This page is dedicated to the most common questions asked and ‘Do It Yourself’ mistakes that we come across. Water features cover such a wide array of features, it is impossible to cover all questions. And also keep in mind that most features we deal with are backyard water gardens, pondless features, and disappearing fountains. But here are the most prevalent ones.
Size of feature: Most every person will ask this question or have this problem. It may seem counter-intuitive, but the larger the feature the better (kept in relation to surrounding). A larger fountain basin will catch more splash and need to be filled less often, while a larger pond will have a better balance and less chance to have pH or temperature spikes. Wishing your feature was larger is MUCH more common then regretting it is too large.
Koi?: Let me preface this statement by saying that I feel any pond without fish (especially koi) feels like it is missing something. However a large percent of maintenance problems we run into are due to too many koi and over feeding those koi. Goldfish only need roughly 10 gallons per fish to keep a healthy balance in your pond. Koi at one foot of length need roughly 100 gallons, and when they grow to two feet *they will if healthy* they need close to 1000 gallons per fish. Of course this changes as filtration changes, but for the standard water garden that turns the pond volume over once or twice an hour, it is a good rule of thumb. Koi will always beg for food. Do not throw in handfuls and walk away. Feed pinch by pinch until they begin to lose interest. All that food that doesn’t get eaten, feeds the algae. Obviously not a good thing.
Pondless Features: I believe ponds have gotten a bad reputation recently due to the fact that so many people got into their construction, and didn’t know what they were doing. Many people got badly designed ponds that turned into maintenance nightmares. Water gardens do not have to be high maintenance if they are built well, but pondless features are less maintenance. Pondless features are great options for many clients, these have been some of my favorite projects. These pondless features can bring you the sound and visual of running water with less space requirements and maintenance needs. But do not cross off water gardens just because some nursery built a badly planned pond for your neighbor.
Rocking the bottom of your pond: This is one of the most debated topics in the pond world. My thoughts and observations are the most companies that rock their ponds do not offer maintenance. This is not a coincidence. The other factor I have noticed is that most builders *that are well respected in the industry* that rock their pond have much more filtration and flow in their pond. If you can pull that junk out of the pond before it settles into the rock, it isn’t an issue. If you are not turning your water over three or for times an hour, it settles and becomes black, anaerobic, nasty junk that will cause major issues in the long term. Also, you will have a carpet algae that turns everything green if your pond is healthy. Repeat this is healthy. That is where most of the good micro-organisms live. Why would you pay for pretty rock that is going to be green in a few weeks? You are literally paying for more maintenance. But it sure does look pretty when the installer walks away… and never comes back.
*Every feature is different, whether volume, biological load, climate, or a myriad of other factors. These are my experiences in the SW Iowa region through ten years of construction experience. Every professional will tell you something slightly different, but please talk to a water feature specialist if you are thinking about a pond or fountain. This is a specialized industry. You could have a plumber wire your house, but wouldn’t you rather hire a certified electrician? If you are investing thousands of dollars, you owe it to yourself to get the knowledge of a true specialist.