Introduction: Constructing a Small Fish Pond in the Garden

About: 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 an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a…

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

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

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

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

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

Collected some water plants from a nearby canal.

Step 6: Get Fish

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

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

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

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

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

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

Step 12: Check the Level of the Pond

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Add fish...

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

Step 20: 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

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

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

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...

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