Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Building a Fish Pond and Waterfall - Part 1

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Part 1

Its been a little over a year since I moved into my new house and I have been maintaining and landscaping my backyard for all that time. This spring I decided to build a Fish Pond, or a Koi Carp pond as some call it. Of course I realized it was not as easy as digging a hole in the ground, throwing a few water lilies in and then plopping a fish or two to swamp it there and eventually die.

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No, I wanted to build a really nice pond, with a sustained ecosystem, or atleast one which needed minimal upkeep and would be as simple to maintain as a sprinkler system for a grass lawn. Turns out there is a lot of effort required to build and set a system like this up, so I set about the task with confidence and armed with all the knowledge and processes I had learned from books, the internet and of course a couple of other Pond owners. This was going to be fun !

As you may well recall, this was a picture I took of my backyard when I bought my house.. 3000 sq. feet of pure nothingness.. (Except weeds which I had painstakingly removed

Step 0

The Great Plan !

Everything great starts on a drawing board and if it doesn't then it is doomed to failure. I started by putting the design down on paper. I had decided after a lot of reading and recognition of the pitfalls that could occur, that my pond would have to have the following characteristics and parameters.

  1. Has to be able to hold atleast 1500 to 2000 gallons of water, anything smaller would not look good or feel worth the effort.
  2. Needs to be atleast 4-5 feet deep at the deepest point, so that fish can hide from predators and changes in climate (Tracy has extremes)
  3. Needs to have sloping walls, like a toilet bowl, so that dirt and fish poop can sink to the lowest point and be vacuumed out via a pump and filter system that I would build into the design.
  4. Needs to have a waterfall leading into the pond, so that I can hear the soothing sounds of a bubbling brook (lol, I know sounds gay! for give me). Also helps aerate the water.
  5. The pond will need an automatic filtration system as well as a system to keep the water clear and free of green cloudy algae. That would require an Ultraviolet clarifier with atleast a 30-40 watt UV bulb and a bio-filter and a Pump with enough oomph to run the show.
  6. Pipes and plumbing would have to be a part of the pond structure.
  7. I wanted at least one foot of the pond to be above ground, so that one could sit on a ledge and look into the pond, that meant that the pond had to be made of concrete and waterproofed.
Here are sketches I had done initially, gives you an idea of the thought put into it.

(Click images to enlarge)

Step 1
Digging the hole !

It took me one month to dig the hole bit by bit. I put stones around the periphery so that no one would fall in by mistake. (I mean my wife, she's a bit accident prone.. lol)

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I don't have more pictures of the digging, suffice to say I dug the flask shape and hollowed it out to 3 feet deep. and gently sloped the edges inwards to the center drain point.

Step 2
Hiring the Homies to get the Concrete Poured and Shaped !

The next stage of the pond was way too complex to do without help. So I went out and hired a concrete guy (Martin) I found locally and 2 other homies (He got them along to help him)

Anyways they took 2 days to further dig and smoothen things under my supervision and lay down the PVC pipe that would eventually be the drain. The also put a board structure around the digout in the shape I had drawn (Flask/Gourd shape) This was to shape the concrete when it arrived and they had to pour it. I am glad I hired these guys.. I would have never gotten to the next stage without them.

Lots of Pictures Below..
You can see the underlayment gravel and the Pipe buried with the 2 ends showing.

(Click images to enlarge)

Step 3

Making the Terra-Cotta ledge

Making the ledge with Terra-Cotta tiles was fun, but a royal pain, because I had to constantly level it. Used fast setting cement for this, had to work really fast and make sure I constantly levelled and wiped the extra away with a wet cloth. One of the homies helped me :-)
Made it worth his while.

(Click images to enlarge)

Step 4
Letting the Concrete cure.
Doing other Backyard Landscaping meanwhile...

2 months have passed since the pond was built and it is probably cured solid by now. I spent the rest of the spring planting and landscaping the rest of tha Backyard. I had set up a drip system and laid out patters using Retaining Wall blocks and I must say it looked pretty good. so I planted and planted and my wife helped me.. When I finally finished the back yard looked quite transformed from the plain weed infested nothingness to a living and thriving yard with plants and sprinklers spraying about 3 times a day. I also spent time getting gravel (Lava rock) and huge boulders to place strategically around the pond. You can see the work done and compare by looking at the pics below.

(Click images to enlarge)

Step 5
Etching, Staining and Sealing the exterior pond wall.

I took these pictures after I spent one weekend Etching, Staining the outer wall (Burgundy) and sealing the pond exterior.

(Click images to enlarge)

Step 6
Buying the Pond equipment

Bought the following equipment for the pond.
  • 17x17 feet of Black PVC liner for the waterfall
  • A Calpump T-1500 water Pump
  • A Savio 31" Waterfall Weir with mechanical filtration
  • A Calpump UV Clarifier with a 36 watt UV bulb
  • Black and Grey PVC pipes 1 inch, 1.5 inch , 1.25 inch and 3 inch.. and atleast 20 different odds and end connectors and adapters so that the pond plumbing fit perfectly. A few PVC check valves too.
  • Some PVC cement
  • Perma-Flex to line the inside of the pond and waterproof it.

(Click images to enlarge)

There's more to come in part 2

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Building a Fish Pond and Waterfall - Part 2

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Part 2

Step 7

Lining the interior surface
of the Pond with rubber coating

I started by etching with Concrete etcher and then sealing the interior walls of the pond with Perma-Flex. Used a gallon of concrete etcher to clean the concrete and open the pores for absorption. I washed out the residues and sponged the rest out, then I waited a day for the rest to dry, then used a leaf blower to blow the dust accumulated in the empty pond.

Then I applied PermaFlex to the interior surface to waterproof the pond (Pale yellow color). Perma-Flex is actually a Rubber coating that when sprayed (or in this case rolled) onto a porous or concrete surface, actually permeates into the concrete and fills up all the microscopic and larger pores, thereby forming a waterproof barrier. It is non-toxic and forms a rubberlike layer over the concrete that is unaffected even by hydrostatic pressure.

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Step 8
The Filtration system assembly

Laying down Weedpaper before starting the Filtration system assembly.

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Step 9
Fastening the Pump
and UV Clarifier to Treated Wood bases

I fastened the Pump and the Ultraviolet Clarifier to treated wood bases so I can anchor them. Had to drill four 1/2 inch holes in each.

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Then I laid the pump and UV Clarifier down and anchored them with 1 foot metal stakes.

Step 10
The Ultraviolet Clarifier UV Tube

I inserted the 36Watt Ultraviolet Bulb into the UV Clarifier housing (very gingerly). I was reminded of the helix shaped tubes from the movie Resident Evil in which the virus was contained before they broke and all hell was set loose.. :)

(Click thumbnails to Enlarge)

Step 11
Connecting it all up

Then I connected the UV Clarifier output to the Waterfall Weir. Bonded all the PVC fittings tight with PVC cement. The Waterfall Weir/Biofilter is raised to 1 foot above the planned pond water level. That should be enough for gravity to do it's thing. It is beginning to come together.

Step 12
Laying down the PVC Liner

The next big job was unfurling and laying down the PVC pond liner.
It smelled pleasantly of hot rubber, not surprisingly considering that it was about 94 degrees F outside when I was doing this.

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One end of the PVC liner needs to be fastened to the lip of the Waterfall Weir using about 16 screws and the lip fastener.

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The liner now needs to be nipped and tucked and folded into all corners and crevasses and form fitted by hand to create a free flow passageway from the lip of the Waterfall weir to the Pond. I do this using the cinder blocks underneath for support, as well as small boulders and moss rocks along the periphery to build the side walls and structure. I use flagstones underneath to give it a flat and smooth surface.

(Click thumbnails to Enlarge)

Step 13
Form fitting the liner to the waterfall
with flagstones and river rock.

Next, I use egg shaped smooth river rocks and flagstone to create a descending terraced spillway from the Weir Lip all the way to the Pond and then 6 inches under the planned water level.

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There ! :-)
Next I will have to use all the remaining River rocks to cover the black liner from all sides and also shore up the sides of the waterfall and backfill the rear of the Waterfall Weir.

More coming up in Part 3 !!

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3