Intro to Water Gardens
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Intro to Water Gardens

Apr 16, 2021
Presented By:  Scott Finn

Scott Finn of The Pond Guy has a wealth of experience creating ponds and other eye-catching features that contribute to a stunning water garden. In this guest presentation, Scott will go over some of the key components of water gardens and discuss feature types and placement. He'll also go into some of the more technical requirements of water garden design, including environmental impact, liner and pump sizing, as well as basic pond design, construction, and budget considerations.

Webinar Contents:

Note: The following catalog of content covered in this webinar is time stamped to allow you to follow along or skip to sections of the video that are relevant to your questions. You can also search for content on this page using the FIND command in your browser (CTRL + F in Windows, Command + F in Mac OS.)


  • Intro/TOC
  • Water Garden Placement
  • Water Feature Types
  • Key Components of Water Gardens
  • Liner Sizing
  • Pump Sizing
  • Basic Pond Design, Construction, and Budget
  • Review

0:00 – 4:27: Intro/TOC

4:28 – 6:49: Water Garden Placement

Environmental impact (5:01)

  • Avoid areas in full sun.
    • Fish need some reprieve, and full sun will fuel algae growth.
  • Be mindful of surrounding tree and plant life.
    • Too much heavy foliage increases the need for cleaning and can lead to clogged pumps and filters.
  • Choose higher ground when possible.
    • Ponds in low-lying areas will be subject to more nutrient runoff, increasing algae growth and maintenance.

6:50 – 9:59: Water Feature Types

Preformed ponds (7:00)

  • Typical do-it-yourself beginner pond
  • Usually purchased as a kit at big-box hardware stores
  • Preformed composite material (no liner)


Pondless waterfalls and features (8:03)

  • Typical do-it-yourself construction or a professional installation
  • Uses a catch basin instead of a pond
  • Safety concerns are lessened
  • Can be placed in areas with limited space
  • Less maintenance
  • Creates tranquil environment through sound


Liner ponds (9:03)

  • Typical do-it-yourself construction or a professional installation
  • Decorated with rocks, waterfalls, and fish
  • Blends into the surrounding environment better
  • Flexible rubber liner allows for custom shapes

10:00 – 29:02: Key Components of Water Gardens

Filtration (13:10)

Skimmer and waterfall (13:53)

  • Skimmer placement should be at the opposite end of the waterfall box to ensure optimum circulation and filtration.
  • An alternate design can incorporate a bottom-draw pump.



Removes large debris from the pond surface.

Provides location for submersible pump.

Optional filter media location.


Waterfall box with biofiltration:

  • Biofiltration (pads and bio balls) supports colonization of good bacteria.
  • Assists with aeration through water movement.
  • Provides a tranquil environment through sound.


Filter media: Mechanical filtration (17:10)

Standard reusable pads:

Limited density options.

More flexibility to cut custom sizes on site to accommodate various equipment brands.

Easy-to-cut polyester construction.


Matala filter pads:

  • Low-, medium-, and high-density options.
  • Stock pre-cut sizes may limit use in some equipment.
  • Durable polypropylene mesh.


Filter media: Biological filtration (18:28)

  • Responsible for allowing good bacteria to congregate and digest excess nutrients.
  • The larger the surface area, the better the filtration.


All-in one filtration: Pressurized filters with UV clarifier (19:45)

  • Pressurized filters provide additional filtration to accommodate heavier fish loads.
  • Integrated UV light helps eliminate green water.
  • Unique backflush feature allows for easy cleaning of filter media.


Water treatments: Chemical-free algae control (22:37)


Aeration (24:17)

Bottom diffused aeration (25:00)

  • Helps eliminate noxious odors.
  • Maintains healthy oxygen levels.
  • Accelerates the results of beneficial bacteria.
  • Easy to install and inexpensive to operate.
  • Creates open water in winter months.


Aeration: Water garden kits (25:33)


Aquatic plants: Improving water quality and aesthetics (27:12)

Medium pond (27:21):

A mixture of well-placed low- and medium-growing plants creates a design the looks balanced without blocking the view.


Plants can be used to:

  • Cover 20–60% of the pond's surface.
  • Provide sunblock and visual protection from predators.
  • Improve water quality through natural filtration.
  • Compete with algae for nutrients.
  • Assist with oxygenation.


Plant examples:

  • Floating plants: water hyacinth, frogbit, water lettuce
  • Submerged plants: hornwort, red ludwigia, Vallisneria
  • Bog plants: cattails, iris
  • Water lilies and lotus: star of Siam, James Brydon, giant sunburst, green maiden

29:03 – 37:26: Liner Sizing

Liner and underlayment (29:31)

Ethylene propylene dienne monomer (EPDM) liner:

  • Flexible rubber liner used for water gardens and water features.
  • Not typically used in larger-acreage ponds – PVC or RPE used in most large liner applications.


Pre-cut liner:

  • Smallest 5' x 5'
  • Largest 50' x 100'
  • Seams require liner seam tape kits



  • Installed before liner as a buffer between liner and soil.
  • Can also be installed over liner during boulder placement.
  • Sold in 10' widths up to 80' long (10' increments)


Measurements & liner sizing (32:19)


Pondless features (33:51)

37:27 – 49:00: Pump Sizing

Pump criteria and calculations (37:51)

  • The pump should be able to circulate the total pond volume once every 1 to 2 hours.
  • The pump must be able to accommodate the desired flow rate for a pond while within its best efficiency point (BEP) under the system's head pressure.
  • The skimmer, waterfall, filter, and/or UV maximum flow rates must align with the pump's target flow rate under the system head pressure.


Note: Most large ponds (10,000+ gallons) use multiple pumps for circulation as one waterfall and pump may not be enough to move the entire pond volume every 1 to 2 hours.


Determining desired flow rate (39:39)


Calculating total dynamic head (TDH) 41:07)


Using the manufacturer's pump curve (42:52)


Selecting the proper tubing (44:43)


Submersible pumps (46:20)


External pumps (non-submersible) (47:35)

49:01 – 57:55: Basic Pond Design, Construction, and Budget

Design techniques (49:01)


Finishing touches and startup (52:35)


Equipment budget (52:53)


Advanced designs: Bottom drain koi ponds (53:08)


Liner installation (53:40)


Dual bottom drains (54:02)


Tangential pond return (TPR) (54:41)


Self-cleaning biofiltration (55:00)


Dual UV clarifiers (55:20)


Equipment budget (55:38)


Pond requirements and recommendations (55:55)


Proactive Maintenance & beneficial bacteria (57:56)

58:24 – end: Review

The most important step in any water garden or water feature project is planning. Start by asking yourself or your customer the following questions:

  • What type of water garden/feature do I want to build?
  • What type of water feature will best fit my budget?
  • What location will best suit my vision and provide the best environment for my feature?
  • What type of equipment will be integrated into the design?
  • Do I have an available power source that will accommodate my equipment needs? 115v? 230v?
  • Have I researched available products that will allow me to maintain my pond for the future proactively?


Maximize your time frontloading information to minimize errors in frustration over an improperly designed feature.


Question: What options are there for wildlife ponds where you don't want insects, tadpoles, or small wildlife to be drawn into a skimmer or chopped up in a pump? (59:20)

Answer: Avoid oversizing your pump flow, and incorporate a skimmer box to lessen the flow.


Question: Are you no longer recommending the golf ball size basalt rock for the biomedia in the waterfalls? (1:00:56)

Answer: We typically use plastic, mostly for its ease of handling. Over all, avoid materials with coarse surfaces that can harbor bacteria.


Discussion on water features that don't run every day (1:02:22)

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