Above ground pond vs in ground

pjtexgirl(7b DFW)July 21, 2006

I'm new to water gardening/ponds and am getting lots of info before I get serious. I've gotten a lot of helpful advice from this forum.Thank you.

I'd like to know the pros/cons to above ground ponds VS inground. Feel free to give personal opinions! Thanks,PJ

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catherinet(5 IN)

How big do you want it?
I have a couple above-ground stocktanks, and 2 inground small watergardens. The advatange of above-ground is that you don't have to lean over so much! Everything is so close to enjoy.
But.....depending on which zone you live in, you may have to take everything out of the above-ground, and protect it over the winter. That's what I've been doing with my above-ground tanks.....and it's no fun!
Also, above-ground ponds, if they are small, can get pretty hot. And they definitely freeze in the winter.
So it's just what you prefer, and what your needs and wants are. I think in the long run, in-grounds are better.
I suppose a nice compromise is to dig a pond a couple feet into the ground, but then have it come up a couple feet off the ground too. You'd use cement, stone, or wood for the sides.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2006 at 1:37PM
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I echo Catherinet exactly, except you seem to be in zone 7, as I am, so you should not *have* to remove your fish or hardy plants in an above ground pond if it's large enough. I have a stock tank pond (300 gal) that I enjoy every bit as much as my larger in-ground pond. The fish are "up close and personal" as are your plants.
The advantage to an in-ground pond, of course, is the depth you can have for your larger fish, and more room for plants.
I can tell you that you will likely not be satisfied with only one pond, and you'll probably have two or more eventually, both below and above ground.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2006 at 2:08PM
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If you plan on moving, maybe an abovege ground may be wise, how difficult to dig deep enough - I ended up with my wall varying from 4-10" above ground - easier to up the 10" then down, especailly being over 60 and digging it myself.
Having the wall makes for a small sitting area to watch the fish, we can sit and have a coffee etc. and still get up. A place for planters., No runoff from the surrounding area. And I think the smal wall adds to our theme for the pond. The theme was for a backyard using local materials - I visualized a small old country farm where they collected the rocks from the field over the years and bulit the walkway, pond, gardern borders. There are many beautiful ponds (also costing many beautiful $ I Don't have). we wanted the "county look".

Sorry for the rabbit trail but hope it might help you with some ideas.

Reaaly think ahead - example - had I moved my pond 3-4 feet, I could have put the swing on higher ground and been able to look down on the pond from the swing - too late now.

We started with a half whisky barrel, then a 180 gallon preform , after being harrassed by DW, finally put it in, so now guess who's the ponder. Ii can become an addicive hobby.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2006 at 3:10PM
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garyfla_gw(10 Florida)

I have four, above,below ,slightly above in the shadehouse and the newest a seep wall that empties into an aquarium also located in the shadehouse.
For the above I used stacked 4x4's ,around 17 inches above ground with another 20 inches below ground this is just right for sitting on and allows smelling the WL withou breaking the back lol. I built it to keep toads out which worked around 30 minutes lol.
The seep wall is for vertical growing of tropical plants with the aquarium being used for submerged. So far it's doing great. Eventually I want to attach this to the above ground hopefully to provide some winter heat for the shadehouse.
In your case I'd guess the cold would be the primary consideration though I'd think in 7 it should be fairly easy.
I would certainly recommmend making it weather proof as moving the stuff around is a real chore.
Good luck with whatevr you decide!! gary

    Bookmark   July 21, 2006 at 4:54PM
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pjtexgirl(7b DFW)

Thank you!
My zone is 7b/8a. I can overwinter zone 8b/9a plants up against the house as long as they're decently mulched and in the ground. The in ground ponds are the loveliest I think. However, The patio has good protection,lighting,electricity,water,and high visibility from the sunroom and the kitchen window. Both places I spend a lot of my time while in the house.It also has a french drain. It's also one of the cooler parts of the garden.
There is one small problem. The patio is not level. I haven't figured that out yet! PJ

    Bookmark   July 21, 2006 at 8:09PM
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I would love a raised pond. They can be so beautiful whith so much less maintenance. Sounds like you have the perfect climate and location to build one. Would love to see pics when you start. Good luck.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2006 at 8:22PM
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I have never had the desire to dig a hole...we live in the dry part of Texas and I feel like a "pond" of water would look out of place. I'm thinking about building an above ground lily pond now.

How out of level is your patio? After my efforts to level my tanks...none of them are perfectly level maybe an 1" or so down hill on one side. I've really not had a problem with it.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   July 22, 2006 at 12:47AM
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pjtexgirl, a stock tank makes an easy above ground pond. I used this 9 ft wide galvanized stock tank and made one about 3 years ago.

I really like how easy it was to take care of and then during the winter I just put a stock tank heater in it.

Here is a link that might be useful: Raised pond

    Bookmark   July 22, 2006 at 11:51AM
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Here is a closeup of same pond.

Here is a link that might be useful: Same pond

    Bookmark   July 22, 2006 at 11:52AM
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pjtexgirl, I decided after a year though that I would rather have it as an in-ground pond with a nice waterfall so I moved it and put it in the ground.

So start with a raised pond and then either build another one or if you use a stock tank, then just sink it.

Here is a link that might be useful: Sunken pond

    Bookmark   July 22, 2006 at 11:57AM
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pjtexgirl(7b DFW)

Lovely! Thank you.I like both of those. My patio is mostly covered by the sunroom. The smallish part that is left is tilted toward the drain. I'm going to have to go into the grass next to the patio instead. It's almost as nice an area. I also noticed the grass/greenery softened the look of the stock tank quite a bit. A consideration. Now to hunt down a stock tank I like.PJ

    Bookmark   July 22, 2006 at 11:09PM
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PJ, get as large a stock tank as you can afford and have room for in that space. It will be easier to take care of and look better.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2006 at 10:08AM
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PJ I have a pond that is 2' feet below ground and 2'feet above. We used Cement blocks to build the walls. It gives a great sitting area when you are visiting the fish or working on the pond. Being that it is 2' in the ground I have no problem in the winter, so far plants overwinter by dropping them to the bottom and fish do fine.
Here are a couple of photos.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2006 at 12:23PM
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pjtexgirl(7b DFW)

That's lovely too! Getting out of digging is a temptation but it would stay cooler in summer and warmer in winter. After years and years of gardening Lord knows I can dig well! (Actually, if I go in ground I'm going to cheat and borrow a bobcat.)
Catfish, stock tanks can be quite nice I see! PJ

    Bookmark   July 23, 2006 at 3:25PM
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catherinet(5 IN)

Oh wow Tanzy....that is wonderful! I like the idea of digging into the ground a couple feet, yet still having it above ground, where you can sit and enjoy it. Tell me you didn't dig that out by hand?! Also.....did you do the stone yourself? I've been thinking about wood, but that rots too easily, and I didn't want to use treated stuff.
Your pond is lovely!

    Bookmark   July 23, 2006 at 4:27PM
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Yes Catherinet, we did dig it by hand. It took us 2 weeks in some of the worst weather we have seen in awhile. Hubby took 1 week vacation to help me dig it and it rained everyday. So we would dig, dip and dig somemore. There are tons of tree roots from very large trees in the area, that was the reason we decided to go only 2 feet down and the rest above ground. I'm so glad we did I really enjoy being able to sit on the edge when feeding the fish or working on plants, cleaning or whatever. Yes we did the stone ourself. That was actually the easy part after the digging. Lol.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2006 at 7:52AM
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catherinet(5 IN)

That's unbelieveable Tanzy! What a vacation for your husband (not!). I'm sure it was a labor of love. Now you have something wonderful to enjoy for a very long time!
Did you cement the blocks together? Does your liner come up and go under the next to the top block?
I'll bet you went through alot of Aleve! lol!
What did you do with all that dirt?

    Bookmark   July 25, 2006 at 8:34AM
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My pond is 18" below grade and 18" above grade. Here is a picture

    Bookmark   July 25, 2006 at 8:52AM
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kalevi, that is a beautiful pond. You did a great job!

    Bookmark   July 25, 2006 at 9:42AM
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Yes Catherinet the liner does come up and go under the top block. You can't see it really well but in the second picture behind the little boy statue is a preform pond which was my first effort at ponding. It is now where my water comes in and goes under the blocks to create a gentle waterfall. Also a great place to grow plants I can't keep the fish away from. Most of the dirt went to fill in the area where we removed the old pond and the rest in to my flowerbeds. The reason we chose this site for the pond, even though it was tough going, is that we can see and hear it from all the rooms on the back of our house, Mas. bedroom, den, and kitchen, plus the deck. Yes most of all it has been a labor of love.

Kalevi, I love the way you were able to make the pond a part of your deck. Really looks like a nice place to sit and enjoy it.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2006 at 10:19AM
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Our pond is above and below the ground as the last few posts show. However, ours has a rugged rock edging instead of blocks. The rock looks very natural and pleasing to the eye, but you can't sit on it. If I were to do it again, I would use blocks, as seen above. I would love to be able to sit on the edge of my pond. We also have concrete, which I wouldn't recommend. It is too permanent. When you use a liner, you can make changes or even move the pond if you so desire. Hope this helps.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2006 at 10:32AM
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catherinet(5 IN)

Kalevi......your's is beautiful too!
I guess I've been wondering if I do something half in-ground, half-above, here in zone 5, can I keep things at the bottom of the pond in winter? Would I also have to use a heater? I know my lotus and lilies survive being buried in the ground with mulch over them in the winter, but I wasn't sure how this would translate with potentially several feet of frozen ice above them, in a half-and-half set up.
Pj......I hope you don't mind that I've been sort of hijacking your post! Hopefully all this info is useful to you too! Thanks everyone.
I'm so impressed with everyone's talents and skills!

    Bookmark   July 25, 2006 at 1:25PM
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pjtexgirl(7b DFW)

These water gardens/ponds etc are so beautiful I want one of each! I feel like a kid at the candy store! Digging in the rain must be unique.I'll bet Hoku is wondering what it's like too!Mud is heavy but you wouldn't get as hot.My clothes get soaked too but it's my own sweat!
Tansy, your DH sounds wonderful!
A sitting area. An easily overlooked concept in the design. I've got to write that down.
I hereby give my official permission to "hijack" any thread I start. It allows for free association kind of open thinking that good ideas bounce around from. PJ

    Bookmark   July 25, 2006 at 3:06PM
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catherinet(5 IN)

I agree pj..........which one should we choose, when they're all so good!
I'm curious Tanzy and Kalvi.....how many gallons do you think you have in there?

    Bookmark   July 25, 2006 at 3:32PM
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Catherinet, my pond is right at 2000 gals.
Thank you both for the nice comments you have made I hope what ever you choose to do it gives you as much pleasure as my pond as given me.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2006 at 4:51PM
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My pond is a 14' diameter half circle, about half of the pond is 3' deep and the rest about 1.5' deep so I came up with 1100 gallons for the volume based on the bottom contours.

I'm in USDA zone 4. I sink my 3 water lily pots to the 3' deep part and move the marginals to the 1.5' ledges. I use a thermopond 100 watt heater and an airstone driven by a standard aquarium airpump to keep a hole open in the winter and to keep some air going into the pond. I keep my population of roughly 10 goldfish and 20 rosy reds alive over winter and the plants make it too. I built a thing like a hockey net to shield the hole so the cycles of snow and thaw don't mess up the thermopond heater.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2006 at 5:47PM
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catherinet(5 IN)

Thanks Tanzy and kalevi.
Kalevi......did you put your ledges around the whole pond? And what a great screened porch you have too!
Are your rocks free-standing? When you use an aquarium pump......is that a submersible thing?
Kalevi......all those big ferns and hostas.....are they growing right next to the pond? Very nice!

    Bookmark   July 25, 2006 at 6:06PM
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Help please. I'm thinking about building an inground-above ground goldfish pond out of mortarless bricks It would be 18 inches above ground with a dug out pocket 2 ft. deep. It's going to be small, about 300 gals. Besides the fish I'd like a small lilly. Would this overwinter? How do you make ledges? I have a mllion questions and welcome any suggestions.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2007 at 12:23PM
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Your pond will be sort of like mine. See the photo several posts previous to this. The concrete blocks are mortarless and can be obtained from Home Depot or other similar stores. My water level is 18" above ground and 18" deep with a top row of blocks to hide the liner. My pond is about 1100 gallons. If you can look at my picture and envision a pond about 1/3 the size, that is what you will get. There is a small lily near the wine glass but it is hard to see the leaves clearly. It does not spread much and would be perfect for your pond.

To build it, you want to use a string to layout the outline. Drive a few stakes in at the important corners where you want straight lines. Dig a trench 4-6" deep where you will be laying the block. Fill it with 1/4" gravel. Tamp the gravel down using a 4x4 or something similar to compress it. Use a level to make sure that the trench, when filled, is all the same height. This is important or your pond edges will not be level. Lay the first row of blocks using the level to make sure it is all the same height. You can remove or add more gravel under a given block to get it the same height as the rest.

Then dig the inside to the depth you want. Make sure to leave at least 8" or near the blocks to avoid the wall collapsing into the pond. Use some of the dirt from inside the pond to raise the level of the edge you left to give you a plant shelf where you want it. Once the hole is dug and you have made sure there are no roots or sharp rocks in the hole, lay the rest of the blocks except for the top row. I do not have a bottom drain or skimmer but now would be the time to put in the plummbing for them. Then put in the underliner to protect the liner. Then put in the liner. For both the underliner and liner, leave plenty of overlap over the blocks. Then put in the last row of blocks.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2007 at 1:42PM
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Thanks Kalevi. Your pond is just beautiful! I wish I had the space. My pond will be 3 1/2 by 5 1/2 and situated between a swingset and a tomato patch. I have a few more questions, if you don't mind.I already have a pond master 225 GPH submersable pump and filter. Would this work? can you over-winter[goldfish] in your zone? Do you have a problem with animals drowning in the pond? I'm very grateful for your help.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2007 at 7:33PM
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I have a plant shelf with a rock that just clears the water to allow critters that fall in to be able to crawl out. So far no dead birds or squirrels. They do come and drink from the pond though. The blocks are rough enough that the squirrels climb down the top row to the water and the birds use the shallow rock.

Your pond and filter should be OK for a 300 gallon pond as long as you have a small fish load. Just go for a few goldfish and be prepared to get rid of lots of babies.

Yes, I overwinter fish using a bubbler and thermopond de-icer with a small shelter over the de-icer.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2007 at 6:56PM
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tanzva7 & others that have built part above and part below grade ponds - Love your ponds! Gorgeous!!! I am going to build a 2' above, 2' below pond myself and will already have one concrete block wall in place that is currenly part of a courtyard-seating wall. Then I will build 3 more walls to make the complete pond later. Could you please tell me how you built your walls, footings, liner, etc. I have not actually built the initial wall yet but am going to in 3 days (footings are being poured in 3 days) and would like to make sure I have covered my bases on where to put the liner, how thick the wall, etc, etc. before I make a grave mistake! Thanks in advance....would love to get your advise....I'm in zone 7 Boise, ID

    Bookmark   May 6, 2007 at 11:56AM
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my pond is 20 inches below grade and 18 above. This was the first winter and everything turned out well; fish survived, etc.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   May 6, 2007 at 10:17PM
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sandyl(Zone 6B -7)

This is a picture of my 7 year old below and above ground pond.I love my little pond. I have sence changed the Bio filter and installed a 100 gal stock tank with a spillway. I also purchased a larger pump for moving a whole lot more water. The hole i dug into the ground is about waste deep and then what you see is above ground. I figure is around 1500 plus gals of water.

Here's a picture of the pond with the new spillway I added last year.
There's over 40 plus fish in my little pond. The key to remember is AERATION....... Water exchange is a must.. I have the 100 gal stock full of different types and shapes of sponges and bio ribbon, I think I have 2 rolls of the ribbon in there. Water is always clear. With the spillway the water falls through the air which also aerates the water. I don't plan to clean the bio filter out at all during this pond season. Happy ponding Sandy

    Bookmark   May 8, 2007 at 10:57AM
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newyorkrita(z6b/7a LI NY)

Wow, found this wonderful post on the last page. Love all the ideas.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2008 at 11:05AM
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Hi, I'm new to the list. I would like opinions on which is the better, longer lasting stock tank, metal or poli-plastic type. I want to get a 6 to 8 foot round tank to put on my stone patio. Also can you use an outdoor electrical outet with an outdoor extension cord to hook up the pump? I'm in Richmond, Va. Thanks, Kathryn

    Bookmark   June 7, 2008 at 3:57PM
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catherinet(5 IN)

Hi glenrover,
Why don't you start a new post on this topic.......it might get noticed more.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2008 at 7:55PM
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Oh wow, you all have beautiful ponds. I am getting many more ideas for mine now. If you don't mortar the blocks the weight of the water won't push them out?

    Bookmark   June 7, 2008 at 8:08PM
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sheepco(MN z4)

I love all the ponds pictured here!

glenrover, above ground IMO a poly tank would last longer, particularly in part shade. I have both galvanized steel and poly tanks that I use to water the sheep - both have lasted 15 years now, no leaks, but eventually I would expect a steel tank to rust sooner than a poly tank would degrade from sun. Buy the best quality you can afford, but don't be fooled - "generic" brands of equal strength or density or whatever can be just as good as "famous" brands.

In answer to the electrical question. It is always better to have your equipment plugged directly into a GFI outlet - for safety and insurance purposes. Also, please remember to unplug it if you are getting into the pond.
That said, my spitter is plugged into a heavy duty extension cord :o) Baadddd me.

Happy ponding! S

    Bookmark   June 7, 2008 at 9:21PM
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