Introduction: How to Build a Fish Pond or Garden Pond

Picture of How to Build a Fish Pond or Garden Pond

I thought I would share how I built our pond in case you would like to replicate it yourself. I'm no expert on landscape design so I may not be able to answer questions if it isn't included here. I started off reading a lot of things on the internet and there is so much conflicting information and after one false start have created a beautiful garden fish pond.

Before you begin you will need the following things:

garden hose
plank of wood
spirit level
pond liner
sand/liner underlay/newspaper
landscaping rocks
fountain pump
[optional] black vinyl duct tape
[optional] cement & bucket

Note: I live in Australia If you live in an area where it snows you may have to take other things into account for your fish to survive. Koi fish also need specific habitats that I have not addressed in this tutorial.

My total cost for this project was around $100 as I only needed to buy the liner, sand and the pump. The pond liner cost me $40

Step 1: Step 1: Digging the Hole

Picture of Step 1: Digging the Hole

First dig yourself a good hole. I had a look at pond liners that were available first and knew that I could get one that is 2.5x2m for $39, so that meant that I wanted to keep my pond less than 1.5x1m and no more than 50cm deep. You can use a garden hose as a guide to work out your approximate shape.

You want to dig the sides straight down, but be careful that you don’t break off parts of the wall as we want them nice and solid for later. You might want to start a little smaller than your ideal size and make it bigger as you go just incase you do accidentally collapse part of a wall. One point to realise is that once you have put on the rocks at the end it will seem smaller so don’t be afraid if it looks really big right now.

Take off the crumbly top soil to a width of 4-5 inches around the hole if this is an issue for you like it is for me. The top soil for us was only about an inch thick, which gives us a solid foundation for the bricks. Use a straight plank of wood and a spirit level to make sure your sides are reasonably in line across the pond. Use a hand trowel to shave off a little more if some areas are higher than others.

Create a deep part and a shallow part in your pond. The centre of my hole is about 15cm deeper than the small area at the top. This will allow us to put in a range of plants as we desire. Some plants can only be placed in up to 20cm of water, some like it a lot deeper. Think about the fish you are going to get when you are planning your size as well as Koi need a much deeper, larger area than other fish.

Check for rocks and roots that may puncture your liner. After scraping with the shovel and removing most of the rocks I used my hands to feel around all the areas of the pond and dug out any more small rocks with the trowel.

Next, place your underlay in the hole. I used about an inch of sand in the bottom and on the ledge. You can also use damp newspaper, carpet or special underlay that you can buy from garden centres.

Step 2: Step 2: Lay the Liner in the Hole

Picture of Step 2: Lay the Liner in the Hole

Lay your liner over the hole. Try not to drag the liner around too much, but with a little draping and patience, you can achieve a neat look with your liner. I took off my shoes and spent some time pushing it gently into all the corners and doing some initial pleating. You may want to use some black vinyl duct tape to tape down some of the pleats like I did to make them even less noticeable. Use bricks or stones to hold the liner down neatly all around the pond.

Step 3: Step 3: Put in Some Water

Picture of Step 3: Put in Some Water

This is the step that most instructions jump straight to, though after my first attempt I took the extra time at step 2. Start to fill the pond with water until it is about half full (or 2 inches from the top of the liner). You can see here that I filled it about half way up to the bottom of the bricks. As it is filling you can gently ease out the liner at any areas where you need to allow more liner to reach the bottom or fix up any pleats.

When you are happy with the liner (take your time and get it right!) place your layer of bricks around the ledge. The purpose of the bricks is so that you will be able to have the water level above the liner so you will not notice it is there. There is nothing more distracting from a pond than seeing the ugly creases in a black plastic pond liner as per our first try, dubbed "Fail Pond".

Step 4: Step 4: Secure the Liner

Picture of Step 4: Secure the Liner

If you are planning on having a pump or water feature, you will want to think about its placement and where the power cables and any other hoses will go at this point. We decided to have a simple water feature, so I placed the pump in the desired position and ran the cord to the side of the pond. I did not run the cord to the back because you don’t want to be looking at the cord when you are standing in front of the pond. The cord runs to the bottom of the photo below and then around the bricks until it comes out the back where you can see the cable (click it for a larger image) as this is the closest point to the house. Test the water feature! It is better to ensure it works now than have to take half of the pond apart to get it back out!

An optional step at this point is to fill any gaps between the bricks with quick setting cement. I used this between each brick so that any dirt or sand packed behind would be less likely to run into the pond when it is full of water. You do not need to make it waterproof as the pond liner takes care of this. Allow your cement to cure for 3-4 hours before proceeding.

Next gently ease the liner straight up behind the bricks and pack dirt up to it like a ramp, then fold the liner down and pack dirt over top. You can see in the photo that the liner comes up to the level of the bricks and then is hidden and slopes away from the pond. This should mean I won’t get a run off (including dirt) flowing into the pond, and any overflow will flow away from it.

Note also that we decided to have a “wetland” area for our pond. At the top of the photo there is a semi-circle of sand where the liner continues flat at the level of the bottom of the bricks under the sand, and then is built up in a mound. The sand area will be constantly wet allowing us to grow plants that like wet feet, but do not like to be submerged. You could do this too, or skip this part for a simple pond.

Step 5: Step 5: Position Rocks

Picture of Step 5: Position Rocks

Gently ease your rocks onto the sides and where possible, allow them to overlap the bricks completely. This step allows complete coverage of the pond liner and is the decorative part of the pond. It is handy to have a number of rocks to choose from so you can play with their positioning until you are happy with how it looks.

Fill the pond up to the bottom of the bricks.

Great job!! Time you took a break!

Step 6: Step 6: Final Touches

Picture of Step 6: Final Touches

Waiting 24 hours gives the cement a chance to cure and your bricks and rocks a chance to settle into place. Top up the wetland with more sand as the rocks will hold that in place. Now it is time to fill up the pond until 1-2cm below the top of the bricks and add your plants. Wait at least 2 days before adding fish, or follow the recommendations from your local aquarium expert.


alexfuny2014 made it! (author)2017-10-31

this types of fish pond or garden pond is easy to work and manage it.

Pr0h1b1da (author)2016-03-23

I would like to add a solar fountain , what you think about did someone have used this company ?

MamunurK (author)2015-10-16

Really nice, go to nourish the planet dot com for more great articles on aquaculture and aquaponics

ZakiK1 (author)MamunurK2015-10-21

@Mamunurk Such an amazing site

Anil Kraft (author)2015-10-13

I'm making a fish farm, do I need a liner or a fountain pump?

MamunurK made it! (author)2015-10-08

ZakiK1 (author)2015-10-05

Great article, to have more information go to

MamunurK (author)ZakiK12015-10-08

Yes, really great, thanks for sharing

MamunurK (author)2015-10-08

Really impressive article. After you install your backyard pond you'll need some fish. Here is a great article to help you decided what fish to get for your backyard pond

thompson faith (author)2012-02-08

how do u install the fountain pump into your pond and what is its function?

LukeK3 (author)thompson faith2015-05-10

I have a similar element in my pond, all it does is filter out and sticks or leaves that find their way into your pond. In stalling it is just putting it in the bottom of the pond with some stones sitting on it to stop it floating up. I know that there are kits that you can get from hardware or gardening stores that come with a pump. I hope thatg this is useful.

MaryA2 (author)2014-11-11

A thought to share about building your pond is great. You are not expert on landscape design and created a beautiful garden fish pond. For sustaining its beauty

is good and reliable companion.

MaryA2 (author)2014-11-11

A thought to share about building your pond is great. You are not expert on landscape design and created a beautiful garden fish pond. For sustaining its beauty

is good and reliable companion.

MaryA2 (author)2014-11-11

A thought to share about building your pond is great. You are not expert on landscape design and created a beautiful garden fish pond. For sustaining its beauty

is good and reliable companion.

MaryA2 (author)2014-11-11

A thought to share about building your pond is great. You are not expert on landscape design and created a beautiful garden fish pond. For sustaining its beauty

is good and reliable companion.

MaryA2 (author)2014-11-11

A thought to share about building your pond is great. You are not expert on landscape design and created a beautiful garden fish pond. For sustaining its beauty

is good and reliable companion.

Merri57 (author)2014-03-17

Thank you for such a great set of instructions and images! I'm really keen to get started ASAP. :)

bilelhawari (author)2013-09-13

Great job and thanks for writing advices. Hope your fishes are having fun :)

vkelly-1 (author)2012-10-22

nice, I especially like the 'wetland' part.
I would recommend adding some stones or anything to let any unfortunate critter (example hedgehog) to climb out of the pond if they wander in.

george33 (author)2011-09-11

great pond, where abouts did you get the liner as it seems pretty cheap.

DragonX777 (author)2010-05-12

My family builted large pond before like the ones on your instructions, and it turned out great.

venkatraju09 (author)2010-04-30

it is good one

SinAmos (author)2010-04-29

I love it.  Great work.

silversony (author)2010-03-10

Hi metanoia,

I like your pond, you have made a very instructive video, and the picture/steps take anyone through this process easily, fantastic job, I love fish and ponds, I have a double pond feature myself, and I am currently also rebuilding another one, a raised one.

1-2BGardening (author)2010-02-19

 Best and most authentic pond instructable I've seen today. Beautiful pictures and outcome!

Wasagi (author)2009-11-14

 That's pretty expensive for a linder, would there be any alternatives? Like, multiple layers of thick plastic sheets?

Otherwise, great Instructable, I hope that you're happy with your pond!

metanoia (author)Wasagi2009-11-15

The pondliner I got is like thick, waterproof tarpaulin material. I thought what I got was pretty cheap considering the "good" stuff which is solid plastic was $40/m. You want to ensure that whatever you get is waterproof, won't easily tear or rip, and won't degrade quickly in the sun.

Quite a reasonable price though considering a solid shell at about the same size was $300+

Still very happy with my pond. Our plants are growing like crazy and the fish are doing very well.

Wasagi (author)metanoia2009-12-24

 Ok, thanks! 

Great job!

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