Advice on pondless waterfalls

linnet323(z4 IA)June 7, 2006

hi, everyone -- after much discussion, DH and I have decided that a pond is not for us, but we are considering a pondless waterfall feature in our garden. My googling has turned up many manufacturer/sales type sites touting this idea, but have any of you done this? Or know of sites with actual reviews/experience/warnings?

For example: does a pondless system need a bottom drain? How often do people have to clean theirs and how? I've seen the site for the filtrific system -- is that worth considering, instead of the gravel basin? how big a motor should I plan for (8 feet, maybe 9 feet long) and are some motors quieter than others?

Any thoughts, advice, or places to look for info would be very much appreciated! -- Linn

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semper_fi(Z7 GA)

Hi Linn,

Just finished a small pondless water feature last weekend. I'll post some detailed DIY instructions when time allows (probably this weekend).

To quickly answer some of your questions... no you do not need a bottom drain. The only reason I could possibly imagine that a drain feature might ever be used in a pondless setup would be if an external pump was to be used. Because of their compact design, most pondless waterfalls, however, employ a relatively small submersible pump.

If done correctly, a pondless system should not need any cleaning or regular maintenance. It's better to get a pump that is slightly oversized than one that is undersized. If needed, you can always reduce the flow to achieve the look you are looking for. But if your pump is too small for the total head pressure in your setup, then you are stuck.

I'll post more info. later.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2006 at 9:31PM
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linnet323(z4 IA)

Thank you for the reassurance! Any additional info that you can post, this weekend or sometime in the future, woulc be very much appreciated. We have a narrow and hilly back yard (the hill slopes down to the house) so are hoping that this kind of water feature will provide some interest without making us crazy re: maintenance.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2006 at 10:08PM
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I was going to go the pondless waterfall route, but at the last minute decided on a waterfall and a pond. Based on my research before I switched - I would say you don't need much filtration for a pondless waterfall. The gravel/rocks that fill the 'pond' will provide mechanical filtration. You really don't need biological filtration as there will be no fish. If your water starts to turn green or 'stale', you can just flush out the 'pond' until it runs clear or you can use algae killer if you're not opposed to that. You might even be able to use a waterfall basin loaded with plants to provide some natural algae control. Maintenance is really minimal with a pondless waterfall (compared to a pond).

Basically, you will dig a hole where the waterfall will end (pondless pond), cover it (and the entire waterfall/streambed) with liner, place a submersible pump in the hole (protected by a pump house of some sort), run your pipe up to the top of the falls (use a check valve to prevent water from flowing back down when you shut off the pump), fill the lined hole completely with smaller rocks.

As for the size pump to get - it depends a lot on how much water you want to move. I got a submersible 3500 GPH pump because I wanted as much water flow as the picture on the link below. But there are other things to consider as well and I'm definitely not a pro on pumps. Perhaps someone else can give more info on that.

Hope this helps.

Here is a link that might be useful: Pondless Waterfall

    Bookmark   June 8, 2006 at 11:11PM
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Hey Linn-

I too have been researching pondless waterfall systems. I've always been pushing for a water feature of some sort in the yard, but I dont have enough spare time to dedicate to the maintenance of a pond, which seems endless! Pondless waterfalls are the solution to the problem!

I have found many types of systems on the Internet and also have made some phone calls and now I am pretty confident that I am gonna give the Filtrific system a shot. Have you heard of it? The more information I get, the better it is suited to our needs.

The system is extremely versatile and allows for creativity. I went on their website, and the main selling points are that the reservoir wont clog up, easy access to pumps and hardware, and the fact that you wont have to use a gravel basin, you instead have a tank. All these points are the concerns that arose while I was researching. I defiantly suggest you check it out for yourself!

Here is the website: Filtrific
Give them a call too thatÂs what I did!


    Bookmark   June 23, 2006 at 12:37PM
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ukcolin(z9 Houston)

The old timers at this forum know my posts but for any viewers reading this post thinking of building a pond please understand ponds are as maintenence intensive as you want them to be. The more drains filters pipes settling chambers pre filters UV lamps bottom drains etc you install the more work you will have. Everything you add to the pond needs maintenence no matter what a great job it does at whatever the salesman told you it will do.
i am a guy who loves his pond but i spend zero minutes a day on maintenance. Many weeks i do nothing, some days i feed the fish. One weekend a month i unplug the pump i bought at Home Depot clean it out and plug it in takes 10 minutes, i cut plant stalks & leaves that are dangling the wrong way broken or dead. Takes 5-20 nminutes.
My pond is 800+ gallons 12ft x 8ft 4 years old 40+ fish incl. 1 koi. i add a second pump in July & August i have a waterfall and alot of plants. I have never done a water change, i have a v.slowly dripping garden hose hanging over the edge of the pond that keeps it topped up.
The pond is thriving i average only 1 or 2 dead fish a year.
I am ranting but please understand ponds are only high maintenence if you want them to be or if you will keep koi.
I live in houston which helps the plants grow and contribute to cleaning the water longer through the year than most parts of the US.
The only high tech addition i have is the pump sits in 2 Home Depot square mesh pond pots one inverted on top of the other with a hole cut in the top to let the power cord and hose out. They are held together with two document clips this keeps the leaves and dirt away from the pump allowing me to clean it once a month instead of once a week.
Loads of plants, few fish, waterfall enjoy.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2006 at 3:31PM
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I think ponds are a beautiful garden addition, but right now one isn't right for our yard--we have a small space, may not be here very long, and if we do stay will probably end up with kid stuff taking up much of our yard. I'm looking for a way to introduce a water feature into the yard with moderate work and expense.

I have a lot of extra flagstone from a patio I laid, plus some small loose stones (although I think I'll need more). So I don't want to buy a kit with everything in it, or a pre-made fountain, since I have all the stone already. I've been doing some searching online, but haven't yet found a how-to for this type of project. I can probably cobble together instructions from a few places, but if anyone out there has any great links, tips, or photos, I would love to see more!

    Bookmark   August 15, 2006 at 5:53PM
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waterbug_guy(Phoenix AZ (Melrose))

I've had several pondless water features and they are an absolute joy. As long as you have power near by they can be very easy.

Bury a 5 gal bucket, or smaller, so the rim is slightly below the surrounding ground.

Place small fountain pump in the bottom of the bucket. Remove any filter. Connect a length of hose to the pump out flow. Put some bricks around the pump to form a opening around the pump.

Buy a piece of pond liner. I like EDPM but anything will do since it is protected from UV. The piece can be any size you like but the bigger you make it the less splash will be a problem. 3'x3' would cost less than $10. Cut a small circle in the liner maybe 4" in diameter. Position the opening over the bucket and kind of push the liner down into the bucket. Fill in the bucket with rocks which will hold the liner in place. More gaps between the rocks the better.

Put dirt under the liner so it slopes to the bucket. Can be flat, slope away is no so good. Berm around the outside to create a lip. Test with water to make sure the water ends up in the bucket.

Cover the liner with more rocks, any size and shape.

Build your water falls anywhere you want on top of the liner.

Med to Large
Basically just like a regular pond.

Dig the hole, cover with pond liner. I like EDPM.

Cut holes in a 5 gal bucket to let water in. I use a hole saw, 1" or so. Soldering iron will work, torch, or even matches. Nothing fancy. Bucket goes into the pond ideally so the top of the bucket is just below where the rock surface will be.

Brick in the bottom of the bucket, pump on top of the bucket. Plumb the pump to wherever the water feature will be. Remove the pump's filter. It serves almost no purpose in a regular pond and absolutely no purpose in a pondless feature.

Put the top onto the bucket. I like the screw on type. For snap on I'd just lay the top on for easy access.

Fill in around the bucket with good size rocks, hopefully larger than the holes in the bucket. Fill in the pond with rock. I like 2" river rock, sometimes called drain rock.

Build your waterfall anywhere you like. Pretty easy to move it later if you think it can be improved. Build it so it will drain when the pump is off and you won't have algae problems.

In both setups you can add potted plants that like wet feet. A few plants can really improve the look.

Water Source
You can just top off with a garden hose as needed.

Or for top of the line...

I put a livestock water tank float valve in the pond. Less than $15 at feed stores. I connect that to a sprinkler valve on a timer. I set the timer for about 2 min each day. Water is only added if the float is down enough and the sprinkler timer is on. So if the float fails the worst I do is overflow for less than 2min which is fine. Here in Phoenix 2 min a day is more than enough. Pondless features use very little water.

You want GFI protection.

For top of the line...

Another nice thing is a remote switch. Cost like $10-15 at Home Depot etc... One end plugs into the outlet and the pump plugs into the other end. Little remote control to turn it on and off. Just make sure the plump isn't too large for the switch.

For crazy cool...

I use an Intermatic lighting controller. I set it to start the pump just before we wake up, off when we go to work, on just before we come home, etc... Way cool but pricy at around $150 for everything.

I've been running 2 of these features for more than a year and I've done nothing. For most ponds zero maintenance means a few hours a week. But these pondless deals I've done zero, nothing. I haven't added a drop of water, the auto fill does it. I don't even turn them on and off the timer does it.

No string algea since it isn't on 24/7. Most of the water is in total darkness so unicell algae doesn't really grow very well. No exposed water so no mosquitoes. You can put a clorhine tablet in the water once a week if you want but I not had the need.

Leaves are no problem. Rake them of the top like the rest of the yard.

Birds love the sound of moving water. If you make a place for them to bath you'll have lot's of birds. An easy way is to place the bowl from a bird bath on some rocks and run the pump hose into the bowl. If you drill a hole thru the bowl at its lowest point to run the hose thru you'll hide the hose. No real need to seal the hole since a small leak is fine. When the pump is off the water will drain out back down the hose so the bowl is empty and no algae or mosquitoes will form.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2006 at 4:32AM
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We are thinking of putting in a pond less water feature in the back yard where there is a natural hill. I would love to see some pictures of your finished water falls/streams. I have a pond in the front yard already but we would like to have something on this hill that I would not have to run a pump 24/7.

Thanks Janet

    Bookmark   June 17, 2007 at 9:38AM
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