Introduction: Low Cost Indoor Pond

Picture of Low Cost Indoor Pond

I built this pond for my living room in two days. The total cost was less than $200, using common tools and other items available at your local hardware store or home and garden center.

Step 1: Initial Design

Decide where you will put your pond, and how big you want it to be. I chose to make mine 4' X 4'. The actual frame is 16" tall, but the water is only 8" deep, and raised up 8". One thing to consider is that 1 gallon of water weighs about 8 pounds. Here is a link to a good pond calculator. My pond holds about 70 gallons (560 pounds). If you place your pond on an upper level of your house, you should try to place it along a load bearing wall. A larger pond should be placed on the ground floor. Please make sure your floor will be able to hold your pond. Nobody can be held responsible for any catastrophies but you. Do your homework. This link is a good place to start. FYI, a waterbed holds ALOT more water than this!

Step 2: Supplies

Picture of Supplies

Here is a list of supplies I bought for this project:

1 Pond Kit. It includes a pump and a mechanical filter, 3 underwater lights, 12'X 9' pond liner, a little fish that spits water, and 3 different fountain heads. Paid $79 at my local Meijers store. If you plan on adding fish to your pond, you will need a "biofilter" to remove the fish waste. This filter only filters out large particles, not bio-matter.

For the contruction of the pond itself, I bought:
10 8' 2X4's (I had them cut in half at the hardware store so they would fit in my car)
2 pieces of 1/4" plywood, 2'X 4'. You could use one larger piece, but again, I have a small car.
2 pieces of 1/2" pine 4'X 16", for the facing. I only bought 2 because I planned on putting the pond in a corner.
4 pieces of 1/2" poplar 4'X 4" to go around the top.
1 pound of 3 1/4" nails.
2 30 pound bags of river stones. Make sure you get "prewashed or prescreened" stones for pond use. Regular landscaping stones are often very dirty.
Stain and finishing supplies.
Choose the grade of wood according to how you plan on finishing your pond. I chose some good stain grade wood, but you could get cheaper "paint grade" if thats what you plan on doing. All this stuff was from Lowe's. Wood and supplies: $120
Total: $199

Step 3: Initial Construction

Picture of Initial Construction

I built the frame slightly smaller than 4', actually 3'10", to leave room to mitre cut the 4' facing boards. I then added 5 support beams 8" from the bottom to support the raised plywood bottom. I had a few boards left, so I added a few extra braces where I thought they would help. Then I nailed down the plywood to the bottom braces. I wished I had a chalkline.

Step 4: Putting It in Place.

Picture of Putting It in Place.

At this point, the frame is complete, and feels very sturdy. Its not too heavy, since I carried it up the stairs from my garage by myself. I did notice it is not perfectly square, but it should be fine. I used a plaincircular saw to make all the cuts. A table saw would have been better. The first picture shows it in place. I placed an old blanket in it before the liner to protect it from any tears. I would suggest it. Some people recommend using the blue styrofoam board used in building construction. The second photo shows the liner in place and the water starting to go in. Make sure you have extra liner on all sides (you can cut the excess later) when the water goes in, it tends to pull the liner tighter.

Step 5: Filling and Checking for Leaks

Picture of Filling and Checking for Leaks

Before you fill your pond, make sure you have it EXACTLY where you want it, since it will be almost impossible to move. You'll notice I havent added the facing boards yet. This allowed me to see under the pond to watch for leaks. This is the main reason I chose to raise the bottom off the floor. The last thing you want is for it to leak, damage the floor boards, and cause a collapse. I think I may add some sort of simple "water alarm" to the project in the future. When it was full, I added the pump and the lights. I plugged the whole system into one of those remote power boxes you see around christmas time for christmas lights. It comes with a box that plugs into an outlet and a little keychain remote that powers the whole thing on and off. A two channel setup would be better, so you could switch the lights or fountain independantly, but I didn't have one.

Step 6: Making It Look Nice.

Picture of Making It Look Nice.

The next step I did, was to cut the liner more precisely to allow the facing to be added. Be careful not to cut off too much, especially where it is bunched up in the corners. The liner should have settled in after the pond was completely full, but I found mine settling down just a bit more after I cut it. I then measured and cut my facing boards, and stained them dark walnut to match the rest of the wood in my living room.

Step 7: Finishing It Up, and End Notes

Picture of Finishing It Up, and End Notes

The picture shows the (partially)finished pond. I made an error in measuring for my top facing boards. I measured them to fit over the frame, but forgot to provide for the extra front facing boards that would be added on the two sides. My top piece ended up being slightly too small. The picture shows the top pieces just laid on top of the pond (you may notice in the picture). I will have to make new ones tomorrow. I added this part hoping you will not make this mistake as well. Also, make sure you use PLENTY of sealer or polyurethane on the facing boards you use. I have found that even if you have the fountain spraying very low, little bits of water will get on it after awhile, even the carpet may get damp from the tiny mist after a few days.
One final note:
I'd like to thank my wife for leaving me, so that I may spend my time doing fun things like this, and enjoying myself fully. :-)


FerZF (author)2016-09-02

great work, where did you placed the pump man? I can't see it on the images, I'm planning to build one indoors with carbon steel same sizes as you, but still don't know where to put the pump. My fist idea was to make a hole in the floor, to make a space belowground but I'm afraid I'll be having leaks...

SarahM2 (author)2014-09-09

looks awesome im thinking about putting on in my home yours look amazing! good job!

mommywoman (author)2014-08-24

This is nice, you did a great job. My only thing is the title says cheap fountainl By my standards $200 is not cheap especially when I can buy a kit or pre-made one that size for about$200. The one advantage in making your own is that you can customize it so it's one of a kind.

IvliaVespasia (author)2014-05-16

Think I'm going to try this after I move, but instead of fish I'm going to keep water plants in it. I like the idea of a small slow waterfall instead of a fountain, it shouldn't spray onto the carpet and just a trickle will still sound and look good without disturbing the plants. When they're settled in I might get a fish, just to add something to the pond but I reckon it'll look just as good with flowering plants in it.

forrestpaige (author)2011-09-13

Thanks for this have been thinking of a indoor pond and yes this idea did come to mind but I did not think of the raised bed or the moisture detectors under the bed. Excellent presentation. Very good advice.
How many fish in your pond and any other problems with the pond or the keeping of your fish. i e the light factor?

drum303 (author)forrestpaige2011-09-14

I have had the pond for several years now, with no real problems. After the first year the pond only held the fish over the winters (November - March). I think I started with 6 smaller Koi, and now there are 9. They do very well. Generally, the pond has been placed in a place where there was very little natural light, and as such, algae growth was never a problem.

MakerBreaker (author)2008-08-15

to make it all perfect just add some goldfish or koi. but since its indore i prefer goldfish bc koi get big

Goldfish can get just as large as koi...their owners just tend to take less care with them so they usually die before getting so big. I've seen regular goldfish that were nearly two feet long (yes, I'm certain that they weren't koi). Contrary to popular belief, goldfish like all other carp need massive quantities of water that is more heavily filtered than other aquarium fish. A filter rated for three to five times the capacity of the tank would not be too much.

Carp such as koi and goldfish grow continually, releasing growth regulating hormones into the water. Once the hormones get to a certain concentration the fish stop/slow down growing. Unfortunately, by this time they are already larger than the tank can safely sustain (one 1 inch long of fish per gallon, eight gallons per 4 inch long fish, 32 gallons per 8 inch long fish, ect.-larger fish produce more waste and need more water per inch of length than smaller fish).

Interestingly, when my sister was in Japan she saw carp (unknown if they were koi or goldfish/comets) that were six FEET long. The temple pond was continually fed/flushed out by a mountain stream so the growth regulating hormones couldn't even begin to build up. Unfortunately she couldn't get any good pictures.

static (author)2010-04-11

An idoor pond had never occurred to me as something to do. I have been thinking of getting some golfish or the heck of it. Something like this beats a boring fish bowl or tank. Though I think I'd do some shopping for containers constructed to hold water without any additional structure first in mind first. Something like a small livestock watering pan/tank.

WileECoyote (author)2007-08-23

I'm new here and couldn't find any info on commenting on instructables that are a few months old or older, so I apologize if it's a no-no. I like the idea of the indoor pond. I think it might amuse the cats and dog as long as they don't fall in, any idea if it would be a problem if they drank the water? Also, have you considered tiling or using a faux brick to cover it? I think it would be a great place to use mosaic, making it a little more artsy.

drum303 (author)WileECoyote2007-08-23

The water is filtered quite a bit, so it shouldnt be a problem if the animals drank it. Since this was posted, I have acquired 8 large fish that spend the winter in it, so the cat may be a problem. I did originally consider using brick, but went with wood to keep it light and mobile. (i have since moved to a new house without issue.)

WileECoyote (author)drum3032007-08-23

Wow, quick reply! Thanks. If I put fish in it I'd probably start out with small, cheap feeder fish to determine if the cats or dog would mess with them and to gauge my fish-keeping skills.

Good idea. I'd like to try this, but I have a dog who might use the fish as a secret snack.

Haha, quite typical of them, no? 

drum303 (author)WileECoyote2007-08-23

I started out with feeder fish, (about a dozen) they didn't last a week, and I dont even have a cat. I had trouble cycling the pond, i think due to its size, and the small size of the fish. The larger fish were fine. I would read some articles on properly cycling a small pond. Then if you do it, it would make a great insructable.

gnawlej (author)drum3032010-03-30

Feeder goldfish are generally a poor choice for cycling. They are raised rapidly in spartan conditions (and then housed at the LFS in similar). They aren't meant for a long, healthy life; they are bred to end up in the belly of a pet. Furthermore, as a carp, they create a lot of waste, which makes it very difficult to build up a bacteria colony before the ammonia levels kill the fish.

You can do a fishless cycle by tossing a couple frozen shrimp into the pond. As the shrimp decomposes, ammonia is released, providing a food source for the bacteria and starting the nitrogen cycle. Then just start testing the water after about a week or two.

HanyouKit89 (author)2010-02-23

After i move out of my parents' house, I'm totally looking for something like this to keep my turtle in. Great tutorial.

armourkris (author)HanyouKit892010-03-30

I actually did something almost exactly like this for my turtles, except that it's 5'x3'x3' and made entirely from 2x12's

jayhawk67 (author)2010-03-15

the best part of this instructable was the wife comment-not that the instructable wasn't good

Killanat3 (author)2009-07-17

Just on the note of the Dry wall what if you put a small rock face water fall feeding in to the pond. Then just adjust the one top piece to accommodate the water fall. or even one of those trendy slate water falls along the wall, or even a piece of textured Plexy class with a edge and some cool LEDs mounted behind it. LOL any was look at me getting all excited. Great Write up! I'm going to have to do this project this summer!

bob321 (author)2009-07-16

lol that was a funny ending good job by th way

Dopeman (author)2009-06-06

Great DIY project im going to do this over the summer. i was gonna make an outdoor but it would have been costlier and harder to make also there is a cat problem for the fish so this is really helpful thank you.

smoky305 (author)2009-05-10

im going to mack one ill send you a pik wean i do

lukeal (author)2008-08-05

I was wondering if you had thought of putting a clear cover (glass/plexi) on it and making it into a coffee table or something. I was thinking of something along those like (a zen sand garden under a coffer table) to make something artistic and usefull. This just set me off on the tangent of being able to add water to it. I bet there would be 'condensation issues though...

Punkguyta (author)lukeal2009-01-01

I reckon them fightin words.

indigoblu (author)2008-07-23

Omg! did you get your ideas from somewhere or did you do it all yourself, I was looking for an indoor fountain to buy (when I came across this)& after flicking through it I'm going to try it - it looks more fun (& more than likely costs less)is there anything else you build?, p.s I like the bit at the end xD

drum303 (author)indigoblu2008-07-23

This was my first woodworking project(aside from skateboard ramps when I was younger) It was very simple. I came up with this idea when I saw how expensive large indoor fountains could be, and DIY is always cheaper. Its been over two years since I built it, and it is now in its third location. I would like to add that since the original build, I had to replace the top boards due to water damage. I would suggest sealing it with an outdoor deck sealer, such as "Thompsons Water Seal" for better protection. I also had to replace a bit of drywall on one side due to the fish splashing water onto it. You may want to add some protection to the walls near the pond itself. A bit of tile would do fine.

armourkris (author)2008-07-03

I did almost the same thing for my turtles, only mine is about 300 gallons when full. i keep it at 120 so as to not drop it through the floor into my neighbors apartment. that would not be easy to explain to the landlords.

spylock (author)2008-02-22

Good job!

Advocat (author)2008-01-14

I want to build a pond in my front room, which have glass walls and a tabletop. The fountain might be nice, but it would have to be small enough for room on the top, like to have food.

drum303 (author)2007-11-08

Fish do live in the pond during the winter months. In summer they go back to the outdoor pond.

Squee (author)2007-05-31

I've been thinking about doing an indoor pond project similar to this. Also, I miss Meijer where I live *pouts*

HOMEPIE64 (author)2007-03-08

awesome 4 1/2 out of 5

Prometheus (author)2006-05-29

If you need to regulate water flow, simply make a choke to cut inlet watter supply, mto control a particularly-zeaslous pump motor. Just adjust a venturi to limit flow and then no further adjustment is necessary.

krusty (author)2006-05-15

"I'd like to thank my wife for leaving me, so that I may spend my time doing fun things like this, and enjoying myself fully. :-)" That's the best comment I have ever read!!! LOL I'm sorry, but was her leaving anything to do with building a pond in the middle of your lounge? If I knew it was that easy (to get rid of my wife), I would have built one years ago!! Just a couple of suggestions! If you leave some extra plastic sheeting, you can fold it over the sides and staple it around the outer edge. You could then use some stick-on rubber weather strip around the top edge to stop water leaking out at the top. If you angled the top boards in just very slightly, any over-splash would drain back into the pond. You could also make the outer edge and top lip slightly larger, that will allow it to slip over the main frame, thus allowing it to be removed easily for cleaning and maintenance.

_soapy_ (author)krusty2006-05-28

You'd have built a wife? That's just sick, man! ;-)

_soapy_ (author)_soapy_2006-05-28

Hey, the reply didn't stick where it should have! That was for Krusty, obviously.

drum303 (author)krusty2006-05-16

Since I had cut my top pieces slightly short, and I have to remake them anyway, I will angle the top boards to let the overspray drain back in. This has already been a real problem, and I would have to say angled top facing boards are a requirement for a pond of this size. Thanks for the idea, and I wish I had thought of it. I didnt start this until my wife left, as I have plenty of free time, and money all of a sudden! Let THAT be a lesson to you boys.

c0dek (author)2006-05-21

I've been looking for a reason to get rid of my cats - this is the perfect excuse!

drum303 (author)2006-05-16

I have some extra liner left over from this project. I think it's 9x7, plenty for making a pond this size. If anyone wants it, lets work out a trade. email me.

saites2001 (author)2006-05-16

Very cool project. I think I might try to make one, only smaller. I've got an old fountain motor somewhere . . . and one of those odd misting devices . . .

leevonk (author)2006-05-15

I made an indoor garden/pond in my dorm room in college. It had very low walls (4 inches) and sat right on the floor, so people kept stepping on the plants, some of which were cacti. Basically everything died and the pond dried up. The only cool thing was there was an ant colony in this pile of moss that I put in there (took it from the woods) and they would scamper around and I would feed them crumbs from my little debbie snack cakes. My roomate didn't like the ants though.

leevonk (author)leevonk2006-05-15

oh yeah, people stepped in it because it took up 90% of the room.

drum303 (author)2006-05-15

I actuall used clear packaging tape there, and the top sits right against it, so there isnt much room for water to go, but I think I will take the top off and use silicone.

radiorental (author)2006-05-15

That was for Dan. Anyways I would seal the top of the liner in step 6. I think you'll find the water getting up and over the liner and down in between the liner and the ply box. Very cool instructable, I just finished my very own low low low cost pond in the basement thank to the recent new england rain storm, 12" in 4 days

radiorental (author)radiorental2006-05-15

seal with ordinary silicone window sealer that is

dan (author)2006-05-15

this is awesome, but i think you it should be the "low cost SELF CONTAINED indoor pond" because i can tihnk of lots of cheaper ways to make an uncontained pond indoors11!!!!

About This Instructable




Bio: Sometimes I make stuff. Mostly I just start big projects and never finish them. Sometimes they take 10 years.
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