Ponds play an important role in attracting wildlife to your garden, as well as being a visually appealing outdoor feature. A pond will attract beneficial insects, frogs, newts, toads and birds, making sure that your garden area has a positive effect on the local wildlife. Children can learn a great deal about birds and amphibious creatures, as well as fish, simply from what they can observe in a garden pond. Whereas adults can enjoy the benefits of having an attractive natural feature in their garden; few things are more relaxing than watching the comings and goings of the native fauna from the vantage point of a comfortable garden sofa set on the patio.
What’s more, garden ponds are very easy to build. When it comes to adding your own garden pond, these three options are the most popular: a sunken pond made with liner, a sunken pre-formed pond, or a raised pond. Here is a guide to building each type of garden pond and what you can add to them.
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Building sunken ponds and raised ponds
The first thing to consider, and this applies to sunken and raised ponds, is the positioning. You need to put your pond in a location where it will receive the maximum amount of sunlight. If possible, it will be better if the pond is in a central position, where it can be seen from anywhere in the garden. Keep it away from overhanging trees, so that fallen leaves won’t cover it in autumn.
When you have chosen your position, mark out the area of the pond and remove the turf. Then use a shovel to excavate the area of the pond to the depth of the first shelf. If you are using a pre-formed pond, you should make the area 2 to 3 inches wider than the pond shape. Next dig out the centre of the pond, adding extra shelves as required. Making sure than the bottom is flat and level, add a layer of sand to the base and then put in your butyl liner or pre-formed pond.
For a raised pond you can use a rigid pre-formed pond, housed in a dwarf wall made of bricks or stone wall building blocks, or even timber. To add an extra seating feature, make at least one of the walls much wider.
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Filling your pond
It’s okay to use tap water to fill the pond, but you shouldn’t put fish in straightaway. In fact, it may be some months before the conditions in the water are suitable for fish to live there. The first things you add after the water are the pond plants. It is a good idea to have a variety of plants in your pond to make it more natural and appealing to wildlife. Water irises and dwarf reeds make good water’s edge plants, and pondweed will help the water to oxygenate.
Don’t worry if the water goes green at first, it will clear itself. After a few months, when the plants have matured, and the water is nicely oxygenated, you can think about fish. The options available to you include koi carp, goldfish and rudd. Each type of fish has its own requirements, so make sure your pond is the right condition to accommodate your chosen breed.
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Choosing Pond Plants
If you have a pond in your garden, whether it is raised or sunken, you can be guaranteed of attracting all kinds of wildlife. Indeed ponds are an essential part of any garden that has aspirations to be nature-friendly. Plenty of insects like water boatmen and pond skaters will be attracted to the water, and they in turn will help to bring more birds. Having a pond in your garden also makes it very likely that you will get frogs and possibly even toads and newts. To help make these creatures feel at home, and to make your pond as beautiful and attractive to humans and animals alike it is important to add a varied selection of pond plants. There are different kinds of plants for ponds, each with their own functions, visual characteristics and growing requirements. Here is a guide to the main types of pond plants and some tips on which varieties to choose.
This kind of plant is important for the health of your pond and the clarity of its water, and they are essential if you are planning to add fish to the water. By absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen, they purify the water and make it hospitable for fish and amphibians to prosper, and also reduce the likelihood of the pond becoming swamped in algae.
If you are adding oxygenating plants to a new pond, it is best to stick to native varieties and use a mixture of types that favour different positions in the water. Hornwort is a completely submerged plant that can provide excellent cover for newts, frogs and toads to thrive. If floats freely in depths between 30 and 90 centimetres, and does particularly well in sunny and partially-shaded waters. Starwort is another submerged oxygenator, but its star-shaped leaves sit on the water’s surface, providing excellent cover for fish. A balanced combination of both Hornwort and Starwort is a good mix of oxygenators that will help to make your pond hospitable for wildlife.
These are the plants that grow at the edges of a pond in partially submerged soil and boggy areas. They help to give your pond a natural appearance and cover any signs of the pond being ‘man-made’. They can be planted in pots or on shelves of the pond itself where there is no more than 2 to 5 centimetres of water over the soil. Don’t put marginal plants directly under a fountain, as the constant dripping can damage and even kill them.
Yellow Flag Iris is a beautiful addition to any pondside that can grow to over a metre and should be planted in full sun. Flamingo is a type of water celery that has beautifully coloured leaves and does very well in partially shaded areas as well as in full sun.
With just one exception, these most iconic of pond plants are not actually native to the UK, but they do provide an important role in keeping fish shaded in small ponds that can be exposed to the sun. They also greatly enhance the beauty of any pond, particularly in summer when their flowers bloom and bright bold colours sit dazzlingly amidst the plates of green. New or young water lilies should be planted with 20 to 25 centimetres of water above the gravel. They like sun, so keep them out of the shade as much as possible.
Adding cold water fish
When your plants are on the way to being fully established, and the oxygenators have had time to do their work, you can start to think about adding fish to your pond. There are different kinds of cold water fish that do very well in garden ponds, and the variety you choose, as well as the quantity, should be determined by the size and depth of your pond. Obviously, the larger the pond fish, the more space is required for them to have enough room and oxygen to live comfortably. Here is a calculation that can help you decide on the type and quantity of fish that will suit your pond:
Your pond will need to have 60cm squared for every 1cm of fish. So, if you have a pond that is 180cm by 120cm (21,600cm squared), you can have 360cm of fish, equivalent to thirty six medium-sized fish. However, don’t forget that fish grow and breed. If you are building a new pond, it is not a good idea to start with the theoretical maximum. It is better to start of with just one third of the maximum, so in the case of a 180cm by 120cm pond, you should start by adding twelve medium-sized fish.
These ornamental fish come in a range of colours and tones, including single colour, two colour and multi-coloured, and can make a spectacular addition to any garden pond. It should be noted that, as a species of carp, Koi fish can grow very large, even reaching 90cm in length in some instances.
For this reason, they are only suitable for large ponds that have plenty of depth; Koi ponds should be at least 90cm deep.
Other pond fish species
By far the most common type of fish in UK garden ponds are goldfish. Small and colourful, they have an enduring appeal with pond enthusiasts. Originally a dull brown species, these fish were bred over centuries in Japan and China until they became the shiny and colourful fish that we see today. There are many different types of goldfish, of which the best known are the Common Goldfish,, the Comet, which has a long tail, and the multi-coloured Shinbunkins. These three types are the best able to survive a British winter, but there are also other more delicate varieties, including the Fantails, which have oval bodies, and the Veiltails, recognisable for their flowing fins.
Apart from pond goldfish, other popular varieties of fish for garden ponds are the Tench and the Golden Orfe. Tench’s are a popular choice as they are bottom feeders; they help to keep the pond clean by scavenging food wasted by other fish. Golden Orfes are surface feeders, noticeable for their attractive black and gold markings. As they are large fish, Golden Orfes are not suitable for smaller ponds.
When to feed pond fish
In ponds that have a good balance of plants and wildlife, there should be plenty of food for your fish to live on, and anything you feed them acts as a supplement that helps to ensure their diet is balanced. The most important thing to remember about feeding fish is not to give them too much. Also, during the cold seasons the fish’s metabolisms slow down and they need less pond food than in the warmer months.
Feed your fish no more than once a day in autumn and winter (when the water’s temperature is less than eight degrees celsius), and twice a day in summer (over eight degrees celsius). It’s a good idea to use a feeding ring, as it can confine the food to one area. As a general rule thumb, you should provide no more food than the amount it will take your fish to eat in ten minutes.