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wildlife pond

Posted by c2g 6 (My Page) on
Tue, Jan 22, 13 at 16:23

I have a 20' x 20' area in my yard to play with. A year ago, I bought a few palettes of fieldstone with plans of building a pond with a waterfall. Since then, I've gone back and forth between the orginal plans, a vernal pool, liner or no liner, fish or no fish. Luckily, my mind was made up when I decided to google "wildlife pond" over the holidays. This is exactly what I want, and it seems there are tons of great examples in the UK especially.

I was hoping to post my plans on the forum and see if anyone has any suggestions for success.

The rest of my yard is full of native plants with the goal of increasing biodiversity. This goal carries over to my pond as well. I'm hoping to attract frogs, toads, salamanders, dragonflies, birds, aquatic insects, etc. This means no fish. I don't want to use electricity. I was hesitant to use a liner, but after researching wildlife ponds, it seems I can ensure holding water with a liner but I can have a layer of soil on the bottom. I'm hoping not to do any drain/clean maintenance each year, and it seems that I won't have to if I get my plants right.

If you look at my photo, the pond is about 14' across. The back left (where my fieldstone pile is) will be a triangular pergola with vines for shade and a hammock under it. There are 3 trees around the pond - black birch to the left and serviceberry and atlantic white cedar in the back. The back area is loaded with virginia creeper for ground cover as well as the fence. The front area from the rain barrel to the composter, I want to plant native bunch grasses of varying height (up to 6') and some pollinator-specific perennials for privacy and habitat for the frogs. The photo looks busy, but if they can make it across the street, there's woods with vernal pools that fill up with spring peepers each year. The fence is to keep out my two kids (toddler and infant).

The pond is marked out for a shallow marginal shelf, a 1'deeper area after that, and a 2' deep area in the inner ring.

My main questions are:
- is my goal of no draining/cleaning realistic if I really put the time in to selecting plants?
- I have a barrel pond that I used mosquito dunks in last summer and didn't have a problem. I'm counting on using that solution here at least until I get the pond established.
- Am I ok putting that topsoil layer back in the pond? Should I mix in pebbles/river rock in that marginal area?
- All that fieldstone... I want a natural pond, but I can't think of any natural ponds that are surrounded by a ring of fieldstone. Would love to get some ideas for maybe going halfway around with fieldstone and then a very gradual slope on the other half for easier access in/out for animals. Maybe use the rest of the stone for retaining walls.
- Is it big enough? I really want this to be an escape, which is why I want to get the grass area between the pond and the fence.
- should I have a net system in place for the fall? I realize the tree locations aren't exactly ideal, but they will provide at least a little bit of shade.

Any suggestions would be appreciated. Can't wait to finally break ground in a few months. I used to be fascinated by ponds and frogs when I was a kid, so this is like a lifelong dream when I think about it, so I don't want to screw it up.

Thanks.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: wildlife pond

  • Posted by steiconi 12b-Big Island, Hawa (My Page) on
    Wed, Jan 23, 13 at 15:08

I haven't tried this yet, but am stockpiling blue jeans:

to get a natural looking edge to a pond, cover the edge with denim (like old blue jeans cut to lay flat), then mix moss and milk in the blender and soak the denim with it.

The moss will soon grow (the milk feeds it), hiding the denim and the edge of the liner.

I suspect black denim would actually look better than blue, especially here where the rocks are all black.


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RE: wildlife pond

Dig a waist deep hole, add a thick layer of Bentonite clay, then add some good compost, add plants and hook up your down spout to your new pond. Definatly add a lot of plants if you dont want to clean it.
Here is a list of some good natives:
(Acorus calamus) Sweetflag
(Caltha palustris) Marsh Marigold
(Equisetum hyemale) Horsetail
(Iris prismatica Iris), Slender Blue Flag
(Juncus effusus) Soft Rush
(Nymphae odorata) Water Lily
(Sagittaria latifolia) Duck Potato, Wapato
(Sarracenia purpurea) Pitcher Plant
(Scirpus cyperinus) Wool Grass
* I would recommend getting a solar powered pump just to keep the water moving so it doesnt attract mosquitoes. Also dont forget to put some logs and sticks in the pond for the critters to hang out on and attatch their eggs to.


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RE: wildlife pond

You can make a shallow area. We have one in our pond.
the bottom of the shallow area is rocked. The critters can walk into the edge of the shallow area for a drink. We also have a rocked shelf
all around, so no liner is showing anywhere.

You can make a few small waterfalls by just piling up a couple of rocks
and have a little bit of water spilling over the rocks.
We have a few small waterfalls and that gets a lot of bird action
and chipmunks drinking from the small falls.

Especially in the winter when water is scarce, the pond gets a lot of bird activity. You sure you don't want fish? They sure are the funnest pard
of backyard ponding...
I'll post some pics later.
Joann


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RE: wildlife pond

You can make a shallow area. We have one in our pond.
the bottom of the shallow area is rocked. The critters can walk into the edge of the shallow area for a drink. We also have a rocked shelf
all around, so no liner is showing anywhere.

You can make a few small waterfalls by just piling up a couple of rocks
and have a little bit of water spilling over the rocks.
We have a few small waterfalls and that gets a lot of bird action
and chipmunks drinking from the small falls.

Especially in the winter when water is scarce, the pond gets a lot of bird activity. You sure you don't want fish? They sure are the funnest pard
of backyard ponding...
I'll post some pics later.
Joann


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RE: wildlife pond

Here is one of our videos.

At about 1.13 you'll see the shallow beach area.
Also visable is the small waterfalls that the birds love.
We only put on the big waterfall when we have 'tourists'
over. I really just like the small waterfalls.

I provided a link to our website...From there you can get to our many videos.
(in case the video link I provided doesn't work)

On our website go to "Pond Plans
& Diagrams," It explains the layout, and operation
of our pond...Here's a pic of the way we did the beach.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X36dkJi0g4k&list=UULP87dSEY_4XqvhBLADK_EA

Here is a link that might be useful: CJ's Adventures in Ponding.


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RE: wildlife pond

WOW! What a great pond and great fish!


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RE: wildlife pond

  • Posted by c2g 6 (My Page) on
    Tue, Jan 29, 13 at 23:07

Thanks for all the info.

Just to clear a few things up, I definitely don't want fish. I want frogs, salamanders, dragonflies, insects, etc., that would otherwise get eaten by fish. Trying not to use any filters or pumps. Seems like mosquito dunks can work until the pond gets established, and then monitor the insect (and hopefully, bat) population so I can gradually stop adding it.

I may try to make room for a small bog overflow area.

I started researching using bentonite instead of a liner, but most of what I find has it being used in much larger ponds. Not sure how easy it is to put in either, as I may have some steep edges on the shelves. Researched more than a few cases where people added a few inches of soil over the liner so plants can be taken out of pots and actually planted.

I do plan on having at least one shallow, rocky edge with a gradual slope as a way for things to crawl out.


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RE: wildlife pond

You dont need shelves if you are going to plant straight into the pond. The shelves are used a platform for the pots. Bentonite is usually around 8-10 dollars for a 50lb bag. You probably would only need two maybe three. After you dig your hole you sprinkle the bentonite down and compact the soil as hard as you can with a sledgehammer. Then you add you compost on top mixed in with some sand or gravel. Then you add the plants and fill her up.Its going to be cloudy for several days but it will eventually settle. Then connect the down spout.


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RE: wildlife pond

  • Posted by c2g 6 (My Page) on
    Thu, Jan 31, 13 at 11:53

@greenthumbzdude

Hmmm, didn't think of it like that. So just plant the marginal plants in the shallower depths? Makes sense. I think I'll give this a try. I have a lot of clay in my soil the way it is. Any particular brand or are they all the same?

How about using one of those vibraplate tampers instead of a sledge?

thanks for the info!


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RE: wildlife pond

Bentonite is bentonite, brand doesn't matter. Just sprinkle a thick layer on after you dig out the hole (should be waist deep in center and slopes up slowly until you get to the edge of the pond) and compact it as much as possible. A vibraplate tamper would work better than a sledge. Just make sure the pond bottom is rock solid afterwards. This is important in order to prevent leaking. When you plant don't dig down into the clay, plant in the compost,gravel(pea gravel works best I would do 1 part compost 1 part gravel) mix that will lay ontop of the hardened clay bottom (figure about 1 foot). Marginal plants like the iris should be planted in the shallow parts. Plants like water lilly should planted in the center.Add as many plants as you can afford....the more surface area you cover the less algae will grow and the cleaner the pond will be. Good Luck and Post some pics later on.


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RE: wildlife pond

"Bentonite is bentonite" scatch that use sodium bentonite instead of calcium bentonite its higher quality, lasts longer, and expands more.


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RE: wildlife pond

  • Posted by c2g 6 (My Page) on
    Thu, Jan 31, 13 at 22:15

So, the pond is 14' across. You're saying one foot of pea gravel/compost mix for the entire bottom - after the bentonite? If I get down to waist deep in the center, and add a one foot gravel/compost base on top of that, I'm at two feet depth, which is what I figured. Just wondering how many inches of bentonite (pre-tamped) layer I should be figuring for. That, and the one foot of gravel/compost seems like a lot. Am I understanding you correctly? I like the idea. Seems more "natural" than shelves.


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RE: wildlife pond

In order to counter the gravel compost mix and the clay you will most likely have to dig down a bit further. Figure around belly button-lower chest deep. One foot of gravel/compost mix would be enought to give the roots enough space to grow without interfering with the clay bottom. The plants will be able to move freely around the pond as they wish; giving a more natural look. Also don't forget that frogs need thick mud to burrow into during winter. If you happen to get turtles they also need the same conditions.
Considering that sodium bentonite expands up to 18 times its size when exposed to water I would add around 3-5 inches then compact it down. It does take some time for the bentonite to expand and form a tight seal so the water level might be a little low for the first few days.


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RE: wildlife pond

  • Posted by c2g 6 (My Page) on
    Fri, Feb 1, 13 at 23:03

@greenthumbz, I'm seriously considering going this route if I could find a supplier within a reasonable distance. I was really trying to do this without a liner since when I was a kid, we dug a small 10' wide pond in our backyard - no liner, clay or anything - keep filling in throughout the first summer, and then it was a functioning pond for a good 10 years before we got rid of it.

Have you used this on your own pond? If so, any pics?


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RE: wildlife pond

Have you considered mail-order for the bentonite? Even with the plants I find that some things are cheaper/better quality online. For example 2 years ago I bought a 3 foot dawn redwood tree for 10 bucks online. If I went to a local nursery I would have paid 50.
My own pond was already here when I moved in. Dont actually have any pic of it. Its around 20 feet wide, 6 feet deep and clay bottom. It was orginally a goldfish pond but I removed those and planted native aquatic plants in it. I also added a biohaven pond island in the center. So right know its like a thickly grown marsh but its looks very natural; you couldn't tell its man made. Its loaded with wildlife everything from painted turtles to dragonflies. I am in the process of building 2 more ponds just like it on my property one a bit deeper and larger for native fish (bluegill,bass,catfish). So thats how I know about clay bottom pond construction.


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RE: wildlife pond

From my reading, you still need a shallow beach area if you want frogs, turtles and birds to use the pond. In nature ponds and creeks have rocky, pebbly areas for them to use to get safely into and out of the water.


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RE: wildlife pond

  • Posted by c2g 6 (My Page) on
    Mon, Mar 4, 13 at 23:57

Update on the project - definitely going with a liner. No one within delivery range sells bentonite and it's not cost effective to get the amount I'd need shipped. It's going to be shallow with natural edges. In the area by the shrubs that gets more shade will be the gradually sloped "beach". On the other side, near the pile of stone, will be a shelf and the deepest area will probably be no more than 1.5'.

I cleared out the entire area and I think I'll have room for a small bog area toward the yard. Meeting with my nursery contact to come up with a plan for plants - aquatic and the grass meadow in front of it that will give the area some privacy.

What I had the most trouble deciding was whether to leave the liner bare at the bottom, add nutrient poor soil, or river rock. I really want a natural look, and the pond in this video captures what I'm going for - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4zsmhWBraw0. I believe that's river rock - at least I hope so, because that's what I'm planning on. No fish, so I'm operating on the assumption that I won't have to clean it.

Only other questions I have -- should I plan on putting up netting in the fall to prevent all the leaves from falling in? Raccoons visit my yard all the time. Will a river rock bottom prevent them from puncturing the liner?

Here is a link that might be useful: Pond video


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RE: wildlife pond

You can make a shallow area. We have one in our pond.
the bottom of the shallow area is rocked. The critters can walk into the edge of the shallow area for a drink. We also have a rocked shelf
all around, so no liner is showing anywhere.


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RE: wildlife pond

I will put my two cents in here and caution you to be prepared to add a pump and filter. Without it the pond will wind up getting stagnant. That is really bad.You will also have much clearer water. Pumps and filters are almost always necessary because your pond is a closed system rather than a natural pond which has a constant change of water.There is no such thing as a pond that doesn't need to be cleaned.

The river rock will capture debris which will rot. Having water moving through a filter will help reduce that as it helps keep the water clear and oxygenated.

Mosquitos can be reduced with the dunks but mosquito fish are excellent. They don't require feeding or a lot of maintenance. They are relatives of guppies and are very small. You will have to replace them each spring as they won't survive the winter. You can usually get them free from the local health department.

Raccoon will pull up any plants they can reach and pretty much wreck a pond but they don't care to swim much even though they can. A device called a Scarecrow that shoots a sharp stream of water when a motion detector is activated will usually keep them under control and away from the plants. I have seen them this season at Walmart for $49.95 which is a big reduction from the original price of $79.95. It is worth the money.


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RE: wildlife pond

My wildlife pond (system) is still an "Under Construction" site that I just started on a few months back. Wildlife ponds are ongoing projects.

This post was edited by tropicbreezent on Thu, Mar 7, 13 at 21:25


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RE: wildlife pond

  • Posted by c2g 6 (My Page) on
    Thu, Mar 7, 13 at 10:18

@sleeplessinftwayne

I've been to hundreds of websites about whether or not a wildlife pond would work without a pump. As with anything else, tons of conflicting information. I settled on the doc from my local extension as (see link) my fallback, and they state that pumps are not required. I was under the impression that the right amount/species of plants could provide an alternative to a pump/filter system.

I put in a barrel pond last year which had duckweed, pickerelweed, lilly pads, and something else (that I believe might be invasive), and although you couldn't see the water beneath the duckweed, it was crystal clear. I've been operating on the assumption that I could reproduce something like this on a larger scale with more careful consideration of plants. My main concern, up until reading your post, was accounting for evaporation but relying on a hose (filter attachment?) to keep the level up.

Raccoons knocked over my plants constantly in the barrel pond. The scarecrow seems like a possible option as long as it's not picking off birds all day, which I'm hoping to attract.

Here is a link that might be useful: Water for Wildlife


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RE: wildlife pond

Penn State's Extension Service has always been reliable, of course I am prejudiced since I was involved with Master Gardeners in three locations in two states over 18 years. My second pond was dug for an Extension Garden.

I base my comments about pumps and filters after looking at your layout and description of what you want. The fact is that while you may be satisfied with what you end up with without a pump and filter, the odds are you will want to add them. There is nothing sadder to a water gardener than an unsatisfactory pond that gets ignored, attracts complaints or is filled in.

The following statement in the Extension publication is sadly lacking in detail. I could expand on it alone for several pages. One of the thing I hate about such pubs is that they rarely give you an idea of what the common problems might be. That isn't all their fault. This one in particular isn't designed to give you detailed instructions. It's only a few pages long. It is giving you basic ideas to pique your interest.
"Biological filters help to remove high
ammonia concentrations in ponds where
there are many fish. A plant filter is a
type of biological filter. Water is moved
through a gravel bed of aquatic plants
where colonizing bacteria and enzymes
remove ammonia from the water."

The fish are not the only thing that affect water quality. Even the plants can degrade water quality. Still water loses oxygen and becomes stagnant. Hot spots can develop in still water. Plants rarely flourish in stagnant or too warm water. Plant debris can and will degrade water. A biological or bog filter depends on moving water even in nature. The birds you want to attract will poop in the water, too. You don't have to add a filter and pump at first, just be aware you may want them in the future.

You can turn off the Scarecrow during the day. However I often found the birds and smaller animals deliberately triggered it so long as it was not aimed right at them. It works like an impulse sprinkler and they were adept at going over and under the spray. It was fun watching a bird setting it off for a whole flock. They take turns. The larger animals would get a face full, full force.

Do a search for pond/raccoon on this site.(look at the top of the forum) There are a lot of good stories to entertain and even alarm you. It is amazing how many critters are around even in the city.


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RE: wildlife pond

  • Posted by c2g 6 (My Page) on
    Thu, Mar 7, 13 at 17:34

Wow. Excellent info. Is there a reliable resource you can point me to for what I'm trying to accomplish? To be certain, I don't want fish. Looks like I need to plan on a filter though, and my wife's reaction when she finds out I need to change my plans yet again.

A lot of my research is based on blogs that show the step by step but no long term follow up. Most of the local pond experts seem to be koi pond folks. I'm almost ready to throw in the towel and go with a vernal pool at this point.


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Tropicalbreezes, Good luck with your project. I hope you are successful.I am wondering why you want to line it with concrete and then add soil since from what you say, you will let it dry out in the dry season, or did I misunderstand? That would be very hard on the plants. Here they often use rip-rap on the sides. The plants naturally send their roots under the chunks of concrete where any moisture that exists will keep the plants roots alive, even if the top is dormant.


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RE: wildlife pond

c2g, Vernal ponds, dewponds, etc are great in the right location, under the right conditions. Remember that most of the ones you see on the internet are rarely located near buildings, especially homes. Most of the time they are for livestock that churn up the bottom. They are rarely filled by hoses. In England, there is a lot of rain and a lot of clay. The bottom of a clay lined pond is thick. Try Googling Bentonite lined canals to see the construction. It is tricky. I'm glad you decided not to use it to tell the truth. To the unwary, it is a disaster waiting to happen. It takes practice and a lot of willingness to get coated with unbelievably sticky messes once it gets wet. We used to live in an underground house that was topped with it and then had 2 feet of earth on top of that so I had a lot of experience in twenty years. While it did what it was supposed to do, I lost more than one pair of shoes and several pairs of jeans to it. You could not wade into the pond you want to construct.

I haven't ever seen a really good book on wildlife ponds. No two ponds are ever going to be alike. But then I wanted something for fishies too. my pond is 1000 gallons and three feet deep. The birds and critters usually take over my Skippy Filter (!00 gallons)for bathing and drinking. Since my pond will never be completed(even after 12+ years), that can change from year to year. I love to experiment.You won't want anything as elaborate as Joanne and Cliff's but parts of their ponds are perfect for what you want. Check out their many videos. Just don't get intimidated.

For your pond, the first thing to consider is that the ground is flat. So as you dig, pile the dirt around the outside perimeter of the pond so the pond edges will be above grade.If you plan for a filter, the tank can be positioned there so it won't be obvious. Use the link to see the Skippy. It doesn't have to be that large for your use but the concept is the same no matter the size. I have seen so many variations it is amazing. They all do the same thing.

I would go with the same material. Thinner, less weatherproof materials than a stock tank are just a waste of time and money. I made mine in an afternoon. The most difficult part was tying it to the roof of my car to get it home from the Farm and Fleet store. A fifty gallon tank would do well for your plans. Before you start cutting, think it through. You can always delay it if you are unsure.

For your purposes you don't need a huge pump. Figure the amount of water in the pond and get a submersible pump that moves about twice that number of gallons in an hour. There are lots of people here to advise you on brands of pumps although they usually talk about the bigger volume pumps. If you like, you can design a low waterfall with this or not. I like the sound.

For safety you should have a properly installed GFCI outlet. Extension cords are not recommended.

Here is a link that might be useful: Skippy Stuff.


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RE: wildlife pond

Here is a link that has good information. While the article does mention fish, which you do not want, all of the advice is good for a fishless wildlife pond. It mentions temperature changes, water quality, and planting tips which will help minimize problems. Aeration is needed to help oxygenate the water and to help keep the pond from becoming stagnant and smelly which frogs, toads and other life would not like. Also, a liner is a good choice. Hope the link helps.

Here is a link that might be useful: Wildlife pond


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RE: wildlife pond

Harden, that is probably the best publication I have seen about wildlife ponds. It hits almost every topic necessary. Thank you for finding it. It goes into my favorites list and I'll print out a copy or two to put in my loose leaf reference books and file to hand out.

My favorite comment was "No matter how big you make your pond, after a while you’ll probably wish you had made it bigger." I have said the same thing so many times it gets to be embarrassing.

A bubbler is a good addition to circulate and aerate the water. Without a pump and filter it is essential, in my opinion. I use one in addition to the pump and filter. The fish love to swim through the bubbles and it helps to keep floating plants in place. In the winter it helps to keep a hole open in the ice.

c2g, you would never notice the mosquito fish unless you were looking, they are so small. Their diet is mosquito larva.

I wish someone familiar with frogs would speak up. I've tried to introduce them but there are too many squirrels and close by lawns that are doused in chemicals to keep them here.


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RE: wildlife pond

  • Posted by c2g 6 (My Page) on
    Wed, Mar 13, 13 at 22:10

That is a nice resource. Update on my end is that I'm working with a landscape architect to come up with a master plan for my yard and they have experience with this type of pond, so I'm confident we'll come up with something that works.


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RE: wildlife pond

Now that is nice. I'd be happy just to have someone carry stuff from one place to another.


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RE: wildlife pond

You are welcome, sleepless. As for frogs and toads, I have had them every year since 2009 except for last summer and I don't know why. I don't know a whole lot about them, except that I sure missed having them. Hopefully they will return this year.

c2g, good luck on your wildlife pond. Sounds like fun.


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RE: wildlife pond

A wildlife pond will work fine if it has certain characteristics.

Not so shallow a configuration that the water temps are volatile, favouring algae and invasive plants better adapted to tough conditions. They will romp and make a mess.

A configuration of an average depth of 24"-30" will provide steady, gentle temps which favour more ornamental choice aquatic plants.

Given a well balanced selection of waterlily, iris, ornamental plants which have well behaved growing habits, easy to control, they will take control of water quality.

Avoiding choking the pond with plants which jeopardise water quality and become a titanic knot too fast you may consider to be your main priority...

Pumps and filters are not needed on a pond with no fish, there is not going to be the destructive grazing, turnover of fish food into poop, constant disturbance of sediments, stress on water quality...

The well chosen plants will take care of that

The rest, will follow...


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