Building a small goldfish pond in your yard can be a fun weekend project and the kids will enjoy it all summer. Depending on what climate you live in, the pond will have slightly different requirements for those areas with sub-freezing temperatures. You can however with a little but of junk hunting, build your pond for only a few dollars. In cold winter areas it is important to have a way to drain the pond for the winter to clean it. A drain piping explanation is further down this article.
How to Build an Inexpensive Goldfish Pond Within The Budget
First pick the best area of your yard for the pond. You do not want it in full sun or full shade all day. A mixture of the two would be real nice. It will help your plants thrive and also keep the algae growth down as well. I have one pond in partial or mottled shade all day and it does very well and stays perfectly clean. If the pond will have a natural outlet and be filled occasionally with a hose that is about the best scenario you can get.
I have a small pond that is filled by a very small underground spring that drips into the pond all the time but it also has an outlet pipe that exits into a wet area so the pond never needs filling of emptying. The small pond measures eight feet long by five feet wide by 2 feet deep. I keep thirty small goldfish in this pond and they do very well. Aside from eating bugs and mosquitoes the kids love to visit every day and put a few pinches of food in for them.
I selected my pond space in a shaded area of my yard near some large Maple trees as I wanted to be able to sit in the shade on hot summer days and enjoy the fish and the sound of the water without being in the full sun. I also built several raised planting beds at different heights around the pond out of flat field stones available on my property. There are many shade tolerant plants including Hostas, Varigated Hostas and Dead Nettle which spread with each passing year and with the different shades of greens and white leaves and purple flowers on the Nettle, the gardens have more then enough visual interest.
Once you have decided how large you want the pond itself, you have really two choices of pond types to choose from. Pre-made PVC pond liners are available in many shapes and sizes today. Many liners have built in plant shelves and light openings if you wish to add lighting to your pond.
They range in sizes from a 1/2 barrel to huge ponds which require large filter systems and pumps to run. The small ponds you may be able to excavate by hand, the larger ones will require some heavy equipment like a backhoe perhaps to move that much earth The pond size and heavy equipment will certainly raise your price of course.
Another way to build a pond is to use rubber roofing membrane. You will find articles telling you not to use it because it has chemicals on it etc., etc. I washed mine before using it with a good soapy solution and rinsed it well to remove all soap residues. The membrane comes in twelve foot wide rolls and every time I see a school getting a new roof you can pretty well bet there are large scraps of rubber in the dumpsters.
Almost all commercial buildings today use rubber membrane roofing available with some small effort of dumpster diving. Remember the pond should be two feet deep so four feet plus at least six inches on each top are wasted for a total of five feet. That would allow you a seven foot wide pool bottom. Depending on the length of the piece you get, just deduct two and one half feet on each end for the walls and top edging. Twelve foot long pieces would end up seven feet across the bottom. That's a seven foot by seven foot pond, two feet deep. That's a lot of water and can hold a great many goldfish.
I decided that I wanted my last pond raised up instead of flush with the ground. Using flat field stones I built oblong shaped pond walls two feet high. I placed several bags of play sand in the bottom and raked it smooth. Make absolutely sure there are no rocks or sticks in the bottom of the pond area.
Any sharp protrusion can poke a hole through the liner material. Be somewhat careful on the sides as well to avoid pointy rocks facing or projecting into the inside of the pond. The water weight will force the liner to assume the shape of the inside walls so keep them as smooth as possible. A friend of mine used masonry stack blocks meant for a retaining wall for his side walls, lined the inside with the membrane and placed finished cap blocks on top. You can sit on top of the wall and watch the gold fish as they dart back and forth.
After installing my liner, I used large flat stones for my cap block after folding the last six inches of membrane over onto to the top of the walls. The folds do not have to be perfect as they will not be seen below the stones but make sure the stones do not rock back and forth when they are in their final positions.
You want the cap stones to hang over the inside edge of the wall a couple of inches as well so the liner is not visible where it folds onto the top of the wall. A small portion of the vertical side wall will show depending upon on how high you keep the water level of the pond but the shadow produced by the overhanging cap stones makes it almost invisible. Black liner hides any small folds you leave behind as well. I have not tried white liner although I know they do make it. Goldfish show up very well in black ponds.
Next add a couple of water plants. There are hundreds to choose from and a trip to your local Koi or Garden store will open a whole new gardening experience for you. Many come in pots that are placed directly into your pond. I recommend you presoak the plants until water runs out of the bottom of the pot before placing it into the pond.
This will help prevent loose dirt from floating out and making your pond dirty when you sink the pots into the water. The added water weight in the pot may also be required to actually make the pots stay on the bottom. If the plant is too short to reach the waters surface, get creative by adding some flat stones to make the plants work. The fish will love the added little nooks and crevices to hide in during sunny periods or just when they are playing.
If your pond is a closed system meaning no fresh water supply or discharge channel, give some thought as to how you are going to empty the pond for cleaning once a year. It can be done with a sump pump or add a two inch PVC discharge pipe open to free air if it is available. Many locales do not allow you to discharge pond water into the sewer system so be careful. If you have free air, install a two inch PVC pipe under the pond and turn it up into the pond using an elbow. Glue the elbow to the pipe with the proper PVC cement.
Wrap a small plastic bag over the elbow to prevent any sand or dirt getting into the pipe while you build your pond. Bury your pipe and commence building your walls. Once the walls are complete and the base sand is installed, place your liner into place. Using your lightest helper, cut a small X directly over the elbow, but make sure it is smaller then two inches long on each cut.
Now carefully push the membrane down around the elbow leaving the rubber as tight as possible on the elbow. Using a stainless steel hose clamp available at any auto parts store, securely clamp the rubber membrane to the elbow making a watertight joint. At the open air end of the pipe install a two inch PVC gate valve. This valve can be opened for draining and cleaning of the pond whenever necessary.
Fill your pond with clean fresh water. I use a small fish tank aerator pump to provide additional oxygen to the fish. The large surface area of the pond should be more than sufficient to aerate the water but the bubble pump will also prevent mosquitoes from laying eggs in the moving surface waters and it can provide yet another pleasant sound at your new goldfish pond. By scrounging both the rocks and membrane I spent a total of $27 for materials for my pond. Goldfish in my area are 27 cents each so twenty nice fish is a grand total of $5.40. Not bad for a couple days work. Enjoy your new pond and gardening project.