Designing a Residential Pond for Fish

Residential ponds may have a primary use for stormwater detention or wetland conservation, but fish often become a secondary part of the design. Without considering the needs of the fish, it’s all too easy to design a pond where they simply can’t survive. Many community homeowner’s associations have spent thousands of dollars restocking load after load of fish because a pond simply wasn’t designed to keep them alive in the first place. Before adding fish to a pond to control mosquito larvae or improve water quality, make sure you’re addressing all of these fish needs with your residential pond design.

Protection from Predators

It’s a common misconception that ponds built in areas with raccoons or herons can’t host fish unless the owner spends a lot on predator protection. Just the design of the pond’s bottom itself plays a large role in how safe fish are from predation. First, make sure the central depth is at least three to four feet deep. Even the largest kingfishers and heron don’t want to hunt in water that deep, not to mention smaller mammals like raccoons. When adding shelves for plants and to create shallow water, try to keep them at least 12 to 16 inches under the surface. Shallow shelves are all too attractive to fish predators looking to extend their reach into the deeper parts of the pond. If this isn’t enough, netting over the surface and fencing around the pond are usually enough for even the most aggressive predators.

Temperature Control

Koi and goldfish are fish from warm climates and they don’t appreciate cold temperatures. While many other species may be able to survive the winter in cold climates, most fish keepers recommend either taking them inside in aquariums or heating the water. There’s no need to keep the entire pond warm to the touch over the winter. A heater that keeps at least the bottom foot of the water liquid is usually enough for even the largest fish. The heater should also help keep a hole melted in the ice cover so gases released by the fish can still escape to the atmosphere.

Fish-Safe Liner

Of course, a liner is necessary for any residential pond intended to hold fish. The steady loss of water in an unlined pond just isn’t healthy for any fish population. However, the wrong liner can threaten the health of the fish contained in the pond instead of protecting it. Fish-safe liner materials are recommended even if you’re not going to eat the fish eventually. Koi and carp, in particular, are very sensitive to some chemicals that can leach out of liner materials like PVC. Reinforced polyethylene is the best choice for a fish-safe liner material, especially if it’s supplied by BTL Liners.

Plants and Aeration

Don’t skimp on the number of plants added to a residential pond intended to house fish. Fish and plants go hand in hand because they rely on each other to thrive. The waste of the fish feeds the growth of the plants, while their roots and the beneficial bacteria they host help clean the water. In return, fish usually feed on and hide in the plants to enjoy a healthier life than in a barren pond. Plants add some oxygen to the water, but you’ll also need to include aeration equipment in your plans. Even natural ponds, that don’t have other pumps or skimmers included in their designs, will need aeration equipment to keep plenty of dissolved oxygen available for the fish.

Choosing Fish Species

Not all fish species are a good choice for residential ponds. Koi and carp are commonly selected for their beauty and familiarity, but they require a lot of care and can’t stay outdoors over the winter in some areas. For tougher fish that still improve water quality or offer recreational opportunities, consider:

  • Mosquitofish, small minnow types that eat a lot of insect larvae while needing no care
  • Bluegill, sport fish that easily reproduce in ponds of at least a few feet in depth and which offer a fun fishing challenge
  • Goldfish, which are hardier than most Koi and only require routine feeding.

Planning for Extra Maintenance

Fishponds need more maintenance and cleaning than other types of common residential ponds. Make sure to choose liners and other materials that can take the extra wear and tear of foot traffic around the banks on a regular basis. Reinforced polyethylene is a good choice because the weight of gravel and rock over it won’t cause issues either. Without regular dredging and even water changes, it’s hard to keep the water from slowly losing quality over time. Even if you install an extensive filtration unit to keep water quality high over time, it’ll need plenty of cleaning and repairs over the lifespan of the pond.

Start the process of building a new residential pond with fish in mind by contacting our team here at BTL Liners. Our team of experts is happy to assist with the process by making recommendations for pond liners that will last.

Liners by BTL

AquaArmor Pond Liner

The most versatile liner on the market today, AquaArmor maximizes protection from harmful UV rays, tear resistance and punctures that cause leaks. Simply the best liner on the market.

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