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On Goldfish Pond--in Your Backyard
by Frank M. Greco, Senior Aquarist, Coney Island Aquarium

Before you go out and buy anything, you must first decide where you want to place your pond. Generally, you want to place it far from trees, as many pond plants, especially lilies, require a good amount of sunlight. Also, falling leaves can quickly accumulate in a pond, causing a cleaning nightmare. Avoid low areas, if possible, as you do not want a large volume of rainwater runoff to enter the pond. This runoff may contain pesticides, fertilizers and other materials harmful to fish. But DO place your pond where you can take full advantage of it, however. The most beautiful pond in the world will be for naught if it cannot be enjoyed. Try to tie it in to a patio or a sitting area in your garden.

Choosing a Pond

Once you have decided where to place your pond, it's time to choose the type of pond you want. Here, you have two major types to choose from: ABS plastic pre-formed ponds and pond lines. The former are usually small ponds (up to 250 gallons), and come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes such as kidney, hourglass, and rock garden. Pre-formed spillways and waterfalls are also available. Several liners, available in sizes from 10' x 15' to 20' x 25' or larger, will allow you to build almost any size pond you want either by using them singly or by joining two or more together with a special adhesive.

Most pond liners are made of rubber, and are very heavy, especially in the larger sizes. However, Tetra Products has a very strong yet lightweight Xavan liner that is easier to deal with. The drawback is that the largest size currently available is 19' x 26', so those wishing to build a larger pond will need to join two or more together.

Python Products

You can be creative with pond liners, as they give you the advantage of designing the shape of your pond, something you do not have with preformed types. But be aware, however, that a 19' x 26' liner will not make a pond of the same size. To choose the proper size liner, you will need to know the length (L) and width (W) at their widest points as well as the maximum depth (MD). We then use the formula L+(MD*2) by W+(MD*2). For example, let's say we want a 10 foot long by 5 foot wide by 2 foot deep pond. We would need a liner 14 ' x 9' so that we can make an edge above the water level. Your pond professional can help in determining what size liner you need.

Digging a Pond

Once you have decided upon the location and type of pond, it will be time to dig. The proper setting of your pond into the ground, while not complicated, is beyond the scope of this article. If you go to, you will find a whole set of easy to follow instructions for the proper placement of your pond. You will want to make your pond at least 18" deep at its deepest point (24" is better). This depth will allow your fish to overwinter without fear of freezing. You might want to include planting shelves in your design as well to allow for easy placement of emergent plants and lilies.


Once your pond, either indoors or outdoors, is in place, it's time to think about filtration. Here again, your pond professional will be able to help you decide upon the best filtration for your particular pond. Whichever filter you choose, make sure that it is serviced on a regular basis so the water remains clear. Using a filter will also help ensure your pond does not become a breeding ground for mosquitoes. These pests lay their eggs in still water, so anything that agitates the water will prevent this. You can also add larvicides, such as Mosquito Dunks, to the pond to kill any mosquito larvae that might show up. Of course, adding fish to the pond will also aid in eliminating the mosquito problem as the fish will usually eat the larvae.

Now that I've finished writing this article, I've decided to install a pond of my own. At this very moment, sitting in my backyard is a 256 gallon pre-formed rock garden pond just waiting for the hole to be dug. Hopefully, once it's set up, it will act as an attractant to all sorts of wildlife. I know the frogs will appreciate it, as will the dragonflies (whose larvae live underwater). It will also give me a chance to expand my love for gardening to bog plants. And it will be a great place for me to put some of my freshwater shrimp! What's that? You've never heard of freshwater shrimp? Well, stay tuned!

If you have further questions, please feel free to contact me at or stop by my Sunday night live chat at mic:// You can also visit

Happy ponding!

Not lucky enough to have a backyard to build a pond in? Click here to learn how you can have a pond in your apartment!

Frank M. Greco is a senior aquarist at The Coney Island Aquarium, specializing in fish rehabilitation. His personal website is

Hey fishheads! Join Frank on Sunday nights at 9pm EST on "Fish Chat" for all your fish questions! Log on to mic://
Or, write him at and he may answer your question in a future Think Tank column!

Click here for other articles about fish.


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