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 Post subject: Pond build
PostPosted: December 17th, 2015, 7:09 pm 

Joined: June 17th, 2010, 4:51 am
Posts: 350
Location: CT
Since I purchased my house 3.5 years ago, I have wanted to put in a pond. I purchased the turtles (European pond turtles- Emys orbicularis) that were going to be the inhabitants of the pond more than a year ago. They have been patiently waiting and growing to a safer size in glass aquaria inside. I finally had some time to dedicate so it was time to get started.

The area of the yard I chose was the flattest possible, but still had a slight incline, maybe 12” difference from where the one end would be to the other. I dug out the one edge by eye, then put some stakes all around edge. I ran a pole with a level on it from the center to the edges and taped off each stake just to get a rough reference point. If I had had a machine to use, I would have leveled the ground first to make it easier. I wish I took a before pic, but didn’t. Half the area was grass, and half was 5’ tall weeds that had grown up from an abandoned garden. You can see the mound in the back starting to get some size already and I have barely begun!

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Here is one shovel full taken out of the entire area, the flat edges around the outside will be the first very shallow shelf lined with rock.

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The bulk of the digging was pretty straightforward and easier than I thought. I put in lots of shelves of varying heights to accommodate plants and give the turtles lots of options. Here is my 3 year old doing her best to show scale. Really she is just having a blast climbing in the hole and getting her princess dress nice and dirty. (She actually had even more fun climbing up the “mountain” of dirt that came out of the hole.)

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After all the inside digging was done, I ran string to make sure the edges were as level as I could get them. Because of how I wanted edge my pond, this was very important. More about that later.
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All cleaned up, leveled, and smoothed out.

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For those paying particular attention, yes there is an extra shelf on the far side. Prior to digging, I figured out where I was going to buy the liner. They said they custom cut it. I figured that meant down to foot increments. It did not. So after I dug it out and told them I needed the liner to be 19 x 26, they told me it would be 20 x 30. That’s about 20% more liner, and cost. SO instead of trying to make 25’ work, I increased the size of the pond a foot or two to make myself feel better and not waste as much. I still had a lot because the pond is not uniformly shaped.

Another photo for fun. The liner is in the foreground. It weighs about 150 pounds.

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The underlayment went in easy, but the liner was a little difficult to manage, especially by myself. I did not do a good job smoothing out the wrinkles. I know there has to be some, but I was hoping for less. I attribute that to lack of experience and patience. I filled it up to the first edge to make sure it was level, that part I did pretty well.

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Edging. Most ponds I saw when researching how to go about this had a lot of rock built up all around. That makes it so that the liner is hidden, and changes in water level in addition to leveling the ground aren’t as important. But I needed to make it easy for the turtles to be able to get in and out. A wall of rock along the edge wouldn’t do. I also want it to be as natural looking as possible. I spent a lot of time thinking about how to make it aesthetically pleasing and functional. That’s why I created that shallow lip. The plan in my head was to lay the rock kind of in steps for a smooth transition. I thought it was going to be easy. Here is the first course of rock (with a little started on the second)

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As soon as I put in my first course, it became painfully obvious where I went wrong. If the rocks I used were all an equivalent thickness, my idea would have been fine. That’s not how it worked out. I should have started with the inside lip of that edge, and sloped it up instead of flat across. That would have made it easy to create a gradual transition from water to land. So I had to backfill areas and kind of did that with a second course of rock. I now have a very small window of height where the water needs to be, only a couple of inches. Its in full sun, so I will have to closely monitor evaporation. I think it ended up looking ok, but only a little better than the edging everyone else does.

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After that, I trimmed the liner down for second time, and used up a good amount of the pile of dirt all around the pond to level things out. I placed some rocks near the edges at various depths to try to create a better transition so it didn’t look like the rock around the pond came from nowhere. I will likely add more in the spring when I plant. I plan on putting some rocks inside the pond as well. Once I add plants both inside and out, it should look a lot more natural.

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The pond is 19’ long and 11’ wide at the furthest points. The deepest point is 40”, but the majority is much shallower. I had to go that deep because I plan to overwinter the turtles in it. A very rough estimate of capacity is somewhere around 2000 gallons. It has close to 3000 lbs of rock all around the edge. I would have loved to put some larger boulders around, but it was just me with hand tools. I still have to add some sort of fencing to keep the turtles in, and predators out. It will also give me piece of mind to help deter any little kids from falling in as well. I put up a silt fence in the meantime for that reason.


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 Post subject: Re: Pond build
PostPosted: December 18th, 2015, 5:56 am 

Joined: July 2nd, 2010, 5:48 pm
Posts: 682
Location: AZ.
That is a great project that will surely keep you busy. I am learning a lot, you are a year or two ahead of me, I wish to do similar. Is there a way to drain the pond? Will you be filtering and aerating the water? I hope you will keep us updated, I am sure spring will be a fun time with the planting and creative ideas flowing.

good luck and have fun, Vic


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 Post subject: Re: Pond build
PostPosted: December 21st, 2015, 5:42 am 

Joined: June 17th, 2010, 4:51 am
Posts: 350
Location: CT
VICtort wrote:
That is a great project that will surely keep you busy. I am learning a lot, you are a year or two ahead of me, I wish to do similar. Is there a way to drain the pond? Will you be filtering and aerating the water? I hope you will keep us updated, I am sure spring will be a fun time with the planting and creative ideas flowing.

good luck and have fun, Vic



Thanks. I have no way of draining the pond, other than dropping a pump in.
I have never built a pond before, but I have used to work in an aquarium shop. I did some pond services during that time, so I have a little experience with ponds, and a lot with water quality in general. Rarely do you have to drain an entire pond. Well established ponds need minimal water changes. The plan is to plant it heavily to take care of the filtration. Because I will have such little bio load compared to the size, this should not be a problem.
Aeration/circulation is a different story. Everyone I talk to says I need to circulate or aerate. But I am stubborn and need to find out for myself. So I am not planning on having any at first. The main reason is I am trying to avoid running electric to it. If things turn sour, I will bite the bullet and run electric, or buy a solar powered pump. I'll try to update next year once its planted and functional.


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 Post subject: Re: Pond build
PostPosted: December 21st, 2015, 9:18 am 

Joined: March 30th, 2014, 12:16 pm
Posts: 566
Location: Okaloosa ca, Fla.
Out of curiosity, what is your plan to deal with fecal buildup? Periodic draining or perhaps fish?


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 Post subject: Re: Pond build
PostPosted: December 22nd, 2015, 8:22 am 
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Joined: June 8th, 2010, 3:02 am
Posts: 878
Holy moly, Kfen! This is going to be awesome! I can't wait to see the finished product. Thanks for phot-documenting the process. This is something I need to work more on doing....I get so wrapped up in finishing whatever I am working on that I forget to take pics as I go along. I always wish later that I had, so I could do something like your post.

Fantastic!


simus343 wrote:
Out of curiosity, what is your plan to deal with fecal buildup? Periodic draining or perhaps fish?


With the number of turtles he has in the size of the pond, he will be fine. It is a low bioload- so fecal buildup shouldn't be an issue. The microbes and bacteria that will colonize the pond will take care of all that. Once he gets it planted and lets some leaves and grass fall in and start breaking down, that will jumpstart the process.

--Berkeley


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 Post subject: Re: Pond build
PostPosted: December 22nd, 2015, 8:55 am 
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Joined: October 18th, 2011, 12:03 pm
Posts: 3941
Location: San Francisco, California
A little moving water or breaking of the surface would be the extent of any human forces as an elective, but Berkeley explains it well, and he is really the King of outdoor biomes.

Kfen you have a great pond its like the perfect size - big enough to become real but not so distal that you lose touch with your charges. Please keep us updated your example to others is priceless.


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 Post subject: Re: Pond build
PostPosted: December 22nd, 2015, 9:39 am 

Joined: June 17th, 2010, 4:51 am
Posts: 350
Location: CT
simus343 wrote:
Out of curiosity, what is your plan to deal with fecal buildup? Periodic draining or perhaps fish?


If you are talking about physical fecal matter build up, that will dissolve and breakdown pretty quickly. I am sure I will have to net out a bunch of "debris" once a year or so. Fortunately for this aspect, I don't have many deciduous trees nearby.

If you are talking about the toxins that fecal matter turn into (ammonia, nitrites, etc), that will be broken down and taken up by "good" bacteria that builds up and by the plants that I will add in the spring.

It will be a very small bioload compared to the size, 4-6 turtles and a handful of small fish to keep mosquitos in check. That is nothing in 2000 gallons of water.


Berkeley Boone wrote:
Holy moly, Kfen! This is going to be awesome! I can't wait to see the finished product. Thanks for phot-documenting the process. This is something I need to work more on doing....I get so wrapped up in finishing whatever I am working on that I forget to take pics as I go along. I always wish later that I had, so I could do something like your post.

Fantastic!
--Berkeley


Thanks! I usually don't take pics in an effort to get things done as well, but a friend reminded me before I started. Even with that reminder, I still didn't take a complete before pic!

Kelly Mc wrote:
Kfen you have a great pond its like the perfect size - big enough to become real but not so distal that you lose touch with your charges. Please keep us updated your example to others is priceless.


Thanks Kelly. That is exactly what I was I going for. I will definitely update this next season. I have the rest of winter to educate myself on outdoor aquatic plants.


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 Post subject: Re: Pond build
PostPosted: January 2nd, 2016, 8:17 am 
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Joined: June 11th, 2010, 5:06 am
Posts: 267
Awesome and inspiring! Since I was a kid, I have wanted a pond in my backyard. Very cool to see that you made one yourself. Please do update this post with photos as the project progresses. Mike


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 Post subject: Re: Pond build
PostPosted: January 7th, 2016, 11:53 am 
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Joined: July 28th, 2013, 6:56 am
Posts: 79
Nice pond. I took the plunge this past Spring and built one myself. Mine is smaller, approximately 250 gallons. I put a drain on it to do water changes. I also put a group of minnows in the pond for insect control. I had a couple dozen in there at any given time. They did their job and I never saw any mosquito larvae after their introduction. Prior to them I was seeing larvae about 6 days after a water change. As a bonus I always had fresh fish to feed to my turtles. I had no filtration or moving water last year but I may try a solar powered pump this year to aid in breaking down turtle waste. Good luck with your project.


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 Post subject: Re: Pond build
PostPosted: January 9th, 2016, 6:29 am 

Joined: June 17th, 2010, 4:51 am
Posts: 350
Location: CT
Thanks Reptologist. Is the pond you built the one in your wood turtle enclosure, or a separate one? If separate, do you have pics? Were the minnows breeding in there or you just kept it stocked and fed them off.


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 Post subject: Re: Pond build
PostPosted: January 10th, 2016, 5:04 pm 
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Joined: July 28th, 2013, 6:56 am
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Kfen wrote:
Thanks Reptologist. Is the pond you built the one in your wood turtle enclosure, or a separate one? If separate, do you have pics? Were the minnows breeding in there or you just kept it stocked and fed them off.

Yes it was the pond for my woodies. There was no breeding going on by the minnows. I would just ask my neighbor to bring some home from their vacation home on the bay. He trapped them all Summer for fishing and always had extra. I used to buy them but I quickly realized that the fresh caught minnows fared much better in my pond. 2 dozen seemed to be the correct number to have on hand for a couple reasons. I always had a supply of food, which the woods love to eat. Also it worked out better that there were always established minnows in the pond to basically show the newer minnows when it was feeding time for them. New minnows would hide and not really eat for the first few days they were introduced to the pond. This left uneaten fish food in the pond which shortened my water change intervals. The established minnows would feed vigorously and the newer minnows would follow their lead and start eating sooner, reducing any wasted food left uneaten.


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