What is the compelling attraction that channels so many garden lovers to include a fish pool in their garden lay-out? The moving water theme from a waterfall/cascade feature, or the tinkling of water droplets from a fountain, are both capable of adding a soothing yet lively component to any garden, large or small. The added fascination of having colourful fish in the pool, that are easily tamed to take food from the hand, provides delightful pets as a bonus. The plants within and around the pool will add a further dimension to the array of plant life and flowers available to grace the garden.
Making a garden pond these days can be a comparatively simple affair with the ready availability of a range of pool liners. Basically, dig a hole, line it, fill with water, plant your choice of plants in and around it, add fish, and enjoy. But, of course, there is really more to it than that!
Survey the chosen place for the pool, and ensure there are no factors that might cause problems later. Invasive roots from trees or bushes can damage any form of pool, liner, pre-formed plastic, or even concrete. Falling leaves in autumn from deciduous trees may make work. A very open aspect might give problems from uncontrolled strong daylight creating algae problems – but there are remedies for this. If the pool is of a “sunken” design, so it is below the surrounding garden level, it will accumulate any leaves and topsoil that will blow about the garden from time to time. Heavy rainfall can also drain from the garden into the pool when it is below the general level of the surrounding garden. Some thought at the planning stage can save a lot of maintenance work later.
Once the choice is made, you can mark out the shape of the hole you are going to dig out. A hose-pipe coiled around to form the desired shape is a good method at the start of planning. When digging out the pool remember to form shelves at different levels to accommodate marginal plants, and go deep enough to provide proper over-wintering care for the fish. Make the sides sloping and not vertical. This allows ice in wintertime to push itself upwards without damaging the wall construction. When preparing the hole for a liner or plastic pool keep an eye out for any stones left in the wall. These might hazard the safety of the pool liner as settlement takes place over the ensuing years. Conversely, if you are preparing the installation of a concrete pool key stones placed into the soil wall will help to key the construction.
To estimate the size of the pool liner and its underlay you will require, use the following method of calculation (or, given the dimensions, your aquarium should be able to do this for you): Take the longest measurement across both the length and the width of the hole and add to each of these the TWICE the depth, at its deepest point. Finally add a further 2 feet (60 cms) to each total as an overlap for both the length and the width of the liner to obtain the final size required. For example, if the hole is 8 feet at its longest measurement, and 4 feet at its widest measurement, and 2 feet deep, you will have a calculation of 8′ + 4′ + 2′ for the length, and 4’+ 4′ + 2′ for the width, resulting in a requirement for a liner 14 feet by 10 feet.
Ensure that the hole is level at the surface before starting the installation of the underlay and then the liner. Also be sure to allow sufficient overlap of the liner at the top edge where it will normally be secured with an edging of suitable rockery stones or paving slabs. Have the electricity supply for the pump or other electrically powered features laid-on to a convenient point while the construction is still on-going. If you are not sure about doing this job get a qualified electrician to do this item for you. A form of filter is highly recommended as being almost an essential item! Clear water is what we all want to aim for in the garden pool, and this is not easily attained without the benefit of efficient filtration. In addition to the mechanical removal of suspended matter by filtration an Ultra-Violet Steriliser unit will be a great help to aid the removal of suspended algae that forms the menace of green water. The other major algae menace is that of “Blanket weed”, a hair-like growth that can take over a pool in a short time, and has been notoriously difficult to remove. But an electronic controller is now available to do the job effectively.
When the pond has been filled and planted with marginal plants set on the shelves, lilies in their own crates set on the base of the pool, and so-called oxygenator plants placed strategically around the pool, add plant food tablets to give the plants a good start. Add products like Stress Coat to dechlorinate the water. Most importantly add Bio Filter booster to start the maturing process off for the filter. This will begin to “mature” the filter medium and provide the beneficial biological process that will regulate the water chemistry for the well-being of the fish. The fish may then be introduced a few at a time over a period of weeks, allowing the stability of the waster chemistry to be maintained during the stocking process. Stocking is best done when all risk of frosts is past, with much the same consideration as is given to bringing border plants into the garden.
Be sure to purchase you fish from a reliable source that holds stocks for some quarantining/conditioning period, and take every precaution to ensure the stock is free from disease before introducing it to the garden pool. If you are unsure of the reliability of the source you might consider isolating the fish in a suitably large container to monitor their health for a week or so before releasing them into the pond. If White Spot, Fungus, or other disease should break out in the isolation container it will be more easily treated than would be the case if the whole new pool had to be dosed with the remedy. Do not buy fish from a source with dead or distressed fish in the stock tanks, and look for signs of disease before buying. Check if the fish are fat and well fed, and are free of lesions or scale loss that could be the prelude to a bout of serious health problems. Add Stress Coat for the benefit of its Aloe Vera content to provide a stimulant to produce mucus and help protect new fish after they have been netted and moved in the process of making the purchase. During their handling they frequently lose some of the natural protection their body mucus provides, leaving them prone to fungus invasion or other health risks.
Pond fish are generally most undemanding regarding the feeding regime, but to get the best from them a good varied diet is essential. As pets go there are few others that would cost as little as even the best fed fish can enjoy. So do not consider anything less than the best when choosing the range of foods you will keep for the daily care of your pond fish. They will not eat anything at all once the winter weather sets in, so it is essential that they have sufficient body fat and reserves from adequate feeding to see them through that lengthy hibernating period successfully. From our experience it is the people who boast they never or rarely feed the fish but leave them to survive on the “natural” foods in the pond, that come in for advice in the Springtime and after a severe winter because they are losing their fish as they come out of hibernation in an emaciated condition.