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Having a personal fish pond in the garden is a dream for many. Not only does it bring life to the garden, but it also creates a relaxing atmosphere. But how do you properly set up a fish pond and how do you maintain it? Here’s a brief overview: 


I. Planning and Site Selection:  

Idyllic pond with many colorful plants
image: Andres Ramos – vecteezy.com

The pre-planning phase is crucial to the success of your fish pond. Consider the following aspects when choosing a location: 

1. Size and Depth: 

Think about how big and deep you want your pond to be. This depends, among other things, on the number and type of fish you want to keep. A deeper pond ensures that fish have a frost-free spot during winter. 

2. Lighting Conditions:  

The ideal location for your pond is sunny to partially shaded. A completely shaded spot can inhibit plant growth, while a fully sunny location can promote algae growth. 

3. Trees and Vegetation: 

Oval pond surrounded by trees and bushes
image: simon Edge – vecteezy.com

While trees nearby can look beautiful and provide shade, falling leaves in the autumn can contaminate the water. Additionally, the roots of large trees can damage the pond liner. 

4. Access to the Pond: 

Consider how you’ll access your pond. This is essential for cleaning and maintenance tasks. A pond that’s too remote or difficult to access can complicate its upkeep. 

5. Protection from Predators:  

Round fenced in pond
image: Dioana Johanna Velasquez – vecteezy.com

In some areas, predators like herons or foxes can pose a threat to your fish. Consider how you can protect your pond from them, e.g., through nets or other barriers. 

6. Water Source: 

Think about where you will source the water for your pond. Directly from the tap, a well, or rainwater? Depending on the source, various treatments might be necessary to make the water safe for the pond. 

Caution! Things to Avoid: 

  • Electrical Lines and Pipes: Be careful not to dig near underground lines. Accidentally cutting through can be not only expensive but also dangerous. 
  • Strong Wind Areas: Strong winds can disturb the pond’s surface and pollute the water. Moreover, it can affect the pond’s temperature balance and stress the plants. 
  • Low Areas: Avoid placing your pond in a low area where water could accumulate, especially if your region experiences heavy rainfall. A flooded pond can harm plants and fish. 
  • Chemically Treated Areas: If you plan to place your pond near lawns or gardens, ensure these areas aren’t regularly treated with pesticides, fertilizers, or other chemicals. These can leach into the pond water and damage the ecosystem. 
  • High Traffic Areas: A pond located near roads or heavily traveled paths can be affected by exhaust and dust. Furthermore, the noise can be stressful for the pond inhabitants and disrupt the relaxing atmosphere many pond owners cherish. 

In summary, planning and site selection should be carefully thought out to ensure both the aesthetics and functionality of your fish pond. 

II. Excavating the Pond: 

Shovel in dirt with gravel
image: jo_reason432159

Although digging the pond can be physically demanding, it’s an essential step for a successful fish pond. This process not only requires precise planning but also the right tools and a clear idea of the desired pond shape. 

Required Tools: 

  • Shovel or Spade: For digging and shaping the pond. 
  • Construction or Surveying Rope: To mark the desired pond shape on the ground. 
  • Wooden Stakes or Marking Spray: To outline the perimeter. 
  • Tamper or Hand Compactor: To compact the soil, if necessary. 
  • Auger: To possibly drill test holes and check the soil type. 
  • Wheelbarrow: To remove the excavated soil. 

Procedure for Excavation: 

  1. Set the Marking: Begin by outlining the desired pond shape using the construction or surveying rope. Plant wooden stakes or use marking spray to make the perimeter visible. 
  2. Prepare the Surface: Gently lift the grass and any root system within the marked area to clear the ground for excavation. 
  3. Start Digging: Begin at the edges and work your way to the center. This helps to ensure uniform depth and slope. 
  4. Sloping Structure: Make sure the pond has a declining gradient, with the deepest point in the middle. This serves as a frost-free refuge for fish during winter. 
  5. Shape the Edges: Edges should be slightly beveled to prevent the pond soil and the subsequent pond liner from slipping. 
  6. Compact the Soil: Depending on the soil type and pond size, it might be necessary to compact the ground to provide a stable base. 

After you’ve dug out the pond, it’s crucial to remove all roots, rocks, and other sharp objects that could damage the pond liner. Now, you’re ready to take the next step towards your dream pond! 

III. Properly Installing the Pond Liner: 

Before laying the pond liner, it’s essential to place a protective underlay on the excavated ground. This underlay serves to protect the liner from sharp stones, roots, and other irregularities that could otherwise cause holes or tears in the liner. Choose a UV-resistant and robust pond liner to ensure longevity. When laying the liner, ensure it rests without any creases and extends generously over the pond’s edges, providing ample allowance for adjustments later. Gently press the liner into every corner and contour of the pond so that it perfectly conforms to the shape and avoids trapping air bubbles. 

IV. Water and the Appropriate Technology for Your Pond:  

Once your pond is filled with water, the technical aspect comes into play, crucial for the wellbeing of the fish population and the water’s clarity. 

Filter Systems: 

A good filter system is indispensable for cleansing the water from dirt particles, algae, and other contaminants. There are different types of filter systems: 

  • Mechanical Filters: Capture coarse dirt particles like leaves and residual algae. 
  • Biological Filters: Utilize bacteria to break down harmful ammonia and nitrate levels in the water. 
  • UV Filters: Use UV light to kill harmful microorganisms and reduce algae growth. 

It’s often advisable to use a combination of these filter types to achieve the best results. 

Pond Pumps: 

A pump not only ensures appealing water circulation and movement but also directs the water evenly through the filter. There are different types of pumps: 

  • Submersible Pumps: Positioned directly in the pond, they are typically quieter. 
  • External Pumps: Located outside the pond, they are often more powerful but require a dry and frost-protected placement. 
  • Aeration Systems: Especially during the summer months, when the oxygen content in the water can decrease, aeration systems are a great addition. They provide extra oxygen, enhancing fish wellbeing and supporting the biological balance. 

By choosing the right technical setup for your pond and maintaining it regularly, you ensure the water remains clear, the fish stay healthy, and the pond continues to be a visual highlight in your garden for years to come. 

V. Planting the Fish Pond: A Harmonious Symbiosis of Beauty and Function 

Large pond with well maintained plants
image: Vittorio Cazzadore – vecteezy.com

The right planting of a fish pond plays a crucial role in its health and aesthetics. Plants actively contribute to water quality by absorbing nutrients, providing shade, and offering shelter to fish. 

Function of the Plants:  

  • Natural Filter: Plants absorb excessive nutrients from the water, which would otherwise promote algae growth. 
  • Protection and Shade: They offer fish hiding spots from predators and shield from strong sunlight. 
  • Oxygen Production: Underwater, plants produce oxygen, contributing to overall water quality and the well-being of the fish. 

Popular Pond Plants and Their Properties: 

Water Lilies:  

Pink water lilly with bee
image: WimdeGraaf – pixabay.com
  • With their characteristic large leaves and impressive blooms, they’re not just a highlight in any pond but also provide ample shade. They come in various colors and sizes. 

Reeds and Cattails:   

These marginal plants are ideal for the edge of the pond and help stabilize the pond’s borders. Additionally, they provide hiding spots for fish. 

Horsetail (Equisetum):  

With its feathery growth, horsetail is an eye-catcher and suitable for the pond’s edge. 

Water Lettuce and Duckweed:   

water lettuce
image: abcLONG – pixabay.com

These floating plants can spread quickly and are especially suitable for absorbing excess nutrients and reducing algae growth. However, one should ensure they don’t overrun the pond.  

Elodea (Waterweed) and Hornwort:   

These submerged plants are oxygen suppliers and are particularly suited for the deeper parts of the pond. 

Proper Planting: 

  • Mind the Depth: Each plant has its preferred water depth. When planting, make sure to place them at the appropriate depth. 
  • Use Planting Baskets: To prevent uncontrolled spreading of plants in the pond, planting baskets can be helpful. 

Overall, the planting of a pond should cater both to the aesthetic preferences of the owner and the specific needs of the pond and its inhabitants. 

VI. Properly Introducing Fish to the Pond: A Step-by-step Acclimatization  

Introducing fish to a new pond is a critical moment that should be approached thoughtfully. A gentle transition helps the fish to adapt to the new environment and reduces stress. 

1. Wait and Observe:  

Before even considering introducing fish, let the pond water settle for at least 2-4 weeks. This allows a natural balance to form in the pond and beneficial microorganisms to establish themselves. 

2. Fish Species and Their Requirements: 

Research carefully which fish species you want to introduce. Each species has specific requirements for temperature, water quality, and habitat. Also, consider the size of the pond and its depth. 

3. Acclimatizing the Fish:  

  • Transport Bags: When you pick up your fish, they are usually transported in water-filled plastic bags. 
  • Temperature Equilibration: Place the sealed bag on the pond’s water surface for about 15-30 minutes, allowing the water temperature in the bag to slowly match that of the pond. 
  • Mixing Water: After temperature equilibration, open the bag and add some pond water every 10 minutes until the volume has doubled. This helps the fish to get accustomed to the pond water. 
  • Releasing the Fish: After this step-by-step acclimatization, gently place the fish into the pond using a net. Avoid pouring the water from the transport bag into the pond to keep potential contaminants or pathogens at bay. 

4. Intensive Care in the Initial Days: 

Carp on water surface
image: DanielWanke – pixabay.com

The first days after introducing the fish to the pond are crucial as the animals adjust to their new environment. It’s vital to be particularly vigilant during this phase. 

Observe Behavior:  

A healthy fish is generally active and curious. If you notice some fish appearing lethargic, hiding, or staying unnaturally at the water surface or pond bottom, it might indicate stress or illness. 


Pay attention to how the fish eat. Do they hesitate to take the food? Do they eat voraciously or not at all? A sudden change in feeding behavior can also indicate problems. 

Physical Examination:  

Regularly check for signs of injuries, loss of scales, or unusual spots on the fish’s skin. These could indicate parasites or other diseases. 

Water Quality: 

In the initial days, it might be helpful to regularly check the water quality. Pay special attention to pH, ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels. Significant fluctuations or high values can be dangerous for fish. 

Seek Help:  

At the slightest signs of issues or if you’re unsure, don’t hesitate to consult an expert or a veterinarian experienced in fish medicine. 

Through attentive observation and prompt response to potential problems, you can ensure that your fish have a healthy and stress-free start in their new home. 

VII. Pond Care and Maintenance: 

A pond isn’t just a decorative feature in the garden, but represents a complex and sensitive ecosystem. Diligent and regular care is essential to maintain its beauty and health. 

Monitor Water Quality:

Use specialized test kits from retailers to check the pH, ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels in the water. These tests should be conducted weekly. For instance, a sudden rise in ammonia or nitrite could indicate a problem in the pond. 

Remove Leaves and Contaminants: 

Pond with algae
image: YanceTAY – pixabay.com

A net is perfect for removing leaves and other larger contaminants. Fine-mesh nets can even catch smaller particles like algae. Especially in the fall, when many leaves drop, regularly perform this cleaning. 

Check Filters and Pumps: 

Depending on the type of filter and pump, you might need screwdrivers or special brushes for cleaning. Inspect the filter and pump for blockages or deposits that could affect efficiency. Clean the filters frequently, at least once a month, to ensure optimal water quality. 

Feeding the Fish:  

A fish food dispenser can help deliver the right amount of feed. Only feed the fish as much as they can eat in a few minutes. Excess food can pollute the water and lead to algae growth. 

Observing the Pond Inhabitants:  

Koi and frog in pond
image: Malley – pixabay.com

Take a few minutes daily to observe the behavior of your fish and plants. Watch for signs of stress, illness, or other abnormalities. Early detection and action can prevent many issues. 

Overall, view your pond as a dynamic system that requires constant attention. However, with regular care and maintenance, you can ensure your pond remains a garden highlight for many years. 


A fish pond is a wonderful highlight for any garden. With the right planning and care, you can enjoy it for years. Pay attention to the needs of your fish and provide a clean and healthy environment, and nothing will stand in the way of your garden joy! 

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