Introduction: Constructing a Small Fish Pond in the Garden

Picture of Constructing a Small Fish Pond in the Garden

Our home garden hosts a lot of honey bees, birds and other exotic creatures drinking water from a small bowl kept near the water tank, which need to be filled up daily. So, I have decided to build a small pond which will provide drinking water to the fauna in the garden as well to be a place to sit around. The pond will also host some fish which will eat away the mosquito larvae from the pond water.

This step-by-step instructable is about how we built our small garden pond.

Step 1: Selection of Site

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Select a site which gets full sunlight for about three to four hours a day. The site should be away from trees which shed leaves.

Here I have selected a site which gets sunlight for about four hours and nearer to an young coconut palm, which does not shed leaves. The excess water with fish waste will be used to irrigate the coconut palm.

Step 2: Tools and Equipment Required

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Tools and equipment required:

  • A measuring scale to measure and mark the area.
  • A small crowbar to dig.
  • A spade small or big to work with excavated earth.
  • A pan to mix mud mortar for mud plaster.
  • A mason trawl for mud plaster.
  • A plastic container to carry water.
  • A spirit Level to level the pond top.
  • An old measuring tape or string to measure circumference.
  • About two feet of 20 mm dia PVC pipe to be used for drainage of excess water from the pond.

Step 3: Pond Liner

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You can use concrete or a water-proof material as pond liner. If you go for concreting the entire pond, allow curing period and change the water before adding any plant or fish.

I have purchased a water-proof tarpaulin of 6 ft x 9 ft size. it costed about three dollars (185 Indian Rupees).

Step 4: Collect Pebbles and Stones

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Adding some pebbles and stones in the pond will not only be aesthetic in look, but also provide some hidden space under the rocks for the fish to rest and also help in adding some water plants. I have collected some small rocks and pebbles, washed them in soap water and then rinsed completely in clean water to remove traces of any mud or soap.

Step 5: Collect Water Plants

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Collected some water plants from a nearby canal.

Step 6: Get Fish

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I have procured about 20 numbers of different varieties of fish from a nearby pet shop. They are small in size and can co-exist in the pond.

It is very important that the different varieties of fish can co-exist and not attack one another. The Pet shop owner can help you select the varieties of fish that can co-exist.

Step 7: Clean and Mark the Area

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Since we have collected all the materials, equipment and tools required, let us move on to constructing the pond.

  • Clean the area and throw away the weeds.
  • Mark the center lines of the area. Now you can mark the actual pond area using these center lines as base.
  • Considering the size of the pond liner I got, I have marked an egg-shaped section of 4 feet by 2-1/2 feet. The pond depth will be 15 inches at the narrow end and 10 inches at the wider end,

Step 8: Excavate the Pond

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Excavate the marked area to the required depth. Dump the excavated soil nearby as we will need this soil to fill the pond sides later on.

Step 9: Collect Bricks for the Edging

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You need some sort of edging around the top of the pond to hold down the pond liner as well to prevent the earth from falling down into the pond. I have decided to use some old bricks lying around the garden. Measured the circumference of the partly excavated pond and calculated that I may need about 15 to 16 bricks for this and collected the same from the garden.

Step 10: Anti-Termite Treatment

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Anti-termite treatment is a must to prevent termites eating away the pond liner. Here, I have used anti-termite powder and sprayed over the pond area. Check with your local store to find out the chemical being used and the dosage to be applied for anti-termite treatment.

Take care... The chemical being used is poisonous... Wash your hands and change clothes after application.

Step 11: Mud Plaster

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Over the excavated area, provide a thin layer of mud plaster, using the excavated earth.

Step 12: Check the Level of the Pond

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Check the level of the pond using a spirit level and mark the difference in different places around the pond. This is important to have a uniform looking pond.

Using mud plaster, make the top surface of the pond area level with reference to the markings of spirit level. You can have a width equal to that of the brick being used over the pond liner.

Step 13: Spread the Pond Liner

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Now you can install the pond liner over the prepared area. Spread the pond liner and adjust it to the pond profile.

Step 14: Edging With Bricks

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Provide a layer of brick edging over the pond liner around the circumference. Also adjust the pond liner to the pond profile. This edging will prevent displacement of pond liner and also help in preventing earth from falling into the pond.

Step 15: Spread the Earth Around and Over the Pond Liner

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Spread the earth from the excavation over the sides of the pond, matching to the top of the brick edging. I have also provided a 20 mm dia PVC drainage pipe at the narrow end. The excess water from the pond during rains will be drained out to the coconut palm.

Step 16: Plant Ornamental Shrubs Around

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Plant some ornamental shrubs around the pond. Do not over-plant as whatever planted will grow and cover the entire pond area.

Step 17: Place Rocks and Pebbles and Plant Water Plants

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Clean the spilled out soil from over the pond liner. Now add the cleaned rocks and pebbles into the pond. Wash the root-balls of the water plants and plant them with the pebbles.

Here also resist the temptation to over-plant. Within in a short period the water plants will over-grow and you may need to weed them off.

Step 18: Add Water to the Pond

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You can add water to the pond now. Make sure to add bore well water or water free from chlorine and any other such chemicals.

I have added water leaving a space of about three inches from the top of the pond liner. The water depth can be increased once the brick layer and the soil around the pond gets stabilized.

Step 19: Add Fish

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Add fish...

Now your Small garden fish pond is ready....

Step 20: The Pond and the Fishes

Picture of The Pond and the Fishes

Here are some pictures of the finished Garden pond and the fishes in there...

Enjoy the view of fishes in the pond with your evening tea...

Step 21: Bottom Line

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With respect to the comments this Instructable has received, I think that I should provide some clarifications in design, construction and material used in the pond.

  • We already have one 4000 liter capacity water tank in the garden, used for irrigation purpose.  This tank also hosts lot of medium sized fishes, which eat away the algae and the mosquito larvae. No aeration or filtration is provided as this tank gets filled up with fresh water frequently. This set up exists for more than a year and I have never faced any problem with fishes. The construction of small pond is based on this method by adding about a small amount of fresh water to the pond daily. However, in stagnant pools, a filtration unit and aerator are required to keep the fishes alive.
  • The overflow from the small pond is used to irrigate the coconut palm nearby, during addition of fresh water to the pond. The overflow also washes away all floating material and fish waste, adding nutrients to the tree as well prevents the ammonia build up in the pond.
  • we have a bore well in the garden which provides chlorine free sweet water for irrigation as well as for cooking and drinking. We use a three stage RO filter for water to be used in cooking and drinking. The guys who installed the RO filter checked the water for its pH and mineral content and found to be very safe. (pH 6.5 with very low mineral content). So, no question of chlorine in water arises here.
  • I have used a very high quality HDPE tarpaulin as pond liner.  You can opt for EPDM material if it is available.
  • I have also removed the Blue zebra Cichlid from the pond as advised by members and kept them separately in a glass container.
  • Climate: We live in Cumbum valley in Theni district, Tamil Nadu, where the temperature in the plains range from a minimum of 13 °C to a maximum of 39.5 °C. We neither experience very cold nor hot climate here. please refer to the wikipedia article about our place here:
The idea here is to show that you can have a small fish pond without aeration and filtration minus frustration and Instructables is a great place to make your ideas public.

Step 22: My Fish Pond Update

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It is more than three months since I constructed this small pond in our garden. The fishes are happy and I got few baby fishes also. I have laid a permanent pipe line from the bore-well to the pond for recycling chlorine-free water regularly. The coconut palm nearby is thriving with drained out water from the fish pond with fish waste as fertilizer. No algae problem also as the water is regularly changed.

I could not find any damage from the water or from the sun to the HDPE tarpaulin I have used as pond liner.

My observation is by using this method, there is no need for aerator or filtration, which need power supply, for a garden pond with fishes in it. If you can get hold of good quality HDPE tarpaulin, you can use it as pond liner.

Step 23: My Water Plants Flowered

Picture of My Water Plants Flowered

It is exactly five months after I posted this Instructable... My water plants flowered on 26 Jan 2014

The plants are growing well and providing shelter for fishes to hide from intruders. Only thing is that they are consuming lots of water and the pond needs additional water once in every alternate days. The pond liner I have used is in good condition.

I think I need to thin the plants and plant them somewhere else...


Sandhya fish (author)2017-11-30


Please answer my doubt. We moved to a new house where on terrace we have a rectangular roof tank like structure which is parallel to the ground on terrace. It's actually intended for rain water drainage. But I want to grow fish in it. What method I can follow to fill it with water and grow fish. My friends saying of i fill water in it the water will weaken the slab and spoil the walls and building. Can I cover the pit with tarpaulin and than fill water so that the water will not touch the slab cement directly or any other method.. Please suggest in waiting

antoniraj (author)Sandhya fish 2017-11-30

Use water-proof Pond liner sheets or HDPE tarpaulin over the tank. You can grow fish and other water plants also in it

SergeyT9 (author)2016-02-11

nice pond! You are happy, you havn't winter LMAO. Great DIY! It's really simple and very nice.

We makes a little biggest pond 5 or 6 year later, but using polyethylene film (thin, around 0,5 mm). In this year (i'm hope) i change this film on special pond liner.

antoniraj (author)SergeyT92016-02-11

thank you... wish to see your pond pictures

JeDi RuLeS (author)2014-05-19

Nice One......Love the simplicity of it.....

antoniraj (author)JeDi RuLeS2014-05-19

thank you...

ymimura (author)2014-02-08

Awesome! I don't have much space and this instructable is just what I need.

Thank You!

antoniraj (author)ymimura2014-02-08

thank you...

praveenazad (author)2014-01-31

excellent description....

antoniraj (author)praveenazad2014-02-02

thank you

CapnChkn (author)2013-08-28

I second the "don't use a polythene tarp" to line the pond with. They are really bad. I don't even use them as tarps. To line a pond, you can try EPDM (, which is used in construction to line roofs. There are several grades.

I don't know how it might be used in India, but you might be able to find discards at a roofing company.

The vertical sides are very good for keeping small animals from wading into the pond, they also keep predators, toads and lizards, for pests like your termites from bathing and getting a drink. You might want to add a shallow "bog" area for swamp plants. Trickling water through bog areas is part of the process of cleansing water in natural systems.

finton (author)CapnChkn2013-09-13

Why are polythene tarps "really bad" CapnChkn? I used it successfully for several years:

CapnChkn (author)finton2013-11-12

Because they degrade and fall apart. Unless you have a completely different kind of tarp from the rest of us, I have never seen one that will last more than a season, and less when exposed to the UV radiation from the sun.

finton (author)CapnChkn2013-11-14

Ah: I think the issue is not the "polythene" part, so much, as the "tarp" part. There are six or seven different types of polythene (polyethylene)* all with different properties.

Any of my tarps that degraded in sunlight were always lightweight woven non-UV-protected types, whereas my heavy duty silver tarp and the non-woven film I used in my tyre pond have shown absolutely no sign of breaking down even after well over a year or two as a ute and woodpile cover, respectively.

In a pond, I'd expect even the lightweight non-UV-protected tarps to last indefinitely as they are not exposed to raw sunlight. Much like antoniraj's. We'll see in a couple of years when he updates this i'ble... If you have any specific examples of the lightweight tarps breaking down when used as a pond liner, rather than just in sunlight, that would certainly help resolve the Question.

I'm not sure who "the rest of us" are that you refer to, but I would doubt that great industrial countries, like the US of A, would only have the non-UV-protected tarpaulins while little New Zealand has a full range. Hmmm, I see a national trade opportunity...

"When treated against ultraviolet light, these tarpaulins can last for years exposed to the elements, but non-UV treated material will quickly become brittle and lose strength and water resistance if exposed to sunlight."

antoniraj (author)finton2014-01-26

I have posted an update to this Instructable exactly after five months... my water plants have flowered. thanks for your support

finton (author)antoniraj2014-01-27

Your plants look great antoniraj! They obviously like their environment. That flower is a very nice yellow.

Support: she's right mate. You had a great pond idea, a well executed Instructable, and CapnChkn clearly hadn't thought through all aspects of his argument. As a fellow pond builder I just had to jump in (to the discussion, not the pond... :] )!

antoniraj (author)finton2014-01-27

thank you...

antoniraj (author)CapnChkn2013-11-12

Please see my garden pond update added to the instructable above.

diy_bloke (author)2013-09-25

I love the color contrast between the red earth and the blue liner. well done.
With regard to chlorinated water, where i live the water is not chlorinated but I understood that ant chlorination will soon disappear from the water if left in th eopen air.
As far as a 'nitrogen cycle' goes. I have a 1x1x0.5 meter pond (with real liner) and it contains plants and fish and I have no filtration system and the fish and plants thrive

antoniraj (author)diy_bloke2013-09-25

thank you.. you are right about the chlorinated water. If left open to the air, the chlorine will disappear soon. My pond also thriving with fish and plant

ski2moro (author)2013-08-28

I do not recommend that anyone follow these instructions for a fish pond. There are major problems here. If you want to build a water feature in your yard, this may be passible, but this is not sufficient for a fish pond.

You have not considered the nitrogen cycle in the preparation of your fish pond. There is not place here for a discussion of water for healthy fish, but before anyone tries to construct a fish pond, this must be researched.

At minimum, you need to add Filtration and Aeration.

You must also consider that the chlorine in most tap water will kill your fish.

Don’t use a tarp for a fish pond liner. It WILL degrade and leak. If you are serious about your fish, get a real pond liner. Put padding under the liner to prevent sharp rocks and roots from breaking through.

I suggest that the author remove all the fish from this pond before they die.

finton (author)ski2moro2013-09-13

Wow! You must have really strongly chlorinated water, ski2moro, or very delicate fish. Like antoniraj, I used the pond water for irrigating my garden and simply topped up the pond with town-supply chlorinated water. I did have goldfish which may be tougher (winters are too cold in Auckland, NZ for mollys and platys - what we call tropical fish do best at 70-80 F, 21-26 C).

Aeration in a pond is only necessary of there is insufficient oxygen diffusion at the surface: wider and shallower is better than narrow and deep in this regard - but one does have to consider heat build up and the like. antoniraj has dealt with some of that with shade from a tree, edging plants and water plants.

The nitrogen cycle is also not a problem if, like antoniraj, one is frequently cycling new water through the pond. The other thing to consider is the water volume per fish: a lot of fish in a pond means the water must be replaced (or filtered) more often. you'll notice that antoniraj doesn't have many fish in his pond. Aquaponics is another way around the nitrogen problem, although I haven't tried this myself yet.

I used a thick grade polythene for my pond which never leaked. It is now covering my wood pile and still looks sound. See:

Based on my experience, antoniraj did a good job with his pond, seems to have thought of all the issues you've raised, and has posted a good Instructable. Your last sentence comes across as a little snide. Would you post an 'ible showing how you built your pond and the filtration/aeration/liner systems you used, please?

aliceniraimathi19 (author)2013-08-30

It is very simple and beautiful

ski2moro (author)2013-08-29

Whenever an Instructable is published, the author must take into account all of the people who might want to try it. Maybe in India, you have good tarps and sweet water, but please consider those who live in other climates and conditions.

I can tell you that fish in a pond like yours in a northern climate will not survive very long. The water may get too hot for some fish in sunny, hot areas in the south. Adding chlorinated water that has not been treated can kill all the fish in your pond. Checking the pH of your pond is also important, but beyond the scope of this Instructable for building a pond.

Just as a kiddie pool will become green and slimy with algae after a day or two, so will a fish pond like this. This can be dangerous to the fish and frustrating to the owner.

Water gardens and fishkeeping is a wonderful hobby for everyone. The gentle movements of the fish and the soothing sound of the waterfall is so relaxing. If you start the pond right, you can have years of enjoyment. Starting a pond like this Instructable, with no aeration and no filtration, will only give you more frustration.

For anyone who wishes to build a healthy pond, I wish to refer everyone to a website, I have no affiliation with this company, but I have learned so much from him for pond basics, his simple explanations of the nitrogen cycle, and the importance of aeration.

If you are considering building a outdoor fish pond, please take the time to educate yourself about the Nitrogen Cycle before adding any fish to your pond.

As my father always said, "Why is there always time to do it over, but never time to do it right the first time?"

girlshawn (author)2013-08-29

I really like this - living in the country we are thinking about a duck pond. This is a great foundation for when we start!!

antoniraj (author)girlshawn2013-08-29

that is a good idea to have duck pond

OtterTraxx (author)2013-08-26

Really nice. Living in Northern Minnesota, I'd like to do this, but it'd have to be really deep, or heated.
As far as the chlorine in your water, that'll evaporate out within 24 hours, and if you use a sand/charcoal filter (like you'd use for a LARGE aquarium), it'll go even quicker.
Very cool instructable, though, and I hope to try it out soon.

elizabethd22 (author)OtterTraxx2013-08-29

I live in northern Indiana, and have had a fish pond in the past (previous home). You can check out your local farm supply store for a floating tank heater. It will keep a small area of the surface thawed during the winter (though it does need electricity). We did this and kept a thriving community of goldfish in a small outdoor pond through several years. I'm planning to put in a pond at my current home, but it's down on my list after the kitchen and bathroom re-dos!

JettaKnight (author)OtterTraxx2013-08-27

Most water treatment is with chloramine, which doesn't gas out like chlorine. To remove it, use either a charcoal filter or water treatment.

As for depth, I'd say at least 36 inches - 60 is better.

antoniraj (author)OtterTraxx2013-08-26

thank you.. we are using bore well water, which does not have any chlorine so no problem in that...

UC FATHER TIME (author)2013-08-29

Not to contradict your pet store owner, but it looks like you have guppies, mollies and, African Cichlids, the last of which can be very aggressive toward other fish. I could be wrong, but that's what they look like to me.

antoniraj (author)UC FATHER TIME2013-08-29

thank you.. I have removed them from the pond and kept separately in a small tank

sitearm (author)2013-08-28

@Antoniraj; Hi! Nice! I've tweeted this. Cheers : ) Site

antoniraj (author)sitearm2013-08-28

thank you very much.. can you please give me the link...?

sitearm (author)antoniraj2013-08-29

antoniraj (author)sitearm2013-08-29

thank you

antoniraj (author)2013-08-28

Dear ski2moro and CapnChkn,

Thank you for your suggestions and advice.

Firstly, I try to experiment with easily available material, so I used high quality HDPE Tarpaulin as liner for the pond of this small size. EPDM is mostly used as pond liner here in India also.

Secondly, we do not use chlorinated water. The water we use is sweet water from the bore well at our garden. For cooking and drinking also we use the same water after treating through three stage RO filter.

Thirdly, I add about 10 liters of fresh water every day to the pond. The excess water along with fish waste and floating material is drained out through the pvc pipe and used for irrigating the coconut palm nearby. Please suggest are there any need to have a filtering unit and a an aerator with this set up, which needs electricity to operate.

Fourthly, I also have a 4000 liter capacity concrete water tank in the garden with medium sized ornamental fishes for more than a year. The water from the tank is used for garden irrigation and does not have a filter unit or an aerator.

Lastly, I am a retired person doing this kind of things for fun, which keep me occupied. Instructables gives me an opportunity to try out my ideas and publish them here. I highly appreciate any suggestions and improvements with regards to my projects published and try to improve if found necessary.

Have a good day...

the great gardener (author)2013-08-28

Environmental friendly!

MNSnowbird (author)2013-08-27

Nice little pond. I would suggest that you take some balled up fiberglass screening and shove into your drainage tube. If the water gets up high enough to drain out your little fish will be able to swim out.

antoniraj (author)MNSnowbird2013-08-27

thanks for the suggestion... I will provide some sort of screening to prevent fish from swim out through the drainage pipe

LadyRoz (author)2013-08-27

Thank you for a great pond build. In the Northern USA, it's recommended that the pond depth be at least 30 inches because of winter freezing.

antoniraj (author)LadyRoz2013-08-27

Thank you... we do not have severe winter here. Our normal winter-summer temperature is between 15 to 39 degrees centigrade, the water never freezes

gn0stik (author)2013-08-27

If you are going to go through all the trouble of mixing up all that mud, for plaster etc.. Why not just line it with concrete, and be done with it? No termite worries, no liner, Much more natural looking.. You're pretty much doing that anyway.

antoniraj (author)gn0stik2013-08-27

yes, you are right. it can be done in concrete also. But you have to wait for the concrete to cure before adding fish and also need to change the water few times to remove the smell and chemicals of concrete. Anti-termite treatment is a must in red soil either you do it in concrete or with pond liner, which I can not avoid

prakis (author)2013-08-27

Simple and Beautiful.

antoniraj (author)prakis2013-08-27

thank you

CaptainNemo (author)2013-08-27

Nice Job on the pond. My only suggestion is that you research your fish selection a little better. The mollys and platys are great selections, top feeders for your pond they are live bearers that will eat the mosquito larvae as you wish. The addition of african cichlids such as the Kenyii(Blue Zebra) that is pictured would be ill suggested. Not only will the aggressive africans eat your livebearers they also will destroy and uproot your plants as they like to dig.

antoniraj (author)CaptainNemo2013-08-27

thank you for the suggestion.. I will remove the Blue Zebras from the pond... there are four of them. but in the pet shop, they were with another variety of fish. That is why I bought them together

Zdaddy (author)2013-08-26

Now get 2 pumps, and a few plant beds, and gravel and use that as your filter. Plant tomatoes and lettuce and what not and you have yourself an aquaponic system. :)

antoniraj (author)Zdaddy2013-08-26

thanks for the tip... hope to try aquaponic system in the near future

About This Instructable




Bio: I like to make things more simple with easily available resources. My favorite quote: A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan ... More »
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