8 Things to Consider Before You Install a Pond

If you're picturing a sparkling pond filled with water plants, use our tips to figure out where to put it and what you'll need.


Photo by: Image courtesy of Felder Rushing

Image courtesy of Felder Rushing

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Not every garden has to grow in the ground. When you add a pond to your yard or landscape, you can garden in and around the water and discover all the beautiful plants that thrive with “wet feet.” Ponds also invite many interesting visitors, like songbirds, dragonflies and other wildlife. 

But before you start digging, make sure you’re ready for a pond. Water features can take time, energy and a healthy budget to install and maintain. Use our checklist below to see if a pond is right for you.

  • First, decide on a location. You don’t want to put a pond in a low spot that gets runoff when it rains, which can cause flooding. Water that crosses over lawns, gardens or farms—whether yours or a neighbor’s—can also bring in chemicals or fertilizers that may harm aquatic plants and creatures.
  • You do want a spot with a good view, and maybe room to add a bench or a few chairs so you can sit and enjoy the pond. Ideally you’ll be able to see it when you’re indoors, too.
  • Next, make sure your spot is level and gets about a half-day of sun. Avoid placing the pond too close to trees and shrubs that drop leaves and other debris or you’ll have cleanup to do. Nearby trees may also have big roots you’ll hit when you dig.
  • Position your pond within reach of an electrical outlet protected by a GFI (ground fault interrupter) to prevent shocks. You’ll need to plug in a pump to circulate the water and you may want an aerator, especially if you add fish. An outlet also lets you use outdoor lighting and other accessories.
  • Before you dig, check local regulations and zoning restrictions. If you belong to a neighborhood homeowners’ association, find out if you need approval to add a pond to your property. You may also need a permit from one or more local agencies. Some insurance companies require notification when you install a water feature and ask you to secure it with a fence to protect children and animals.
  • Call your utility companies before you reach for the shovel. They'll mark your lines so you don’t cut into anything.
  • Want to keep fish? If you live where the winters are cold, you’ll need a pond deep enough to protect them from freezes. Check with your extension service or a pond professional for more information.
  • Now it’s time to estimate costs. Your budget will dictate the size of your pond and the materials you’ll use. Don’t forget some costs that are easy to overlook, such as plant pots and fertilizers; rocks or other materials to use around the pond perimeter; a water thermometer and test kits to monitor the water’s quality and cleanliness. More obvious expenses are the costs of filling your pond from your hose and biological, mechanical and chemical filters. Your garden center or pond professional can help you choose the right filter for your set-up.

If figuring out exactly what you need feels daunting, consider buying a kit that contains everything you’ll need. You’ll find kits in a variety of pond sizes and shapes.

Once you’ve established a budget, you’re ready to dig, opt for a preformed shell or buy a flexible liner. As a rule of thumb, the more curves in your design, the more you’ll have to dig—or pay someone else to dig. 

When your pond is filled with fresh, sparkling-clean water, you can move on to the really fun part: adding beautiful plants and aquatic creatures.

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