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Initial Design Considerations for Building an Easy to Maintain Koi Pond or Water Garden

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Initial Design Considerations for Building an Easy to Maintain Koi Pond or Water Garden

For many, their first pond experience, whether it is a koi pond or a water garden, is filled with many hours of repairs and cleaning, and too few hours enjoying this wonderful habitat you created.

In the 15 years since we built our first pond, the lessons we have learned could have filled a dozen koi ponds. Below, are three important tips you should consider in the design and building of your koi pond. These tips will help make your pond safe, easy to maintain and less expensive to build.

Design Consideration: Pond Location

The expression, “Out of sight. Out of Mind,” applies in this case. For a myriad of reasons, I recommend building your pond in a location within easy viewing of your home and patio. This is especially important for koi ponds, to reap maximum enjoyment and help you maintain the daily inspiration needed to adequately care for your fish. Ponds tucked away in a remote corner of the yard, or obscured from view are commonly neglected and fall into disrepair.

If the pond is koi-oriented, choose a spot for your pond that is well shaded, if available. Use of a skimmer and bottom drains will minimize the impact of tree leaves. If a water garden, you will need to plan for a minimum of 6 to 8 hours of sun to support the pond plants.

In a commercial application, such as a restaurant or store, I suggest keying the location choice on maximum view-ability by your customers and staff, customer safety and ease of maintenance.

Pond location will also be contingent upon placement of supporting equipment.

Design Consideration: Pump, Filters and Equipment

One of the most significant challenges for new pond builders is determining the optimal location for the supporting equipment. Filters, pumps, and UV sterilizers require accessible working space, ground-fault protected electrical outlets, and a means to protect equipment from flood.

The equipment location and its height relative to pond level, will impact equipment selection. Filter options will be based on whether they will be gravity or pump fed; the distance from the pond will factor into the size of pumps required and the routing of pipe from equipment to pond.

In my experience, each design (gravity or pump-fed) has its merits and limitations. With the use of bottom drains, a gravity-fed filter is much easier to install, operate and maintain. If pump-fed, I prefer to use forego bottom drains and use in-pond pumps. The challenges related to external pumps in a pump-fed design, have proven in our experience, to result in consistent difficulty starting and restarting pumps after cleaning or power outage and costly equipment failure due to running dry or flood.

Design Consideration: Pond Size and Depth

I have yet to hear anyone complain that his or her pond is too large or too deep. Most first-timers grossly underestimate: how big adult koi will get, the number of fish they will want to care for, or how vigorously pond plants multiply and grow.

Go as large as you can responsibly afford to build and maintain to a high standard. Don’t compromise quality of materials, livestock or labor for the sake of pond size. Find the right balance for you and stick to your plan and budget.

Dig Deep (but you needn’t go crazy). Five feet deep is a good depth for koi. Three feet is sufficient for a water garden and/or goldfish pond. If you peruse the koi hobby forums you will find hardcore koi keepers advocating strongly for six-eight feet. Unless you live in an extreme climate, the benefits of building deeper than six feet are minimal. At five feet, the pond is deep enough to keep your koi relatively cool and away from predators, while shallow enough for most of us to stand with our head above water when we inevitably fall in.

Working out these three preliminary pond design considerations will set your build on a positive trajectory and simplify all other design decisions. In addition, properly planning of each of these will contribute to an easy to maintain pond.

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