Rocks in the pond

chris_in_ctMay 28, 2010

Hi All,

I know this has been a frequent topic here, but I'm in my second year with my pond and wanted a minor clarification on the rocks-in-pond question. For those that have fairly large ponds, 2000 gallons plus, do you have rocks in your pond? If you do, do you leave them off the bottom and only place on the ledges/sides or do you go full on the bottom too? I have a ledge around the interior of my pond and have used that to place a layer of rock to facilitate hiding the edge liner. But, right below those rocks, about 12 inches down below the top water level I can easily see my liner as I have gotten my water pretty clear. I dont like seeing the liner at all. Do some of you run rocks down the sides and just leave the bottom clear or is the consensus to keep as much rock out of the pond as possible?

Sorry to open this can of worms on the ponding forum again (punny!)...


Here is a link that might be useful: My Pond Gallery

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The people on this forum are very civil, so I don't expect any arguments on this topic. ;-)

First, while I love the look of rocked ponds, I removed the rocks, all of them, from my pond when I expanded it to what it is now, 2500 gallons. I still have the coping stones around the edges, but the only rocks on the bottom now are the pebbles that the fish dig out of the lily pots.

What I discovered with having rocks in the pond and especially up the sides is that it provides nooks and crannies for fish eggs to hide and incubate, and plenty of places for fry to hide. I started out with 10 fish and ended up with over 36. I managed to give some away, but I'm still over stocked.

Rocks on the bottom provide nooks and crannies for fish waste and other debris to molder. I didn't like the look of the liner either, but it is now green with a nice carpet of algae and looks very natural. Keeping the bare bottom clean is simple. There is no annual clean-out, except to flush out my filters. No draining the pond, no powerwashing the rocks.

In conclusion, I will never put rocks back in my pond. But that is my personal take on the subject, and I have no problem with those who do like rocks. Some people don't mind the extra work involved in keeping a rocked pond clean, but I'm getting older now, and I prefer to keep it simple.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2010 at 1:02PM
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horton(6 b Ontario.)

Chris, I completely agree with Nancy about having rocks on the bottom of a pond. It is an individual choice, I personally would not advocate the practice of having rocks on the bottom, because of the build up of gunk, uneaten fish food, etc, and the potential problems that can develop from that situation.

I do however, have flat field-stones covering the liner on the shallow water shelf, which slopes from four inches deep to about eight inches inwards and runs around the outer edge of my pond. From the inside edge of the slope the walls of the pond drop down straight.
I do keep the top surface of those stone slabs clean,which along with occasionally blasting out the crevices between the stones, with a sharp stream of water, is extra work, as Nancy also noted.
But that is my choice and I do like the effect and look of the field-stone under the water.
If I was going to do it again, I would probably fill the gaps between the field-stones with cement to keep the gunk from getting in.

The bottom and sides of my pond are not covered and the liner has a growth of algae on it.
I do vacuum the bottom of the pond each spring, to remove the old algae/gunk before it breaks off and floats to the surface, as it is inclined to do from time to time, if it becomes to thick.
See the post about ("Sun algae...........")for more about that floating gunk/algae.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2010 at 5:46PM
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ccoombs1(7B SC)

Rocks can look pretty, but can also provide a place for fish waste and uneaten food to rot and turn into some pretty nasty stuff. The decaying of organic materials produces a substance called Hydrogen Sulphide Gas. It smells like rotten eggs. If it build up in the bottom of the pond and a bubble of it breaks loose one day, it will kill all of the fish in your pond within hours. The only safe way to keep a rock bottom pond is to completely empty the pond and pressure was the rocks every single year. That clean-out procedure is how most pond installers stay in business. It costs lots of money to do that yearly maintenance.

When I built my 9000 gallon pond, I put large rocks around the top edge, partially submerged. Now, 5 year later the amount of rotted waste that is collecting behind the rocks is staggering. I have no way to clean it out. so this fall, I will move the fish to my other ponds and remove the rocks. When I am done, I'll have about 2" of liner showing but my pond will be healthy so the trade-off is worth it to me. This pond has two bottom drain in the bottom that carry all of the waste to the filters, so I never have to clean the pond. The bottom stays spotless and clean, all of the time. Maintenance on all of my ponds takes less than 30 minutes per week.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2010 at 8:13AM
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I attended a seminar on ponds for the garden center I work at, and the presenter suggested that stones and pebbles in the bottom of the pond gives the fish something to "play" with. Otherwise they become bored and have a tendency to uproot potted plants.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2010 at 10:22AM
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I have mine rocked on the bottom and sides--small rocks on the bottom covering the liner..I really think it is more personal preference,try it without and if you don't like it..rock it. Good luck!

    Bookmark   May 30, 2010 at 10:36AM
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Yes, definitely a personal choice. I know some very successful ponds that are rocked, and some very unsuccessful ponds that are rocked. Depends on what you want, how much time you want to spend with the cleaning, etc.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2010 at 11:28AM
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Our rocks are on just our shelves (which are about 15" deep) then we have a small shallow beach section about
4' x 5' that is rocked as well. Each week we hose out the beach area and a lot of junk gets released.

The bottom of our pond is bare, with the exception of the rocks placed there by the fish from digging in the lily pots :( which they do as soon as we remove the rocks from
the pond floor. The bare bottom is easier to clean and it developed a nice mulm. The fish also look nice against a
black bottom pond.

Your pond is gorgeous, if you have koi in there it will be
a lot easier to keep clean with a bare bottom. I don't see where you have a problem with liner showing on the sides?
Your pond looks great.
Not to hyjack this thread, I am going to post two videos of our pond in a few minutes taken on May 28, Our beach section looks like a large rocked shelf in your pond.


    Bookmark   May 30, 2010 at 1:36PM
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Yes for a short time rocks on the bottom of the pond look very nice but they do collect debri. Most of the bacteria products on the market were designed for ponds with rock on the bottom of the pond. They are designed to take larger debri and break it down into smaller debri so that it isn't noticeable any longer. And if you have water circulating thru this rock it is not a problem as the good bacteria will take care of it. Without this circulation you will get HS produced. In small amounts it will stress fish, in a little larger amount it will cause the fish to die, and in a little larger amount it will kill the fish in a few seconds or it will kill people in seconds and it has. A pond with proper circulation normally will not have a problem with HS as the water will not hold very much of it and it would be released into the air very quickly. Where ponders have a problem is having HS and not having the circulation. Such as when ponders shut the pumps off to clean the pond or when the pumps are shut off during the winter. One company that started the craze of putting rock on the bottom of the pond first said that the pond never needed to be cleaned. After the first year in business they came out with bacteria to add to the pond so the debri wasn't noticeable any longer. But this company was located in the Chicago area and ponds got shut down during the winter. After the company was in business for about three years they started to hear that some of the ponds that they put in when they first started had all the fish die during the winter. They didn't think anything about it. The next spring they heard that more of the ponds they put in the first year and some of the ponds they put in the second year had all the fish die. The fifth year in business and the same problems they determined that the ponds they built needed to be cleaned and they went into that business every spring. After promoting the fact their ponds didn't need to be cleaned they now promoted cleaning their ponds. They developed the method of power washing the rock and sold it as a way of making the pond look like new and that it should be done every year. Does it have to be cleaned every year? No. But anything past two years and you are gambling with the fishes lives.
Does ccoombs1 have to remove the rock from the top edge of the pond to have a safe pond? No. If they did nothing what would happen. Yes some HS would be produced but at the edge it would be released into the air very quickly without getting into the water column. Even in a northern climate where ice can cover most of the pond it would not be a problem as the edge of the pond is going to be the first area to freeze and trap the HS there. Ccoombs1 has some very nice fish and doesn't want to take a chance with them. If they didn't mind clouding up the water for a while I would suggest taking the garden hose and putting it behind a small section of rock and flushing the debri into the pond. The small amount of HS would not be a problem. They could then every day move to another small section and continue the process until they have gone all the way around the pond. If they do that every year the next would not cloud the water up as there would not be much debri to wash out.
Can you have rock on the bottom without cleaning? Yes. My koi pond has rock on bottom and has never been cleaned or emptied. The pond is now 19 years old and the 6" thick gravel on the bottom looks as clean as the day it was put in and is as clean. No bacteria has ever been added to the pond and there is no debri build up or algae on this rock. But that story is for another book.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2010 at 2:29PM
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When my husband and I built our 15,000 gallon pond, I followed quite a bit of the sage advice from Cliff and Joann.

We have a bare bottom liner and just rocks around the outside ledge about 12 -15 inches into the water.

The bottom drains get most of the muck and we vacuum the rocks and bottom twice a year.

We have more of a water garden with lots of plants, Golden Orfes, Comets and Shubunkins. We no longer notice the bare bottom as a thin layer of algae has covered it.

We do not have Koi. We love Koi but we know they might eat the plants.

We are still tempted to buy Koi though as they are living works of art.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2010 at 4:29PM
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albert_135(Sunset 2 or 3)

My spouse made a tank out of an old hot tub, several hundred gallon. It was white on the inside. She put rocks all over because the white was 'harsh'. Then she changed her mind and removed only those rocks from the very bottom. Viewing the fish is much improved with a white bottom. Better than all white or all rocks.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2010 at 5:27PM
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Great post Mike. I have a bare liner pond and the bottom is squeaky clean. If you have fish then the cleaner your pond the better.


    Bookmark   May 31, 2010 at 8:48AM
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johnkr(z5 PA)

I have some flat river rocks on my plant shelves and just the bare liner on the bottom of my pond. I do empty the pond to a level below the shelves every spring. I remove and clean each rock by hand. The procedure takes the better part of a day. I also vacuum the shelves and the bottom.

It is my experience that there is more waste in and under the pots I keep my plants in when compared to the rocks on the plant shelves. My rocks tend to keep the plant pots from falling off of the shelves or being pushed by fish and turtles.

If you don't have rocks you are still going to get waste build up in you plant pots that will require cleaning.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2010 at 11:27AM
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