I've never had a pond before, what should I do first?
Setting up a pond is all about space, but that doesn’t mean that you need a lot of it. A small pond that is well-planned and constructed will often function better than a larger effort which has been hastily placed into a given expanse of garden. Keep in mind though that fish such as koi keep growing whilst ponds don't!
These days, there are many different options when it comes to pond construction. Everything from small “stand-alone” features to huge preformed fibreglass ponds are available. Add to this the huge advances in filtration for the hobbyist and you’ve got a rich seam of interest for your garden, patio or even conservatory.
Look at the area you’re planning to install the pond into and be realistic about your developments. Once a pond is built and full of water, filling it in might not be as easy as you think. Our advice would be to ensure good access to all sides of the pond - a 2-foot border should be more than enough and this will make maintenance and planting much easier. Try to avoid placing the pond in the shade of a tree, as while it may look picturesque, you will end up with a lot of leaf litter in the pond and this is something you will need to remove regularly by hand, pond vacuum or netting.
Is the area you are looking at level? While the ground doesn’t have to be as flat as a pancake, if it has a significant slope to it, you will have to do some serious ground work first to ensure that all the banks of your pond are level. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to scale your ideas back - in fact you may be able to terrace an area with an extreme slope and build a pond on each terrace, thus forming two ponds that can be connected by a feature such as a waterfall.
Once you have identified your space, your next decision is to think about what kind of feature you want. The classic options are the wildlife pond, the goldfish pond and the koi pond. The wildlife pond does not contain fish, but rather thrives on a balanced ecosystem containing native species of invertebrates and amphibians. This kind of pond is perfect if you do not have a huge area to work in and are unable to bring a power supply to bear, as nothing more than a generous selection of aquatic plants are needed to bring life into your pond and surrounding areas.
The goldfish pond is hugely popular and one that can bring wonderful sound, colour and movement to your outdoor leisure time. Remember that goldfish get bigger than you may expect and breed readily, so overstocking a pond is something to be wary of. Speak with your local Maidenhead Aquatics store to identify the correct number of goldfish suited to your pond. Although not requiring as much space as koi, all pond fish will benefit from access to an area of deeper water to ensure sanctuary from extremes of temperature. This is crucial for the winter survival of goldfish in colder climates. With this factor in mind, it can be seen that raised water features, barrels and similar containers may only be suitable for fish in the warmer months – however they can make excellent seasonal homes for fancy goldfish that need overwintering indoors. For long-term success and water clarity you will need to have access to a power supply. Goldfish are messy and when kept in large numbers, they will quickly pollute the water around them, so a pump and filter are key pieces of equipment that should not be overlooked.
Finally, the koi pond is one best suited to larger gardens and dedicated fish keepers, having more in common with a giant outdoor aquarium. Whilst many people successfully keep koi and goldfish together, most koi keepers dedicate as much space as possible to their ever-growing carp and so the advice given here will mirror that. Koi grow large and live long lives, therefore you should ensure your pond is easily large enough to manage adult Koi. Look for a minimum depth of at least 90cm, but the deeper the better. Filtration is your next biggest concern and we at Maidenhead Aquatics recommend Koi filtration at double the capacity of the pond. For example if your pool measures 5,000 litres, you should install pumps and filters rated to 10,000 litres. It is worth building your filtration into the design of the pond - remember you will need to access both the pump and the filter regularly for husbandry and maintenance. Anything you can do in advance to minimise the hassle will be well worth it in the long run.
So, you’ve identified your space and considered your pond fish options. Now it is worth visiting your local Maidenhead Aquatics to look at the available products and get an idea of prices, dimensions, capacities, etc. At this stage, you’re ready to go! Get digging and ensure you stick to the dimensions you’ve already settled on. If in doubt, use string and simple wooden stakes to mark out the area for your pond. For larger projects, consider hiring a mini digger. If you are installing a preformed pond liner, it is certainly worth ensuring that any planting ledges formed into the liner are supported by soil or sand. Attempt to dig the hole to mirror the dimensions as closely as possible, as this will add support to the whole structure and reduce the likelihood of cracks due to pressure from the water.
If you are using a liner, remember that you must calculate the overall depth of your pond into the final dimensions of the piece of liner you need. If you are unsure how to do this, speak to your local Maidenhead Aquatics store. Lay out the liner so that an even skirt of excess borders the pond on all sides, but do not secure it permanently at this point. Fill the pond with water and give it a few days for the liner to shift and settle properly before fixing it in place. Once the pond is built, installing the filtration should be fairly straightforward depending on what water features you intend to run.
Remember to de-chlorinate the water and leave everything for a few days to warm and settle. Given the proportions of most ponds, gradual stocking is easily accomplished, but be patient and use a test kit together with a bacterial starter to ensure that your new pets are not exposed to harmful pollutants. Feel free to get your aquatic, marginal and bog plants established as soon as possible, as their presence will not be detrimental to the cycling process and it will give them time to settle before the addition of any fish you might choose to add.
Finally, do remember that there is a huge range of ponds, styles, fish combinations and planting options available to you and that we here at Maidenhead Aquatics are always happy to discuss your ideas.