Building a Koi pond by Hand

The demo pond
The demo pond
We begin digging
We begin digging
Starting the 2nd level. The pink is the line showing us where to dig.
Starting the 2nd level. The pink is the line showing us where to dig.
Putting in the tub that will create the water fall.
Putting in the tub that will create the water fall.
Our rock pile
Our rock pile
The liner is in and we are installing the rocks
The liner is in and we are installing the rocks
Further along putting in the rocks
Further along putting in the rocks
Water! Yeah its green. We had to fix.
Water! Yeah its green. We had to fix.
The water fall. I love it and am very proud.
The water fall. I love it and am very proud.
Fish. This is Hank and Cisco
Fish. This is Hank and Cisco
The finished pond.
The finished pond.

This story is not a step by step process for building a pond. It is a story about our crazy idea to build a KOI pond by ourselves. It took us 9 months. The result is a wonderful relaxing area of the yard, that we can have breakfast or lunch by and watch our beautiful fish swim in.

We started by taking a class offered by the local pond shop. They offered a one day, free, demonstration on how to build a pond. We also received a discount on the products needed to build our pond. The class made the project look so much easier than it was. Should have known better, their pond was built by professionals, they would build ours for about $8,000.00, the product for do-it-yourselves was 2500.00. We decided to build it ourselves. The class was very good in helping us realized we wanted dual water falls and two 8 ft creeks going into the pond. The pond is 11x16.

We took the class in September, bought all the product needed for our pond, it was a kit that came with the liner, pump, etc, and directions. Than the rain came. Darn it all. We could not start the pond till the end of the raining season. So in June, we took a two week vacation and began digging our pond. As we are in California, we only needed to go down 2 feet. Most of California does not get cold enough to need a deeper pond.

The pond design we were shown required us to do a series of 8-10 inch steps. We needed to go down 8" at the widest and longest points. Our yard is very rocky, we had to do the first step with a pick and shovel, nothing else would work. This step took the longest as our stamina would give out after about 3-4 hours. Not only that but this was June and HOT. By 12:00 pm it was too hot to work in the yard. Some days, 10:00 am was to hot. It took us 2 weeks just to get the perimeter dug out. We put the dirt where we wanted to put the waterfall, and dug out the area for the pump.

Next step was to measure in about 8" and begin the next shelf. The idea of the step/shelves is to prevent Raccoons from eating the fish. Guess what? It doesn't work. We have lost 5 of our fish to Raccoons. The pond now has an electric fence. We didn't now at the time this design would not work. It sounded so logical when it was explained to us that Raccoons do not like to lean over to fish. They like to sit and wait for the fish to swim through their paws. The 8 inch drop was supposed to keep them from leaning over to fish. What they did instead was wade out on the plants than make themselves comfortable. Wrecking the plant and taking our fish. By the time we started the 2nd shelf we were both back at work. The digging could only be done on weekends, and mostly only one day of the weekend, because other things had to be done around the house. The 2nd shelf took almost 2 months.

We were so excited when we finally began the 3rd and final shelf. Unfortunately it was now fall, and we were once again fighting the rain. By this time we were working in much softer soil and having to dig a much smaller area. The last shelf took a lot less time.

Once we had dug out the area we laid down the pond liner over the creek/waterfall area and the pond. The liner for the creek, needed to overlap over the pond liner to prevent the water from getting away. We than began to hook up the equipment and test the pond. This was done over several of months because of rain. We also needed to do the electrical for the pond to run the pump, and the lights. The kit included both.

Finally we were able to put the rocks in. We had been collecting rocks from various trips for years. We were able to use most of them in the pond. We did need to buy Moss rock from a Rockery to fill in, and buy smaller rocks to create a gravel area. This was a lot of fun!! Once the rocks were in place we put water in for the first time. We were very excited the first time the waterfall came on, the water ran through the creeks, and over the lower fall. We did need to adjust the rocks a bit to get better flow, and sound. It was now the end of March.

Than we bought our first Koi. As we where novices about Koi we bought very small, about 3", from a pet store chain , for about 6.99. Only 2 at first. We researched heavily on how many fish we could put in the pond. We now have 9 fish, the biggest one is about 13". The two original Koi after 4 yrs, have not grown longer than 9". We were amazed at how fast the fish grew the first year. Some of the original fish we lost to the Raccoons. We replaced them. When we lost my favorite, we called him Flash, he was dark gray, with metallic streaks on both sides, and the biggest in the pond. I was heartbroken. My husband would not tell me for days he was gone. That was when we put in the electric fence. I hated the fence at first, but now the plants have grown up to hide it. It is very low, and most people don't notice it.

All the fish have names. Holmes, is yellow with metallic, Scarlett is red with metallic, they are the two oldest, than came Hank and Cisco, both are multi colored, followed by Spot, mostly white, with orange on the head, and black spots, Copper, dark gray with red undertones, Wild Bill, a solid orange, Hawkeye, dark grey and white, and lastly Bullet, also gray and white, and very shy.

After having the pond for 4 yrs now, I highly recommend building one. If you can afford it, have someone else build it. Also I wish it was bigger. Very common feeling once the pond is a few years old. Oh, and most of our friends and relatives think we are nuts, but love the pond.

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