Introduction: Create a Fountain That Floats on Water

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We had grand plans when we landscaped our backyard but nothing more striking than our pond: I wanted our focal point to have a concrete bowl that looked like it was floating on water! When I asked my husband to build the impossible, he must have thought "sure, I'll just MacGyver that for you." This I'ble demonstrates how he did just that with little more than a glorified cedar box!

In the process, we ended up with something that not only looks beautiful, but functions exceptionally well: as you'll see later, my husband worked in a pond-tastic feature for the filtration system!

This 'Ible assumes that you already have your pond built. If I can convince my husband to post about how he built the pond, I'll link to it later :)

Step 1: What You Will Need

  • A pond
  • Cedar planks (2x12)
  • Stainless steel L-brackets (2"x2")
  • Metal L-Angles (4), galvanized, 2" x 4"
  • Stainless steel screws
  • Pond filtration pads (you'll need two)
  • Pond pump. We used an Aquasurge 3000*
  • Stainless Steel Fountain Nozzle Head (we used an Oase Schaumsprudler)
  • Nozzle
  • Concrete bowl
  • Drill
  • Concrete & diamond drill bits
  • Dremel with sanding bits to grind the hole of the bowl and travertine smooth
  • Piece of travertine
  • Large plastic storage box filled with water (to test pump)
  • Rubber gasket
  • Hole saw for drilling through the cedar (big enough to accommodate the diameter of the fountain head nozzle)
  • Travertine + wet saw (if necessary to cut the stone)
  • Blue pond dye (prevents algae from forming)

* We were considering a waterfall for our backyard water feature so we purchased an AquaSurge 3000 pump. However, don't run out and buy one for this project unless you have a bigger pond: we didn't need a pump that powerful for the size of our water feature. It's also better to buy a variable speed pump that can be adjusted if necessary. You should circulate your pond's water once at least every 2 hours. Therefore, your pump should have a GPH (gallons per hour) rating of at least half of your pond size. For example, if you had a 1000 gallon pond, then you would require a 500 GPH pond pump.

Step 2: Drill Hole in Concrete Bowl

For the water feature, we started with a concrete bowl, a pump and fountain. We found the concrete bowl at our local garden centre. It was probably meant to be a planter, yet for some reason didn't have a drainage hole. We had to add one anyway to accommodate the nozzle. When you are sourcing a bowl for your water fountain, make sure it has a flat bottom so it can come into contact with the rubber gasket and it can do it's job (more about that later).

We measured the diameter of the fountain nozzle then transferred a slightly larger circle to the centre of the bowl for some wiggle room. To accomplish drilling such a large whole, my husband used a regular sized concrete bit and drilled many holes around the circumference of the circle until the middle fell out.

Smooth the inside of the hole with a dremel fitted with a diamond rotary sanding bit so there are no sharp edges. It helps to drizzle some water as you're doing that to keep down the dust. Since you'll be installing the water fountain nozzle through the centre, dry fit the nozzle to make sure it fits with ease.

Step 3: Build Cedar Box

The metal used for this build should be either stainless steel or galvanized so it won't rust in the water (we used stainless steel where we could find it). The cedar is also durable under water.

To house the pump (and raise the bowl out of the water in the pond), my husband built a cedar casing that the bowl could sit on. The height of the box will depend on the depth of your pond and where you want the bowl to rise out of the water. The width of the box has to be wide enough to accommodate the pump with some room around it so factor all these measurements into your calculations when you plan your four cedar cuts to construct the box.

Drill a hole in the top piece of cedar right through the centre (again, big enough to fit the nozzle for the fountain head, as you did with the bowl). For this you can use a hole saw.

Connect all the pieces of the box with L-angles and stainless steel screws on the inside corners.

Here is where great additional functionality comes in: my husband added metal channels along the sides of the box to house an extra filtration system. Cut the length of the stainless steel L-brackets to fit the height of the box. Drill holes through one side of all 4 L-brackets. Position and mark each bracket so that the gap will leave a space wide enough to accommodate the depth of the pond filtration screen. Pre-drill, then screw each L-bracket vertically into the sides of the cedar box on each open end, using stainless steel screws.

Step 4: Cut Travertine for the Top

We clad the top of the box with a piece of travertine that was left over from our patio. Cut it the same size as the top of the box with a wet saw and drill a hole through the centre in the same manner as the concrete bowl. Again, the hole is the same size as those drilled through the concrete bowl and top of the box to accommodate the fountain head nozzle.

The travertine has several important purposes: to help weigh the box down in the water so it doesn't float when it's installed, to hide the ugly box (and pond mechanics that sit in it) and to add a decorative element that coordinates with our patio. The wooden circle you see in the picture is just an extra piece cut out of cedar to the same dimension as the bottom of the bowl - just in case we needed to raise the height of the bowl further out of the pond. My husband always has a plan 'B'; we didn’t end up needing it so it wasn’t used.

Step 5: The Box Does Tripple Duty

The box doesn't just support the concrete bowl and hide the pump: it also protects the pump from large pieces of debris!

My husband wanted an extra measure of water filtration, besides the pump itself, to prevent any large debris such as leaves from clogging it. As you can see here, the L-brackets hold the filter pads to sides of the box. The L-brackets makes installation simple - the filter pad just slides right in between the metal channel and the box. Shown above is the back of the box. Both open ends will have filters to protect the pump; we left the front filter off to complete the next step.

Step 6: Test the Pump and Make the Connections

Before you set up the pump in the cedar box for the very first time, it's a good idea to test the pump out on it's own to make sure it works first. Fill a very large plastic storage box with water and place the pump inside making sure it's fully submerged. Turn it on and try it out. You can adjust your water height at this point, as it can be a bit awkward to do once everything is in the pond (and at a much deeper depth).

Once tested, remove the pump from the water. The open end of the cedar box should be facing the front; place the pump into the box so it rests on the bottom as shown. Add the piece of travertine onto the top of the box. Insert the fountain head nozzle through the holes in the top of the box and travertine and connect it into the pump.

The last step is to add a rubber gasket. This is simply a circle with the hole in the centre that sits on top of the travertine to cushion the concrete bowl and mitigate any vibration. It also helps seal around the hole in the bowl so the water doesn't leak out the bottom.

All of this pre-assembly is to test the fit and make sure it all works together. You're now ready to transport it all to the pond, and put on the finishing touches.

Step 7: Install the Box and Bowl

Feed the electrical cord through the front metal channel so it comes through the top and add the second piece of filter cloth into the channel. Your box is now read to be placed into the pond, but before we lowered it into the water, we left the cord off to the side of the pond and weighed it down with a rock. Just a precaution so it wouldn't fall into the water and need to be fished out later!

The concrete bowl is quite heavy and may require two people to lift (which is why there is no picture of the install)! Line up the hole in the concrete bowl and centre it over the fountain head. Lower it onto the fountain head until the bowl is resting on top of the travertine-topped box. Connect the nozzle and head.

Top up the pond with water if necessary. Remove the rock holding down your cord and plug it into your grounded electrical outlet. Step back and admire the beauty and tranquility of flowing water!

The last picture shows the pond in year two, after we finished the rest of the landscaping around it.

Step 8: Accessorize

All that's left to do is fill your pond with tropical pond plants and accessorize if you desire. In the first year we went a bit overboard with an abundance of water plants. A few Yoga Frogs adds to the zen-like charm!

It was full and lush, as you can see in the last picture, but over the years we've learned to tone it down and find a happy medium. These days we've paired it back and keep it simple with water lilies.

Step 9: A Note About Algae

Our pond gets a lot of direct sunlight so we found out very quickly that algae can be a stubborn problem. It's difficult to scrub algae from the white bowl while it's still in the water once algae develops; the first season, we had to live with it.

The next season, we tried barley straw to try to prevent algae in the first place - and a few more things the following seasons. Nothing helped.

It wasn't until we went to a botanical garden in Florida and discovered that they add a special blue pond dye to the water to prevent algae from forming. We figured if it worked for the large ponds at the botanical garden, it would work for ours and it did! A word of caution: it stains easily because it's very concentrated so wear gloves if you decide to try it and be careful not to get any drips on the surrounding materials around the pond!

Step 10: To Maintain the Water Fountain and Pond

In the Fall

Because the pieces that make up this system are not permanently attached to anything, each fall you can reverse engineer the install and put it all away. Remove the bowl, and give it a scrub. Lift the rest of the assembly out of the water and let it dry, then store everything in your garage or shed until Spring. Some concrete will fall apart in the winter due to freeze and thaw cycles, so we don't take any chances; leaving it out in the elements is just asking for trouble. Next Spring when you set up your pond, you can transport it back again and proceed with setup.

We leave water in the pond itself over the winter, but add a piece of pink construction foam on top of the water to mitigate it from freezing solid and expanding. We also cover the pond opening with a piece of exterior plywood to keep the snow out. We don't know for sure, but think these two things might help with wear and tear - and possibly even prevent the liner from cracking in our harsh winters.


In the Spring, remove the pink insulation and plywood. The pond water gets pumped out and the pond is scrubbed clean. My husband jumps right in there with boots and rubber gloves! Fresh water is added and it's ready for the new season ahead.

Step 11: Befores and Afters (Please Vote!)

We started with a clean slate and now have a water feature that helps create a suburban oasis. The first two pictures show the before and after of the first year.

After completing the rest of the landscaping, our back garden is a peaceful, tranquil space to relax in. In my opinion, nothing beats the sound and motion of a water feature! The second set of pictures shows the changes after a few years. Since then, the moss has grown in, the plants have matured and the pond is looking as good as the day it was installed :)

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