Ducks Gardening

How to build a backyard pond with a DIY biofilter

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Since this DIY backyard pond article is fairly long and detailed, we’ve included a table of contents. You can quickly click the table links below to jump to specific parts of the article that you’re interested in. Of course, we’ll try not to be upset with you if you’re not interested in the whole article!

Last updated: Oct 7, 2019 with new pond filter pad recommendations.

What’s Inside

  1. Duck Fanatics In Search of DIY Backyard Pond
  2. 3 Ways a Pond Changed Our Ecosystem
  3. DIY Pond: I. Expectations (Time, Cost, Weather, Work)
  4. DIY Pond II. Slideshow: From Start to Finish
  5. DIY Pond: III. How to Build Backyard Pond & Biofilter
  6. DIY Pond: IV. Ongoing Pond Maintenance
  7. Pond Materials List

Radical Duck Fanatics In Search of DIY Backyard Pond…

In case this is your first visit here, you should be forewarned that we’re duck fanatics… Radical duck evangelists who think more people (as long as they’re responsible people) should have backyard ducks.

Why? As we’ve written about elsewhere, for most people interested in raising egg-laying fowl, ducks often make a superior alternative to chickens.

One big distinction between chickens and ducks is that chickens take dust baths whereas ducks take water baths (waterfowl come by their name honestly).

ducks in backyard pond

“You’ve made me a decent pond, human slave.”

As such, if you’re going to raise happy, healthy ducks, you’ll need a water source for them. This can be a small kiddie pool… or it can be something more substantial.

We started off with a kiddie pool, but we got tired of having to dump it out every day after our seven waterfowl quickly turned their water fowl, er foul, which then made the “duck area” of our yard into a muddy pit.

One day, The Tyrant added a new project to my “honey do list”: build a 1,000+ gallon in-ground backyard pond for our ducks. Oh, and it needed to have a natural filtration system that used biology, rather than chemicals, to keep the water clean. Piece o’ cake. I’ll have it done before lunch, dear.

In all fairness, my wife has a biology and clinical research background, so she’d already done the bulk of the research for me. She really just needed me for the heavy lifting. (There’s a reason her nickname is The Tyrant.)

Three ways our backyard pond changed things at Tyrant Farms

 

The duck village got a makeover last night. #backyardducks #ducks #ducksofinstagram

A photo posted by Tyrant Farms (@tyrantfarms) on

1. More diverse ecosystem

As you’ve probably observed, natural water features (ponds, creeks, springs, etc) are a magnet for a wide diversity of lifeforms. Since building our backyard pond, we’ve been blown away by the increase in dragonflies, frogs, salamanders, and other beneficial critters that we didn’t used to see very often.

We’ve also noticed a decrease in mosquitos since ducks, frogs, salamanders, dragonfly larvae and other pond critters LOVE feasting on mosquito larvae. (Read about the other way we organically control mosquitos here.)

We have an edible organic landscape with several hundred species of food-producing plants and edible fungi, so having even more beneficial critters around to help us manage things and keep pest insect populations in check is most welcome. We now see why so many permaculturalists rave about the benefits of having a backyard pond and other water features.

backyard pond at night

Our girls swimming on a snowy night.

2. Happier humans

Humans have a deeply ingrained psychological connection to the sound of running water. On a primal level, burbling water sounds equate to an available water source, something our ancestors would have found quite reassuring before they could simply turn on a tap to get water.

Any time the weather permits, The Tyrant and I finish our day relaxing next to our pond/waterfall with a beverage as our ducks dabble and bathe in their pond.

A waterfall also aerates the water, providing oxygen and/or dissolved oxygen for beneficial lifeforms, including our pond’s fish, crawfish, salamanders, and perhaps most importantly: aerobic bacteria. If you’ve ever noticed a foul, sewage-like smell from a pond, a sewer, a swamp, etc. – that’s actually caused by various species of anaerobic bacteria (bacteria that don’t need oxygen to survive).

Anaerobic bacteria are often pathogenic, causing disease and illness in larger critters that ingest them. In an oxygenated environment, anaerobic bacteria can not survive or proliferate. (Side note: this is also the same reason you turn compost – turning compost introduces oxygen and encourages aerobic bacteria while discouraging anaerobic bacteria).

Yay to waterfalls and pond bubblers!

Ducklings enjoying a swim under Tyrant Falls. Ducklings swimming in waterfall in backyard pond.

Ducklings enjoying a swim under Tyrant Falls.

3. Happier, healthier ducks

Our ducks’ rigorous daily schedule usually includes about 3+ hours swimming, playing, dabbling, and cleaning themselves in their backyard pond. Because of their pond, our ducks are much cleaner, healthier, and happier than they’d otherwise be.

Since we have ducks, we were much more adamant about figuring out a natural, self-cleaning DIY pond filter system that relied on biology rather than chemicals to clean itself (e.g. a biofilter).



Planning & building your backyard pond & biofilter

I. Expectations

Building a self-cleaning backyard pond isn’t a small project, but we’d absolutely do it again because of all the benefits it’s added to our life — and our ducks’ lives. Here’s what you should expect, assuming you decide to build a 1,000+ gallon backyard pond similar to ours:

Time 

About 75 hours of labor (maybe you can be more efficient than us).

Money 

Plan to invest roughly $1,500-$2,000 if you don’t have ducks and $2,000-$2,250 if you do have ducks (we recommend additional cleaning and pumping infrastructure if you have ducks, as we’ll go over shortly).

Outdoor Weather 

Ideally, the outdoor temps will need to be above 50°F (10°C) and sunny during the time that you’re applying sealer around your waterfall or doing your plumbing joints. You can always pause the project until the right weather conditions come along.

Strength 

If digging, lifting large rocks, and hauling heavy wheelbarrows sounds like a lot of work, get some help or consider hiring extra labor.

The pond, version 1.o, in early spring.

II. Backyard Pond Pictures: From Start to Finish

If you’re like us, seeing pictures of something in addition to instructions is REALLY helpful.

These DIY backyard pond pictures are intended to correspond with the next DIY sections of this article, and some of these images are redundant with the images included in Part 3. If you read something that you’re having trouble visualizing, hop back up here to the slideshow and you’ll probably find an answer!

Click the images if you’d like them enlarged! 

III. Step By Step: How to Build a Backyard Pond With a DIY Biofilter

Since we have ducks, we needed to plan for our pumps, plumbing, and pond filter system to handle a lot of extra poo and feathers (aka “solids”). If you don’t plan to have waterfowl in your backyard pond and you don’t think lots of leaves and other plant debris will fall into the pond throughout the year, you’ll probably do perfectly fine with a single pump and filter pond.

Whether you want to build a backyard duck pond, a meditation pond, a koi pond, a garden pond, or just a beautiful DIY pond to make your backyard extra flashy, let’s get started!

 *Note: There’s a full materials list you can use at the bottom of this article, so we won’t exhaustively list out each item in the step-by-step pond building section. 

1. Identify the location of your backyard pond.

Carefully consider the location of your backyard pond. Are there likely to be large tree roots where you’ll be digging? Underground pipes or wires? Is the area flat or sloped? How will that slope (or lack thereof) alter your pond/waterfall designs?

If you want to use our backyard pond as a model, see the dimensions in the above slideshow and our general site plan below.

backyard pond plans

Our initial backyard pond site plan revised to show the second bog filter, added in the of spring 2016. (click the image to view a larger version)

2. Dig your tiers & level the pond foundation.

backyard pond plans

The different levels of our pond. (click the image to view a larger version)

Use the dimensions in the above images to measure out your pond. You can use a string, chalk, or flour to mark the outline of the pond before you start digging.

First tier – Once you’ve marked the outline of your pond, dig the whole thing out 7″ down (or more if you want deeper pond shallows).

If you are planning to put plants in your backyard pond, it’s a good idea to slope your shallows back just a bit towards the wall (vs. a level ledge) so that your plants & your pebbles don’t slowly slide into the center of the pond. *see sketch above*

"Next, mark where you'd like your subsequent tiers to sit and begin digging.<strong srcset=Second tier – Mark the outline of the second tier, then dig it down 12″>

Third tier/pump hole – Mark the outline of the third tier, then dig it down another 12″.

All 3 tiers are roughed in! (#11 in the slideshow above)

When planning the depth of your backyard pond, keep in mind that in the months and years ahead, you will likely need to occasionally get into the pond to check on the pump and/or temporarily remove the pump in the event of a clog. That’s why our pond is thigh deep, not waist deep. 

3. Sand, Fabric Underlayment, and Pond Liner

Sand foundation 

Put about 1″ of sand on the flat surfaces of your pond foundation (we got 1/2 scoop from our Landscapers Supply). This helps ensure that no sharp rocks or pointy objects punch a hole in your pond liner – you do NOT want to have to trace down a hole in your liner after you’ve filled your pond.

Next comes the sand layer. About 1″ of sand is put down to reduce abrasion on your pond liner. (#17 in slideshow above)

Fabric Underlayment 

Now you’re ready for your protective underlayment, which prevents abrasion & punctures, further extending the life of your liner.

There are different things you can use here. We had some old landscape fabric sitting around, so we used that. The landscape fabric came in a long roll, making it difficult to universally cover the tiered pool foundation, as you can see in the slideshow. That’s why we’d recommend using this this 15′ x 20′ geotextile underlayment instead.

Cover all the surfaces with underlayment. Again, the rocks are temporarily in place to hold the underlayment in place – they didn’t stay there. (#19 in slideshow above)

Pond Liner

Now comes the liner. We did a lot of research here, and we recommend using this Firestone 45 mil. EPDM, 15′ x 20′. It’s a UV-resistant, highly flexible yet stable waterproofing membrane with a proven performance history in exposed applications – equally tolerating extreme cold and heat while maintaining its flexibility/not tearing.

The liner is also safe for exposure to wildlife and aquatic plants, which is important to us given that we’re owned by ducks. The liner fit snuggly into the contours of our pond and the black color allows any exposed surfaces to blend in with our rocks.

Some people we read about opted for a PVC liner – don’t do it! You’ll likely end up with cracked liner and water leaks within a couple years, whereas the 45 mil. Firestone will last for 20+ years (it has a 20 year manufacturer warranty).

Carefully roll out the liner without displacing the underlayment. We took off our shoes and pushed the liner into place with our feet. (#20 in slideshow above)

4. Pebbles & Rocks

Now it’s time to start making your backyard pond beautiful!

Build up, tier by tier, from the bottom of your pond to the top. Let us repeat that: do not start from the top and work down or you could end up with stretched liner or rock problems.

Want to calculate how many large rocks and pebbles/gravel you’ll need? Here’s a calculator.

Place large landscaping rocks along the sides/walls of the third tier (bottom) of your pond. Fill in the flat surfaces with 2″ of river pebbles and an occasional large flat rock to add stability and keep the pebbles from shifting too much. Repeat, tier by tier.

*We put a large flat rock in the center of the bottom tier/hole on our pond to provide a base for our pump and keep the pump off the very bottom of the pond (this helps keep the pump from getting clogged).

Begin slowly filling the pond with water as you finish lowest tiers to help expedite settling. We ended up scooping it back out later to plumb the pond.

22/43 – The first layer of rocks. Build up the walls/sides with large rocks and put your pebbles on the flat surfaces. (#22 in slideshow above)

On the outside lip of our backyard pond, we used concrete edgers/bricks covered with our native red clay to: a) provide a smooth, solid lip that was level all the way around, and b) raise the level of the liner up ABOVE ground level (that way, full pond = ground level or slightly below).

The underlayment went over this lip, then the liner went on top. Large landscape rocks were then placed on top to hold the liner down and hide it.

This image shows the edgers in place BEFORE we put the mud, sand, underlayment and liner over top. The string helped us level this up. (#14 in slideshow above)

The liner extended out about 6-8″ past the lip to allow for any settling or future pond expansions/alterations. (You can also easily seam together the liner with special pond liner adhesive.)

All around the outside of our pool we put down wood chip mulch.

This image shows how far past our top rocks the liner extended. (#33 in slideshow above)

Double check to make sure every tier of rocks is solid and stable – no shifting, slipping, or sliding rocks. Everything nice and snug.

backyard pond with ducks

We have Welsh Harlequin ducks, a heritage breed that makes great pets and egg layers. They’re bred from Mallards, which are “dabblers.” Dabbling ducks tip underwater to forage, while keeping their butts and feet on the surface. Our ducks will do short dives for fun, but they’re not technically “diving” ducks, which can swim and hunt underwater for over a minute at a time.

5. Skippy BioFilter, Plumbing, Pumps

Once your rocks and pebbles are all in place, it’s time to let your jeans slip down partially off your behind to show off your inner plumber. (Actually, don’t do that.)

Step 1: Set Filter Pond 

First, get your filter pond placed. To prevent the filter pond from sinking/settling, you’ll want to really tamp down the foundation soil underneath it, then add about 2″ of gravel/sand mix, then about 1″ of sand over top of the gravel to prevent the gravel from roughing up and potentially puncturing the underside of the filter pond (alternately you could use concrete pavers or pour a concrete pad below your freeze line).

We recommend using at least a 50+ gallon filter pond. This is the one we wished we’d used on our first filter pond (we used it later on a second filter/bog pond), but we used the old pool we already had instead. A 50 gallon filter pond should be more than adequate to clean a ~1,000 gallon pond IF you don’t have ducks – we added a second 50 gallon filter pond a year later since we have seven ducks.

The exact ratio of filter pond to main pond is hard to determine. There are probably too many potential factors to come up with a precise ratio that works for every scenario. For instance, if you have ducks, you’re going to want to have a much higher filter-to-pond ratio than someone who just has a couple of fish in their pond.

One fact remains: you can’t have too much filter pond, but you can certainly have too little – so err on the side of too much biofilter/filter pond, especially if you have waterfowl.  

Step 2. Plumb the Pond 

Position your pump on the rock in the center of your pump hole. We highly recommend the Laguna 2900 Max-Flow pump – especially if you have ducks. You want a pump that can handle solids and one that has enough power to turn your pond water over 2-4 times per hour (calculations here).

The Laguna is also extremely energy efficient. Once your pump is positioned, measure and sketch out the lengths of PVC pipe and joints you’re going to need to run pipe from your pump into the base of your filter pond. (Again, the full list of plumbing supplies we used is at the bottom of this article – but the exact joints and lengths of pipe needed may vary depending on where you locate your filter pond.)

Do NOT seal any plumbing joints until you’re confident everything is sized and fitted correctly. Once you’ve linked it all together and everything fits, seal your plumbing joints one by one, locking everything into place.

Step 3. Add Pond Biofilter Pads  

Place protective framing over the inflow in the bottom of your filter pond to make sure the pipes don’t get clogged with filter media when you unplug your pump (due to gravity, the pump sucks back out when turned off since the filter pond is higher – unless you plumb in a cut off valve at the top).

Updated Oct 2019 with new pond filter media recommendations!

In the original version of this article, we recommended hogs hair filters which work great. However, they break down over time, lose their filtering ability, and eventually require replacement.

In April 2019, we installed a different filter media that we read really good things about: a combo of Matala Filter Media Pads – (Green) and Matala Filter Media Pads – (Grey). The different colors correspond with different filter density – grey = more dense, green = less dense. 

Grey and green Matala filter pad pieces.

Grey and green Matala filter pad pieces. These were the left over scrap pieces after we cut out the primary filter piece in the image below.

We cut both the green and grey filter pads exactly to the size of our filter pond and stacked them on top of each other.

Then we put the remaining scrap pieces on top of the fitted ones.

We made a mold of our pond bog filter with a piece of cardboard, then used the cardboard mold to cut out a piece of filter material. Skippy biofilter, pond filter pad

We made a mold of our pond bog filter with a piece of cardboard, then used the cardboard mold to cut out a piece of filter material.

The green filter went in first to filter out the larger material. The grey filter went on top to filter out finer material. 

Now, six months later, we’re happy to report that the Matala filter pads have made a huge difference in water quality in our pond. AND they’re still in like-new condition. (Covered with good pond bacteria and muck but not breaking down like hogs hair does.)

Despite 6 ducks swimming and pooping in our pond all day long, we haven’t had to do a thing to our pond since putting the new filter pads in (other than adding beneficial pond bacteria when we first put the new pads in). 

When you’re done putting your filter pads in to your bog filter, fill up the bog with water, *then squirt in this beneficial pond bacteria (follow quantity instructions on label based on size of your pond). This is the primary bacteria that’s going to clean the water in your backyard pond, and its home is going to largely be in your filter pads.

(*Important note: Only put the pond bacteria into your new pond if you’re going to be able to turn it on and have water flowing within a half day or so. Pond bacteria needs water and nutrients to survive.)

This setup is called a skippy biofilter – you can geek out on the details here if you’d like.

6. Build Your Waterfall

It might seem counterintuitive, but we built our waterfall last. We wanted to have all of our plumbing and the filter pond in place BEFORE we put in the rocks that hide and support it.

There’s no single formula for building a waterfall, and yours will be unique because your rocks are unique. Some people concrete their foundations in, which is perfectly fine – but that doesn’t allow you to easily change things/iterate later, which is why we went a different route.

We simply built up a foundation with gravel, sand, and stone, then put pond liner under our final top-level rocks going down the waterfall in order to prevent water from escaping out of the system via the waterfall.

Since we’d never built a waterfall before, we looked at hundreds of photos of waterfalls online for inspiration. We’d recommend you do the same.

You’ll also need to cut an opening in the siding of your filter pond, and use a scrap of pond liner and “fish-safe” silicone sealant to attach the liner to the inside of your filter pond. The liner will need to extend out of the filter pond and onto your first waterfall rock to prevent water from leaking out behind your waterfall.

7. Testing, Testing, 1, 2, 3

Show time!

Fill up your backyard pond with water. Ideally you can use a dechlorinator to filter the chlorine out of the water you fill your pond with since chlorine can kill beneficial bacteria.

It’s a good idea to take a close look at your rock pond walls as the water fills around them to make sure they’re not settling or moving too much, thus requiring you to reposition them.

Once your pond is full, plug your pump cord into a yard outlet (we’ve been using this Yard Master 6-Outlet power stake since day one and it still works). It’s a magical thing to watch your backyard pond come to life for the first time!

If your water is muddy and turbid for the first 7-14 days after you fill it, don’t despair! That’s normal. It will take a bit of time for your filters to kick into full gear and your pond to clear up.

Also, as your pond is filling AND for the next 24-48 hours after it’s full, keep a close eye out for any signs of leaks. Is the ground wet where it shouldn’t be? Is the pond level dropping? If so, there’s a good chance you have a leak, and 9/10 times that leak is happening somewhere in your waterfall and can be easily fixed by rearranging rocks or pond liner.

Depending on the time of year when you build your backyard pond, you’ll probably want to add a second type of pond-cleaning bacteria to your water once the pond is full – either a warm water of cold water bacteria (see materials list below for links).

Congratulations, you’re now the proud new owner of a gorgeous backyard pond that you built yourself!

backyard pond

Happy ducks splashing and frolicking.

IV. Ongoing Maintenance & Alterations To Your Backyard Pond

Ongoing maintenance on your backyard pond will be minimal if you don’t have ducks. Ha! The fewer ducks you have, the less maintenance your pond will require.

Given that we have ducks, we decided that our single biofilter pond needed a friend, so we added a second 50 gallon filter bog with a waterfall that cascades into the back of the first filter pond. The general rule is you want your bog/filter portion of your system to be at least 20% of your pond; ex: 100 sq ft pond surface would need 10-20 sq ft bog/filter system. 

We also ended up adding a second waterfall off of our original filter pond to add additional waterflow/aeration to the near side of our pond. You can see that project pictured below:

backyard pond revisions / duck pond pond filter construction

Due to seven ducks using our backyard pond for several hours per day plus a large oak tree dropping debris into the pond regularly, we decided to add a second pump and filter, plus an additional/secondary waterfall to increase aeration. Svetlana the Duck makes a great foreman.

Additionally, to get even more oxygen into our pond to keep Sid Fishest and his fish family (our four pond fish) happy, we got two of these small aerators. More oxygen into your pond = healthier pond water. We do clean our filter media at least 1-2 times per year as-needed, but without ducks you should rarely (some people say never) have to clean your filter media. That’s one of the neat things about the Skippy biofilter system.

Using the test strips in our materials list below, we test our pond water periodically throughout the year. The water has yet to measure anything less than ideal.

Pond Maintenance Schedule

Here’s what a normal ongoing pond maintenance schedule might look like:

SPRING pond maintenance 

  • Check pond water quality with this Pond Water Quality Test Kit (here are the ones we use). If high nitrate levels detected, add seasonally-appropriate beneficial bacteria, then test water again a week later.
  • IF waterfall has slowed due to debris clogging it, unplug the pump. The water reversal will usually dislodge whatever is in the pump impeller; if not, you’ll need to hop in, disconnect the pump, bring it to the side of the pond, pop off the top and remove the clog manually.

SUMMER pond maintenance 

  • Same as spring.

FALL pond maintenance

  • Same as spring, plus remove fall leaves by hand or with a net so they don’t clog your pump.

WINTER pond maintenance

  • Same as spring, but we recommend getting a pond de-icer if you live in a cold area. We live in Greenville, SC (Ag Zone 7B), which is not exactly known for frigid temps. However, our pond will still freeze over on really cold winter nights. After breaking apart and removing the ice with our numb hands enough times, we finally decided to get this floating de-icer. It’s kept our pond completely ice-free down into single digit temps, which makes us and our ducks very happy.

Complete Materials List For Backyard Pond

Stones, Pebbles, Gravel, Sand

Easily found at local landscape supply companies.

  • 2-4,000 lbs rock (1-2 pallets)
  • 1/2 scoop sand
  • 1/2 scoop river pebbles
  • 1/2 scoop gravel

The Skippy Biofilter

Materials List:

  • 50 gallon tub
  • 1 – length of 1 1/2 inch PVC pipe.
  • 1 – PVC tee.
  • 3 – PVC elbows.
  • 1 – 1 1/2 inch to 1 1/4 inch threaded nipple reducer.
  • 1 – plastic egg crate style overhead 2×4 light grate (or something similar). You can find these in the ceiling tile section of Home Depot or Lowes or other hardware store. It’s a ceiling light grate panel. *You don’t have to get this IF you use a really stiff filter media like Matala filter pads.
  • 4 – 1/4 inch x 1 1/2 inch bolt, nut and washer combinations.
  • Filter media/pads: Matala Filter Media Pads – (Green) and Matala Filter Media Pads – (Grey)
  • Bacteria inoculant for filter media

Pumps & Aerators:

Pond Making Materials: 

Miscellaneous:

Questions?

Got questions about building your own backyard pond? Ask away in the comments section below!

Or read our two follow-up articles: 

DIY/How To: Build a backyard pond with a self-cleaning biofilter

The Ultimate Guide: How To Build a Backyard Pond with DIY Biofilter

stay in touch

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51 Comments

  • Reply
    Lea M Sanders-Wilcox
    October 17, 2020 at 12:24 pm

    Do you run your pump at all times?

    • Reply
      Aaron von Frank
      October 18, 2020 at 10:41 am

      Yes, we run our pond pump at all times. Over time (especially when leaves are falling or our ducks are molting) the pump cover and our pump impeller will get clogged, causing the flow rate to decrease. When that happens, we’ll turn off and clean the pump, which only takes a few minutes. Otherwise it’s always running. Water flow + aeration is really important for maintaining good water quality. Here’s a quick tutorial showing you how to clean a Laguna pond pump (the one we use and recommend), with video: https://www.tyrantfarms.com/video-how-to-clean-a-laguna-max-flo-pump-in-your-backyard-pond/.

  • Reply
    Hung Nguyen
    August 4, 2020 at 2:35 pm

    Hi Aaron & Susan,

    Thank you so much for documenting and publishing your experience building your pond. We followed pretty much every step of your guide, and we now have a beautiful (and a bit smaller) pond for our future ducks! (If someone could tell me how to add pictures, I’d be happy to share!)

    One question for you: How are you running the electrical cords from the pumps to the power stake? Did you run them through some conduit and bury them? & I assume you leave the pumps running 24/7. Have you had any issues with moisture getting into the connections between the pump cords and stake?

    Thanks again!
    Hung

    • Reply
      Aaron von Frank
      August 4, 2020 at 2:58 pm

      Hi Hung! Glad to hear you’ve got a beautiful duck pond up and running. We run a cord from an outside GFCI outlet to the power stake. Yes, we run our pumps 24/7. No, we haven’t had any issues with moisture in the outlets since the power stake we use is made for outdoors. As far as photos, if you have them somewhere online in a public album, you can share the link here – we’d love to see them! Unfortunately, this commenting system doesn’t allow file/photo uploads.

  • Reply
    Aaron Drake
    August 1, 2020 at 3:31 pm

    Hi Aaron. Where did you find the research on pond size? I’d like to do something similar but about half the length. Thanks.

    Aaron D.

    • Reply
      Aaron von Frank
      August 3, 2020 at 12:35 pm

      Oh, man… We did our digging on how to make a DIY pond about 10 years ago, and I have no idea what resources we utilized at this point. You can use the same basic layout we have here — just smaller — and downsize your pump a notch. But the basic mechanics are the same regardless of size.

  • Reply
    bmaxwell
    July 21, 2020 at 2:05 pm

    Hey Aaron. I’m going to be building a pond a lot like yours for our three ducks in the next few weeks. I couldn’t find the 50 gal version of the filter pond tub you recommended, just 40 gal, so I bought the 110 gal version instead of planning a second filter pond in the future. Would the one Laguna 2900 be enough to feed one big 110 gal filter? Thanks!

    • Reply
      Aaron von Frank
      July 24, 2020 at 5:47 pm

      Hi, and so sorry for the slow response. Crazy week. Yes, a Laguna 2900 will be more than adequate to cover you on a 110 gallon filter pond. Best of luck on your duck pond build and reach out if you have questions along the way! 🙂

  • Reply
    fernofthevalley
    June 9, 2020 at 1:27 pm

    So our Skippy filter has kept our water crystal clear, we even added plants in the filter (out of ducks reach). Our only issue has been algae growing on our rocks. The pond is unfortunatly in direct sunlight and won’t have shade until our trees grow up. Do you guys deal with rock algae at all or just accepted it as a part of pond life? I feel like I need to educate myself more on algae and a ponds ecosystem. Our only solution for now is adding shade via a cow panel trellis overstretching the pond with plants but it’s a WIP.

    • Reply
      Aaron von Frank
      June 11, 2020 at 10:53 pm

      Hi! Sorry for our slow response. Been a hectic couple days. Yes, we have algae on our rocks, too. It’s part of a pond ecosystem and creates habitat (and food) for other pond critters. For instance, we now have a population of small water mollusks – we didn’t put them there, they just appeared. It seems that they eat the algae on the rocks and our ducks then eat them. So, don’t be too concerned unless you have an over-proliferation of something, which would indicate an ecosystem or nutrient load that’s out of balance. For instance, if your water turns green due to an algae bloom (different species than what lives on your rocks), that can mean high nitrogen levels.

      Hope this helps put you at ease!

  • Reply
    Karen Thurgate
    June 2, 2020 at 4:17 pm

    Hello Aaron and Susan!

    I had a couple questions for you as we start our duck pond adventure. Did you use just one layer of each of the filter materials in your skippy biofilter? Also, if I’m reading it correctly, you cut a section of the lip of the filter tub to direct the water onto the waterfall. If that is correct, how far below the rest of the lip did you cut and how wide did you go? Lastly, the best place for our filter is on the pond wall just behind where our pump will be sitting. Will that be an issue with circulating the pond water? I’m just worried that one area of the pond would have good turnover but the far side (about ten feet away) might not be moved as much. We noticed that your first filter was near the pond pump but the second pump was placed into the far end of the pond. Was that to get the water around the entire pond to circulate better?

    Thank you and hope all is great with you and the family!

    Karen and Doug

    • Reply
      Aaron von Frank
      June 3, 2020 at 8:53 am

      Hi Karen! Answers to your questions:

      1. We ordered one sheet each of the grey and green Matala pond filters. Then we cut a form out of each one to match the size/specs of our primary filter pond. The green filter form went in first to filter out the larger material/solids. The grey filter form went on top to filter out finer material/solids. Then we put the scrap cut pieces on top of the larger fitted forms.

      2. Yes, for the top of our waterfalls, we cut a chunk out of the lip of both of our filter ponds (about 2″ deep x 5″ wide) then glued pond liner into the filter pond and over the lip using a pond adhesive. Note that the 2″ x 5″ opening isn’t a hard and fast rule, that was just an opening that fit our particular waterfall.

      3. Yes, we put in our second pump + filter + waterfall to get more circulation and aeration in our pond AND to get additional filtration of solids. If that’s not ideal for you, another possibility for you to consider is doing a split waterfall to get some extra water down to the far end of your pond. But as a general rule, the more the water moves, aerates, and filters the better it will be for water quality. That’s why we also added additional aerators to our pond.

      • Reply
        Karen Thurgate
        June 3, 2020 at 12:31 pm

        Hi Again Aaron and Susan!

        Thank you so much for the quick, very detailed and extremely helpful response! My husband and I are almost done with the digging and ordered most of the supplies from your website suggestion list and now are ready to roll ehehe 🙂 Again, thank you so much for all you do on your blog and website which are so truly inspirational and fun 🙂 Not only now we are going to have a pond, but baby ducklings too boot !! Next project will be the cob oven lol …well first is first…finish the pond…eheh….we will send pictures to show you what you have started eheh :))))) again ….redundantly I know, THANK YOU TO YOU BOTH…
        HUGS

        Karen and Doug and our son Jetrick

        • Aaron von Frank
          June 3, 2020 at 1:59 pm

          Really appreciate the kind words, thanks Karen! Love to see your photos when you’re done. 🙂

  • Reply
    Zachariah McCoskey
    June 1, 2020 at 6:02 pm

    Hi Aaron, are you guys just using 1 grey and 1 green full sheet filter media pad or are you using more? I’m assuming you have all green first then the grey stacked on top. Thanks!

    • Reply
      Aaron von Frank
      June 3, 2020 at 8:43 am

      Yes, we ordered one sheet each of the grey and green Matala pond filters. Then we cut a form out of each one to match the size/specs of our filter pond. The green filter form went in first to filter out the larger material. The grey filter form went on top to filter out finer material. Then we put the scrap cut pieces on top of those.

  • Reply
    Karen Thurgate
    May 27, 2020 at 3:42 pm

    Hello Aaron!
    I love what you and you wife have done with your duck pond and now in the process of building one too along side our school house chicken coop. Waiting on soil to level our 12 by 10 pond and hopefully the rest will be done by June 15th. I love the pictures you shared which really helped in defining the size and level of our pond. I am still in the process of figuring out how to work the skippy bio filter but will use the ideas you guys used for yours. Thank you for posting this pond and in a few weeks we will be adding 4 baby Welsh Harlequin duckling to our brood.

    • Reply
      Aaron von Frank
      May 28, 2020 at 10:26 am

      Thanks, Karen! Glad our DIY pond article & instructions have been helpful. Since we originally built and did step-by-step photos of the pond construction, there were two changes (both noted in the article): 1) We added a second filter pond & small pump. That filter pond has a waterfall that goes into the first filter pond. 2) We switched to Matala pond filters (linked in article) which are SO much better than what we started with. The biofilter system isn’t terribly complicated, so don’t stress. It’s basically just filter material inoculated with beneficial pond bacteria. Water from the primary pond pumps into the bottom of the filter ponds, is strained of solids by the filters (which are then largely digested by bacteria), then the cleaned water goes back down the waterfall and is aerated in the process.

      Reach out if you have any questions as you get going! Best of luck to you and your Welsh Harlequin flock. You’re in for quite an experience. 🙂

  • Reply
    Angela Eckert
    May 26, 2020 at 9:56 pm

    Hi Aaron. After reading this article a couple months ago, I was really inspired to build a pond for our ducks! My boyfriend and I got three ducklings from Tractor Supply. A few weeks later, we got two more ducklings from another feed store. There already was two ducks living in the duck yard, so now we have seven duckies. Before the pond, we had 3 baby pools that weren’t doing the trick. The duck yard is on a hill, so we couldn’t follow your design exactly, but we tried to keep it close(for the most part). The pond is about 6ftx11ft and 1.5ft at the deepest. I think we calculated somewhere between 900-1200 gallons. We originally started with two 20gallon garbage cans as the filters. Before the ducks felt comfortable enough to get in, the garbage cans had our water crystal clear and flowing good. Once they realized the pond was for them and started enjoying it, the water turned reddish. It started out light red and as the days went on, it turned deeper red and eventually had bubbles floating in the top. The ducks wouldn’t even get in it then! We decided we needed more filter, so we used two 55 gallon drums and filled them with lava rocks and a hodgepodge of filter matting material. We also added another 100 gallon pond above the original that connects with a little stream. We fenced off the top pond and put some plants in it. After a couple of days, the water is turning red again. We went out and bought some algae treatment that is safe for pond plants and animals. The day after that treatment, the water was a lighter red, but still red. We also treated it with some barley extract and have two barley balls floating around. Today, the water wasn’t bubbly and wasn’t a deep red, but it definitely had a red tint to it. I was wondering if your pond experiences any of the red water that we seem to be?

  • Reply
    liam marney
    April 23, 2020 at 1:06 pm

    Hi, I just have a couple of questions
    did you have to tip the filter in a certain direction so the water spilled that way
    also, could you plant any plants on the bottom of the pond

    other than those things I believe I understood, thanks for the post

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