Stones or no stone on bottom?

Marcus1017December 10, 2013

So I'm redoing my pond this year. I have 2-3 inch stones now. Should I leave the stones? Take the stones out? Or replace the stones with smaller pebble stones? A lot of different theory's to this thought... Any advise guys?

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Hang on...let me go get a can of worms to open up here!

    Bookmark   December 10, 2013 at 6:58PM
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joe_09(z7 ny)

take the stones out.they collect all the fish could put a small amount of 3/4 in .stones on the bottom for effect.

    Bookmark   December 11, 2013 at 9:20AM
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3/4 won't cause the same problem? Realized the big stone I have does. Want to nip that before a problem occurs.

    Bookmark   December 11, 2013 at 11:22AM
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What is 3/4 stone? Is that a size?

Here's the thing - you will get debate on both sides regarding rocks. Both sides will have convincing arguments. You need to decide which argument makes the most sense to you.

We have a rocked pond. Boulders line the sides, and we have about an inch or two of gravel on the bottom. We believe the gravel gives the bacteria a place to colonize. We don't empty or clean the pond other than scooping out leaves and keep the plants trimmed. We don't do water changes. Basically we just enjoy our pond, feed our fish, putter around a bit...very low key hobby.

Our fish are healthy. We don't have a build up of deadly gasses, muck, or debris. Our plants thrive. Our water is clean and clear. Don't know "the numbers" as we don't test. We just don't feel the need. Everything works so we leave it alone. I get in the pond every other week during the growing season to trim the lilies - I swish the gravel up with my feet as I move around. Little to no sediment gets stirred up. We are careful about how much we feed our fish - they keep the algae under control and we don't have excess food left in the water.

That's a long way of saying I know what we do works, in spite of what you will hear.

    Bookmark   December 11, 2013 at 10:16PM
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I should have added we keep our fish numbers below the recommended number which is also an important consideration.

    Bookmark   December 11, 2013 at 10:19PM
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garyfla_gw(10 Florida)

always an interesting debate lol. I have never used rocks unless you count those in the planters ..have never used filters or pumps relying on a "purge system " for filtration
5x10 above ground originally built to contain rainwater but evolved into a WG/ fish pond has been running since 1981
with predators being the main problem. second was a 31 inch rain and found some of the fish two blocks away lol
added a throttle to the system but has never happened again see no purpose in rocks unless for aesthetics but the plants grow so much you can't see the bottom anyway.. I think if i were to setup another I'd do it the same way though I'd puut a lot more thought into the purge system,overflows and a permanent tap water hookup.
good luck with whatever you decide there are a gazillion ways to go about it .Probably the worst mistake is making it too complicated?? gary

    Bookmark   December 12, 2013 at 3:34AM
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Thanks guys for your thoughts!!

    Bookmark   December 12, 2013 at 6:47AM
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joe_09(z7 ny)

i just sprinkle a few 3/4 rocks on the bottom for visual effect.they really just fell out of the lilly pots

    Bookmark   December 12, 2013 at 9:55AM
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We have no stones as we have a gravity fed filter system...we only have
stones in our beach section...Why are you redoing the pond and thinking
of removing the stones? Are you having water problems?

Your pond is pretty...

BTW...we clean the stones in the beach about every two weeks
with a hose by forcing the water to blow out all the gunk. The beach is
approximately 4 foot x 5 foot and shallow, so it's easy to clean out
the gunk.
If you remove the stones, I don't think you'll be sorry. Your pond will
be easier to clean.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2013 at 8:18PM
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Marcus, Lisak1 has brought up a very good point. The question is, what are you looking for? Low key pond keepers will enjoy their pond just as much as High key pond keepers. Koi and goldfish are very resilient. For instance I had a friend tell me that her fish almost jump out of the pond. She thought it was funny until I asked if they were flashing as well. A koi specialist and high end koi keeper would tell you no gravel or rocks. They bruise the fish and file the barbs down. A low end koi keeper would say how pretty it looks when the fish swim around the rocks. I don't mean to sound confusing. You can get away with anything. I do suggest, for your fish friends, clean their home, keep the population down, and do check the water. You wouldn't want your dog breathing bad air. Then again, I'm a high end koi keeper.


    Bookmark   December 16, 2013 at 8:22PM
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There are many way to do successful pond keeping.
We over feed our fish, thus aggressive mechenical filtration
and aggressive water changes are high on our list.
We have never emptied our pond for cleaning, but do add
fresh water frequently from spring through fall, by running
the hose into the pond for about 15 or 20 minutes, several times a week,
some days even more.

We estimate that this results in about 30 to 40 percent on some weeks, and in hot weather we do it more, and change about 50 percent water change overall in a week.

Many people think a bare pond is not attractive, but that is not so.
The bare bottom takes on a brownish mulm on the pond floor which is attractive. The fish in our pond is the main attraction, not the pond bottom.
Nobody ever comments on the pond bottom, but we get many comments
on the active fish. We also have rocked shelves all around the pond
perimeter, the shelves are approximately 15 inches deep and the rocks
are stacked up to the ground and beyond, so there is lots of rock action
going on. The pond water continually circulates from the pond through the
mechanical filters, then travels 18 feet underground and enters the biological
pond, the water runs through the bio pond getting scrubbed by all the plantation in it's path, then exits the bio pond and travels back underground
to re-enter the pond again from under the small deck. This process is
continuous 24/7. We usually clean out the filter boxes weekly (three boxes that are daisy chained together) The filter boxes are located in back of the big
water fall...they are each filled with various filter type material. Most of the
gunk is trapped in the first filter box which is divided into three sections
with various types of filter material, such as cotton batting, foam sheets, and
floor scrubbing sheets.
...we have been successful with this method for the last sixteen years.

The rocks are pretty as well, our rocked beach get hosed every couple
of weeks to release the debre that accumulates, we also frequently turn
the rocks around to expose the fresh shiny side. This is doable because our
beach is only 4 ft x 5 ft and shallow.

Either way, as long as the water and fish are healthy.

This post was edited by cliff_and_joann on Tue, Dec 17, 13 at 13:38

    Bookmark   December 17, 2013 at 9:54AM
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I don't have rocks on the bottom of my pond unless they have fallen in. Basically it is just easier to scoop out any debris that has fallen into to pond if there are no rocks.

    Bookmark   December 24, 2013 at 12:45AM
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This is true Pashta, although I think they both look nice,
rocks or no rocks, it is easier to maintain a bare bottom pond.

    Bookmark   December 24, 2013 at 12:25PM
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We had smooth gravel for several years because it looks good at first, then got tired of the mess. You just can't keep it clean and it turns to black algae anyway. I can't stand the sight of liner, but within a year it mossed over and looks natural, plus it provides great slip free footing with no irritating rocks underfoot.

    Bookmark   January 4, 2014 at 8:37PM
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Your algae covered liner is slip free? I would imagine that to be quite slippery! Like an algae covered rock. Good to know!

Again - SOME people find their gravel bottom hard to keep clean. We don't have any issues with it, and in fact believe it is integral to the health of an eco-system pond. Not trying to be repetitive, but I feel it's important to keep stating that for those who may be investigating options - the "no rock bottom" arguments are easy to find. But there are lots of us ponders who have gravel bottomed ponds who are very happy with the results.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2014 at 10:27AM
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There is room for both kinds of or no rocks.
With the bottom drain gravity system we can't have rocks.

We do have to maintain the rocks in our 4 ft x 5 ft beach section,
by hosing them down every couple of weeks and occassionally
turning them around -- as they do get full of blackish algae... this would not be doable in an entire pond rocked though.

The mulm on the pond floor of our pond is slippery. My head groundskeeper
has a rope tied to our deck that he uses (pulled tightly) to get in and our
of the pond and also when he walks around the pond to clip plants etc..
It is quite helpful to aid from slipping in the pond.

I think the mulm on the bottom, is's dark and shows off the fish to
their optimum potential. I'll get some pics to show you the fish against
rocks and against just the dark pond bottom.


    Bookmark   January 5, 2014 at 10:59AM
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Agreed! Both are possible - it depends what your goal is in having a pond. Lots of fish may not work as well with a gravel bottom. Or it may be fine for the fish, but you may not be able to keep your water clear enough to enjoy them. I just want people to know both are viable options. I've been run off other forums for even suggesting it's possible. They say "can't have gravel AND fish" and I say "but I do!" and they say "get lost!" Ooooookay!

I think one reason we have no issues with muck or mulm in our pond is the current that our waterfalls create. We have our large falls that feed the pond (from the bog) and the negative edge fall on the opposite end (our natural "skimmer" if you will - we have no mechanical skimmer or filtration) that flows into the underground rainwater retention. When I am in the pond I can feel the current pushing toward the outflow. I think that water movement keeps things from settling, eliminating the issues some have with a gravel bottom.

I'll try later to find a photo of our pond showing the bottom - it's so clear we can see if they fish have been rooting around and moving gravel.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2014 at 11:32AM
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Note the imagine rock... when the imagine rock in the beach gets algae, its time to clean the beach.

This is from 2003...we use to have small stones in the beach, however the fish would pick them up roll them around in their mouths and spit them out on the pond floor. :)

Beach in need of a cleaning...

Just Imagine :)

Overall beach with fish.

I"ll be back with fish photos against the liner.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2014 at 11:42AM
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Dark liner pics...

Mulm covered dark liner...with clear water and fish shadows...

Terminator...She's 16 years old and is the Mom to many of of koi...

This post was edited by cliff_and_joann on Sun, Jan 5, 14 at 12:42

    Bookmark   January 5, 2014 at 12:30PM
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Like many have mentioned, there are convincing arguments for both. Here are two sides to this that I copied from the old rec.pond discussion group back in 1999.

As for me, I have no rocks in the bottom of my pond except for the ones my Koi knock out of the planting baskets.

Rocks in the Pond


Below are two statements for putting rocks in your pond. One statement is for rocks and one statement is against rocks. I have no opinion ;-) and will stay neutral on this subject as long as I am keeping the informal rec.ponds faqs.


Subject: rock vs no rock
From: "Glenn Rieker"

There are two schools of thought in watergardening as we see
it..............the old timers are set in their ways saying simple liner
ponds are the way to go.........I think these are the same people who may
still listen to 8 tracks.....:) I can't tell you how many people come into
our garden centre and tell us they have read this book or that magazine and
they installed their ponds like that and they constantly have I have told them most of these authors are just that, great
writers, unfortunately as a group they have probably installed less than 10
ponds, we do this on a daily basis and must answer to our demanding school of thought is you need to "filter" your a sewage plant.....the other school of thought we prefer is
to create an "ecosystem"

Most of the "filters" out there are based on sewage treatment plant design
and/or chlorinated pool systems which are sterile.........The email I had an
opportunity to review mentioned the appearance of the bottom of a
watergarden is a judgement call .....Hmmmmmmmmmm.....let's see........when I
was out west in Yosemite and the Tetons I can't tell you how much I longed
to see a clean black liner on the bottom of those rushing crystal clear rock
bottom streams in the park :) Rock bottom streams and watergardens win the
aesthetic award hands down.

But Glenn..........what about maintenance?????????? Well, we drain the pond
down in the spring and wash the stones down and the pads in the skimmer and
falls and fill the pond back up with water, salt and bacteria....during the
season we have an automatic fill valve in the skimmer to top off the pond
while we are casually resting on the back deck instead of pulling hoses the fall we set up our fall netting protection because even
skimmers can only handle so many leaves and then take it down in late fall.
In the meantime we have enjoyed the crystal clear water, healthy fish and
lily blooms galore from the plants planted directly in the bottom of the
watergarden.......not one time did I have to trapse into the watergarden to
clean a pump intake.....or have cloudy water.......

Can you have crystal clear water in a simple liner pond.........yes, we did
it for seven years until we saw "the light" my life is simple,
create watergardens with considerable less calculations, crystal clear
water, happy clients across teh country and no more headaches!!!!

Our business model is based on focusing on success, not failures......I have
not had the opportunity to visit this site due to this being obviously our
busy season....but when I looked today the questions and answers are still
the same...........Unfortunately Doctors are the same as this
newsgroup...........they treat sickness.....they are not taught to promote
health......ever have a 300 lb. smoking doctor tell you your blood pressure
is high???? I am sure this commentary will raise the ire of the usual
people in this newsgroup, however, I feel I need to tell you how "I" see
watergarden development changing on a daily basis..........don't get me
started on the Koi Gods and how you have to have a $20,000 filter system
that takes up half of your basement and bottom drain to keep their
championship fish.

We have happy, healthy fish worth thousands in our ponds and they love the
rock bottom.....

Glenn Rieker
BS Landscape Architecture
Remember.....Life is a game don't live it on the bench!


The Case for Smooth Bottom Pond Design:
Todo --- North Florida Koi Club,
Past President & News Letter Editor

Recently there has been an ongoing debate on the news group rec.ponds
discussing several ponders preference for ponds with a layer of gravel
across their pond's bottoms. Among their reasons for this are 1) The light
bottom makes the fish easier to see, 2) the gravel is more attractive than a
smooth black liner, 3) what possible difficulties that may occur due to
trapped organic matter can be solved by biological and/or chemical means.
There are however, real reasons to reconsider the decision to place gravel
in a pond.

The bottom may be lighter in color, but often times this light rock gets
covered with dark green algae, which defeats the intention. The gravel can
get covered with mulm, the dark organic material that is a byproduct of the
natural biological functions of a pond. The mulm can totally or partially
obscure the bottom. Hence, it is an open question how long the bottom will
stay pristine.

As for the aesthetics of the gravel. There is not discussion on taste so
this becomes no real argument for or against this question.

The third point is then the most critical and most contentious. With a
gravel bottom the mulm,
fish waste and decaying plant matter from the pond does not flow quickly to
the drain or sump, where it can be removed from the pond. The gunk gets
trapped in the spaces between the stones and there it sits.

In a properly designed pond the solids produced in it are carried by the
flow of the water down to where the pump can suck the material out and send
it to the filter system where it belongs. (Please note that I do not imply
that a pond with gravel is by definition poorly designed, for there are many
smooth bottom ponds whose specifications do not add to its efficiency.
However, I do say that no matter what the design, gravel degrades the
efficiency of a pond).

What then, is the detrimental effect of having gravel. The first thing to
remember is that a pond is not an aquarium outside. Gravel, used in an
aquarium has a purpose, it acts as part of the filter system. Water is
drawn through the gravel, mechanically removing debris and providing a
surface for aerobic bacteria which neutralize ammonia and other byproducts
of the aquarium system. The water is then pumped back into the tank.

In a pond there is not under-gravel filter. Water is not drawn through the
stones, it passes over the top and the mulm that accumulates under and
between the pebbles builds up in an oxygen deficient environment. As a
rule, aerobic bacteria are beneficial and anaerobic bacteria are not.
Anaerobic bacteria survive without oxygen and their byproducts are often
harmful, such as sulfur dioxide, the chemical that give a rotten egg smell.
In addition to these bacteria, other harmful organisms fester in the goo at
the bottom of gravel ponds.

To counter the foulness of the gravel bottom, practitioners say that
chemicals can be used to reduce the mulm to an inert material. There are
other products, such as PondZime which reduces the mulm with enzymes. The
efficiency of these remedies is questionable, not to mention that even if
the crud is neutralized it still continues to accumulate. Hence, more
chemicals must be used to deal with the problem. It seems that a much
better, less costly, and far preferable solution is to have the pump remove
the gunk.

Here, a counter argument says that the mulm is only deposited in the filter
and so it doesn't matter where it sits, in the filter or on the bottom, it
is still in the pond system. This argument fails when the mechanisms of
filtration are known. For in a filter system, water is passed though the
filter, supporting aerobic bacteria just as it is in the under-gravel filter
in an aquarium.

So the issue comes full circle just as water is pumped from a pond, just to
be filtered and returned. The idea of having gravel comes from aquariums,
but as ponds are different than aquariums the function of the gravel is
shifted to the filter system in ponds. Ironically and in opposition to the
logic of some ponders, the gravel becomes detrimental to the pond.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2014 at 1:23PM
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We put in our pond in 1997' before all the 'know it all koi pond experts'
were on the Internet 24/7 telling everyone what they should do to maintain a proper koi pond...
Our system is entirely DIY, gravity fed bottom drain system.
Other than the beach section it is bare bottom. We also included a 200
gallon bio pond with feeds the main pond continually via underground
tubing...We do aggressive water exchanges, never use any chemicals,
and have never had to empty the pond for cleaning.
Our fish are happy and healthy in clear and healthy water.
The filter system does all the cleaning for us. We have had only one fish loss
in 17 years, and we suspect he jumped and banged his head on a rock, as
he was healthy the day before.

I can't believe how much koi pond people spend on filter systems and pond
maintenance. This is basically the only pond forum I frequent, because
I got tired of fighting with all the koi experts that think their way is the
only way...There are many ways to enjoy the hobby. Whatever makes
you and your fish happy is the right way!

What do you do with the fish when you empty the pond? Our fish (17 of them) are about 18 to 24 inches long.
check out our videos...there are many of them.
There are several from spring and summer of 2013...

Here is a link that might be useful: koi pond

This post was edited by cliff_and_joann on Mon, Jan 6, 14 at 7:05

    Bookmark   January 5, 2014 at 4:13PM
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-actually this is the one I wanted to show...the head of security making
his rounds before heading in for his afternoon nap.

Here is a link that might be useful: Max

This post was edited by cliff_and_joann on Sun, Jan 5, 14 at 16:22

    Bookmark   January 5, 2014 at 4:19PM
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I would add one more compelling reason to consider gravel or rocks on the bottom of your pond: toenails! Our dogs find our pond irresistible, and love to splash in to chase a frog or to cool down a bit. One toenail piercing my pond liner would make me very unhappy. When I hand dug my pond 7 years ago, I shaped it like a stadium, with "shelves" along the sides to help hold rocks. Then after the liner was in place, I carefully placed small rocks about softball sized give or take a little, and they protect the liner from dog and deer alike. I have also found my baby fish darting in and out of the little caves created between the rocks. My plants burrow into these spaces as well, utilizing the nutrients in the fish and plant wastes that accumulate. Certainly there is no right or wrong way to do a pond. But this has worked for us in both of our ponds.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2014 at 1:49PM
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