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The Small Pond: How a Small Garden Pond Can Be a Great Choice

Updated on December 12, 2014

Small is beautiful

When you contemplate a pond, what comes to mind? A Japanese water garden with waterlilies, lotus, colorful frogs, and weeping willows? A peaceful retreat that only you know about?

Though wonderful, well-stocked fish ponds make a dazzling impression, a smaller, more thoughtful pond can be a great addition to your back yard. There are many choices for a small pond – including a pond dug out from the ground, a plastic form pond, a whiskey barrel pond, or a large, attractive ceramic pot filled with water plants.

Advantages of a small pond

You won’t be stocking with lots of fish, which most likely wouldn’t live anyway in a confined space. But you receive the benefit of clear water all of the time, which is often very difficult to obtain with ponds containing lots of goldfish and koi. The only fish you will really need are mosquito fish (gambusia) – these are necessary to keep mosquito larvae from taking hold. But you might be able to keep a goldfish or two. That really depends on the design of your pond. Consult with someone who has lots of experience with ponds or aquariums.

My pond - about 5' x 4' x 2'

Other things

Lots of glorious fish in a sizeable pond attract predators eventually. The magnificent heron or the crafty raccoon are thinking one thing when they spy your pond: “Cool! A place to fish!” If you are stocking with mosquito fish, which are only 1.5” long, predators won’t bother visiting you.

In addition, a small water feature is definitely safer if you have small kids or dogs. The schnauzer to the right is Meadow, and yes, she has fallen into my pond a couple of times, but she hauled herself out because of the shallow depth.

A drink from my pond



Here is probably the biggest advantage of the small pond. They are much easier to clean and maintain. While most large fish ponds require a mechanical biological filter that needs to be cleaned on a regular basis, a pond stocked with water plants and a dozen mosquito fish keeps itself clean. I have river pebbles at the bottom slope of my waterfall, and that is the extent of my “biological filter.”

Whiskey Barrel Pond

Design considerations

I didn’t have much choice about the way my pond looks, and the why is a long story. But an in-ground pond probably needs to be at least two feet deep (like mine) to support the plants and mosquito fish. You don’t want your water heating up too much during the warm months, and with water cycling through the waterfall, you must consider the constant evaporation. On the other hand, a whiskey barrel is going to be pretty deep and not too wide, and, best of all, mobile. You just need to consider the needs of the plants you plan to grow and decide on the shape of your container. Some barrels or pots are placed in filtered sun, and won’t have the same problems of evaporation, and some ponds are in agreeable climates where it never gets too warm.

I have a pond pump. But if you’re using a whiskey barrel or a big pot, there are ways of creating the same filtration at a fraction of the cost. I’ve noted the use of a cheap air lift pump and a homemade under-gravel filter as an alternative to a pond pump.

Author's pond
Author's pond

Final thoughts

On my blog, I gave the reader 6 reasons to build a pond as a landscaping feature. Should you decide to put in a pond, the next thought should be what kind of design works best for you. You can start small with a whiskey barrel, and with a little experience, you might decide to tackle a dug-out pond. The small pond is a great learning tool!

Water lilies in a small space

Photo Credits

Whiskey barrel pond from Geek2Nurse


Submit a Comment
  • gracenotes profile imageAUTHOR


    24 months ago from North Texas

    Thank you!

  • escole61 profile image

    colin powell 

    24 months ago from march

    I enjoyed your article. I think ponds can be a kind ambient asset to a garden. Especially with a pump and water feature with oxygenating plants etc.


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