Chapter 7 - Pond Life

Pond Life

Whilst the majority of self-contained water features are incredibly straightforward to set up and low maintenance overall, a pond can require a bit more time, thought, attention and care. It’s completely worth the investment however, as having one will open up a whole new world of water plant growing and wildlife spotting opportunities. Tranquil, beautiful and teaming with life and vitality, these open water sources are often a majestic sight to behold.

Although it can be a very complex subject, with a myriad of different choices and decisions, especially if you’re thinking about keeping ornamental fish, here is a fuss free look at how a pond can easily be incorporated into a garden, patio or even a balcony space.

Pond in a pot

First off we have the most straightforward option of all – which is buying a ready made pond in a pot. This all in one fibreglass pond comes with a choice of water plants suited to your chosen location so all you have to do is add water, the plants and your own little oasis is ready to go.

The kit also comes with a solar powered pump and is an extremely low maintenance option overall.

Primrose plants buyer, Alex says

The most popular oxygenating plant was ELODEA CRISPA for many years but an EU directive came into force in 2016 banning its sale across Europe. Water Moss or FONTINALIS ANTIPYRETICA is a very attractive plant with the capability of taking up the mantle as top oxygenator. Its delicate structure and vibrant green colour also make it a favourite for designers. Hydrocotyle sibthorpioides is also a strong alternative with a very different aesthetic. Larger leaves look a bit like coriander and it protrudes further out of the water. Sales of this have certainly seen an improvement since the ban. Interestingly, Ramshorn snails have been outselling most plants recently. They are strong oxygenators and do a great job of cleaning the water.

Building a pond – what to consider

Choose your spot

Pond plants need a lot of sunlight to prosper and grow so a sunny spot is highly recommended. Ideally it’s best to avoid an area with overhanging trees, simply because you’ll be making work for yourself each autumn otherwise, with leaves to dredge out and clear. Otherwise, as with any water feature, it’s important to consider how you intend to use it. So for example if you’re planning on adding a fountain then you might want it to be visible from the house or by a seating area. If its main purpose is to attract wildlife then a more secluded part of the garden where it’s quieter will be more attractive to a wide range of creatures. Otherwise safety for any likely young visitors should be an important consideration. See chapter 4 for more practical advice on choosing a location.

What type of pond?

A small still pond can be either built raised on a patio or lawn, or buried into the ground with the use of a liner, or mould. There are so many different sizes, shapes and possibilities from which to choose, the main thing to bear in mind first is what you want your pond for. If it’s as an attractive design feature then a smaller formal structure will work nicely, adding something really special to your garden and giving you the opportunity to grow plants such as water lilies within. These normally have patio stones or paving around the outside to complete the symmetrical, design-centred look. A still body of water can also be used to reflect light and create an illusion of more space so it’s suitable and indeed beneficial for even the smallest patio or garden.

If it is movement and the sound of flowing water you really hanker for, then a small fountain can easily be incorporated within. Such a pump powered system will also work to aerate the water, helping to keep mosquitos and stagnation at bay. In a small pond do be careful with floating plants near a pump however; they could be sucked in as well as the water in the surrounding area which could cause problems for the pump as well as the plants themselves.

An informal pond as they’re called, which in my mind means more of wildlife pond, is normally made using a liner dug into the ground and surrounded with large rocks or stones. If it’s a lower maintenance option you’re looking for then it’s worth bearing in mind that larger, more naturalistic ponds require less ongoing upkeep than smaller ones as the ecosystem within will most likely be more balanced.

View all ponds.

Do you want fish?

If so you’ll need to plump for a larger pond ideally with a depth of at least 3ft or 90cm for larger fish such as koi – or 45cm for smaller fish like goldfish and brush up on the subject much more besides.

Building a pond – step by step installation

1 If you’re digging down then first check there are no utility pipes or cables below.

2 If using a plastic mould then you’ll need to dig out a shape larger than the pond itself to enable the mould to fit. You fill in any gaps later with sand or soil. Then ensuring the pond is level using a plank of wood or spirit level is sensible. If you’re using a flexible liner instead then you can just work around the shape and depth you decide upon.

3 A layer of sand or pond underlay is then recommended to help avoid ground stones from scratching and damaging over time your preformed pond or liner.

4 If using a liner, weigh down the edges with stones and use a hosepipe to fill your pond with water. Non chlorinated rainwater from a garden butt is preferable but not essential here. It is recommended that you fill it to roughly 2-3 inches from the surface before leaving it 24 hours for the pond to settle.

5 Next it’s time to create your edging which very much depends on the type of pond you have in mind. For a formal look, paving slabs, tiles or cement work well, otherwise for a more naturalistic aesthetic then stones or boulders are just the job. Liner edges can also be covered and held firmly in place this way. Mortaring stones together is also an option.

6 Planting looks delightful as well as helping to reduce water evaporation in the summer and providing protection for wildlife or fish down below. Aquatic plants are generally fairly low maintenance as long as you have the right balance. For example too many plants will choke the life out of a pond, whilst too few will likely mean there isn’t enough oxygen.


Make sure to use special aquatic compost or garden soil if a growing matter is required as normal compost will be too rich and will damage the pond.

7 If you want to have movement in your pond then a submersible pump is best attached to a solid base (such as a brick or slab of concrete) so it can sit submerged in the water. The base avoids the pump picking up and debris from the bottom.

8 Solar pumps make a good choice if your pond isn’t near an outdoor socket.

9 As a final touch outdoor lights will make your pond come alive after dark.

Case study — My own water features

As a gardening writer, I love experimenting with new growing and design ideas. It provides material for my work, as well as creating a nice and productive outside space in which to be. Now that I’m also running a range of gardening courses for the general public as well as therapeutic gardening sessions, the enjoyable, invigorating and soothing properties of water, and features in all their exciting different forms, have become more important than ever.

With an extensive veg patch, polytunnels and a small orchard; attracting pollinating insects and beneficial wildlife into my gardens has always been important. The two ponds that I have in the garden do their job well, providing a desirable habitat for frogs, newts and dragonflies, to name but a few. These creatures in turn help to create a balanced ecosystem on my plot, eating slugs, snails, aphids and so forth so their numbers don’t get out of hand and eat all of my crops. Very informal in nature, these ponds have been created simply using pond liner held down at the edges with stones and require very little upkeep at all.

It never fails to inspire and delight, coming across a frog or newt whilst working in the gardens. Or hearing the chatter and song of the birds as they fly over to drink or splash in the water nearby. The dragonflies that emerge in the summer, alongside the abundant variety of butterflies and moths, bring joy and wonderment to even the most world-weary of folk that come here. I believe nature in all its multi-coloured glory really does have the potential to lift the spirits and the great thing is that even the smallest water source in your garden is enough to help encourage at least some wildlife in.

To complement this, we have recently added a bubble tube water feature which by means of its portable nature can be enjoyed both inside and out. With its colour changing column of LED lights which are controlled by remote, it’s just as much at home nestled in one of the raised beds on the veg patch as it is the polytunnel when I am teaching, or around the home for my autistic son to enjoy inside the house.

It’s no wonder that these attractive sensory columns are widely used in a variety of settings. As much at place in schools and classrooms as they are in offices, restaurants or gardens, the captivating display of bubbles and changing array of colours can relax and provide enchantment for adults and children alike.

The unit is also incredibly easy to set up; it’s simply a case of choosing your spot, filling with water (I tend to use a watering can) and plugging it in. It lends itself very well to being moved about as it is very light once the water has been drained out. This makes it perfect for my requirements as I can move it around according to wherever I happen to be teaching at the time.

I believe that water is very therapeutic in nature and makes a hugely beneficial and rewarding addition to any outside space. As such, we will be further increasing the number of features in and around the gardens over the coming year. This includes adding a fountain and some more water plants to the additional small pond outside the back of my home as I want to make more of a feature out of this one. Also because of its location near to the house, it will mean the spectacle can be enjoyed more widely.

Then, making the best use of a partly enclosed patio area which I am about to redesign, a wall fountain head feature is going to be used as central focus. I’m not quite sure on which design as yet but the wall Fish Fountain Water Feature by Ambienté™ is thus far coming out tops. It’s near the house so would be easy to connect to a mains supply and install ourselves.

Otherwise, as a journalist, I spend arguably too much of my day inside at my desk, and not enough time as I’d like outside gardening, so during the course of writing this book, a little table top Buddha has become next on my water feature list.

As you can see, these features can be a tad addictive as once you have one then it’s likely that you will see others that appeal and which could also be found a place. In the increasingly stressful world in which we reside, creating a little oasis of calm wherever we can is, in my book, a positive hobby all round.

About the 6ft Bubble Tube Feature with Changing LED Lights

This fully self-contained unit which comes with 6 bubble jets and a choice of changeable colours is designed to enhance and delight the senses. With a stainless steel base it is both hardy and robust and a delight to watch as the LED lit bubbles continuously rise up within. It comes with a remote control and is ideal for indoor and outdoor use.