Above ground pond build, 1000 gallons. No Digging!

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  This is actually a partial above and below pond build but you can just put it on top of the ground and be done with out any digging. I replaced a ground level pond with this build and kept the original hole below the pond. Some of the links may not work after the new website builder owners butchered the site. Let me know if you find some that don't work. I used land scape timbers for the above ground part, but you can use anything that will support the weight of the water, stick to 2" boards if you are going to use planks, Flat boards would lower the cost somewhat. Blocks would add $300 to this build if you run them all the way to the bottom, but they would last forever.

  It's time to make the wakin their own pond, I'll only be putting in 6 or 8 of the best breeder wakin and even at that, when they near a foot long I may cut back to 5. Keep your fish load within reason, you and the fish will be much happier. Koi need a minimum of 500 gallons each to grow out and be healthy, this 1000 gallon pond would not support more than 2 grown koi, even just 2 large koi would end up jumping out of a pond this small, koi become huge. I know the word koi sounds more exotic than goldfish, but you'll need a large, deep and expensive pond for koi. This pond or any small pond of under 1000 gallons would be much more attractive with 10 - 15 pond goldfish, like comets, hibuna, shubunkins or wakins and they may well out live all of us in a pond this size, the koi will not. Most pond types of goldfish will grow to a foot long or better and wakin to 18" if you give them the room they need and they have been known to live up to 40 years old, some say longer. They will become quite stunning and very friendly as they grow. If you are new to pond fish, they actually do become pets and will recognize you when you walk up to the pond edge, many of them will actually like to be touched and will swim between your finger when you put your hand in their water, it's more than just the food, they all develop their own personalities, also. Avoid the delicate type for use in a pond, like bubble eye and such and never mix the two types, pond goldfish are fast, aggressive fish and need to be kept with other fish that can deal with this. 

  I have seen ponds so over loaded that the end results cannot be good and you'll get very disappointed with fish dyeing and the constant filter cleanings. I really think it's sad to hear of a 2000 gallon pond with 30 koi in it and not filtered enough for a fish load like that. This all may sound strange from someone selling Koi, but first I'm a fish hobby person and would like to see the best for the fish as well as the pond owner. This can be a great hobby or a real disaster, give all this some though when picking out your fish. This is the main reason I have started breeding pond type goldfish, there is a lot of interest in ponds at this time and most people don't know what they're getting into when they pick out a half dozen small koi for a new small pond. I would like to have some of the better pond goldfish to offer and make this an enjoyable hobby for everyone, even the fish. Enough of this, let's get on with the build.

  Since I'm so limited on room I'm going to redo the very first pond I made after I got past the Rubbermaid thing. This pond is at ground level now but I'm going to raise the sides about 2'. It will be 40" wide so I can get both ends out of 1 8' board and save some money, by 8' long, again 1 board, by 36" deep to use a 10'X15' liner. At this time it is over run with plants, you can hardly tell it's a pond, this will be the worst part of the entire build, getting all that stuff out. This is a dirt bottom pond now and I know after 10 or 12 years this is going to be a mess. This may be a little drawn out, but I'm trying to answer any of your questions as I go along.

  This will be a fairly simple pond build, no block work and very little cement work. I really like doing this type of project that doesn't drag out for months. If you take your time I'm sure you can build this in just 3 or 4 weekends, and the enjoyment will last for many, many years. You'll also save a lot of money doing it yourself, my labor on a pond and filter like this would be $2000+ depending on location problems, plus the parts and material. Installed landscaped ponds with filters usually run in the $6 to $10 per gallon range. It will probably be best to read through this entire build before starting your project, I may have things out of the order you'll be doing them and you may want to alter your plans or mine. If you need some info email me at [email protected] and I'll give what info I can.

  This pond will be in the 1000 gallon range and only for wakin, since they won't get to big for this small pond, I hope. I would recommend at the very least 3000 gallons if you intend to keep koi, a 3000 gallon pond would hold 6 koi for best grow out and 10 would be pushing it to the limits. Don't over stock your pond, it will be an on going problem, even if you can keep the koi alive, they won't do well or be happy, plus keeping the water good will be a constant hassle. Koi get very big and are messy creatures!

  I'll also be putting in a bottom drain, settleing chamber and building a 40 gallon up flow sand and gravel air cleaned filter for this project, don't miss this build, 10 years experience happening here. A ground level pond looks more natural, but a pond with raised sides offers a lot more contact with your fish and plants since you can sit in a chair and reach right into the water and play with the fish, actually they really like to play with people, the real plus is less digging. Raising the sides is the easiest way to make a pond you already have bigger. Also a pond with at least 1 straight side offers a spot where you can put a couple chairs and a small table to enjoy your pond. A square or rectangular pond makes the most use of your liner dollar per gallon since you won't have as much wasted liner. Think about all this before getting out the shovel. Just the filter build is well worth watching, so don't miss it. I'll be adding actual cost of all items here at the top of the page as I go along. And away we go...........

  TOTAL TO DATE: $561.37 + $100.00 for additional hardware, nails, screws, fittings and other stuff I had on hand. You may have or need other additional items, don't cut yourself short on funds for unexpected items. Keep in mind, this is everything, pond, liner, pump, settleing chamber, filter and air system, all quality parts to last many trouble free years. Everything but water, plants, and fish! It would be impossible to get near this price with anything that is ready made, and no way could you get close to a filter system this good for even double the money. It's true, a quality pond and filter for around $600, keep reading! (12/1/07).  

   6 - 2" shower drains, the glue on are the ones you'll want to use with this project and they are the cheapest. 6 at $7 each = $42.00

  10' X 15' 45 mil epdm Firestone liner $78.04 delivered, ebay.

  Rio Hyperflow -20 1290 gallons per hour pump $73.54 Delivered ebay.

  24 land scape timbers 24 at 3.69  = $93.87 with tax. Home Depot.

      6 1"X4"X8' boards for footer form 6 at $1.57 = 9.42

      2 3/8" exterior plywood for interior walls 2 at $11.44 = $22.88

      3 80# bags of concrete mix for footer 3 at $3.97 = $11.91

   Total with tax. $46.87 Lowe's

        2 great stuff foam 2 at $3.67 = $7.34

          12 4" corner brackets 4 to a pack 3 at $4.98 = $14.97

        2 2" duck tape 2 at $2.98 = $5.96

        2 2" pvc pipe 2 at $5.88 = $11.76

        2 60# mortar 2 at $5.88 = $9.43

   Total with tax. $53.39 Lowe's

      2 32 gal. rubbermaid trash cans for filter 2 at $13.98 = $29.64 with tax. Home Depot

      1.5 hp air compressor for filter cleaning. $91.65 Advanced Auto parts store.

        4 bags - pea gravel 4 at $3.59 = $14.36 bio filter media

        2 bags - 1" marble chips 2 at $3.59 = $7.18 bio filter media

        2 bags - river rocks 2 at $3.99 = $7.98 stone faceing for pond

        1 extension cord 25' $4.97

  Total with tax. $38.02 Home Depot

    3 concrete blocks $4.35 for filter stand

People are going to tell you that you need a UV unit. I'm telling you that with a well cycled and properly filtered pond, you do not. You'll get an algae bloom perhaps when this is first filled or maybe not even then, but if you do it will clear up on it's own in a couple weeks as the filter cycles and the water perimiters adjust, don't use all that anti algae chemical crap either, I'll sell you the snake oil if you really want it.. Ponds that develope an algae problem are under filtered with water problems, fix the problem, you fix the algae. Large ponds almost always run UV units due to the fact that there is just not enough room for a filter to do that much water, pro builders of large ponds actually build a pump and filter house for the huge filter units, that's not a nice cottage sitting next to the pond, it's to hide thousands of gallons of filters.. This build will be way over filtered. I have installed a number of ponds this size and not one of them uses a UV unit. Come over and look in my display tanks, heavy, heavy, fish load, no algae, and that is one of these filters for both tanks, twice the size of this pond!. Come by and take a look at this one. I would use the UV light expense for something better, but do as you please....

  This is a list of tools I used. You can probably use what you have, even if you buy a few new tools the cost will still be very low and you'll have the tools for your next project.

  Basic stuff - Hammer, tape measure, level, square, shovel, concrete hoe (just my garden hoe) and cement tray, cement trowel (the pointed one is what I use the most), throw away brushes and a sponge. You'll probably need a wheel barrel, try to borrow this, it's just for moving dirt, I bought one of those yellow Vigagrow carts a long time ago and beat heck out of it, tons have been moved in mine, they are great and last forever, way easier than pushing a wheel barrel around. PVC cutters come in real handy, but you can also cut the pipe with the saw. And you might want to pick up a pack of the rubber gloves, some of the glues and cement can be messy, at least when I use them.

  Power tools and attachments - Sawzall, this is not a must but these things come in handy for everything, blades are very cheap, if I was only going to have 1 saw this would be it and you are going to need some kind of saw for this project anyway, you can by an after market brand at Harbor Freight for a lot less than Sawzall, but you get what you pay for. A hack saw will cut PVC very easy, get a ruff blade, but there will be a lot of cuts. Drill, just a cheap 3/8" reversible is plenty, always uses for a drill. I only used a 1/8" bit in this entire build. You'll also need a small grinding stone for the drill, you'll be grinding plastic with this so get a cheap one, you'll see this in the filter build part. Finally a screw driver tip for the drill, this is a must, they come in a 6 pack or something and are very cheap, you could buy a screw gun, but you'll already have the drill. A drill arbor with a cut off wheel comes in very handy, not only on this project but with cutting of plastic on any project, you can pick this up at Home Depot tool department, it's not a must have but they make life easier and is only a few dollars

   Here it is drying out, the weather has slowed me down. I knew this wasn't going to be nice. Luckily since I'm raising the side walls I won't have to dig all this out, if it ever dries with all the rain we've been having I'll be able to put in the bottom drain.

   I have made the inside footer form (this will be the actual inside size of the pond) and laid it out on the ground to cut the timbers for the sides. It's easier to cut them all at once rather than as you go along. By the way, land scape timbers don't run true in length, so make the ends not to equal 8' when cut, leave yourself at least an inch to work with. I used a sawzall to cut the timbers, but a chain saw will also do the same. Pretty cool stepping stone, eh. Look in the diy faux bolder page to make these yourself. http://www.tadege.com/fauxboldersdiy.htm

  Here  you can see the footer inside form with the first coat of cement. This would of been a lot easier on a completely new build, in which case you could just built a 4" wide form right on the leveled ground for the inside and outside of the footer and poured it full. But with a rock border already here from the prior pond I had to put a first coat down to seal all the openings where the rocks are already cemented in place. I also laid a couple runs of rebar around the pond as I put the cement down, rebar is not necessary on a new build site here since we don't get a freeze, but both ends of my footer is suspended in the air over the earlier pond hole, plus I had the rebar laying around, if ya got it, use it.. I think it will take 3 coats to get it how I want it. I'm not really concerned with how smooth I get this, since I'll be adding stone work to it, more on that later. Get the footer as level as you can, later you'll see how the final leveling is done as I put in the first layer of land scape timber for the above ground part. A complete footer is a must with all in ground ponds or the sides will cave in when you walk near the edge. If your pond is going to be at ground level, just dig a 8" wide trench 4" or 5" deep directly in the ground to form your footer and just fill with cement. If your pond is going to be a free form shape I've found that the cheap thin plastic trim board covers they sell in the lumber department are very easy to bend to your pond shape and make a great inside form for a smooth finish for the in ground footer, the outside edge won't matter since it will be covered with landscaping or rocks, so just let the dirt trench be the outside footer edge. On an all above ground pond, you can do just the 4 corners, like I did on the water lily display pond, take a look at http://www.tadege.com/watergardennodig.htm to see how that type pond is built, they really go fast and are a lot easier, no digging and a drop in filter.

  Here is the footer with the final coat of concrete, make this as level as you can, it won't have to be perfect. Don't worry about flaws, unless this is your finish coat. By lifting the first level of timbers off the ground you probably add 5 years to their life, you should get a good 10 or 12 years out of this set up before repairs or replacement of the timbers is needed, this can be even longer if you put a good wood sealer on the timbers every couple years, paint might even extend it further yet.

  After the pond is done and filled with water I'll be using mortar to install the rock border so I'm not to picky with the outside finish on the footer at this time. By the way, don't use concrete to level the timbers or to install a rock border or even to try and smooth out your concrete. It has a lot of gravel in it and makes it hard to get really smooth or to a finish you want when spreading it thin. Mortar is smoother and it comes in white or gray and you can color it with cement dye if needed. On the other hand don't use mortar where you need a lot of strength, it is some what brittle. Small cement work like this is easy, it's like working with clay. This footer took 3 60 pound bags of ready to mix concrete.

  After drying over night and knocking off the inner form and cleaning up the edges a little, spread a 1/2" layer of mortar on the top surface, then just use the form boards to smash it down and level it. Tapping the high spots with a hammer works very good. If you have to trash your form boards to get them out just use the first layer of land scape timbers for this. Scrape off any mortar with the trowel that gets squished from under the board on the inside surface of the pond, you'll want a flat surface here. You should be able to get this very close to level, but you can shim up your first layer of timbers if it's not to your liking and just fill in under the first board run when you do your cosmetic finish. Mine will be a rock finish and will be set in mortar. After this point the build will move along a lot faster, the 3 days to do the footer seemed like 3 weeks, but it is very important to get a good footer to avoid future problems, it's the pits to have your pond cave in after you're done. Most of that 3 days is just drying time. On a new build site you will be able to make your forms and pour the entire footer in less than 1/2 day.

  Here are the walls up with corner L braces screwed in and toe nailed from the inside. As I was putting each layer on I nailed from the top with 4" common nails about every foot and then used 3 1/2" common nails inside for the toe nails every foot. Aline the timbers for the outside appearance, they won't all be the exact same size but close, and once you have the interior plywood in, the liner and water in you won't be able to see any wavering in the interior walls of the pond. Buy the nails in 5 pound boxes, you'll use a lot. For the corner L bracket I used the 4", they are the largest that come in 4 packs and come with the screws.You could use larger but the price goes up very fast from this size and these will do the job. You'll want an L bracket on the top board and bottom board and about every 3rd or so board between them. The plywood interior walls will tie this all together and will be very strong.

  At this point on a new pond site you would dig the under ground part to the depth you choose, make a pond this size 36" deep including the top boards. 36" with straight down sides will keep your fish safe from critters and birds. Have your interior wall plywood already cut to size before you dig, 3/8" thick exterior plywood will be plenty, cut them a couple inches deeper than your pond will be and 1 inch narrower than they measure wide. I doubt that all the sides will be the same, since the landscape timbers will very a little in width, so measure for each of the 4 sides. The below ground dirt will try to cave in as you dig. Wet the ground very good all the way around the outside of the pond, this will help. Be sure you can do the dig and get the plywood walls installed in one day, this will go fast after the digging so you shouldn't have a problem doing this in a half day. Dig a couple inches deeper around the edge than you want the bottom so you can back fill up the interior plywood so the liner doesn't try to slip under when adding water.

  This above ground part is just sitting on the footer with no fasteners of any kind, but the interior plywood will run all the way to the bottom of the ground hole, actually a little deeper. This may move the upper part as the water fills the pond and pushes against the lower plywood. This is the reason I don't finish the stone work around the ground until the pond is filled with water and in operation. At this point there will be no more nailing, the interior plywood will be installed with screws. I use dry wall screws, and you'll want them at least 1 1/2" long. The land scape timbers don't run true and there will be some that are set back from others and you'll need screws long enough to get good penetration even if there is still an air gap between the two, you'll want the screws to pull the plywood back tight to the timbers, start at the top with your screws the whole length of the side and work your way down. Screws will not work lose and no chance of putting a hole in the liner, and besides you'll be tired of pounding in long nails by now. Don't even think of installing all these screws without a screw gun or a drill with a screw driver bit, that's what I use, your arm would fall off trying to put in hundreds of screw by hand.

  The interior plywood walls have been installed and screwed in place, they extended about 6" down below the bottom level of the pond and I back filed the hole to the 36" depth that I had planned on. You can see that the back side wall is curved in some, I put this pond right on a fence line and ran into a concrete post set. Since this pond is right on the edge of a concrete slab I'll live with the curve rather than digging out the post and concrete. You won't even notice this when you see the pond in person. There are sometimes things you just have to live with, life happens. After you back fill the bottom you'll want to wet this down very good, you don't want sinking surprises when the liner is filling. The hole in the bottom of the end board is for the bottom drain pipe to pass through. It's not to important to get the corner seems real tight, I'll fill these in with "Great Stuff" foam before back filling the outside and installing the liner. Now we're moving right along.

  Here is the bottom drained glued up. This is not just a drain, water from here will go to a settleing chamber and on to the filter. This drain is just a 2" shower drain, elbow and pipe. Since I want the drain in the center of the 8' pond I'll cut the pipe to 5' cap it and extend it through the hole in the end wall until I'm ready to hook it to the filter system. Even if you intend to use a drop in filter or submersible pump in the pond to start with, it's still very advisable to install a bottom drain at this time, it will cost you very little extra for a small drain like this and you can just cap it off for now if you're not going to use it for the time being. It would be a real hassle to install it later, and trust me you will want a bottom drain sometime in the future, it will take less than an hour to do it now. I'll make a home made deflector to use over the drain, more on that later. This drain is just put in the center of the bottom at 36" down from the top board with the pipe running through the end board. A little cement at the drain itself and one spot along the pipe to keep it stable. A bottom drain with a deflector installed will draw leaves and junk from about 8' away. If you don't put in a bottom drain, you can't use a settleing chamber and you'll have to clean the leaves out with a net from time to time, it's easy to do the bottom drain and cheap, if you got this far, just put it in!

  At this point I'll dig down at the corners and any seams and foam all the seams with "Great Stuff" foam, while this is drying I'll start on the filter (they go together fast). Push all the foam into the cracks that you can, foam doesn't keep once you use the can so get this all done at once. After the foam dries a couple hours it can be trimmed level with a serrated knife, then I cover it with duck tape just to smooth it out. You'll also want to back fill around the outside of the pond at this time to fill the gaps between the plywood and the hole. You can use a hose to wash this down into the opening, it will take a considerable amount of back fill depending on the gap between the two surfaces, but really get this filled good to the top, you don't want any air pockets here when filling the pond with water and you don't want your footer to cave in or even sink. Since I won't be putting in the liner until the pipe work and filters are done you may want to skip on to the filter build http://www.tadege.com/wakinfilter.htm  After that I'll be back here to cut the liner for the bottom drain and install it along with the finish up on the top surface and stone work. Be back soon.

  If you are going to use a drop in filter go to http://www.tadege.com/diyfilter.htm to see how to make an inexpensive one that will work for a pond this size if you keep the fish load light. With a pond 36" deep you may want to add a rope and float to this type filter so it is easier to remove and clean.

  The filter is installed so I'm back. At this point you're ready to put in the liner. Level out the bottom with it a little higher at the walls so the the bottom slopes towards the drain, not a lot, just to give it a little boost, mostly so stuff won't build up around the edges. Remove the retainer ring on the drain and stuff the drain with plastic bags to keep the dirt or sand out. At this point I like to drape the liner over the pond and let it heat up in the sun for a while, it makes it easier to work with and get the folds so there are not as many wrinkles to fool with. You will have to wear gloves if it is a real sunny day, this stuff really heats up. The liner is really tough, just wear rubber sole shoes to walk on it. If you can get someone to help you place the liner it will be easier, they are somewhat heavy and bulky, but I seem to always have to drag them around by myself. Funny how everyone disappears until the pond is done and the beer is opened.

  Here you can see the retainer removed from the drain and the sand leveled. I just rake this out smooth, get out any sticks or rocks you see and then mist it down with water. If you happen to have and old piece of carpet that will fit the bottom you can use it as an under lament, you'll want this to be 1 piece, or you can buy under lament if your bottom is rocky, cut the opening for the bottom drain at this time in any under lament, you'll want the entire drain exposed. I just put the liner right on clean sand. When I have the liner positioned I like to add 2 or 3 inches of water to get the liner tight up against the corners and sides to make sure I have enough liner to reach over all the sides. A 10'x15' liner is very close for this size pond and you will only have about a 6" overlap. I don't tack or staple the liner to the top at this time, I just set the top rail on to hold it in place. Once you are sure you have it positioned where you need it you can cut out the opening for the bottom drain.

  This part is a little nerve racking the first time you do it, after all you're cutting up a liner you just paid a hundred bucks for and probably waited to have delivered, but there is really nothing to it. Just use a single edge razor blade or an exacto knife and cut it the same size as the inside of the drain circle that you'll be able to see outlined on the liner surface. Don't let this part scare you, the drain has a 1/2" lip all the way around to seal the opening, cut on the inside of that flange, it will be a snap, trust me. As you cut, the shallow water you have in the pond will help to wash the sand away from the drain, remove the plastic bag, clean any remaining sand out of the threads and screw the retainer in with the rubber gasket on it, just tighten this as much as you can by hand, they do come with a small cross bar to tighten them with a flat tip screw driver, but I don't think you'll need it, the liner and the rubber gasket will make a very good seal, if you have any doubt about it leaking, just let it sit with the left over water in it and check the level in a few hours. I have never seen a bottom drain leak at this connection, but I guess it could happen. I don't use any type of sealer or gasket compound and have never had one leak. Just the weight of the water actually seals it while you're installing the retainer ring and very little if any water even leaks by at that time.

  After you are satisfied with the bottom drain installation continue to fill the pond till it is about half full. I let the half full pond settle over night. A pond with square corners is a lot easier to fold the corners than a round pond, but in any case you will not get all the wrinkles out. If your pond is round consider which way the water will circulate when the pump is running and make the folds so the current doesn't catch in them and push them open when the pump is running. I have seen some ponds with the wrinkles taped with liner seam tape, I for one think that is a waste of time and money, the seam tape is about $4 a foot once you buy all the stuff you need. If I was going to go to all that trouble and expense I would cut out the extra liner and tape the pieces together with the seam tape, and I'm not going through that. You won't even notice the few wrinkles that will be left from the folds after the pond is filled and there is a coat of wall algae on it.

  This is not half full yet, but you get the idea. City water through a hose runs at less than 600 gallons an hour, so you'll have time to do other stuff while this is filling. When you have it half full it's time to fold the corners. A staple gun will come in real handy here, or you can just use tacks to hold the liner in place on outside of the top rail while you are folding and smoothing the corners and sides. This pond is so narrow (40") I am going to under fold the ends under the sides so they don't overlap and bulge, you can try your folds a couple different ways until you get it how it looks the best. Start with the side that you will be looking at most of the time and work your way around to the side you will be sitting at, in this way you won't see the wrinkles that are on the wall that is under you. At this time your folds will be sticking out, not to worry, the water weight will flatten them out when the pond is filled. YOU WON'T GET ALL THE WRINKLES OUT, so don't let it make you crazy, just do the best you can. I just stay in the pond at this time smoothing it out as it fills. If it's a deep pond, put a ladder in with a piece of plywood under the legs so you can get in and out easy, the liner becomes very slick when it's wet.

  Once the top boards are on the pond it's going to look great. Don't worry about sand and small junk you have gotten in the pond at this time. After the pond is filled I uncape the bottom drain on the settleing tanks and let most of the water back out of the pond just for a good wash out before filling with the final water. When you open that drain the water will drain out with enough force that it will pick up the small stuff from the pond bottom and anything else left will be picked up by the filter once you have it up and running, if anything is still left after that, the fish will move it around and play with it until it goes down the bottom drain (they just can't leave anything alone).. After this draining you can go back and smooth out a few more of the big wrinkles. Don't be in a big hurry to trim back the extra quite yet, let the pond continue to settle for a couple days after it is completely filled again, you want the liner smooth, but you don't want it stretched because the bottom has settled some with the water weight. Up until this point I only have enough staples on the outside of the top board to hold it in place, once it settles and you trim the liner you can get crazy with the staples if you want, at that time you'll want to staple to the top of the top board. Take you time with the final liner finish, you'll have the time, the pond and filter won't be seasoned enough to add fish for at least two weeks or longer, more on this later.

  Here is the pond filled, actually over filled. I wanted to see how level it is finished, very close, less than a half inch at any given point. The extra water will flow out where the pump pipes go through the settleing tank with no bulkhead fittings. My settleing tank is about an inch low, the worst that can happen is a power loss and the pond draining 1 inch down, this is something that can be corrected by raising the settleing tank up an inch or so, not a big deal to me so I'll just leave it. I'm a big believer in water changes of 10 - 25% every week anyway. Besides it will only effect me if there is a power outage, and we all know FPL spent millions on there intergrid after the last storms of 2005 so that won't happen.

  Since I don't want the pond to over flow and stain the outside when it rains, I'll drill a small hole in the settleing tank at a height that I want the water level at, I'll do this after the water in the pond goes to it's full level after settling in and over flowing, if you make an over flow like that make sure the pump is clean and running before you drill the hole. You can also just cut a v notch in the top board of the pond where you want the extra water to over flow so it won't be seen or stain the front of the pond, much easier. Don't be in a big hurry at this point to cut back the extra liner, let it settle for a few days, water is very heavy. After it settles I'll cut back the liner and add the top timber. The rock bio media has been cleaned with the air manifold and I have added a gallon of seasoned pond water and clear Holdex to help the new system cycle, but it will still be 2 weeks or so before it is seasoned enough to put fish in, it would be better to wait a couple months, but we know that isn't going to happen. If you have other pond filters you can use a little of the mat or just the gunk in the filter to speed up the new filter cycle, I throw in a hand full of cow compost, but it's hard to talk others into doing that to their new pond. It's also a good idea to check all the water perimeters before adding any fish, at least just add 1 fish to start, to see if it takes to the water well before dumping in the herd, you don't want to off all the fish at this point. This gives a lot of time for the planting and clean up, plus the rock border around the base. One more morning and this will be finished off. I'll post a few pictures of the finished cleaned up pond. Hope you get into this project, it will be a great addition to your yard or patio, and you will end up with a $4000 pond and super filtration system for well under $1000 if you do it yourself, feel free to contact me with any questions at [email protected]

  At this point you can finish your ground border. I'll be doing a river rock border for this pond, but you could use tile or really anything you want. First clear out some of the junk you have piled next to the pond from the build. I have this pond setting on the edge of a patio pad and the border will entend right on to it. It will take about 2 bags of stone and a bag of mortar per 8 foot side, so make your adjustments to how much stone and mortar you need and get it all at once. I'm only doing the front of mine, so even at $4 a bag it doesn't amount to much. You could also just build faux stones for this, take a look in the faux bolder page to get some ideas, http://www.tadege.com/fauxboldersdiy.htm this would save a considerable amount of money you could spend on buying fish here. With the faux stones there would be nothing but piling on the cement and adding a little dry coloring to each one and hand shaping them, I wouldn't bother to make them hollow or over complicate this if it were my choice to use faux rocks. I have them all over my yard, they do really come out good and are easy to make.

  For the river rock border the first step is to wet down you concrete footer, this will also help to wash away any sand and stuff that is left there. Then mix up the cement mix you're going to use, leave it a little thick, if you over thin it, just throw in a hand full of sand and mix it in, I used mortar on this job. You will want to spread a fairly thick coat, about an inch deep where you are going to place the stones, you'll want them down in the mortar about a half inch or more. In this picture you can see I have started to spread the mortar for the complete side before beginning any of the stone setting. I already had a stone border from before and just covered it up with more mortar. Build this mortar to the distance you will want it to extend when finished. You may want to find something to sit on at this height, you'll be here for a while, or at least some knee pads. In this picture you can see a staple holding the liner on the outside of the top board. Staples make very small holes and are easy to remove later. This will be stapled on the top of that board when the liner and bottom finish settleing before trimming the liner and adding the finish board.

  After I have the complete side filled in with mortar I start setting the stones. The stones you see in the above picture are from the old border and I am just covering them up with new mortar. I have found that it is easier to start the stones at the top and work my way down as I go along the side. Just place the larger of the stones at this time, we'll come back later to finish up filling in with small pebbles. Don't worry about the mortar on the stones at this time, we'll get to that later, also.

  Here you can see the larger stones pushed into the mortar, really shove'em into the mortar, continue this for the full length of the side, it's much easier to do just one side at a time, but add a little mortar around the corner so you can place stones with an unbroken pattern around the turn and continue the same thing all the way around the pond. I'm lucky here, I'll only have one side to do a border on since the pond is up against a fence and both ends will be planted. If I later decide to place stones along the ends I'll just stack them dry, with no mortar since no one will ever be walking there. You want to really push these down into the mortar so they won't be coming lose or falling out later. While I'm thinking of it, if you do have a stone come loose later after all this is dry and done, don't even bother with mixing up mortar to reset it, I just use a little silicone caulking right out of a small tube to reset the same stone into where it fell out, holds forever, just a little dab will do. Keep in mind that although this will only extend out at the bottom of the pond you will still not want any sharp stone edges to catch on people as they walk by, or maybe you do. Continue this for the full length of the side, you'll come back and fill in with smaller stones when this part is done. I may over work the small stones, I like my stone borders to look like stacked stones with very little gap between them, but this is up to each persons choice.

  After I have the stones pushed into the mortar as I want them I come back with a brush and with the brush just a little damp I smooth the mortar between the stones, be gently when doing this, the mortar is still very wet and it is easy to dislodge the rocks, if you do knock one out, just shove it back in and continue with the brush. This helps to further push the mortar into any air space, smooths it out and also get the mortar off of the rock face. Don't worry about getting them perfectly clean of all the mortar, just get what you can, you'll be back to polish them up when completely done with the border. After doing the complete pond like this, clean up any of the mortar you have on the boards or ground cover, I find a sponge is the best for this job. Any mortar left on the timbers or ground cover, in this case flag stone, will be a real problem to get off after it is dry. I'm going to have enough trouble bleaching the flag stone anyway after using this as a potting area for so long. I'll also bleach the timbers at clean up time. I use oxi clean with a stiff scrub brush, the oxi clean does a great job on unfinished wood, concrete and pouris stone.

  This last step is optional, but only takes a couple minutes and improves the look. I prefer to see sand between the stone rather than the mortar (by the way, you can also color the mortar when mixing it with concrete color) so I just toss clean sand right on to the wet mortar and come back and use the same brush to gently sweep it between the stones. The sand will not stick to the stones so don't worry about getting it off the rocks, just work on getting it between them and in contact with the mortar. You can use anything you want here to fill in between the stones or nothing, crushed glass, colored sand or even portland with coloring, but the portland is a little tricky and I would leave that for the next project. If it looks like a rainy day you may want to cover this with plastic, rained as soon as I was done setting these stones.

  After it's done just get away from it! Don't try to do anything else pond side today, sure as the sun shines in Florida, you'll step on your new soft stone border and be patching it up, tell'em I said it's ok to take the rest of the day off with pay. I've got lots of new kittens this morning, Baby Dumpling had 3 and Que Tip had, OMG 5. All great ponds have cats, need some? They also keep birds away, the major predator of fish!

  Tomorrow after this is dry, just hose the excess sand off the stones and wipe them clean with a scratch pad, ask who ever does the dishes at your place for a scratch pad, also known as a pot scrubber (you won't be bringing it back, this ends them). These are plastic and will cut the mortar residue right off and not scratch the stones, actually they even polish the stone work somewhat. You will want to wet this down every morning for about 4 days, the stones really draw the moisture out of the mortar and it will weaken it if you don't keep it moist so it dries evenly. I don't seal any of my stone work, real or faux, but that is your choice, I've never used it so you'll have to read the instructions. There you have it, yours will look great. Think about how much $ you want to do stone work for other people, they are going to ask, don't work by the hour, this goes very fast. This is an easy finish up to your pond and will greatly enhance the final appearance. You could easily do a small pond like this all the way around in just 1 morning, it's very easy to do but start at the side you'll see the least, it will build your confidence for the rest. It's not complicated but it's also always nice to practice where it won't be seen as much for your first go at it. You'll have no problems doing this..

Finished Pond

  Finished pond with plants added, these will hide the filter as they grow. These ferns grow to be huge, some in my yard are over 4' tall, I have also planted elephant ear by the filters. In a few months the filter will be completely covered up with only the return pipe showing. If I can find a piece of bamboo large enough, I'll slip that over the return pipe, other wise I'll just paint it like bamboo. I'm hunting on Ebay for some tiki mask to put on the front at each end. A few floating plants and a water lily and it will look like it's been there for years. If your filter cans have flat tops (or you could just use a board) you could place a couple of plants on them also. Still a little messy here but it'll come around. I'll also pick up a couple cans of spray paint to help camo the filter while the plants grow. It's really good to paint the PVC pipe anyway, it will brake down in full sun with time and get brittle if left exposed. In a couple days when I'm sure the filter tanks are finished settleing I'll run the drain pipes to a raised planting area along the back fence. Pretty cool patio pond for the cost, give this project a go, you'll be glad you did. A pond sure does look half finished without fish, soon. Give your pond and filters a couple weeks before adding fish, it's very important to let a new system cycle, it's always a good idea to run the water test before adding fish also.

That flag stone patio in the above pictures was a slab left from a shed that was here. I wasn't about to break up a 10' x 10' slab and carry it away, so I just used white portland with sand and yellow concrete dye, spread an inch on the slab and cut the groves with my finger. Looks great with a fraction (about 1%) of the cost of covering it with flag stone or anything and was a fast project. Actually incredibly cheap, about $30, $15 for 94 pounds of white portland cement (gray is under $10) and 3 packages of yellow concrete dye, $5 each ( I could of gotten by with just one pack of dye by sprinkling it on the concrete after I put it down but I was new), the sand I used was from a project I did earlier here, I already had the concrete bonding agent from a different job, but it is under $10 for a gallon if you have to buy it, this is a must when working with old concrete. It's also a very good idea to wash old concrete with muratic acid to remove any sealer that has been used, this can lead to some big problems in the future if not removed. I use full strength pool acid for this and just push it around with a broom and rinse after about a half hour, the broom is done for after this. Check out my other concrete projects in http://www.tadege.com/fauxboldersdiy.htm 

  In this picture you can see that I have added a inner top finish board to cover the liner where it meets the water line. Not only does this look good it will also keep your large snails in the pond, cana and titan will sometimes crawl away if they can, but you'll have to keep the water a little lower if you want snail eggs. For some reason this 1/2 inch ledge stops them in their tracks. If you do this make sure you use untreated wood. Mine is just white pine with just a couple finishing nails holding it on. Untreated wood will not last forever, but it will also not have any chemicals in it that will harm your fish and on a pond this size it will be very easy to replace it every year or so. I still have to bleach the timbers, they will clean up great. I use oxi clean for the bleaching agent, but I suppose you could use what you have.

  Below is the filter a couple months after the plants were added, by the end of the summer they won't even be seen. It's a good idea to plant around your filters anyway, although koi and goldfish will tolerate the warm water they prefer cooler temps and the plants will shade some of the sun off your filter containers. Even at this point if I took some green spray can paint and added a little blend in color to the filters they would be hard to see. The settling tank has all but vanished from sight.

  The picture below is from a different pond build location, but I wanted to show you a good trick to keep your pond topped off with water. Since this location has a sprinkler system I tied into that and ran the line along the filter return, this could of also been vented right into the filter at the top. I'm actually lifting it up in this picture, you can't see it usually, it's behind the return. When the sprinkler comes on the pond is topped off, not only that but since the spray head is above the water it allows the chlorine to gas off. Might as well show you the lily and fish that are in this pond too. This is a very cool raised pond, just the right size for a patio area, so don't think you have to have a huge pond with large koi to really enjoy it. This pond is built somewhat like the pond build on this page, and was a converted dirt planter 6 feet long by 3 feet wide by three feet deep about half below ground level. Built completely of concrete block and a poured concrete floor. It uses an external filter with air cleaning but with the limited space there is no settling chamber and the pump is in the pond and piped right to the filter, but still only requires a filter cleaning once a month. The compressor is inside in a utility room and piped to the filter but I installed a switch near the pond to turn it on. All the pipe work was run under an existing side walk and the drain is piped to a planting border. This person wouldn't trade her pond for anything larger, I've already tried to talk her into that with no success.


  All our information is free for anyone to use. You are welcome to copy and print this information for future reference but not for resale. If you enjoyed the pond and filter builds here at our site you may want to help keep the information on new project coming with a small donation. All information is always free at Tadege.com but it does take considerable time and expense to list it. You are always welcome to watch for new DIY projects for free. Thanks and enjoy your new pond, Tom at Tadege Koi.

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