Nell Matzen - 14 Sep, 2021

How to Add a Fish Pond to Your Garden

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To some, a fish pond may be an outdated and burdensome backyard feature, but those who have a fish pond know how magical it can be.


Nothing quite compares to the sounds and sights that this water feature can bring – trickling water, shimmering fish and delicate water plants floating effortlessly on top. Not to mention the wildlife which will emerge from the garden to take a drink or swim.

Fish pond naysayers believe that they are more trouble than they’re worth, but in reality, once established, they are relatively low maintenance. If set up correctly, these mini-ecosystems are self-sufficient. They will also provide hours of entertainment for the whole family, including being very low maintenance pets for kids and a relaxing setting for the adults. 


If you’re contemplating renovating your backyard and adding this unique feature, find out everything there is to know about fish ponds with our complete guide.

Benefits of a fish pond

Health Benefits

A fish pond will have you spending more time outside, reaping all the benefits the great outdoors have to offer. Science has proven that spending time near water is great for our wellbeing – slowing our heart rates, boosting mental health and reducing stress hormones. In our chaotic society, having a place for quiet reflection in our very own backyard is an invaluable tool to help deal with life stressors. 

Educational Benefits

Having a mini-ecosystem in your backyard is a fantastic way to teach your children a number of valuable lessons. Understanding how an ecosystem works and how every little thing plays a part will turn your children into mini eco-warriors. In addition, your whole family will benefit from understanding the responsibility of caring for the environment, becoming more passionate about the planet we live on. 

small homemade fish pond

Environmental Benefits

Of course, your pond will be an aquatic oasis for your fishy friends, but many other species will benefit from its addition to your garden. Your water feature will attract many species of birds, insects, reptiles and more, creating a wildlife sanctuary in your backyard.

A fish pond will also reduce your environmental impact – landscaping the surrounds of your pond with aquatic plants will require significantly less watering.

In addition, your pond can easily be set up as a natural water source, lessening your reliance on tap water. You can even create a gutter system connected to your pond so you can draw on the water at any time. 

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Location

The location of your pond is dependent on your existing landscaping and the vision for your backyard. Your desired garden layout is an important factor, but a pond needs specific conditions to be successful. Position your fishpond in a sheltered area that is out of the wind and falling leaves. The location should also have good drainage to avoid an overflow in heavy rain. Partial sun is ideal, so your fish can get some reprieve on hot summer days. Ideally, it will be positioned to receive the morning sun whilst being shaded from the harsh midday/afternoon rays. 

To truly reap the benefits of your fish pond, it’s vital to factor in a seating area – whether that’s next to the pond or somewhere in the vicinity with a good vantage point.   

landscaped fish pond with waterfall and surrounded by a seating area

Depth 

There is no need to make your fish pond too deep. A water depth of 30cm is ideal for a backyard pond, with plenty of room for small fish to happily go about their lives. Australia has strict safety standards surrounding backyard bodies of water, and anything that exceeds 30cm will need to be fenced off or covered in mesh. Besides, the beauty of a fish pond is in its breadth, and deep water will make fish and their fish activities harder to witness. This depth is also perfect for growing water lilies and is too deep for wading birds, one of the biggest threats to your fish. 

If you want to keep koi fish, you will need a deeper pond and the safety features that come with it. 

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Installation

There are a few paths to fish pond installation, depending on the size of the project. If you prefer a larger pond or a custom design, it’s better to leave it to the professionals. For smaller ponds, there are convenient pond kits available for purchase at hardware stores and outdoor specialists. 

A fish pond can be made of the following materials:

  • Concrete: Robust and long-lasting
  • Synthetic rubber: Durable, UV resistant and flexible
  • Plastic: A cost-effective option, thinner and lighter than rubber but less flexible and harder to work with. Plastic also has a short lifespan if exposed to the sun. 

Water plants

Water plants are both a beautiful and functional part of a fish pond, with the right plants promoting a balanced pond ecosystem. They offer food, shade and protection for fish and filter the water of pollutants and heavy metals. There are countless varieties of pond plants to choose from, but oxygenating plants will filter the water, keeping it clear and algae free. A combination of oxygenators, submersibles, floaters and marginal plants is the recipe to a healthy pond. 

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Landscaping

The landscaping around your pond is entirely dependent on your tastes and imagination. You can lash out on bridges, waterfalls or fountains, or keep things paired back with a more natural look; the choice is yours. Rocks, pebbles and pavers are an excellent frame for any style of fish pond, the more rustic, the better, so the pond blends seamlessly into its surroundings. If you are hoping to attract native birds and wildlife, opt for native plants and flowers. 

small landscaped fish pond with waterfall and rocks and water plants

Water pumps and filters

Although aquatic plants do a good job at keeping your fishpond clean, stagnant water needs a filtration system for optimal health. The correct sized pump will process the volume of your fishpond in two hours. A submersible pump is the easiest option as they are simply placed in the pond, whereas external pumps will need to be plumbed in. A solar-powered pump will make your pond completely self-sufficient and more eco-friendly. 

Fish


There are a surprising number of rules surrounding which kind of fish you can keep in your fish pond. Unless you live in WA, the ACT or NSW koi fish are off the table. The other states are only legally permitted to keep goldfish. Luckily, there are countless species, sizes, colours of goldfish to choose from. However, they aren’t all suited to pond living, so consult an expert before taking one home. 

goldfish swimming next to water lily

Caring for your fish

The first step to caring for is planting the right combination of aquatic plants. Whether goldfish or koi, your fish will require oxygenated water from water plants to survive. Fish also need to be fed quality fish food once a day, which should take no more than two to three minutes for them to eat. Finally, it’s important not to overcrowd your fish pond, with experts recommending that a fish needs 38 litres of water for every 2.5 cm of its length. 

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Pond maintenance

With the correct pond plants and filtration system, your pond should be virtually self-sufficient. However, you will still need to clean unwanted leaves and debris from your pond to maintain crystal clear water. Remember to maintain the trees and plants around the fish pond to prevent them from overshading and dropping their leaves. 

Words by Nell Matzen

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