How to Build a Small Pond in Your Backyard

There are many reasons you may want to build a pond for your backyard. Perhaps you would like to keep fish, or want to cover up a less attractive area of the yard. Maybe you grew up near water and find yourself landlocked, in need of a return to the soul-touching element. Ponds create an area of relaxation that you can retire to on summer evenings when travelling to a lake just isn’t an option.

Ponds attract all kinds of life, and if you install a running water feature in your pond, you can even repel mosquitoes. A still pond will attract mosquitoes, but also their predators: dragonflies! Perhaps your yard is too small for much else, so adding a pond makes good use of the space by creating a serene getaway. Running water also detracts from other neighbourhood noises. Whatever your reason, we are here to share with you some pro tips on how to build a small pond in your backyard.

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Step 1: Location

When you decided on a location for your pond, you must have your underground utility lines located. You do not want to dig into a gas line. Once the area has been surveyed by a professional, you may begin your project.

Ideally, your pond will also be visible from the house, so that you can monitor it, as well as enjoy its beauty. If this is not possible or desired, that’s okay, too! Keep the pond away from trees, as the pond will need access to four to six hours of sunlight each day, in order for plants to survive.

Also, you do not want leaves falling into the pond. Finally, make sure the pond is free from possible rain runoff, as this runoff can carry harmful debris into the pond’s ecosystem, such as fertilizer or other foreign organic matter. You can do this by ensuring the perimeter of the pond is at a slightly higher elevation than the rest of the yard.

Step 2: Supplies

Before you begin your project, you will need to acquire the following supplies:

  • shovel
  • rope
  • pond liner. *Look for one that is UV resistant and weatherproof, and preferably has a warranty of ten years or more, to ensure your pond will stay watertight for years. To find the size of your pond liner, add four feet to the length and width of the pond.
  • level
  • newspaper or other underlay, such as sand
  • pump kit, if applicable
  • pond filter or skimmer
  • PVC conduit to cover the electrical cord, if applicable


Step 3: Start digging

The pond’s depth is up to you if you do not want fish; however, if you want goldfish, you’ll need to dig at least two feet down, and at least three feet for koi (though four to five is better), deeper than the freeze zone. Remember that fish are living beings who deserve a good amount of space to move around, and koi can grow quite large. With this in mind, we recommend a pond that is at least one thousand gallons in size. Use a rope to outline the shape of the pond, and start digging.

Dig the entire space sixteen inches deep. Then, in the centre of the pond, dig an additional ten inches down, as the pump will go here. You may also create a third shelf depending upon which plants you want in your pond. Plant shelves (or terraces) should be a foot wide. Once the pond is excavated, lay a plank across the top and set a level upon it. Adjust the terrain where necessary, until all sides of the pond are level. Now on one side, dig a small channel that is approximately six inches wide and one inch deep. This will redirect overflow. If you are using a pump, you must also dig a trench from the pond to the nearest electrical outlet. This is where you will hide the electrical cord.

If installing a skimmer or pump, dig sufficient holes that allow them to sit level with the pond.

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Be sure to remove any rocks or roots or other debris that may pierce the liner.

Step 4: Line the pond

Begin by adding a one-inch layer of sand upon the entire pond floor, including the plant shelves. Then add a layer newspaper that is half an inch thick. The sand and newspaper will prevent the rubber liner from being torn. We recommend removing your shoes. Lay the liner down, putting stones on one side of the liner to keep it in place, and work slowly toward the opposite side. Smooth out any creases. You will have excess liner on the side without stones.

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Step 5: Fill the pond

Begin to add water, slowly pulling the liner taut on each side. It can be helpful to have an additional person for this step. Then install the pump in the deepest part of the pond, and feed its cord through the PVC conduit. Add some gravel to the overflow channel. Lay flat rocks along the perimeter of the liner, making sure to cover it. Then stagger a second layer of rocks on top of this. You can hide your hose somewhere in these rocks. At this point you should test the pump to make sure the hose empties smoothly into the pond.

Step 6: Add plants and fish

Now your pond is ready for some aquatic life! Add plants to the designated shelves. Introduce the fish last, after a week of installing the pond so the chemicals have time to neutralize.

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Ponds, like all backyard water features, add a dynamic focal point to the yard, and attract all kinds of wildlife such as birds and insects. This will create nonstop action in your yard that teaches wildlife education as well as providing entertainment. You can grow different water plants in a pond which adds interest to the landscape.

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