Oak barrels, old sinks, or bathtubs can all make fine backyard ponds. One of the easiest container pond gardens is made from a stainless steel sitz bath—they don't require an extra liner. This project is so easy to assemble that you can gather your supplies on Saturday morning, fill the pond with water in the afternoon, and launch the fish into their home after waiting 48 hours for the chlorine to disperse.
Like a natural pond, container ponds depend on a delicate balance of plants, snails, tadpoles, and fish. You can also use a pump or a filter instead of water creatures to keep the water fresh. Use oxygenating grasses (which add oxygen to the water) and floating plants such as water hyacinths (which provide hiding space among their roots for pond creatures). When winter comes, plants sit underwater on the bottom of the pond; fish and tadpoles winter inside.
If you use an oak barrel, line it with polyvinyl chloride (PVC) flexible liner in 20-millimeter thickness to keep chemicals from leaching into the water. If you are using a metal or plastic container, you don't need to line the pond.
When starting your project, consider your site. Look for a spot that offers at least 4 hours of sun each day. Morning sun is kinder to water plants than late-day sun.
Place a variety of objects on the bottom of the pond. Some, such as inverted pots, serve as planting ledges for potted water plants. Other pieces of stone and terra-cotta provide interesting objects to spy through the water as well as places for tadpoles and fish to hide. Fill the pond with water and treat with dechlorinator, according to package directions.
Your water-garden supplier can make suggestions about how many plants and animals you need to support the size of your pond. Consider oxygenating grasses, water lilies, hornwort, and water hyacinths. Plant one bunch of oxygenating grasses per 2 square feet of pond surface; these grasses grow in containers sitting on the pond bottom. The water hyacinths will float on the surface. The other plants are potted in pea gravel, but no soil, and are submerged in the pond. Lilies grow best in pots 6-10 inches below the pond surface.
Add tadpoles, goldfish, a catfish, and/or snails. The tadpoles clean up after the fish, the fish eat bugs, the catfish eat algae off the bottom, and the snails clean up the rest. If the balance is right, maintenance is simple. Experts suggest you add one snail and one fish per square foot of water surface.
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