Pond Tips

Setting up your Pond

Ornamental ponds can vary greatly in size and shape. They can be as simple as a few gallons in a barrel, or elaborately landscaped pools deep enough to swim in, but there are 2 things each pond requires:

1. A medium to contain water, most commonly a rubber liner, preformed plastic liner, or a barrel or other free-standing vessel. This decision is based mainly on how large you would like to build your pond, what types of livestock you'd like to keep and/or how much you would like to spend.

2. A pond filtration system powered by a pond pump for adequate circulation. Filter and pump systems may be purchased separately or as integrated packages, but they are essential if you want to maintain a clean and clear pond. Many offer additional flow methods like fountain heads or waterfalls to help with aesthetics and aeration, or simply to help move debris towards the filter. These are generally purchased based on the gallon size of your pond. As a rule of thumb, you want a pump/filter that can at least turn over your pond's entire volume at least once every 2 hours. So, if you buy a pump that moves 100 gallons per hour (gph), this is great for a 200 gallon pond.

Pond filtration functions just like that in an aquarium. You will need to cycle your pond and establish a beneficial bacterial colony, just as you would in a tank. There are bacterial supplements for ponds available, or you can just let this occur naturally.

In the Northeast, we suggest that your pond be at least 3 feet deep so that fish can winter-over properly.

Choosing Livestock

Consider what type of fish you intend to keep when setting up your pond. Different fish have different space requirements. Use this formula to estimate how many gallons of water your pond holds: (Length x width x height) / 231

Goldfish are by far the most common pond fish and make a great "first fish" for ponds. With a maximum size around 12 in., they stay smaller than most of their counterparts. We recommend goldfish only be kept in ponds 100 gallons or more.

Koi and Butterfly Koi make beautiful additions to ponds, but obtain much larger sizes than goldfish (up to 36 in!). To obtain maximum growth and health, these highly-active fish are only recommended for well-filtered and well-aerated ponds of at least 1000 gallons.

Other pond livestock options include Golden Orfes, various tadpoles and frogs, snails, and a host of goldfish varieties including by not limited to comets, shubunkins and fantails. Please ask an expert for specifics on keeping these species in your pond.

Choosing Plants

Plants add beauty to your pond and they also play vital roles in maintaining a biological balance. In addition to some plants' amazing blooms, they also perform a variety of valuable functions. Plants remove harmful elements from your pond's water, acting as a supplementary biological filtration system. In addition, plants help shade your pond helping to keep temperatures ideal for cold-water fish and keeping algae growth in check. Finally, plants act as valuable oxygenators, providing your pond with precious oxygen to facilitate beneficial bacteria and fish.

Refer to a Hardiness Zone Chart when choosing plants to keep in your pond. Many frequently available pond plants come from tropical climates and will not survive a cold winter.

As a rule of thumb, water gardeners aim to shade 60 to 80% of the surface with plants (usually with lilies or other floating plants) during the summer. Keep in mind lots of pond plants grow and multiply very quickly: have patience and allow your existing plants to cover before investing in additional ones.

Pond plants are available for different parts of your pond: marginal plants for shallow areas, lilies for deeper areas, oxygenators for under the water, and floating plants that can go anywhere on the water.

Some common pond plants include water lilies, water hyacinth, water lettuce, rushes, cat tails, anacharis and parrot's feather, but there are many more!


Use a sterilizer or clarifier, such as chemical algaecides, Green Clean, and pelletized-algae cleaners, for green water.

Clean your pond completely in the early Spring. You may need a pond vacuum, skimmer net, and some bacterial additives to aid clean-up.

You should not run your pond all winter. Remove the filters, use a submersible heater or de-icer to make sure that the pond does not completely freeze over, and be sure to completely clean the pond early to mid-Fall. You can add bacteria during the winter to keep things going in the pond. Leaf nets are suggested in the fall to help keep decaying leaves out of your pond.

If at any time you have any questions or need help selecting fish or supplies for your aquarium, feel free to contact the fish room at 717-299-5691 ext. 1213 or marinebio@thatpetplace.com. You can also find informative articles on That Fish Blog at blogs.thatpetplace.com or post your questions on our Facebook page. We at That Fish Place - That Pet Place want to keep you and your fish happy for years to come!

Recommended Products

Pond Fish Food
Pond Filter
Pond Pump
UV Sterilizer
Pond De-Icer