Water Gardens - They do not have to be expensive - Here's HOW...
Water Gardens are calming and soothing.. a pleasure to have in your yard.... and they can be established very economically. All you need is a little bit of manual labour on the end of a shovel. You can purchase the "commercial kits" to add a pond to your yard, or you can simply build your own. All you need is a piece of swimming pool liner, and a shovel.
I constructed my pond over two days. Initially I dug a hole about 8 feet in diameter, with a flat bottom and a shallower foot wide "shelf" all around the perimeter. The dirt I removed was piled aound the perimeter to make a raised flower bed. After removing all small stones, pebbles or other "sharp" objects from the hole I lined the whole thing with some old foam carpet underlay to cushion the liner and help protect it from abrasions. Next I laid the pool liner in it, making neat folds to accomodate the shape. Leaving the excess laying on the ground I filled the pool with water which compressed the "underlay" and fitted the pool liner snugly to the hole. I then worked the pool edges, tucking the liner over and around a row of flat rocks which were slightly higher than the surrounding dirt, and set another row of rocks over them to hide the liner edges. Over the ensuing years I have modified the pond perimeter somewhat, adding a waterfall and other features, but the above is all you need to build your water garden.
Frogs make a welcome addition to a pond, as do fish, plants, flowers and decorative statuary.
But before we get to that, we need a system of circulating the water. This means getting a pump. Pond pumps come in various price ranges, but any submersible sealed unit pump will do the job. Some of these "utility" pumps are less expensive and will do the job quite well. Vinyl hose the required diameter, as well as connectors and splitters, can be obtained at most hardware stores, so that the layout of your water course(s) is only limited by your imagination. Fountains, and statuary with spouts are commercially available, but it is also possible to make your own. For instance, the old type laundry sprinkler that fit onto a bottle can make your "fountain"... the plastic toilet tank intake pipe will make a fine water spout, etc. etc. The only thing to keep in mind is to use only plastic, stone or vinyl, no metal. Metal will corrode and poison your fish.
To keep your pond CLEAN you can buy a commercial filter, or you can make your own. One I have found to work well is made from a 2 foot length of ABS pipe, about 3" in diamter. One end is capped off solid, while the other end is capped with a short 1/2 inch pipe threaded into the cap for attaching to the Intake on the pump. 4 rows of holes are drilled down the length of the ABS pipe, approx. 1/4 inch in diameter and about 1/2 inch apart. The ABS pipe is then wrapped in a plastic fibre reusable furance filter (about $ 5.- at Canadian Tire) and encircled with nylon cable ties. When the flow of water slows down, simply remove the furnace filter pad and hose it off with the garden hose to clean it. This is usually required every few weeks, depending on how "dirty" your pond gets. Avoid over-feeding fish and keep pond clear of debris such as leaves or grass clippings.
Water plants such as bullrushes, water iris, arrowroot, watercress, water lillies, pike grass and a wide variety of "seaweed" can be obtained in local lakes and streams. A good place to find plants is at the high water line of beaches where plant suckers are often washed ashore. Use plastic mesh baskets lined with fine gravel to prevent soil escaping and muddying the water, or plant in sand and gravel. Early in spring the plants are not big enough to shade the pond so hornwort can be added to cut down on the algea growth. Hornwort is available at various nurseries catering to water gardens. A commercial algea destroyer also can be used if required.
The plant baskets sit submerged in water on the shelf at the pond edge or on cement blocks set on their end or stacked in the deeper parts of the pond. As well as making a platform for a plant basket, they also provide hiding places for fish. You will want to keep your water lillies in a section of the pond where the water is calmer. Spray from a fountain can tear lilly pads.
Next we get to the fish. Koi can be purchased, but a less expensive method is to buy "feeder goldfish". They may be fairly small initially, but they will grow quickly. The initial mortality may run as high as 50% because they are not usually well cared for in the pet stores, since they are used as fish food, but they only cost $ 5.- to $ 10.- per dozen.
If using "feeder" goldfish, check you pond daily for dead fish for the first two weeks. The ones that survive past that will be fine. I also add 2 to 4 sunfish to my pond to eat any mosquitos that choose to breed in my pond, and other insects that may tumble into the water. Sunfish can be caught in most lakes and rivers... the smaller the better... about 2 or 3 inches. Use a very tiny hook, baited with a very small piece of worm.... and ALWAYS wet your hand before touching the fish.... this leaves it's protective coating of slime intact. They will keep in a bucket of lake water for the ride home, but check them for bloodsuckers (usually under or around the fins) before them adding to your pond. You want "clean" fish only. Another alternative is to purchase "baitfish" from a Sporting Goods store, but keep in mind a rapid change in temperature could kill the fish. (Most "bait" places keep their baitfish in very cold water). Personally I use feeder goldfish with a couple of sunfish. I have 3 of my "original' dozen goldfish left after 7 years, and 3 sunfish which I have had for 3 years now. Because of our climate here, I bring all the fish in for the winter, but they can be left outside if you can keep the pond from totally freezing over. Ideally the pond should be at least 4 feet deep if you plan to keep the fish in it year around. That is sufficient to keep it from freezing into a solid block of ice in most climates. Heaters can also be used. Goldfish are a very hardy species, as are sunfish and Koi.
Footnote - - Since writing the above I have added to my pond two suckers (mullet), about 5 inches in length, which were purchased at a "baitfish" store. They did fine through the summer and have survived quite nicely over winter in my aquarium. I am now looking forward to the warmer weather so I can set up my pond for another season.