Concrete & Chlorine pool to chemical free pond

Ella5December 23, 2010

Hello. I'm new here. I will soon have a 30 year old concrete pool in Tucson, southeast Arizona, USA, in the Sonoran Desert. The elevation is about 2700', and we're dry most of the year, but we do have two monsoon seasons, summer and winter.

I have read two threads here about converting a large inground concrete pool to a pond, and they are not encouraging.

This --I suppose it's either concrete or gunnite--pool is about 30 feet long, 20 feet wide, and it's deepest area is about 8 feet. I'm trying to decide whether to fill it in and play tennis on it, convert it to a chemical free pool, a chemical free pond, or simply keep it chlorine based.

I'm at the beginning stages of learning. From what I've read in the last few days, I could go chemical free, I think. I would expect to use the pumping system that's there, but I'd run the pumped water into above ground (skippy type http://www.skippysstuff.com/biofiltr.htm ) filter ponds and return it to the pool via a water fall. I could put water plants in the filtering basins. I guess we'll need 5-6 300 gallon filter containers for the 25000 gallon pool.

I read today that a Florida (USA) study of a few years ago suggests that the pump doesn't have to run constantly, only when mixing chemicals, and since I wouldn't be using any, the reason to use it would be to circulate and aerate the water and pull debris off and out of it. That same study says I could use a smaller pump, since I would be using larger diameter "pipes" to get the water

back to the pool.

I've learned a little of evaporation rates. For Tucson the rough evaporation rate is 100 inches/365 which is about 1/3 inch per day. Some of that COULD be replaced by redirecting wash water and rainfall harvesting.

http://www.grow.arizona.edu/Grow--GrowResources.php?ResourceId=208

If I can transform it into something I do want and will enjoy, I will.

With a little more work, I can gather what rainwater we do have to replenish the pool during those months, as well as using the gray water from my washing machine, but if I have to keep the pool covered most of the time, I might as well fill it in.

Haven't thought much about plants, haven't gotten that far, but didn't know about them needing the fish�

When I first read of chemical free pools, I was interested, though I would not be likely to swim in it myself. Now, with all this other, I'm not so sure I

won't fill it in.

Then I read of the fellow and the leeches. NOT my cup of tea.

I am just now thinking that I might let a couple of feet evaporate from it, which would give a shallow end for possibly bog plants in gravel, and I could hang more bog type plants from the sides in baskets, keeping them wet via soaker hose fed through a filter�

I think that might still permit enough water in case I wanted to soak, or even swim.

I would have to find out if the pool has to be filled to the brim constantly or risk damage.

I've also read on here of the cost in energy, time, work, and money. I Don't know that I can go to that expense.

Any and all input you can give would be greatly appreciated. I need a lot more input and information to help me make this decision.

Ella

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sheepco(MN z4)

Hi Ella, and welcome to the forum.

I have no experience with pool conversion, but there are several members here that have done it and created ponds they really enjoy. It is a big project but you're starting out right by gathering all the info you can before you make a decision :) Keep reading - use the search at the top of the page to read past threads regarding pool conversions - it can be done!

Good luck, S

    Bookmark   December 24, 2010 at 8:29AM
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corrie22

Ella, I don't think it's that difficult at all.
I didn't convert a swimming pool, but I did build a fish/waterlily pond that is exactly like a swimming pool.
It's bigger than most swimming pools, around 40,000 gallons, concrete shell, and I had it built by a swimming pool company.

The trick is, don't over stock it. Don't put a lot of fish that create a lot of waste, like a lot of Koi, and don't try to run it like some big fish aquarium in the yard.

I vacuum mine out once a year when I trim, re-pot, etc the waterlilies. I have no filtration and only a small air pump running one air stone. It stays crystal clear all year.

Corrie

    Bookmark   December 24, 2010 at 5:44PM
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Ella5

I'm in planting zone 4, in Tucson Arizona
ZONE 4 http://ag.arizona.edu/pubs/garden/az1169/#map
MID ALTITUDE DESERT (Elevation 2,000-4,000 feet)

Corrie22, That sounds marvelous. --sounds like what I want. How do you avoid algae blooms, green murky water, mosquitoes, all the other negatives I read so much about? Is there any chance you could post a few photos of it?

    Bookmark   December 25, 2010 at 12:52AM
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corrie22

Hi Ella, Merry Christmas!

Sometimes a get greenwater and algae when I clean it out, I just let it sit until it clears up. That can be a week or two sometimes. I don't get that long stringy algae because the water is not moving and I have just enough fish to eat it off.

Fish eat the mosquitoes.

As big as the pond is, I only have about 25 goldfish and keep it at about that many every year.

No rocks in the bottom, and lots of waterlilies and hornwort. Waterlilies cut down on the amount of light reaching the water, and hornwort takes up any nutrients in the water.
That keeps it crystal clear all the time.

I can't figure out how to post pictures. The pond is like a large "L" that wraps around two sides of our patio.

Only once a year, I vacuum it, that's about a 50% water change, clean, fertilize, and re-pot any waterlilies, remove any excess hornwort, cull any goldfish to keep the numbers down.
Use Arm and Hammer baking soda to keep the alk up when it needs it.
Other than that, I don't do anything else to it.

Corrie

    Bookmark   December 25, 2010 at 10:40AM
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Ella5

Merry Christmas to you, and everyone else, too.

I may give that a try. I'm in sort of a doldrum here. I won't be able to get into the house for a few weeks to find out what chemicals they used, whether salts were used or not.

If salts were not used, I can just let the chlorine disipate, stick in some of those plants and a few edible fish, and see what happens.

I am planning on using a bog filter, but it will be a few months before that could be done. From what I've learned, it needs to be pretty big, maybe about 80'x 4'x 1'--see my next post about it. In the meantime, if your way works for me, the bog system can be made smaller and be not just for need, but for eye appeal. That would certainly save on evaporation rate and water replacement, plus the electric for the pump.

How fast do the lilys reproduce? I think I will have to buy hundreds to have this up to speed with just them.

And then, will it be safe to swim in, or eat the fish from?
Ella

    Bookmark   December 25, 2010 at 2:58PM
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corrie22

Ella, I don't like bog filters at all, so I don't have one. Growing the plants in the pond, sorta defeats the purpose of growing them outside the pond.

Depends on the lily. Some only reproduce from seed, some put out baby plants, and some make a lot of tubers/potatoes that you can replant. I started out with just two lilies, in one year, I had enough to completely cover the pond.

Should be safe enough, I get in mine during the summer.

Corrie, needs more coffee right now

    Bookmark   December 26, 2010 at 9:03AM
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Ella5

I'm reading directions on potting lilies. Your pool/pond is larger than mine. How deep is it? Mine is 8' at the deep end. How do you plant them, or, I always thought they just free floated, roots hanging in water, not mud/dirtriver bottom.How can you have that many in your pond, how do you plant them?
What am I missing?
Ella

    Bookmark   December 26, 2010 at 1:13PM
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corrie22

Ella, mine is about 4-5 ft deep, it slopes to a drain.
You plant waterlilies. Hornwort just floats around.

I plant waterlilies in buckets/tubs, oil pans, whatever. Anything that will hold sand and does not have any holes in the bottom. I like something that holds about 5-7 gals of sand.
I use coarse or builders sand because dirt used to give me major algae problems.

I usually try to mix some Black Kow rotted manure in with the sand, about 1/3 manure to 2/3 coarse sand.
Plant the lily in that, then cover the top with about 1 inch of just sand.

If you use sand and want really big lilies, then you need to fertilize a lot.
Otherwise, you can use one of the time release fertilizers when you re-pot them. There's everything from time release tree spikes to osmocote.
I put a big handful of osmocote in the bottom of the pots when I'm repotting them.

I made stands for the pots to raise them closer to the surface, out of PVC pipe. Like old timey fern stands.
Put the pots about 2 feet apart and the lilies will cover the pond.

Make sense??
Corrie

    Bookmark   December 26, 2010 at 8:28PM
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garyfla_gw(10 Florida)

Hi
Have never converted a pool but have kept water gardens fish ponds for many years First let me say it's not rocket science lol There are many many ways to go about
it . I think the most important thing is to decide WHAT you want to keep in it. With that much water an ornamental or edible fish pond would be the obvious choice . You could grow magnificent Koi or pan fish for sure. Next consider your climate I'm sure you have mild winters frost but no freezing??extremely hot summers??
Your fish will grow gigantic and probably reproduce like crazy so this will dictate what types of plants to go with them. Since fish are divided into two catagories as are water plants how far do you want to go to keep temps up or down?? Low temps are much more of a problem than high
But there are MANY species that will tolerate both.
Filtration is far more important for fish than plants again by species but with that much water it should be very easy.lol
If you want to keep prize winning Koi design everything around them. If you want an edible or ornamental water plant garden design the filtration and management around them. It is certainly possible to have both but requires different choices.
Actually ,depending on the climate water gardening is far easier than terrestrial gardening particularly in a hot dry climate.
So decide what you most want out of the pool, now pond actually more of a lake lol and go from there!!!
gary

    Bookmark   December 27, 2010 at 6:28AM
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Ella5

Tucson, southeast Arizona, USA, in the Sonoran Desert.

I expect that I'll use the pool pump a lot, at least when starting. Won't the hornwort clog the drain, plug the line? How can I keep that from happening?

I plant waterlilies in buckets/tubs...Anything that will hold sand and does not have any holes in the bottom. I like something that holds about 5-7 gals of sand. I use coarse or builders sand because dirt used to give me major algae problems.

I made stands for the pots ...out of PVC pipe. Put the pots about 2 feet apart and the lilies will cover the pond. Make sense??

Okay, sand is readily available here, and the pvc shelves is also easy. I have a lot of 1/2" schedule 40. Is that strong enough? Do you make them to hold one plant or many? I guess if I make holders for each plant, they can be spread out more. Maybe it doesn't matter.

Getting them INTO the water is easier than getting them out. Do you leave them in and duck your head to fertilize? And if the water is full of nutrients, why the need to fertilize? Since your pots are large, why do you repot? Do they grow so quickly they outgrow the pots?

I usually mix Black Kow rotted manure with the sand...
Horse manure is free here. Can I use that?

We're getting there. Thanks for your help here. I'm beginning to again think I can do this. I go back and forth on it.
Ella

    Bookmark   December 27, 2010 at 11:27AM
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corrie22

Ella, if you're trying to do what I'm doing, don't use the pool pump at all.
If you empty the pool and clean it out first, I'm sure your city water is probably loaded in phosphate. You need to just let the pool sit after that until it clears up on it's own. It will.

I would use at least 1 inch thick wall PVC. One for each pot, so you can move the pots around later if you don't like where they are.

The water shouldn't be that full of nutrients. If the floating/submerged plants are doing their job. If they are not, you're going to have green water.
Water lilies are not good at taking up nutrients through their leaves and stems, they take them up through their roots.

We have a lot of horses here too. I tried used aged horse manure, gave me the greenest water I have ever had.

I keep my waterlily pots only about a foot and a half to two feet under the water. You don't need SCUBA gear for that. LOL

Fertilizing is easy. I use PondTabs, which are tablets you stick in the pots. I use a dibber to poke a hole in the dirt, put in a PondTab, and squish the dirt back in the hole.

This is a

Here is a link that might be useful: DIBBER

    Bookmark   December 27, 2010 at 12:16PM
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Ella5

You're getting close to talking me into not using the pump. Especially since I don't like the noise OF the pump OR a waterfall.
I'm probably going to try to get an idea of whether the pool needs painted now or not, before emptying it.

Okay, so now it seems there will be hornwort, waterlilies, a few other pond plants, and since I have steps, maybe some bog plants, too.
And if all goes well with that, maybe add some edible fish.

Corrie, thanks for your help.

    Bookmark   December 27, 2010 at 2:37PM
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Ella5

Hi, Gary,
You said, the most important thing is to decide WHAT you want to keep in it. With that much water an ornamental or edible fish pond would be the obvious choice .

I will have plants and edible fish. I'll check with the University Extension service to see what they recommend. I have a friend who fishes from a lake. Maybe I can convince him to bring me a few! (Then he won't have to drive so far...)

You could grow magnificent Koi or pan fish for sure. Next consider your climate I'm sure you have mild winters frost but no freezing??extremely hot summers??

Winters are pretty mild. We get a dusting of snow once in a while, But I doubt I have to worry about this pond freezing. Yes, we do get to about 113 a couple of times during the summer, and the temps stay over 100 for over 90 days in a row.

Your fish will grow gigantic and probably reproduce like crazy so this will dictate what types of plants to go with them.
If I have pan fish, do I need other kinds of plants? Lilies and hornwort won't work, or in addidion to?

Since fish are divided into two catagories as are water plants how far do you want to go to keep temps up or down?
What does that mean, 2 catagories? I won't be messing with temps at all. They live or die in what's there.

Low temps are much more of a problem than high
But there are MANY species that will tolerate both.
Filtration is far more important for fish than plants again by species but with that much water it should be very easy.lol
If you want an edible or ornamental water plant garden design the filtration and management around them. It is certainly possible to have both but requires different choices.
Where do I get that information?

water gardening is far easier than terrestrial gardening particularly in a hot dry climate.
I hope so. I never learned about gardening.

So decide what you most want out of the pool, now pond actually more of a lake lol and go from there!!!
You're right, aren't you? It really is more of a lake than a "pond".
thanks for your thoughts.
What other information do I need?
Ella

    Bookmark   December 27, 2010 at 2:56PM
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garyfla_gw(10 Florida)

Hi
By "two catagories" I meant temperate and tropical.
Since you seem to want Natives so problems. Not sure what types you'd find there but you'd want "Lake type fish.
Your Extention office would be a good choice for info and sources.Info on licences aand so on.
Plants are the same way .temperate and tropical. For high summer temps .tropicals are probably you best choice
Most can tolerate anything but a hard freeze.
Water lily for example, has both types but with tropicals there are more choices of colors, sizes, various aromas. They range from 2 inch pads to those that produce leaves in excess of 7 feet in diameter lol
Have you checked out the website called "Victoria adventure"? They have tons of pix along with culture info.
Water plants have 3 basic growth habits. Entirely submerged . those that emerge from the water and those that float so grow method is dictated by the habit.
There are gazillions of choices lol
Are there any local ponding clubs in your area??
They could give you all kinds of local info and sources for plants,fish,recommendations.
Go slowly until you get an idea of what you want ??
Good luck and keep us informed of your progress. Your starting out right .Asking ??? BEFORE you start rather than after. gary

    Bookmark   December 28, 2010 at 5:15AM
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abitcrazy

So, Ella, and all...did u ever convert? How did it go? I am up in Phoenix, and have diving pool. It has salt system, but am tired of pool and costs, and want something more economically and ecologically useful.

If u have photos, please post. If u stopped using pool pump, do tell. I want to stop using pump, grow fish, and maybe try growing aquaponic plants either near water and pumped to grow beds and back to pool. What plants did u use?

    Bookmark   March 20, 2014 at 1:29AM
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