How to Make a Florida Backyard Pond

20180927_093618.jpgIt is amazing what a little bit of water can do for a garden. Even a small pond can become an oasis. My Gainesville Florida backyard ponds flower with water lilies and bog plants throughout the year and are a constant attraction for birds and other wildlife.

Building a pond in Florida isn’t hard. We don’t have to worry about deep freezes killing plants and fish so we can get away with shallower, smaller ponds. We still need to choose cold-hardy plants and fish because we do have occasional freezes, but our options are wide. If you are building a pond in South Florida, your choice in plants and fish is almost limitless.

Compare hard liners, soft liners, and containers, and learn how to make a beautiful pond and populate it with fish and critters with these pond liner and container reviews and useful tips.

Pond Liners

Pond liners allow for more natural-looking ponds than containers. If you want to build a water garden with fish, a pond liner offers more space than containers can generally offer.

Hard Pond Liners

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Leopard frog hanging out by my hard liner pond. Rocks from an old concrete foundation make a simple disguise for the plastic liner.

Hard pond liners are extremely resistant to puncture and won’t break down over the years, but they are light enough to be easy to work with. Most small hard pond liners aren’t too expensive, but you won’t be able to build as large a pond as you would with a soft liner.

You can either bury your hard pond liner to make a natural in-ground pond or you can build an above ground pond with wood or stone to disguise the plastic liner.

Hard liners offer less versatility than soft liners, but if you don’t want to invest a lot of creativity into building your backyard pond this may be an asset for you.

You can get hard liners in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. Liners with deep sections for fish and shelves for plants offer good protection from predation for fish, but a flat bottom liner allows for more variety in where you place plants and decorations.

MacCourt High Density Polyethylene Pond Liner

A large, organically shaped hard liner like the MacCourt 125-Gallon Black High Density Polyethylene Pond Liner blends into your yard, becoming a natural part of your garden over the years. The heavy-duty polyethylene won’t be punctured or give in to UV rays, so you can set up your pond and enjoy it for years without worries.

Heavy polyethylene won’t tear, crack, rust, or dent, even with some abuse and UV exposure. A lifetime warranty can give you a lot of confidence in your buying decision. This is a pond that you’ll only need to install once.

You can’t hide the plastic walls of this hard plastic liner with stones and decorations like you can with a soft liner. This pond is big and deep enough for a lot of plants and a couple of goldfish.

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Tuff Stuff Products Oval Tank, 40-Gallon

If you don’t want to spend too much or work too hard for a cute pond for your garden, consider theTuff Stuff Products KMT101 Oval Tank, 40-Gallon. This little oval tank is heavy-duty enough to get the job done, and at just over a foot deep it is appropriate for small fish in warmer climates. 40 gallons is just enough for a few cute bog plants and a small water lily.

Sometimes a little bit of water is all that you need. Whether you want to make a waterless fountain, a cute container pond, or a little in-ground pond, the Tuff Stuff pond can be a great pick. This isn’t a huge investment, but it will last for many years. The material that is used to make this tub is 100% recycled so you can feel good about buying it.

Not everyone likes the color of this tub, and the steep sides mean that you won’t be able to hide the color. Of course, if you are making a waterless fountain, this won’t be a concern for you. Also keep in mind that this pond is too small for most fish, especially in cooler climates, so if you are looking forward to having pond inhabitants, you may want to go with a bigger pond.

MacCourt 275-Gallon Black High Density Polyethylene Pond Liner

If you are looking for a hard liner that is easy to disguise, for a look that is integrated with your landscape, the MacCourt 275-Gallon Black High Density Polyethylene Pond Liner is a very good option. This flat bottom pond allows you to place plants and decorations however you choose and makes it easy to put rocks inside as well as outside of the pond. The gently sloping sides appear to vanish into the bottom when overhanging stones are added. This is a great hard liner to use for a kid’s wading pond.

Since Florida’s winters don’t get cold enough to require a really deep pond, most fish and plants will overwinter just fine in this pond, which is 18 inches deep throughout. Remember to provide hiding places for fish, since predators will be able to more easily seek them out in this shallower pond.

You won’t have to worry about this non-toxic, heavy-duty polyethylene denting, cracking, tearing, or rusting, and the material is UV stabilized so it will resist the hot Florida sun through the years. You can feel confident of this pond’s ability to last, thanks to a lifetime warranty.

If you are looking for a pond that works well as a kid’s or pet’s wading pond, this is a good option for you. The flat bottom is easy to walk on and the smooth sides are easy to keep clean and don’t encourage aquatic plant or algae growth

Soft Pond Liners

Soft pond liners offer more creative possibilities than hard pond liners for roughly the same price. You can get soft pond liners that are surprisingly thick and resistant to puncture. A high-quality soft pond liner can even stand up to the hot Florida sun for years, especially if it is covered by stones and bog plants.

Whether you want to make a very natural inground pond with multiple pools and fountains or you want an above ground pond, a soft pond liner may meet your needs.

Soft pond liners are among the most versatile and affordable options available to you. You can make your pond whatever shape you want, adding shelves for plants in an inground pond or creating gentle slopes or waterfalls that can be covered with pebbles and stones for a highly natural effect.

If you are looking for a more structured pond, you can build a pond of bricks or paving stones and then line the inside with the liner. Liners are not generally as durable as a solid pond structure, but they can hold up surprisingly well through the years. You can give your liner the best chance of persevering for the long term by preventing roots from getting to it with pond padding or an old blanket. If you want pets or kids to be able to play in the pond, choose a very thick liner and provide a thick coating of rounded pebbles. Clean the pond frequently, maintain running water and perform water tests if kids and pets will be wading in the pond. Also be certain that the liner is resistant to solar, essential in the hot Florida sun.

Soft liners allow you to be highly creative in the design of your pond. You can create whatever size, depth, and shape of pond you like. While soft pond liners generally aren’t as durable as hard pond liners, there are soft liner options available that will last nearly as long as a hard pond liner.

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TotalPond pond skins Pond Liner

If you don’t want to spend a fortune on your new pond before you’ve even purchased a filter or fish, the TotalPond pond skins Pond Liner may be a good choice for you. This is a liner that is light and easy to work with. The smallest size weighs around five pounds and is only 14.6 mil thick. The low price, combined with ease of installation, makes this a great liner for a first-time pond owner.

Although it is light, this liner can handle a surprising amount of pressure and stretch without puncturing. It is textured to help microbes grow, making a healthy environment for your fish and plants. This liner comes in three sizes, from 7×10 to 13×20. If you get a liner that is slightly too large for your project, just trim off the extra.

The material is a breeze to position and trim. Keep in mind that 14.6 mil isn’t thick enough to stand up to much abuse from kids or pets, so choose a heavier liner if you want this to be a play pond.

Aquascape Rubber Liner for Pond, Waterfall and Water Features

Contractors choose Aquascape Rubber Liner for Pond, Waterfall and Water Features because of its trusted reputation and good company support. This is a high-quality liner that has been the choice of hobbyists and professionals for over 25 years. If you are willing to pay higher prices for one of the thickest and most durable liners on the market, this is the soft pond liner for you.

Whether you want to build a simple pond, incorporate waterfalls, line a container, or build a waterless fountain, this liner is sure to meet your needs. A whopping 45 mil thickness makes this pond liner extremely resistant to puncture, UV, etc.

A water feature is an investment in your yard, and not a project you want to repeat soon. You can feel confident about this liner’s durability since it is backed by a 20-year guarantee.

This pond liner is made to lay flat, which makes it easier to achieve wrinkle-free placement. That said, the thickness of this liner does make it very heavy. It’s a good idea to have a couple of people to help you place it, especially if you choose a larger size.

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Firestone 45mil EPDM Rubber Pond Liner

If you are creatively minded and want a soft pond liner that you can maneuver into exactly the effect you want, this Firestone liner might be what you are looking for. Unlike other soft pond liners which can be heavy and difficult to maneuver or so light as to not be very durable, the Firestone 45mil EPDM Rubber Pond Liner is a good balance between workability and durability.

Firestone liners are made to the highest quality standards to stand up to the elements through the years. These liners retain their flexibility even in cold weather, so if you live in Northern Florida or further north and experience frosts, you won’t have to worry about this liner being damaged or more prone to puncture. You will still be able to easily work with this liner and install it in cold weather.

Highly flexible material is also easier to work with, so if you want to create a complex design with waterfalls and streams, this may be a good pick for you. A thickness of .045 is a good balance between durability and lightness.

UV won’t harm this liner, even if there is direct exposure over time. The texture is ideal for fish and other pond life but resists microbial and algae growth.

Container Ponds

You can make a beautiful small pond without a liner. If you would rather not worry about disguising what is holding the water, you can use any attractive, non-toxic, watertight container.

Container ponds are some of the easiest and most versatile of Florida backyard ponds. Since we don’t have to worry about hard freezes, our options are wider than Northern pond creators.  Get some fun ideas for making your own container pond.

Container garden ponds offer almost instant beauty to your space without requiring much work from you. You can get as much pleasure from them as you may have gotten from a much larger pond with a fraction of the cost and effort. You can put these compact little ponds near spaces that you actually spend time in, which means you may enjoy them more than a larger pond that is further away.

Decorative containers are very easy to install and look good as soon as water and plants are added. There are plenty of options for container gardens. Almost any waterproof container can be used. Here in our Gainesville garden we have an old juice barrel that we picked up from the local Alachua County Feed and Seed.

The barrel is nice because it holds the water surface right up to eye level, where we can enjoy the beauty and sweet smell of the water lilies and see the goldfish darting around beneath the lily pads.

The barrel also stays cool and relatively algae free, because of its depth, the lightproof walls, and the covering of water lily pads. This means that it stays healthy even though there is no running water.

If you want minimal maintenance in your new water garden, a system like this may work well for you. The water level in the barrel will go down in droughts and refill with rain. There is plenty of room for the water lily pads to move up and down as the water level changes.

If you’d rather have something a little shorter and more discreet than an old juice barrel, here are some great options that work well for any Florida backyard pond, patio, or porch.

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Behrens Hot Dipped Steel Oval Tub, 33.5 Gallon

The Behrens Hot Dipped Steel Oval Tub looks stylish in either a modern or cottage garden, without any need for hiding or burying. This sturdy container will last through the years, and it is deep enough for water lilies and small fish to thrive.

This tub doesn’t come cheap, and 33 gallons isn’t enough room for most fish, but if you want a container that you can purchase, fill with water and plants, and be done, this might be a good choice, especially if you want something that can last for the long term. The heavy-duty hot dipped steel won’t fade or crack, no matter what temperatures it encounters.

A flat bottom makes it easy to set water lilies and bog plants anywhere within the tub, allowing for creative freedom. It is also very simple to position a fountain pump. The longish shape provides room for the water to shoot across the tub into the water.

Aquascape Aquatic Patio Pond, Container Water Garden

You may not have a lot of room or time for a pond, but you would love a little water in your garden or on your patio. This Aquascape Aquatic Patio Pond, Container Water Garden comes in three sizes, from a model that is only two feet wide and with a capacity for ten gallons to a forty inch model that can hold up to 30 gallons.

An integrated shelf makes holding and arranging plants within your container a breeze. Aquatic plants and water lilies can rest in the deeper section while bog plants rest on the shelf. You will be amazed by how many water plants you can fit into this little pond.

Aquascape Aquatic Patio Pond Water Garden with Bamboo Fountain

This lovely little Aquascape Aquatic Patio Pond Water Garden with Bamboo Fountain comes with a sturdy and attractive basin as well as a beautiful bamboo fountain. If you don’t want to worry about positioning or creating a fountain or waterfall and like the zen effect of bamboo, this might be the perfect tabletop fountain for you.

The quality poly-resin construction of the fountain, pump, and plumbing means that this Aquascape Aquatic Patio Pond Water Garden with Bamboo Fountain will keep looking great for years to come. The square shape fits conveniently into even tight spaces and leaves room at the corners for plants.

Textured gray slate finish looks great in a wide range of settings and can be used indoors or outdoors without chipping or fading. Whether you want a tabletop fountain, a lovely accent for your porch or patio, or a secret pond in your garden, this pretty container and fountain can meet your needs.

Florida Pond Fish and Critters

When other plants wilt in the hot summer Florida days or die in the winter cold fronts, the pond lilies flower on. Ponds are drought resistant and offer humidity to surrounding vegetation, creating a microclimate that attracts all kinds of interesting wildlife, like this leopard frog.

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Florida’s environmental conditions allow you to keep all kinds of interesting animals in your pond, as well as attracting native wildlife. A water garden with fish offers constant motion and interest to your garden.

Undoubtedly one of the most exciting experiences of pond ownership is choosing and introducing plants and animals to your new world. Because Florida ponds experience zero to light freezes, Florida pond owners can get away with more variety of fish and plants than pond lovers in northern climates.

There are many invertebrates and fish to choose from, even for a small pond, and there are also lots of easy ways to encourage wildlife to your pond.

Fish and Mosquito Prevention

Whether you like it or not, your pond is likely to become home to some critters. Unless you keep the water in your pond circulating, stock fish, or treat with chlorine or mosquito preventative, you will get mosquitoes.

If you are working with a very tiny pond, it is best to use a mosquito preventative or keep water running, since fish are unlikely to survive the dramatic temperature fluctuations and predation in a small pond. If your pond is inside or on a screened patio without direct sunlight, you may be able to get away with one or two small fish. A betta fish can work well in an indoor setup, as long as temperatures don’t dip too low.

Mosquito Fish

There isn’t much debate that the little fish that are literally known as Mosquito Fish are the best at mosquito control. Their tiny bodies can fit into niches and around plants in your pond, and they don’t produce much waste for the amount of mosquito control they provide. Furthermore, they will reproduce in your pond, so you are unlikely to ever need to add more.

You can get feeder minnows at your local pet store, collect some from a local unprotected waterway, or buy starter stock online. Mosquito fish are also given out for free from many local governments so that they can be added to ponds and stock tanks to keep down the mosquito population.

Goldfish and Koi

An overturned fishbowl like this is a cute trick, and the personable goldfish really do seem to like it, but it quickly gets covered in algae, so it is best only left in for a day or so. 

Something about goldfish in a pond just seems right. Their bright colors and friendly personalities can liven up any pond. Both goldfish and koi are descended from carp species and have been bred to be decorative and hardy in a pond environment. Koi are larger, more expensive, and often more elaborate. They are too large for most garden ponds, needing a minimum of 1000 gallons.

A couple of goldfish will be happy in a smaller pond. Some, like this Shubunkin Goldfish, are as beautiful as most koi. Keep in mind that goldfish produce more poop but don’t eat more mosquito larvae than minnows. Goldfish can quickly overturn the nitrogen balance in a smaller pond, so don’t get more than three or four, and make sure there are plenty of water plants to use up their droppings or use a powerful filter. There are all kinds of fun goldfish readily available at your local fish store or online.

Local Pond Fish

The lovely American Flagfish is native here in North Florida. While you shouldn’t catch them from the wild, a pair won’t cost much online. These hardy killifish can live outdoors in a small pond year round,  and have fascinating behavior, especially around mating, when the males grow elaborate dorsal fins. They are effective at controlling mosquito larvae and even catch adult mosquitos before they can reproduce.

Crayfish

Here in Florida, just about every fresh waterway is home to crayfish. They are also sold cheaply at pet stores and bait shops. Crayfish will love your pond, and they can be fascinating to watch as they navigate the bottom, especially at night. You will be amazed to see your pond come alive at night. Crayfish are good at eating debris that falls into the pond, especially dead bugs, lizards, etc. They also filter feed, so they generally bring down the overall quantity of “muck” in your pond.

Crayfish will enthusiastically eat your fish if they can catch them, but they aren’t good at it. Crayfish tend to “garden” their environment. They probably won’t eat much of your plant material, but they will snip some aquatic plant branches off and nipple at ends. Be aware that if you end up with the self-cloning version, you may have a lot of crayfish in your pond before long. Reduce their numbers occasionally with a nice crawdaddy boil.

If you want a crayfish with some style you can choose the blue color morph. These specimens have been created through selective breeding, and may not be as hardy in your pond, so they are best for Florida ponds that are further south.

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Frogs

If your pond has been up and running for a few months, you may hear music coming from the pond at night. There are several frogs that may call your pond home, but one of the most common frogs to find in North Florida garden ponds are leopard frogs. These voracious frogs may try to eat your other pond inhabitants, like crayfish and slower fish, but mine is happy catching lizards and large insects at the pond’s perimeter.

It is surprisingly indifferent to human presence, allowing us to get very close. If you want to encourage frogs, provide shelves in your pond where a frog can rest in shallow water with head in the air. Also provide rocks near and in the pond for shelter from predators.

Snakes

Whether you love snakes because they eliminate pesky rodents and invasive lizards, or they give you the creeps, you are very likely to find snakes around your pond. Snakes need a source of fresh drinking water and so does their prey, making your pond a great place for snakes to hang out. Furthermore, the rocks that you use to decorate your pond provide safe hiding and basking places, and the humidity around the pond helps snakes to shed their skin.

You may find a variety of snakes around your Florida pond, like this big southern rat snake. Garter snakes, ringneck snakes, water snakes, black racers, and others may show up around your pond as well.

To encourage snakes to your garden pond, use heavy, flat rocks around the pond, on both moist and dry ground. Also provide shallow entry points into the pond so that snakes can easily drink and bathe.

Conclusion

Each of my Florida garden ponds is an oasis for all kinds of life. When I walk through my garden I love to pause and look into the water. I go from the juice barrel filled with purple flowering lilies and several small goldfish to the raised pond with its highlighter yellow lily and resident leopard frog. There is always something new and interesting to see. In dry weather birds and squirrels drink from the ponds, and when it rains the frogs call out. No matter how much time, space, or money you have, it is worth the effort to create your own oasis in your garden and enjoy the life that comes to live in and around it.

 

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