Introduction: Fish Pond From Tractor (or Car) Tires

Picture of Fish Pond From Tractor (or Car) Tires

There are many Instructables (and other Web pages) on using tires (tyres, but I'll use the other spelling) for gardens, which I have been very motivated by, but here is how I used two tractor front tires to build a fish pond. The original inhabitants were our two surviving bronze goldfish, who after years inside, finally bred in the pond and had three babies.
This pond was built in December 2007 in the earlier days of my turn-the-front-lawn-into-garden project.
The tires came from a park mowing tractor so are wider than normal tractor tires, giving extra height to the pond. You can usually pick these up free, in New Zealand anyway, from large tire repair and supply workshops: mine came from the parks maintenance company I work for - free disposal for them and free supply for me!

two tractor tires (one, two, tractor, car - your choice)
large cardboard box, old carpet, etc
thick polythene sheet from a local BORG (Big Orange Retail Giant)
flexible drainage coil (I had this lying around)
geotextile (eg weedmat, mudstop, etc) [oh, or you could use old carpet!]
wire mesh
fencing wire
soil, container mix, or compost
water plants and land plants
two terracotta pots

reciprocating saw, jigsaw, hacksaw or even a sharp sturdy knife
short length of 25mm PVC pipe
craft knife
tape measure

Step 1: Cut Sidewalls From Tires

Picture of Cut Sidewalls From Tires

I haven't gone into tire cutting detail here, as there are other Instructables that deal with this (eg auntwrenny, who thinks much the same as I do about leaving one sidewall on: I used a reciprocating saw for this step, but  a sturdy sharp knife would probably do it with a lot more effort. A small amount of frequently applied water helps as a lubricant. Remember the proximity of electricity: if you kill yourself, don't say I didn't warn you.
Cut one sidewall from one tire and both walls from the other, leaving about a 75mm (3 inch) lip. I only cut out the upper wall of the second tire at first, but the polythene would not mould around the convoluted 3D-ness of this arrangement. Unfortunately, I did not take photos of the second try, but you'll get the idea.
Smaller tires can be done with a jigsaw or even a small knife: see the paring knife I used on car tires (thanks for the use Sweetie ... oh, I thought I'd asked you about that?... oh ... er ...).

Step 2: Lay First Tire

Picture of Lay First Tire

It is vitally important to get the pond area level, firm, and in the right place because the water level will shout out your laziness, soft soil will subside under the pond's weight, and you will NOT be shifting this anywhere!
Lay the first tire complete sidewall down on the flattened cardboard box to help protect against sharp things.
Fill the hole with sand until it is level with the lip of the bottom rim.
Thickly layer newspaper over the bottom and up the sides as best you can (damp paper sticks to the wall better).

Step 3: Add Second Tire

Picture of Add Second Tire

The lip you leave on the first tire will provide plenty of support for the lower lip of the second tire. As best you can, tuck newspaper into and around the cut sidewalls to help protect the polythene (this may seem tedious or unnecessary, but consider how tedious and unnecessary a leak would be).
Make sure the tire is sitting firmly.

Step 4: Insert Polythene Lining

Picture of Insert Polythene Lining

This went a lot better once the 2nd and 3rd sidewalls were cut back!
Insert the polythene so that a roughly even amount is poking out the top all around. To estimate the size of the plastic, I had run a string progessively down one inside wall of the pond, around the bends, across the floor and up the other side, then added 300mm (12 inches) for safety.
Fill the pond to about 3/4 up the second tire. The polythene will look terribly crumpled, but that's life.

Step 5: Clip Polythene to Lip With Drainage Pipe

Picture of Clip Polythene to Lip With Drainage Pipe

Cut a slit down the length of the drainage pipe with your reciprocating saw, jigsaw, handsaw or whatever. I cut the pipe somewhat over-length, just in case, even though I'd measured the rim.
Press it over the pond lip, trapping the polythene, then apply a clamp (or preferably use a helper; dogs do not qualify). Using a clamp or two to hold the polythene until you get to it can help.
Insert the PVC pipe to keep the slit open and work your way around the tire applying more clamps or helpers as you go.
When you get to the end, match up the two pipe ends and cut the last one to length.
Use a sharp knife to trim the excess plastic. I should have filled the pond further than I did, but fortunately there was enough slack for the polythene not to pull out of the drainage pipe when I did fill the pond.

Step 6: Voila! Pond. Add Plants and Fish

Picture of Voila! Pond. Add Plants and Fish

This is where the levelness of the pond's foundation tells the world about your diligence.
Boy, this was a proud moment!
To raise the aquatic plant to a more appropriate depth, I used a large upside-down terracotta pot.
About 6 weeks of summer later near the end of Jan 08, the pond was a going concern with happy fishes. All summer I used the water to water the vegetables: fish wastes are fertiliser. As the garden took most of the pond, the water is regularly topped up with fresh water. Because of this I have not needed to filter the water. Algal growth was a problem until I allowed Azolla to cover the surface, thus cutting down the light.
As the garden got bigger, I built a pumped system to empty the pond, but that's another story.

Step 7: Add Soil Retaining Fence

Picture of Add Soil Retaining Fence

I used plastic mesh for this 'cos I'm a cheapskate, but that was a mistake as the pressure from the wet soil has started to break the mesh. Use plastic-coated wire mesh.
Use highschool geometry to estimate the length of mesh or do like me and just wrap it around the pond with a bit of overlap until it looks about right. Allow for 100 - 200mm (4 - 8 inches) between the pond and the mesh.
Staple the geo-textile on to the mesh to hold it in place while erecting the fence. I left a space at the top for plants to climb on, but should not have as the textile has dragged down over the months and is now too low.
Pin the ends of the mesh together with a doubled-over length of fencing wire (New Zealand's famous No. 8 wire is perfect for this! Look this up: it epitomises the Instructables philosophy also).
Carefully fill the resulting space with soil, watering it down as you go. In the photo, my geotextile wasn't high enough so I couldn't fill it right up.
Plant the top, and/or cut slits in the side (at the top of a mesh square to allow for downward creep of the texile) to insert cuttings or divisions. I started with begonias and herbs.

Step 8: Pond Updates

Picture of Pond Updates

The pond is going well and needs virtually no maintenance over winter (in Auckland we get frosts but no snow). I just feed the fish every day before I leave for work. I have considered all sorts of filter systems or even aquaponics (still might do this), but using the water for the garden deals with those problems anyway.
This is my first 'able, though I've been a member for ages. Positive feedback and constructive criticism are welcome.

Here are some additions from my responses to readers' comments:
A couple of car tyres (to use the correct spelling... ;] ) would do as a small pond, and would be easy to move once empty (especially if it was on a sheet of ply or a pallet, and the soil step was foregone). A rule of thumb, I understand, is to have the most water possible per fish, otherwise you'd need filters and aerators, etc. If you did not put the soil around it, you may have to paint it white or shade it in summer (and then you could take the shade away in winter so the tyres warm up and stop the pond from freezing!).
I've seen a lot of those YouTubes, Instructables, etc on turning tyres inside out: if you look closely in photo 1 you can see where I tried this for the top tyre of the planter behind the pond with the banana palms in. Personally I don't do this because: I don't like the look, I don't gain enough in volume to warrant the effort (in fact I'd say I get less, but I haven't quantified that), I always leave the bottom sidewall on to help with water retention during summer (also helps keep the soil in if I have to drag the planter anywhere), and can you even IMAGINE doing that with tractor tyres??!!!
I have thought about syphons and pumps etc, but I used to just use a watering can and scoop the water out. This was OK while the garden was small, but last summer (NZ is now in winter), I got our old swimming pool pump from storage (... NEVER throw anything out ...), bought fittings from the BORG, and started using that. It has the added benefit of sucking out the detritus from the bottom. Earlier on I had to siphon the entire pond out to get the crud and refill it totally. I might get organised next summer and set up an aquaculture system, with the ability to divert the water to a hose for the garden.

Step 9: Get Published in a Gardening Magazine! :]

Picture of Get Published in a Gardening Magazine! :]

The editor of UK's excellent Garden Answers* magazine noticed this Instructable and liked the idea so much she wanted to include it in the June 2013 issue! Well, wot's a humble fellow like me to do? So I said OK...



victoria.phillips.1654 (author)2015-02-02

Your comment didn't come through, Victoria...

buck2217 (author)2014-09-09

Well done! a good use of recycled materials, I have also built a couple of ponds/fountains (one from a stock trough, but also a recycley type from an old spa I bought on TradeMe) .. here if you are interested.........

finton (author)buck22172014-09-13

Maaaate! Nice job with the spa pond!

I've often thought a spa would make a good pond what with the existing plumbing fittings and shelves at different depths for the plant pots.

buck2217 (author)finton2014-09-13

the spa was a massive $35 on trademe, and the grid on top a piece of scrap reinforcing wire grid (I got enough for 5 ponds for $20 (trademe again)) the pump has a UV filter light to keep the pond clear and the fish happy

loveitmakeit (author)2013-10-05

Fabulous recycling idea Finton! Beautifully executed construction of your tyre pond & fantastic instructable - very well written & great pictures. Well done! Thank you for sharing your inspirational idea with others. I'm planning on moving from the sunny Queensland coast to country Tasmania (Australia) next year in my quest for a simpler, more sustainable lifestyle. I can visualise a pond just like this set up on my property to feed my organic veggies. Very much looking forward to giving your idea a go! :-)

finton (author)loveitmakeit2013-10-05

Well, thanks! *blush,blush*.
Really envy you your upcoming "simpler, more sustainable lifestyle": I'm gonna have to do the same! If you can set your tyre pond higher than your veges, you wouldn't even need a pump to water the garden.
Please post some pics when you've created your new pond - however long it is until it's built.

loveitmakeit (author)finton2013-10-05

Yes, I will set it higher as you suggest (good idea!) and I'll definitely post pics of my 'masterpiece' once complete . :-)

finton (author)loveitmakeit2014-09-13

Just keep in mind that you'll need a little reservoir of water for the fish to survive in if you forget to turn off the drainage tap or you get a leak in the plumbing. You could achieve this by digging a hole in the centre of the bottom tyre (instead of filling it with sand as I did), and draping the liner over this. The drainage could then take water out as far down as the bottom of the tyre. Or conversely, make sure you outlet pipe is high enough to leave enough water in the bottom of the pond.

taria (author)2014-05-31

I so want one of these, but I have no backyard to make one in and my sister won't let me make one in her backyard. Guess I'll just have to envy everyones elses :) Very nice tutorial though. I'll keep it for furture refence :)

Sammynigma (author)2013-09-28

Aquaponics! Build a grow bed to cover half the pond, and lead the pump into it, and just let it drain back into pond. It could also provide shade in summer. That's how my pond is set up, only I have multiple grow beds around it and vertically, and my pond being an old swimming pool.

finton (author)Sammynigma2013-10-05

Nice idea about the summer shade from the aquaponics bed, Sam. I have a fibreglass bath which could be used for just that system. Could you post some pics of your setup as a reply, please?: we'd love to see your setup.

antoniraj (author)2013-09-11

very nicely done with old tyres...

finton (author)antoniraj2013-09-13

Thanks antoniraj! I like your pond also. I have replied to a couple of comments on your 'ible.

antoniraj (author)finton2013-09-13

I am very thankful to you for your reply.. My pond is doing really well and some of the fishes have multiplied. I am really enjoying watching and feeding the small fishes

rhino (author)2011-09-04

A great pond system and a great instructable to boot. Five stars, three cheers, two thumbs up and a round of drinks. I would love to try this, but I do not think I could do that here in Arizona though because of the triple digit temps here and all the black materials used. The water would quickly heat up and it would probably be too hot for the fishies. Maybe I could build a small roof over my tire pond and grow my veggies on the roof?

Can one vacuum the fish poop out of the pond with a wet/dry shop vac instead of emptying it to clean it?

1makerofstuff (author)rhino2013-06-15

I know that this is a very late reply but I have only begun to play...
Take a look into aquaponics. There are many of the techniques that would work for it. I am doing it on a small scale in Colorado Springs Colorado. I have used wading pools as well as a preformed pond.
Once they are up and running they are almost without effort except making certain things get picked and eaten.

finton (author)1makerofstuff2013-09-13

Time is irrelevant on Instructables 1makerofstuff! I am planning on trying aquaponics: would you post some pics (or an Instructable) of your setup, please?

rhino (author)1makerofstuff2013-06-15

Thanks for the info. I lived in Colorado Springs before moving to Arizona and loved it there. Stay safe from the fires.

finton (author)rhino2011-09-07

Thanks rhino. As for it being too hot in AZ, you could paint the tyres white (see pic), surround them with something (see pic and my step 8), bury them (see pic), or place the pond in shade (eg the north side of your house, or grow somthing on the south side of the pond [see my young banana palms and sugarcane in step 1). Your roof suggestion is a great idea, especially if you make it part of a aquaponics system (plenty of ideas on the Web). You probably could vacuum out the poop using a wet/dry vac, but they only hold a relatively small amount of liquid. You needn't empty the pond anyway - just siphon out some water while making the pipe reach the pond bottom. Aquaponics would take care of this for you.

rhino (author)finton2013-06-15

Thank you. I will have to try your suggestions.

1makerofstuff (author)2013-06-12

I wonder if this could be adapted to make a waterfall for my basement pond/aquaponic system? (If I line them with food grade pvc it should still qualify as organic practices I think.) It is making my brain spin in happy directions!!

finton (author)1makerofstuff2013-06-14

I'm sure it could 1makerofstuff. I'm not sure exactly what you have in mind, but one possibility would be to step tyres above each other and make one of those cascade things, sort of like the attached picture.

1makerofstuff (author)finton2013-06-15

My brain is spinning with the ideas of what can be done with the tires. I was thinking that combining the tire "wreath" with a pump could make a great spitter to make a splash into a pond. My garden junk is starting to take over.

squawkamole (author)2013-02-10

I know what I'm doing with the 4 tires I brought home after getting new ones, I was just going to make hanging planters but after seeing this I have to give it a try ! Thanks for sharing your talent !

finton (author)squawkamole2013-02-26

Thanks for the feedback squawkamole. Would you post some pictures of your pond when you've built it? You may want to consider some type of filtration or drainage as discussed elsewhere in this 'ible.

squawkamole (author)finton2013-02-26

Sure will! If I can make it work I will post it !

Rahdzhillaxxx (author)2011-01-04

Living in a colder climate (Michigan) We make sure our ponds are deep enough for the fish to survive the winter. I believe it is supposed to be deeper than 18 inches. I think two tires below ground should do the trick, a third to be more certain. A retaining wall of earth (from the hole) forming a raised bed round the bottom might also be a good addition.
My mother kind heartedly allowed the neighbor to bury about 80 -100 tires out back half out of the ground as a "landscape fence" in the back yard to foil the local blight inspector. Its legit but ugly and now that I'm living here I'll have enough of these ponds eventually to consider fish farming LOL. I am going to see if I might be able to connect them under ground via a 4 inch pvc pipe if I can rig up a gasket gizmo that wont leak.
Great way to recycle! Great instructible! Keep up the good work : )

finton (author)Rahdzhillaxxx2011-09-07

Aye, fortunately it doesn't get that cold in Auckland, NZ, even if it is too cold for macmundi's guppies (still: no reason why the pool couldn't be heated). I was thinking of drilling a hole through the bottom tyre and through the plastic liner, then using tank fittings to attach a drain pipe, or in your case a connecting manifold. Having it come up from underneath would only be safe if you drilled through the bottom sidewall and liner, otherwise the liner wouldn't be rigid enough to handle any pipe movement. Thanks for the compliments. Sttach some pics when you've built your pond(s), yeah?

macmundi (author)2010-09-06

This is an excellent idea mate!! Let alone not having to pay the throw-away charge for our old tires. To prevent algae growth, I thought of putting a few guppies in it. If the algae grows too fast, put in more!! These fish can live solely on algae and leaves fertilizers for your lilies.

finton (author)macmundi2011-09-07

Well, it's a year late, but here's my reply! Guppies are a good idea: in Auckland it gets too cold, best as I know, - they're a "tropical" fish here. Where are you macmundi? However it's a good idea, and I'm sure we could get something to cope here.

oogiemama (author)2011-06-25

I live in Northern Minnesota, and this looks like a great addition to our garden I am always looking for great recycled projects and this one is a keeper!

finton (author)oogiemama2011-09-07

Thanks for the comment oogiemama. Would you post some pics of your pool when built - or better yet do a short Instructable!

antonoso (author)2011-03-28

great backyard proyect i will make in the spring because my nymphs

finton (author)antonoso2011-09-07

Thanks antonoso! "because [your] nymphs" what? When you make your pool would you post some photos of it, please?

teslawasRIGHT (author)2011-03-07

Ive seen a design identical to yours,but with crayfish & blue gills & included soil retainer wall-but with heavy duty shade cloth, & nitrogen loving grape, Roma, & cherry tomato mix, cascaded down the face of the plastic mesh.( They used orange, construction-site barricading material left over from a project!) Vines were tethered to mesh & encouraged to fill in the voids. Plus they thought ahead & ran a 1/2" for water return & oxygen bubbler stone,through the bottom, before partially burying the 3 tier-tire design. A constant drip flow feed to neighboring basil plants (oriented in the ground on north & west sides) which grew quite nicely & complimentary to tomatoes! I believe a simple toilet float valve switch always kept it topped off with fresh H20. I'm thinking strawberries/catfish would be a nice substitution for my little experiment! :-)

finton (author)teslawasRIGHT2011-03-26

Thanks teslawasRIGHT . Yeah, typical. And I thought I was the first (well, I might have been: when did you see the other one?). Another case of sychronicity / morphic resonance perhaps (eg motorised aeroplanes*, telephones, etc)? ;] At least I was first on to Instructibles with it, so I get the kudos! (eg as with the patent holders of motorised aeroplanes, telephones, ...).
I had thought about fitting a water return etc, but at the time was more interested in getting the thing built while I had the enthusiasm. After it proved to work, I've subsequently thought about retrofitting all that to the pond but haven't had the inclination as the current system works OK. I would like to try an aquaculture system though...
* first invented in New Zealand by Richard Pearse. First patented by the Wright Bros.

markhull23 (author)2011-02-15

hi i just wondered how long you've had the fish in there for and have they lasted without filtration and a pump?

finton (author)markhull232011-02-18

Since Dec 07 (see Step 6). They lasted well without filtration and pump as I emptied the pond regularly to water the garden (Steps 6 and 8). I got a bit slack last winter - the garden didn't need watering - and the pond got too scummy for the big mother goldfish: she died. The two remaining fish (her babies) are doing fine. I now use a pump to empty the pond (Step 8), but that's not really necessary: I have emptied the pond using a 3m length of hose to syphon the water out - make sure the fish aren't left to suffocate when the pond is empty!

antling (author)2010-09-20

As I lived in year-long-summer country, this would be perfect for my yard!

bigmark (author)2010-08-13

That is so cool.we wonted a little pond,but we this would be cool we could just take it with us when we you know how to turn a tire inside out to make a planter??? my mom had two when we were kids.& we have never seen them since.great job.

finton (author)bigmark2010-08-14

Cool! My first ever Instructables comment! Thanks. A couple of car tyres (to use the correct spelling... ;] ) would do as a small pond. A rule of thumb, I understand, is to have the most water possible per fish, otherwise you'd need filters and aerators, etc. If you did not put the soil around it, you may have to paint it white or shade it in summer (and then you could take the shade away in winter so the tyres warm up and stop the pond from freezing!).
I've seen a lot of those YouTubes, Instructables, etc on turning tyres inside out: if you look closely in photo 1 you can see where I tried this for the top tyre of the planter behind the pond with the banana palms in. Personally I don't do this because: I don't like the look, I don't gain enough in volume to warrant the effort (in fact I'd say I get less, but I haven't quantified that), I always leave the bottom sidewall on to help with water retention during summer (also helps keep the soil in if I have to drag the planter anywhere), and can you even IMAGINE doing that with tractor tyres??!!!
Thanks for your kind comments: I'm glad it inspired you.

l8nite (author)finton2010-08-14

I think your referring to a rimless tire in which case I agree, if you leave the rim on then depending on the way you cut the tire you can add the depth of the rim as well (6-8in)in most cases. I never thought about using it as a pond but when filled with soil and plants they are VERY heavy. Full size car tires (15in) are easier to turn inside/out than compact car tires. Radial tires you'll need a metal cutting blade in your saw. I think Im going to have to see what I have available and do a pond version... Im SURE my neighbors will be thrilled ... . . .... .. .

finton (author)l8nite2010-08-27

Hmmm, good point about the extra height gained from the sidewalls; maybe I'll have another go if I can find an easy way to do it (is there an Instructable? Should we invent a tyre-turner and post an article?) - would save the problem of getting rid of cut-off sidewalls. Mind you, tyres aren't scarce, so the extra height can be recovered by just using more tyres! I don't know about other countries, by NZ radial car tyres only have steel in the tread and beading, not the sidewall; the only tyre I've needed a metal-cutting blade for was the one truck tyre (left foreground in Step 4). Tractor tyres are so low-pressure that they also don't need steel sidewalls. I'd love to see pics of your pond and process when it's done! I'm going to try 9w2xyx's pallet wood barrel idea...

finton (author)finton2010-08-29

"but" NZ radial car tyres

finton (author)finton2010-08-20

Better still, look at the banana tyres in the first photo of step 6 for the inside-out tyre. This was easy to twist because I'd cut both sidewalls off. I'd tried the twisty thing with a normal tyre and decided I really couldn't be bothered: not to mention the reasons above.

chamunks (author)2010-08-16

Wow now I know what to suggest to my mom to do with all of her extra tires kicking around in her garage.

Sam Cook (author)2010-08-15

Nice way to find another use for something that weve got way too many of cast off.

9w2xyz (author)2010-08-14

Hehe.. I did the same thing. A few differences. 1. I staked rebar through the tires so they wouldnt shift. 2. I banded the tires with wood from pallets so they look like barrels and tied them off with galvnised wire. 3. Creepers were grown where the knots in the wood were knocked out. 4. My base was discarded carpeting. I just wish I had them big tractor tires like you did.......

finton (author)9w2xyz2010-08-14

Oooh, I like the barrel-look idea 9w2xyx! Especially from pallets. Would you add some images, please? The carpet was a good idea too, much more eco-fiendly and frugal than buying geotextile from the BORG, and stiffer too so it would stand up under its own weight if used for the soil wall.

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