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How to build a wildlife pond and maintain it

Here you can find out top tips for how to build a wildlife pond with saftey tips and so much more.


By Cleanipedia Team

How to build a wildlife pond: The surface of a pond with water lilies floating on top

Key steps

  • Collect your supplies.
  • Use a spade or mini digger.
  • Make it at least 2ft deep leaving some shallow areas.
  • Use rainwater to fill.
  • Introduce plants 1-2 weeks after filling.
  • Fish can be put in after 72 hours but it’s best to wait for plants to give them somewhere to hide.

Digging a pond in the garden is a great way to teach kids about nature and to contribute to your local ecosystem. Plus, it looks pretty! Read on for our simple step-by-step guide to making a wildlife pond. For additional tips on garden safety for children, read our article on how to prepare the garden for a children’s party.

Make sure that you get your pond child-safe with high visibility, pond fences and by never leaving children unattended near your pond, even if it’s quite shallow.

How to build a wildlife pond: FAQs about adding the perfect pond to your garden

From understanding how to dig a pond, to making sure your garden is safe and knowing what plants and fish to use, this guide answers some frequently asked questions. Read on to discover how to fill in a pond and more.

1. What do you need to make a wildlife pond?

There are a few things you will need to get together before you start. These include:

  • A clear area of garden
  • Rope
  • Handheld spade (or mini-digger for bigger ponds)
  • Wooden plank
  • Spirit level
  • Builder’s sand
  • Butyl rubber pond liner
  • Larger rocks
  • Water
  • Pond plants
  • Fish

2. How deep should my pond be?

Depending on what you want to do with your pond, there are different depths we recommend. There’s no single right answer for how to dig a pond, or how deep to make it. On average, if you want to add plants and fish, it should be at least 2 foot deep. For koi fish, you will need a deeper pond. If you are in an area where the water is likely to freeze in winter, make sure it is deep enough to prevent it freezing all the way through.

3. How do I build a pond?

There are a few simple steps to building the perfect garden pond.

  • Pick a sunny spot for wildlife like tadpoles, dragonflies and more to thrive
  • Mark out your spot using a rope.
  • Use a spade or mini-digger for digging out a pond, placing a plank from side to side with a spirit-level to check the sides are level.
  • Dig out the centre to your chosen depth. Then, to emulate natural ponds, let it become gradually shallower towards the edges, to create the right environment for different kinds of wildlife to shelter.
  • Remove any stones in the bottom of the hole and place a 5cm deep layer of builder’s sand.
  • Place the pond liner into the hole.
  • Dig a trench around the edge of the pond, wide enough to tuck overhanging edges of the pond liner into it. Once you have tucked the pond liner in, fill the trench with soil.
  • Place large rocks around the edge to weigh down the liner.
  • Fill the bottom of the pond with a layer of builder’s sand.

4. How can I fill my pond?

Now you’ve dug it to the right size, you might be wondering how to fill in a pond. The best water to use is rainwater, as tap water can turn green.

  • Prior to building your pond, collect rainwater using rain barrels and more. These are great for saving water to water your plants and more too!
  • Attach a hose pipe to the rain barrel or outdoor tap.
  • Place the other end into your pond and leave it to fill.
  • As you fill the pond, avoid leaving the Butyl liner exposed to sunlight as it could degrade.

5. What plants should I use for my pond?

Plants should be introduced 1-2 weeks after filling your pond to give them the best chance of survival. Try planting some of these native plants in and around your pond to add life and colour:

  • Flowering rush
  • Marsh marigold
  • Water plantain
  • Frogbit
  • Pond waterlily
  • Watercress
  • Arrowhead
  • Water soldier
  • Meadowsweet
  • Ragged robin

6. What fish should I put in my pond?

If you like, you can add fish after 72 hours –but we recommend waiting until your plants have grown in well, so they have somewhere to hide. Don’t forget to add protection against cats and herons which might like to feast on your new fish!

  • Common minnow
  • Stickleback
  • Goldfish
  • Koi
  • Goby

Now you have a quick and easy guide to both making a wildlife pond and also pond maintenance you can be sure to have a great new addition to your garden.

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Originally published