so to allow for settling as the water presses the liner against the walls.

Good luck, and welcome to the wonderful world of ponding! You'll be much happier with the liner than with a preform.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2010 at 1:40PM
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It looks good.

To answer your questions:
"I need to know how steep I can make the sides of the pond."
IF by "steep" you mean angle, I would recommend vertical (if the soils hold up enough to allow you to do that), otherwise, just make them as steep vertically as possible.
"How do I secure the edge of the liner around the pond?"
The water holds the liner in place. The top edge gets covered by either rocks, pavers of some sort, or plants planted near the edge. That later one is still something I'm struggling with & I'm into the second year of my pond rebuild.

"Can I use limestone rocks around the pond edge without hurting any fish I put in it?"
Yes. And being in the tropics helps since you won't experience freeze-thaw cycles. I used an assortment of rocks at my pond. The rocks used at US Army Corp of Engineer lakes around here are limestone. What you want is dense rock material. Limestone comes in all densities. As a rule, if you hold one up chest high and drop it on another rock, does it fracture in two? If no, you can probably use it. Some PH issues can't be avoided.

"Do I need to put anything between the dirt and the liner?"
Yes, it helps to have a pad or cushion. They make special liners but I find they are $$. I, like many before me, have used old carpet. put that down. Duct tape it together (the neighbors will laugh), but it gets hidden by the black EPDM liner. The pad serves as a protective cushion, so no stone or abrasive element makes a hole.

"I have a large clump of umbrella sedge growing next to the pond area and know it can be a water plant. Is it's roots likely to go through the pond liner trying to get to the water?"
Probably not. I have a couple of trees and large (7 - 8 ft) shrubs near my pond edge and haven't had a problem. My local water garden store contact claims she has never seen a root come through a liner in her 25 years of installs and sales. But beware, I wouldn't put bamboo nearby to try to test this record :)

"Any advise or suggestions would be very welcome."

I would limit the amount of marginal shelf space. Most people here complain that they put a marginal shelf around the perimeter and that they wished they had dug it out for deeper water instead, my self included.

You do need to think about how the liner edge will be covered (with plants and or rocks). Some people dislike the rock necklace effect of rock all the way around a pond, thinking it looks unnatural. Maybe half & half works best.
you might want to keep a little shelf around for one rock to be in the water and another next to it outside on the liner's edge (this is different from the "marginal shelf" I spoke of earlier).

Make sure you pond doesn't collect runoff from the nearby garden! You may wish to use some of the soil to build that surrounding edge higher, just enough to keep rainwater from backflowing into the pond... and remember, you're probably trying to blend into the garden area, so you may want this to be only a slight raised edge.

Another reason to go deeper is to keep out animals that would prey on your fish, although, you have to offset this with safety for kids and pets. Your call. But if you eliminate all the marginal shelf or hold them to a minimum, I know that some animals, like raccoons, have a tougher time getting into the water. Too much shelf and they use them as steps into the pond. Then again, if you're getting into the pond to do maintenance, the shelves help.

Are you going to have mechanical filtering or biological filtration?
Usually people use a skimmer-like box at one end where water is collected and with a pump in the skimmer box and a pipeline running out of the skimmer there is an avenue for returning the FILTERED pond water to the pond.

Usually ponders use a second box that has a chamber in it for a filter media. This box is often atop the pond in a garden area. The pipeline coming out of the skimmer box is fed into the bottom of this box. There media filter gets placed at the bottom & usually filtering plants in mesh pots get placed over top of it. Water out of the pipeline into the lower chambers pushes water out over a weir and back into the pond. Once established these can do wonders, with the help of submerged aquatic plants (like anacharis), to filter the water clean. But mechanical filtration works too or in tandem with this... it just means more initial expense, buying this device and all the hardware that goes with 'em.

Hope this helps. Go Deep. And you can always use one of those books or magazines, you know the "how to" ones that you see at the home improvements stores to advise you too.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2010 at 1:54PM
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koijoyii(NE Ohio)

Hi Kara:

Looks like a pretty nice pond is staring to grow in your yard.

One of the things I wish I would have been more meticulous about when I put in my first and second ponds in is the edges. If you dig a "coping shelf" like nancy suggested you may want to go down about 2 inches below the water line level (or whatever thickness your flat rocks are). Lay your liner over the coping shelf, then place the flat rocks on top of the liner. Leave enough liner slack to fold it back toward the pond so that it covers your first layer of rock. This should bring you up a little above the water level and enable you to fill the pond half-way up to the top of the first rock layer. You can then add an additional layer of rock over the first rock layer and the folded over liner. This should hide your liner completely. You can plant thyme or creeping phlox (any groundcover) between the rocks and you won't even know the liner is there once it starts growing. You can then backfill around the outside edges and plant around the pond. Hope you can understand what I'm trying to say. I don't know how to include a diagram.

I tried to do this with my second pond, but didn't make the coping shelf deep enough. :(

Can't wait to see completed pics.


    Bookmark   April 15, 2010 at 2:47PM
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mjmcdevitt(South Jersey z6)

Two words: Bottom Drain.

I know it's small now, but I feel that every pond should have a bottom drain. It keeps the pond clean. It does require an external pump.


    Bookmark   April 15, 2010 at 4:22PM
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There has been some good information given but wouldn't you like to hear from someone that knows your conditions first hand. I moved up here from Morriston, FL but move down to Citrus Springs a little over ten years ago. I put a preform pond in there that took me three hours to dig and set three liners. If your soil is sandy, you won't need the underlayment. To make the edges look nice, dig out about 3" deep all around the edge so when you put the liner in, you can lay one layer of rock in, fold the liner back over it, and then lay another layer of rock. Also, if your soil is sandy, you may want to consider a 45* angle on your pond sides to prevent a cave in.

One question, does your friend with the river rock live in Rainbow Lakes Estates?

    Bookmark   April 15, 2010 at 9:10PM
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I second the no shelves-after 5 yrs or so one of mine "had a landslide" under the liner so it was unusable. I found that plastic milk crates under the plants worked well and gave the fish a place to hide. Make sure your edges are above the edge of the surrounding area to prevent runoff from entering your pond. Are you not planning on any filtration? It looks great so far-you have moved a lot of dirt.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2010 at 9:17PM
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The biggest problem I have with my pond is leakage around the top. The original owner built the pond and planned it around aesthetics not sound engineering principals.

The problem is the upper edge of the liner is not high enough for the pond design. The pond is in three pools with three sluice. If the flow is too great, the water level raises above the edge of the pond and it overflows.

I would recommend that the liner be at least 2 inches above the maximum level for the pond. The discharge from the overflow can be directed, leakage over the edge of the pond cannot.

Things to be consider for the maximum normal level:
The maximum pump volume, if you have sluices, overflows or something similar, there are equation for calculating the height of the water behind a sluice for a specified flow.

Drainage area for the pond. With the maximum amount of rain that could fall in your area in a given period, how much will the pond raise. (back to the sluice calculations again for the overflow. From the pictures it appears that this could be considerable as it appears your roof will drain into the pond.

These and the affect of other factors on the pond level should be added for the maximum normal level and then the height of the edge of the pond liner determined.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2010 at 8:43AM
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sleeplessinftwayne(z4-5 IND)

A spitter is not going to be adequate to replace oxygen in your pond. If you don't want a waterfall use an air pump and stones. You will need a filter of some sort. Think about an Adam's filter and use a diverter for the water going to the spitter. There are some solar powered pumps available. I haven't used them so I can't recommend any.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2010 at 12:35PM
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KaraLynn(z9 FL, Inverness, Citrus)

Thank you for all the information. This is the first pond I've ever tried to put in and am learning as I go. This weekend I'll be going to a plant swap and one of the people attending is going to give me a couple books she used when setting up her pond. Hopefully they will help me understand more about some of the things you have all mentioned.

I plan on getting a submersable pond pump and was under the impression that I could get one that includes a filter. Was I wrong?

It's good that I can use the limestone as I have a lot of it and can always get more for free.

The dirt in that part of the yard is a layer of good dirt and rotted mulch then a thick layer of builders sand (the orangeish layer and then about 2 feet down I hit the regular sand. The deepest that I've dug so far is on the side closest to the sidewalk between the two shelves is 2 feet. I may remove the one shelf but I'm not sure about that yet. I plan on the larger portion of the pond closest to the driveway to be at least 3 feet deep without any shelves. The sand drains well and is pretty well compacted. When it's dry it can be very hard, in fact when I was putting in the irrigation system in preperation for putting in the front flower I ended up having to use a pick axe in some areas in order to get through the builders sand. Of course we were in a drought at the time so the ground was very dry.

I have gutters along the front edge of the roof so there should be little to no run off from the roof into the pond. There is a rain chain on that end of the gutter but I've been carefull to make sure that it will not overhang the pond. The hole in the gutter for the rain chain is fairly small as the main reason for the chain is to keep water from settling in that end of the gutter.
I will need to have at least one shelf in the pond for access and for in case one of my cats, my mom's small dog or one of my young neices or nephews falls into the pond. I can really see the youngest of my cats falling in since she has a facination with water, as you can see in the picture.

The person who gave me the river rock lives near Floral City in Citrus county.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2010 at 12:40PM
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You can find submersible pumps with filters, or you can make a filter that goes around the pump housing -- do a search to find that one... forget what it's called but you'll find it.

The books are a good idea. A great help.

Sounds like you have a great head start. The one think about the filter on the submersible is that unless you can reach it from shore you might have to get in and out of the water to frequently clean it. Maybe someone with one can speak to this.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2010 at 1:30PM
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koijoyii(NE Ohio)


I just love the pic. Looks like kitty is saying "where did all the birds go? They were just here a minute ago!


    Bookmark   April 16, 2010 at 2:15PM
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Love the picture! Don't worry about your cat. I have two ponds; one small in ground and an 8'x 8' above ground. I have 4 cats all of whom love to drink out of both ponds. The above ground was has 1"x 6" boards around the top edge to finish it. The cats love to walk all the way around and look at the fish. They occasionally dip a tail, but none of them have ever fallen in.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2010 at 10:08PM
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My kitty did fall in once, but only because the rock she was standing on tipped and fell in with her. Cats are sure footed and not likely to fall in unless there is a loose stone. Anyway, my sides are straight up and down, but she managed to get out on her own before I could offer assistance. Needless to say, I'll be fixing that rock.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2010 at 5:01PM
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