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Site Selection

The most important factor you should consider when planning your pond is location.  Most importantly, your pond should be placed at a location where you will be able to enjoy it, preferably close to your house or deck.  The pond must be satisfying to view and easily accessible.  If some of the items mentioned below are unavoidable they can still be managed.

  • Watch for aphid infestation on your pond plants. If aphids are present treat with a pond-safe insect spray or diatamaceous earth.
  • Avoid areas of excessive shade as too much can limit the types of plants you can grow.  Ponds should ideally have large amounts of sun (at least 4-6 hours/day).  Southern exposure is best if possible.
  • Avoid areas near established trees, as leaves falling into a pond in large quantities, if not removed, release toxic substances which can adversely affect water quality.
  • Avoid the lowest area in your garden.  This spot is usually the wettest and runoff collects in these areas resulting in debris in the pond.
  • Do not put your pond over utility services to your home.  If you don't know where they are contact your utility companies and they will locate them for you.  CALL BEFORE YOU DIG (1-800-USA-DIGS).
  • Avoid building your pond too close to your foundation.  Allow a minimum of two feet as digging too close can weaken the foundation.  Leave enough room to walk around the entire pond for safety reasons and for cleaning.
  • Ground composition can be a factor.  Take a sample dig in the area you have selected to see what will be required for excavation.
  • Ponds built closer to a home have power and water more readily available and therefore are less expensive.
  • In order to get an idea of how your pond will look, use a rope or garden hose to design (outline) your pond in your yard.  Map out utilities and filtration systems also.
  • Remember that compromise is the key word.  It is not usually possible to select a site that is perfect, so evaluate the shortcomings of the desired potential sites and select the best.  Some of the shortcomings mentioned above are easier to live with than others so take the time to make a good choice.

Installing a Rubber Liner

Excavation:  It is best to dig a pond by hand.  If your pond is large, you may use a backhoe for the center portion, but you should finish the detail (edges and shelves) by hand.  Begin by removing the sod within the perimeter of your hose area.  It is helpful to mark your shelf areas with stakes.  You will need to have a shelf or collar area 6" deep and approximately 1' wide to place your perimeter rocks on.  The plant shelves may be different depths to accommodate the many varieties of water plants.  A shelf approximately 8" - 12" deep and 8" - 12" wide is perfect for marginal plants.  Your lily shelves should be approximately 18" - 24"  deep and at least 1' wide.  A portion of your pond should be approximately 3' or deeper if you live in a high altitude area.  The depth gives your fish a place to live through winter and to hide from any predators.  Always dig one end of the pond deeper so that the bottom slopes.  The slope will make cleaning your pond much easier.  Use the dirt from the middle of the pond to build up an area for a waterfall.  You must plan ahead and dig any areas for plumbing if you are installing a bottom drain or piping for an out of pond filter.  Bottom drains are not necessary, but are helpful in larger ponds.  Make sure the edges of your pond are level as water will seek it's own level and you do not want any liner showing around the edges. 

Liner:  Measure the width, length and deepest point of your finished excavation.  You will need to purchase enough liner so that you will have an overlapping edge.  The calculation for liner size is as follows:

    Length + twice the depth + overlap (1') = length of liner

    Width + twice the depth + overlap (1') = width of liner

Remove all sharp objects from the pond area.  Run you hand over the entire area to double check.  We recommend using a protective liner under your rubber liner.  The protective liner can be old carpet, carpet padding, 1/2" thick wet newspaper, or a commercial underlayment fabric.

Unfold your rubber liner and drape over the pond area.  You may need to recruit some help as the rubber liner is heavy.  Be sure to leave the excess over the edges.  Place rocks on the edges to help hold the liner in place while filling with water.  Begin filling and while doing so, smooth and pleat the rubber to fit the contours of the pond.  You will need to lift the rocks on the edges to let the liner slip into the contours of the pond to avoid stretching the liner.  Permanent stretching can shorten the life of the liner.

Once the liner has fit the pond area and all pleats have been made, you may begin setting the rocks on the perimeter or collar edge.  Trim the liner with sharp scissors and fold the liner back under the edge.  The trimmings may be used for waterfalls, bog gardens, additional protection material under heavy rocks, or repairs.

You may need to drain your pond to rid it of debris or impurities from the building process.  Once it is full you may add any water treatments necessary (de-chlorinator, etc.), your filter and plants.   You should wait approximately two weeks before adding fish.  This period will allow the water to age and begin the ecological system necessary for your new pond.

Seasonal Pond Care


  • Clean pond thoroughly
  • Dechlorinate as necessary
  • Set-up bio-filter if disconnected in the winter/or do major cleaning
  • Prepare yourself for “green water” until your pond stabilizes
    • Your pond must begin balancing all over
    • DO NOT drain your water when it turns green
  • Clean filter as often as necessary or required
  • Begin feeding fish when water temperature reaches above 50°
    • Feed high carbohydrate foods
    • Feed higher protein foods when water temperature is above 59°
  • Watch fish for any infestations/infections on fish as spring is a stressful time for them
  • Treat pond as necessary with medications


  • Keep dying leaves and spent flowers removed
  • Continue cleaning filter weekly (if submersible filter pad requires cleaning)
  • Divide lilies and water plants as necessary
  • Propagate new plants as desired
  • Thin water plants as necessary to keep them from choking out pond
  • Fertilize plants once a month with aquatic fertilizer
  • Net out water bugs and insects if overpopulation occurs
  • Check plants and remove snail eggs from undersides of lily leaves and stems
  • Continue feeding fish—follow five minute rule, but remember they like more food now
  • Watch for fish spawning; keep an eye on females as they can be injured during this time
  • Keep water levels at highest point as they tend to loose water quickly during hot periods


  • Keep all leaves skimmed off pond or use net to cover pond
    • Tannic acid from leaves turns water brown & is toxic to fish
  • Clean filter as required
  • Continue feeding fish, switch to higher carbohydrate foods & feed less
    • Stop feeding when water temperature reaches 50°
  • Stop fertilizing plants
  • Trim plants back to prevent decomposition of plant leaves in pool water
    • Hollow stems should be cut a bit above water level to prevent rotting
    • Prune lilies back to plants’ crown and place in the deepest part of pond
    • Lower tender marginals to deeper part of pond


  • Raise pump to higher level to keep water temperature at the bottom warmer
  • Keep the pump operating to keep water open—this lets toxic gases escape
  • Turn off & clean bio-filters as the bacteria does not live during the winter
    • Up-flow filters should be drained to prevent freezing.
    • If fish are active and surfacing, offer them a small amount of high carbohydrate food


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