In the Beginning:

In my last two blog entries I discussed building large-scale aquariums with plywood and the monster sized aquarium my friend made from cinder blocks. I now had a new home, still with no basement, so I was a bit stymied in my quest for a really large aquarium. Then it hit me, you did not have to fill a pond with Goldfish and Koi, you could place tropical freshwater fish in the “pond”! So I started my checklist to make my aquarium pond; I had a large, relatively flat area right off the porch with no tree limbs over the area but enough trees in the yard to shade the pond at least half the day, there were no buried gas or water pipes, my backyard was already fenced in to keep out stray critters and neighborhood kids, one corner of my yard could use more dirt to level it with the rest of the yard, and it was early April and the rains had somewhat softened our clay based dirt and temperatures were still cool enough to make digging easier. I already had a raised garden running from my porch to the end of the house , about 4 feet wide by 24 feet (3 railroad ties) long so I decided to place the pond along the front of the garden. I planned on lots of bog pond plants so would need a large area only 1-2 feet deep, and to keep the fish happy, a section 3-4 feet deep. Because of the location, I wanted to make the pond a formal design and laid out a garden hose to outline my 20 x 10′ pond. A friend of mine needed some sod and volunteered to help me scrape off the sod from the area, and once that was done, so was I!! Time to rethink this venture. I had planned on wrapping the garden around the far end of the pond since I had to place some landscape timbers to raise and level that end of the pond to avoid water runoff  from entering during a storm. It now occurred to me that I could wrap the garden around the far end and the long side, and to make this a raised bed by placing 2 x 14″ boards along the ground for the edge of the pond. I was now 1′ deep and hadn’t dug any dirt! I placed a double layer of landscape timbers about 4 feet out from the edges of the pond and now I had a convenient place to throw all the dirt I was going to dig up for the pond. This might have been one of my best ideas ever!!

Dawn of a Revolution:

Since the wood edge already made me a foot deep, I decided to make the next layer in a 10 x 6′ rectangle centered on the 20 x 10′ pond. I started digging and recruited a couple of other friends and we had this area dug 2 foot deep in no time.  I live in Ohio and even though I was planing the pond for tropical fish who could live in it only May-August, I wanted to make it winter proof if I decided to stock with Koi. I figured the first foot would not really count to avoid freezing since it was above ground. I needed to make part of the pond at least 4 foot deep in ground, so at one end of the 10 x 6″ two foot deep section, I dug another two foot deeper section 5 x 6′. This gave my pond one area 5 x 6′ with 5 feet of water, one area 5 x 6′ with three feet of water, both  surrounded by an area only one foot deep. I figured the gallons by layers, (20 x 10 x 1 ‘)+ (10 x 6 x 2′) + (5 x 6 x 2’) equaled 380 CU.FT. equaled approximately 2800 gallons, I couldn’t wait to fill it! I recruited a couple of friends to help me wrestle the pond liner into place. I really helps to lay it out in the sun for a while. For the pond pumps and filters I used a couple of systems. I had a heavy-duty pan that fit a 24 x 18″ UnderGravel Filter plate perfectly so I put in the UG plate, and covered it with 6 inches of lava chips and connected the intake of a Mag Drive 7 to a short UG Lift tube. I sat this in the very middle of the pond and attached a bell fountain head to the pump’s outlet. Near both ends of the pond I set up a Pondmaster 1700 filter system with its 12 x 12″ filter box and Mag 7 pump, also with bell fountain outlets.  I wanted to use a Pond Turbo Twist 18W UV for my pond algae treatment  and had a spitting Hippo pond decoration, so I attached both to a Mag Drive 7 that also ran off my UG filter set-up. I placed the Hippo along the edge of the existing garden, hidden in a Butterfly Plant. The UV I hid under a planter turned upside down and then place a few small pots on top. Everything was in position and I just had to wait on the temperature to rise to put in the fish.

The New Age Arrives:

A friend donated a bunch of starter Hosta plants for the outer edge garden, and I transferred some Ivy from another section of the back yard. I planted several potted Yellow Iris along the edge and corner farthest from the porch. I also added a couple of pots of Variegated Taro to the opposite corner. I mixed some Cattails in with the Irises and later added some Parrot Feather and Floating  Water Lettuce to help provide shade. I added two Water Lilies, one with Red blooms  and the other with Purple and Yellow flowers. (I do not remember their “names”, the one looked like a Madame Wilfron Gonnere lily.) I added a couple of kitty liter boxes planted with Anubias or Wendtii along the edge near the porch, along with a few full of Anacharis at the edge of the water drop off.  Now it was time for the fish. Since I still owned my fish store, I had access to wholesale pricing and a ready market to sell the fish in the fall when I had to tear down the pond. I wanted to try several different type of fish to see how they responded to natural sunlight. My first batch of fish included 30 Corydora Julii, 15 Marble Angels, 15 Gold Angels, 5 Medium RedCap Orandas and 5 Medium Calico Ryukins. After a week and a couple of casualties I found that the only fish I ever saw were the Orandas. Time for more fish. This time I added 25 juvenile Electric Blues, 15 more Marble Angels, 20 juvenile Hap. Venutus, and a small school of 25 Congo Tetras. I was a bit concerned about all the fish getting enough food, so I started ringing a bell just before feeding and after a few weeks, I was surprised how almost all the fish responded to the bell! It also became evident that the reason most everyone keeps Goldfish and Koi in the pond was because they were large enough to eat floating pellets, so at least you get to see them when you feed. Just because I thought it would be humorous, I added 50 Fiddler Crabs to the pond. I was right, it was hysterical to watch them perform on top of the Lily pads and Water Lettuce. Over a period of 4 to 6 weeks most of the crabs disappeared. I never figured out if they just walked away into the yard, or were picked off by the birds or raccoons in the backyard. The first week of September I had to drain the pond and catch the fish. More than 90% of the fish were still there, but I was disappointed by the growth of the African Cichlids. The Angel fish and Goldfish were all significantly larger and more colorful from the sunlight. The Congo Tetra males were the nicest I had ever seen, they took one day to sell once I put them back in my store! The Anubias had thrived, but again not grown as much as I had hoped. I guess the pond was just too shaded.

In Retrospect:

I really did enjoy my “aquarium” pond that Summer. I was kind of neat to see schools of Angel fish gliding between the plants  and a small herd of Corydoras scuttling along the bottom. As mentioned, the Fiddler Crabs were really entertaining. But…the work involved in tearing down the pond for Winter made it an easy choice to fill the pond with Shubunkins and Koi the following Spring! I was glad I had dug out that deep section the year before. If you are planning a pond, I will warn you, no matter how big you make it, the next year you will wish it was bigger.

About The Author Don Roberts

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