A pond with fish and plants requires monitoring to make sure the water stays clear and healthy.


How much work are you willing to put into your water feature? Do you want a beautiful backyard decoration or a beautiful backyard hobby? Many factors impact required maintenance including location, size, depth, fish, plants, and the quality of the pumping and filtration equipment you choose.

Pond, Waterfall or Both

Do you want a living, breathing ecosystem complete with fish and plants? Or would you rather have a pondless waterfall that simply cycles water from one place to another without supporting wildlife?

Pondless systems require less maintenance but for some homeowners, a water feature without fish or plants seems empty. Let's face it, fish are fun. They add motion, color and entertainment and kids love to feed them. Some fish, like Koi can even be trained to eat from your hand (see sidebar). A fish pond does require more monitoring as you learn how to keep water clear and healthy. But with the right balance of fish and plants and a quality biological filtration system, a fish pond can maintain itself without constant attention.

Train your Koi to hand-feed:

Koi can be easily trained to swim up and take food directly from your hand. To teach this behavior, approach the pond slowly at feeding times so you don't frighten or startle the fish. In the beginning, they may hide under stones and moss, but after a time they will begin to link your presence with feeding time. Keep the fish hungry by avoiding over-feeding during training periods. Allow your hand to move over the water and then lightly sprinkle feeding pellets into the pond a few at a time. The idea is to get the fish comfortable with the presence of your hand. Each day, move your hand closer to the water. Soon, as you approach the pond, the fish will begin to swarm to you at feeding time and clamber to eat right out of your hand! Hand feeding fish is an exciting activity for both kids and adults.

Don't over-feed the fish:

It's simple biology: when fish eat more, they "go" more. That means more fertilizer to feed algae growth and less water clarity. People who worry their fish will starve when they go out of town should know that many fish can live for days or weeks on algae and bugs without supplemental feeding. So do send the neighbor boy to check on the fish every few days, but tell him to hold off on the daily feedings.


What look are you going for? Do you want a naturalistic brook babbling over cobblestones, a tropical garden lagoon or a more clean-lined, modern interpretation of nature? With the right choice of materials and plants, you can create a water feature that looks at home in the backyard no matter what the architectural style.


Where will you get the most enjoyment from your water feature. A spot close to a patio or deck will let people take in the sights and sounds as they relax. Don't forget the view from indoors, though. Placing the pond where it can be enjoyed both indoors and out is ideal.

A streambed can also serve as a natural room divider. Consider placing a stream between two outdoor rooms and connecting the spaces with a decorative bridge.


Remember, you'll need electricity to run your pump. Evaluate your electrical access when choosing your pond location.

A Good Luck Fish?

Japanese have kept koi as pets for centuries. It is considered good luck to have a black koi among the most colorful fish. The one black koi is reminiscent of the ink use to scribe ancient Japanese scrolls.


Attractive ponds come in all sizes, but the regret I hear most often is: "I wish I'd made the pond a little bigger." Ironically, larger ponds are actually easier to maintain than smaller ones. Put too many fish in a small pond and waste will rapidly accumulate.

Not every backyard is big enough for a viable pond. If adding a pond means you'll have to rob valuable patio seating space, you may want to consider a smaller pondless waterfall or fountain instead.


Take a long look at your yard and ask how a pond, stream or waterfall would look if it occurred here naturally. Water should look like it flows naturally within the landscape. If you're creating a stream that travels to a pond, allow enough distance for some realism. Avoid streams that seem to flow uphill or waterfalls that emerge awkwardly out of nowhere and then disappear.

Find your Balance

Creating a balanced, worry-free backyard pond does take time but it's a hobby that pays off as you enjoy your peaceful retreat on the water. From a Feng Shui perspective, water is seen as an effective way to block negative chi. For example, a streambed might protect the home from the bad chi of noisy traffic nearby. Fountains or waterfalls near the front door are even thought to bring success to the home. Whatever your chi, you can find your backyard bliss with the purifying element of water.

Landscaping Network

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