Summary of Water Gardening Basics
Size and location are two of the most important factors in determining the success of the water garden. Larger systems are generally better able to buffer themselves from environmental changes such as temperature and oxygen fluctuations. Location factors include such things as the amount of daily sunlight the pond will receive, how prone it is to be negatively affected by falling leaf litter, wind, and water runoff from the surrounding area, and how close it is to a source of electricity and water.
Careful planning and thorough research will not only help you identify what your desires are for plants and fish, but it will also help you create a healthy, balanced ecosystem that matches the level of maintenance you envisioned.
Algae is inevitable and will most likely be your #1 complaint. Increased levels of sunlight and nutrients (such as fish food and fish wastes) will generally result in more algae problems. Proper planning will help reduce, if not completely eliminate, such a problem. Various types of algae will also require different remedies to achieve clear water. Algaecides and filtration systems should always be the last resort. Please refer to the Green Water Woes article for more detailed information.
Problems will be further minimized and the water garden will be easier to maintain if the proper stocking ratios for aquatic plants and fish are taken into consideration. Please refer to the Pond Stocking Ratios article for more detailed information.
If your pond is a properly balanced ecosystem, pumps should not be needed unless you desire moving water for the sound and/or visual effect.
Plastic preform ponds tend to have short lives in our winter climate and are generally more difficult (if not almost impossible) to safely overwinter fish and aquatic plants in. Due to the small volume of water contained in them, the summer heat can also tend to cause extreme daily environmental fluctuations, which in turn can severely stress your fish and plants. Although they often seem like a "good deal," they are generally more costly (per square foot) for the customer to purchase and install and their "edges" are also often very difficult to disguise.
Deeper ponds made with fish-safe and plant-safe 45mil EPDM rubber liner tend to overwinter fish and aquatic plants much more successfully. The depth requirement for various goldfish species is approximately 24" deep, while koi need a depth of approximately 36" deep. Deeper ponds also tend to have larger volumes of water, which in turn creates a more stable ecosystem for the fish and aquatic plants.