DIY Natural Backyard Pond

Learn how to build a natural backyard pond that stays clean and algae-free without the use of pumps, filters or chemicals.

Water, soil, plants and animals live together in a harmonious balance in a natural pond. No one needs to scoop out algae. The water doesn’t need pumps and filters to stay clean and oxygenated, and required maintenance is minimal. Years ago, I dreamed of having such a backyard pond, but everything I read claimed that pumps, filters, chemicals and constant care would be necessary. So, I set out to prove the experts wrong.

Natural Garden Pond Design

In a conventional backyard pond design, algae levels are controlled by adding chemicals and using a mechanical filter and a circulating pump that cost up to several hundred dollars. These filtering systems are essential because a standard design doesn’t provide a hospitable environment for the beneficial microorganisms that would otherwise keep the water clean. I have found that by changing the design so the pond itself becomes the filter, you can eliminate the need for such systems.

This article will focus on how to create a low-maintenance, natural pond in your backyard by applying these principles:

  • Provide surfaces for beneficial microorganisms to grow.
  • Prepare plenty of space for plants.
  • Restrict sunlight from the surface of the water to reduce algae growth.

Room to Grow

Insects, frogs, fish and other living creatures add organic matter to a pond, as do pond plants and nearby shrubs and trees. This organic material would build up and overwhelm the water were it not for the pond’s secret weapon: microorganisms. These organisms are everywhere — in soil and on rocks and plants — and they feed on organic matter. The more surfaces there are to support microbes, the cleaner the water will be.

To use microbes to your advantage in your DIY pond, plan for half of its surface area to consist of a shallow ledge, about 8 inches deep, around the pool’s perimeter. Place a ring of large stones along the inside edge of the ledge, closest to the deeper water. Then, position pebbles (about a half-inch in diameter) on the rest of the ledge. The larger stones will prevent the smaller ones from rolling to the bottom of the pond. The surfaces of the small stones will be the perfect places for microorganisms to grow and become your pond’s filter. In no time at all, the stones will become slimy, demonstrating that microorganisms are prospering and cleaning the water.Continue Reading