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How to Build a Backyard Pond (Without Breaking A Sweat!)

How to Build a Backyard Pond

Are you planning on renovating your yard but not sure what to do? Adding a backyard pond will give your yard a new and refreshing look. There is something soothing just watching the water moving and listening to the splashing sound coming from the fountain. Add in the beautiful light reflections on the pond in the evening and you have a soothing feature in the property.

Just thinking about the idea of adding a pond and visualizing the different designs one can do with it is already exciting. However, building a backyard pond as your next project may be not be as easy as you would expect. Don’t worry though, your hard work will pay off as soon as you complete your project and see the final outcome.

Things to Consider Before Building a Pond

Things to Consider Before Building a Pond

Building a backyard pond is just like building a house – it needs a proper planning before you can execute the project. To make sure you are on the right track, here are some things you need to consider before you build your pond.


While it is not too expensive to build backyard ponds, the amount that you will spend will all depend on how much you are willing to shell out for your project and the features you want it to have. The average cost would be around $5,000 to 15,000. The cost includes all the materials you will need, labor in case you need someone to do some work for you, how big your pond is, whether you want a natural or seminatural pond, and a lot more.

Design and Style

Sometimes your decision to build a pond in your backyard is because you saw one from your friend’s house or from a movie you were watching and you want to have exactly the same one for your yard. However, that may not be the case all the time. The design must adhere to your yard’s requirements such as the location of the pond, whether you can add a tall waterfall or not, etc.


Where you place the pond is very important. It will determine the health of your pond and how you’ll enjoy it. If you are planning to include a water feature or fish and plants, the location of your pond should be somewhere plants and fish can thrive healthily.

Size and Shape

Do you want a rectangle pond or a pond with rounded corners? Or maybe something that has an irregular shape? How big do you want your pond to be? Will your preferred size and shape fit in the location where you want to build it? These are some of the questions you need to ask yourself when deciding on the size and shape. Keep in mind that smaller ponds may be easier to maintain.

Steps on Building a Backyard Pond

Steps on Building a Backyard Pond


Before you start digging a big hole in your yard, you need to plan first. The planning stage includes deciding where you want to place it, the size and shape, whether you want to add plants, fish, water features, etc. To help you plan, here are some things you need to know.

Choosing a Location

When picking a location for your pond, you may want to place it where you can easily see it from a deck or window. This will let you enjoy the view even when you are not actually out of the house. You should also consider the amount of sunlight your pond will be getting throughout the day. It is ideal to place your pond where it can get enough sun while it is not exposed to direct sunlight and shade.

You need sunlight for the health of your pond, fish, and plants. However, too much exposure may lead to algae growth. Basically, your pond needs sunlight before noon and some partial shade in the afternoon to keep the water cool. Too much sun exposure can harm fish as well as your plants.

As much as possible, keep it away from large trees that can prevent sunlight from reaching your pond. It is also advisable to keep it away from areas where pets and children play.

Deciding on the Size and Shape

The minimum size for a pond is usually 7×4 ft. This size is enough to maintain clean water for the pond. However, you can opt for a larger size if you are going for a more elaborate design. The depth of your pond should not be less than 1.5 ft deep, but it will all depend on how you plan to use it.

A koi pond should be at least 3 ft deep, 1.5 to 2 ft will do for a goldfish pond with pond plants. You would want a deeper pond if you plan to put fish in it as it can maintain a consistent temperature.

For the pond shape, it is ideal to go for a pond with rounded corners. They are easier to construct and they will give your pond a more natural look. If you prefer an irregular shape pond, that’s fine, too but it might be challenging to build it on your own, unless you plan to hire a professional to do it for you.

Deciding on the Size and Shape

Prepare Your Materials and Equipment

Once you have decided the location for your pond, the size and shape, whether you want to add a backyard water feature, and other accessories, it is time to prepare all the materials you need. Below are the equipment and materials you need to prepare for your pond project.

  • Wheelbarrow
  • Garden Spade
  • Garden rake
  • Leaf rake
  • Gloves
  • Pick Axe
  • Marking Spray Paint
  • Pick Axe
  • Scissors
  • Utility knife
  • Laser Level
  • Caulking Gun
  • Grounded extension cord
  • Water garden hose
  • Cleanout pump and hose
  • Pond liner
  • Pump
  • Filter
  • PVC/Poly pipe cutter
  • Arm Waders
  • Chest Wader
  • Tape measure
  • Hacksaw
  • Fishnet
  • Rags
  • Large channel lock pliers
  • Expanding foam gun
  • Foam gun cleaner
  • Framing level
  • Multi-bit screwdriver
  • Sand
  • Water feature
  • Plants
  • Fish
  • Lights

These are some of the most common tools and equipment you may need to build a pond. The list may be more or less depending on how you want to do your backyard pond. Some may not need lights or water features if they are not part of your plan and design.

Mark Out the Shape

Now that you have gathered everything you need for your pond, the next thing you need to do is mark out the shape of your pond on the ground. You can use spray paint, a hose, or a rope as your marker. The marker will serve as your guide when it is time to dig your small backyard pond.

Time to Dig

Now it is time to dig. Get your spade and start digging by following the shape of your markers. Start with the pond’s edge going to the center of the bottom of the pond. If you plan to include aquatic plants, you need to create shelves so your plants will grow. To do this, start by digging small terraces.

It should look like small steps around the side of your pond. Dig only on the parts where you plan to put your pond plants. Ideally, the size should be around 30×30 cm and 20 cm deep. If you want to make the digging process faster, you can hire a professional to dig it for you using an excavator.

Spreading the Sand

Once you are done digging, you can now put a thin layer of sand at the bottom of the pond. Spread at least 1.2 inches layer of soft builder’s sand. You can use a rake to spread it evenly on the base. The sand will help protect the liner from getting holes or tearing up in case there are some sharp stones or objects from the ground. You can also add an old carpet on top of the sand for added protection.

Installing the Pond Liner

Installing the Pond Liner

The next step is installing your pond liner. Make sure you have the right size for your pond. It should be at least 4 feet bigger than the size of your pond. You may need some help installing the flexible pond liner. To install it properly, start at the center and roll it out along the base, through the sides, and on top of the edges. Be sure it is pressed neatly on all the crevices.

There are different types of pond liners. They can be made from synthetic rubber or plastic. Most people prefer EPDM pond liners as they are more durable and are UV resistant. Pond liners made of polypropylene or polyethylene are more affordable and lighter but mostly thinner.

As much as possible, avoid using PVC liners as they are not very durable, especially when exposed to the sun.

EPDM liners are heavy enough to stay in place even when filled with water. Wind cannot move it as well. If you want to make sure that your flexible liner will remain in place, you can put some large stones or rocks on top. If you are planning to put fish in your backyard pond, get a fish-safe pond liner.

The next few steps will only be applicable if you are planning to add accessories such as a water feature, plants, and fish. If not, skip to the part of filling the pond with water. But your pond will be more visually attractive if you add some decorations or fish to it.

Adding a Water Feature

Adding a water feature is not only for aesthetic purposes; it also helps in keeping your pond plants and fish healthy. You can either purchase a water feature that is ready-made or you can build your own waterfall or water fountain.

Installing a Pond Filter and Heater

Again, this step is only applicable if you are planning to put fish in your pond. You can easily purchase a pond filter at most home improvement or garden stores. When purchasing, make sure to get the right size for your pond.

There will be instructions on the package that come with it; simply follow the directions on the package. The filter box should be dug in the ground beside the pond and must be connected to a power outlet. This should be done you before run the filter hoses.

Pond filters are essential for ponds as they keep the water clean and the fish healthy. Pond filters also prevent the water from getting smelly. If you don’t want your pond filter to be seen, you can hide the filter box by adding plants around it.

If you live in a place with a cold climate, where there is a chance for your pond to be frozen during winter, it is important that you add a pond heater or a de-icer. A pond heater will prevent your pond from freezing and allow your fish to stay alive by providing the oxygen it needs.

Filling the Pond With Fresh Water

Use a water garden hose to fill your pond with water. Check if the pond liner is moving while you fill it with water. If it is moving slightly, carefully pull the sides of the liner taut. Fill it halfway with water first and wait for several hours before filling it up completely. This will allow the soil to settle first.

Once the soil had settled, you can add more water. You need to add a dechlorinator to your pond water if you want to add fish. This is to make sure the water is safe for the fish.

Placing Rocks Around the Pond

You can use flat stones or flat rocks as a border for your pond. Cover the entire edge of the pond including the excess liner. This is the part where you can show your creative skills. You can create designs on how you want to stack them. You can use different sizes of rocks to make your pond more attractive. You can combine large rocks with small ones.

Adding Aquatic Plants

Adding Aquatic Plants

There are many types of aquatic plants you can put in your pond. Marginal plants are those that grow around the edges or margins of the pond. Some examples you can put in your pond are blue flag iris, aquatic mint, and papyrus. You can also add some floating plants like fairy moss, water hyacinths, and water lettuce. They not only add beauty to your garden but also have the ability to absorb excess nutrients.

Bog plants or moisture-loving plants such as golden moneywort, Siberian iris, and brooklime are a perfect attraction to your pond. Submerged pond plants such as water lilies, hornwort, and spatterdock can make your pond more attractive. These are also great for oxygenating the water.

Placing Your Fish

Placing fish in your pond should be done correctly. Once the water is ready for the fish, add just a few fish first. They need time to adjust to the water variations. Wait for a week before placing a new batch of fish.

This is to ensure that the fish have adapted to the new environment. Some of the most popular pond fish you can try are the following:

  • Goldfish is one of the best-known pond fish. There are many goldfish species, but a variety called comets is perfect for outdoor living because they can tolerate both warm and cold temperatures.
  • Another famous fish is the koi fish. The vibrant colors of these fish make them very elegant-looking. You need a bigger pond for this type of fish because it can grow up to 39 inches long.
  • Hi-fin banded sharks can easily dwell together with koi and goldfish. They are algae eaters and like to roam around the water, searching for food. These fish can thrive in cold weather; that is why they are perfect for an outdoor pond.

Pond Maintenance

Once you are done with your pond, the work is not over yet as you need to have proper maintenance all year round. While ponds are low maintenance, especially the small ponds, you need to make sure you clean them regularly to fight algae growth. It is important to keep the pond water clear and prevent contamination that may kill fish, particularly small fish.

Other things you need to maintain are the pump, heater, filter, fountains, water level, and temperature. These are all important for the overall health of your pond and the fish.

Frequently Asked Questions

How to Build a Backyard Pond Frequently Asked Questions

How much does it cost to build a pond in your backyard?

The cost of a pond varies depending on the size and the different features and amenities you would want to put in your backyard. An average pond installation will cost around $5,000 to 20,000. It can be lower or higher. A 4×6 foot ornamental pond with no landscaping costs around $3500, while a 6×8 foot koi pond with landscaping costs around $9,000.

How deep should a backyard pond be?

The recommended depth for garden ponds should be at least 2 feet to keep them from overheating or freezing. If you live in a cold place, the minimum should be at least 3 feet deep. A fish pond should also be at least 3 ft deep so that there will be enough space for the fish to grow and swim.

How do I build a small pond at home?

If you are planning to build a small pond at home, then the first thing you must do is to mark the pond’s location. The pond should be built where there are few slopes. Decide what shape you want for your pond and begin digging a hole. The hole must be at least 2 feet deep.
Lay your liner over the hole and fill it up with water. Make sure that you secure the liner properly. Then position the rocks around your pond. Lastly, put plants and other decorations such as rocks, a fountain, or a waterfall until you are satisfied with how it looks. Consult with a professional, especially if you put fish in your pond to provide them with the best habitat.

What do you need for a backyard pond?

The materials you need for a backyard pond are liner, sand, pump, filter, and tubing to connect your filtration system. For edging materials, you can use rocks, paver, or other building materials. Of course, you will need plants, fish, and different décors to make your pond look beautiful and inviting.


Backyard ponds are a great addition to beautify any yard. Whether you choose to create a large pond or a small pond, it is a big decision to make. It’s exciting and fun to build a pond especially when it comes to adding some accessories such as lights, rocks, and other decorative objects around the pond. However, owning a pond is also a big responsibility as you need to ensure that all living things around the pond will thrive.

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Lisa Hayden-Matthews

Lisa Hayden-Matthews

A bike rider, triathlon enthusiast, amateurish beach volleyball player and nature lover who has never lost a dare! I manage the overall Editorial section for the magazine here and occasionally chip in with my own nature photographs, when required.

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