Location, location, location
How many times have you heard that phrase? Given that a water feature is a prime addition to your personal real estate, it pays to give it special consideration. To thoroughly enjoy your water feature, you should site it within easy, useful access to a patio, porch, deck, or a frequently used pathway.
It is a plus, of course, if the feature can also be viewed from the inside of your home. Should you be able to accommodate the above requirements, the next item to consider is the aspect of easy maintenance.
Algae, the most difficult clarity issue associated with ponds, likes sunlight. If you can site your pond where it gets morning sun and afternoon shade, you get bonus points, as you will minimize algae growth, help keep your fish cool in the hot afternoons, and still allow the widest variety of plantings in and around the pond.
Not to worry, however, should your water feature end up in the direct sun (as many do); there are a number of fish and plant-safe products available to control algae. Barley bales are gaining increasing homeowner popularity in the control of algae; they are initially slow acting and will not kill the existing algae, but are proving very effective in prevention.
A minor downside to having a full sun pond is that, in the heat of summer, the water will evaporate more quickly than it would if the boulders were in the shade, thus requiring more frequent refilling. This is more true with a pondless waterfall than an open water pond.
A final consideration is that of leaf fall in the Autumn. If you can site your water feature away from trees, you will have less vegetation to remove from the surface of the water, the skimmers, and filters.
Pond or pondless
Open water ponds allow for fish and plant life and a place to dip your toes on a hot afternoon. They also require more maintenance to keep clean and may be not be such a great idea if you have young 'uns. What to do? How about a pondless waterfall?
A pondless waterfall is essentially the same as an open water pond without the open water; the water flows into a rock basin as it begins its recirculation cycle. Pondless features require less maintenance, have fewer components, less of an algae problem (I'll explain later), are safer for small children and pets, and will support plant life, but not fish.
Pondless waterfalls came into increasing popularity about six or eight years ago and, in my experience, accounted for about 95% of the water garden work we performed. I highly recommend them.
Filtration basics: caution, engineering content ahead
There are three basic types of filtration systems -- biological, mechanical, and water sterilization. Let's briefly look at each of them:
Biological -- uses beneficial bacteria
powder (good bugs) to break down pond wastes into, ultimately, plant fertilizers. Mother Nature is very helpful in this simple component of pond health and maintenance; more on this in a moment.
Mechanical -- uses filter boxes to remove debris such as leaves, trash, and algae from the surface of the water. Initial installation costs are very reasonable and maintenance requires only infrequent filter media replacement, at minimal cost. Biological and mechanical systems used in tandem to remove solids are very effective.
Sterilization -- uses ultraviolet lamps to kill and agglomerate
(your word of the day) algae for removal by a mechanical device. The big downside here is that it also kills the beneficial bacteria and has an initial (extra installation) cost, and recurring costs in the form of replacement lamps and power expenditure. You see where I'm going with this?
Very cool ponds!(click thumbnails to view gallery)