How to set up a pond and things to think about before starting

Ponds and water gardens make the perfect addition to any garden. They’re great for wildlife; they make stunning features and are a fantastic hobby. Ponds come in a variety of shapes and sizes making them perfect for almost all gardens and green spaces.

The staple of a successful and sustainable pond or water garden is good planning. In this article we will look at how to set up a basic pond, what you need and what you should consider before getting started.

What you need

  • Pond Liner or Preformed rigid pond (we will be looking at use of pond liners here)
  • Digging tools
  • Hosepipe
  • Pond Filter
  • Pond Pump
  • Pond Plants
  • Fish
  • Stone edging (or alternative edging desired)
  • Water testing kit

Get Planning!

Site Location

If your pond is going to thrive over the years, you'll need to think carefully about its location. A number of factors can affect its health and sustainability. Finding a perfect spot is important, this will help with maintenance and ensuring algae growth is kept manageable. Ideally the location should be shade free for around 5-6 hours per day. You should avoid over hanging trees, ideally a minimum of 5 meters from the nearest tree so that falling leaves do not become a problem.

If possible, try and locate near a source of electricity and water, however be extra careful not to disturb any ground pipes and cables. Always use a RCD circuit breaker with any pond equipment installation.

Size Matters

When it comes to ponds, size does matter! Depending on your landscape and what you want in the pond itself, size is a very important consideration.
A pond between 2000L to 5000L is a good size to start for a beginner as it is big enough for a couple of small fish and is a more manageable size. Anything below 2000L is considered a small pond and will therefore not be a suitable option for those wanting a pond full of fish.

If your dream is to have a fully stocked pond full of fish and a large variety of plants, we would suggest anything up to 12000L.

However please check size requirements for any fish before starting, most pond fish will grow to be quite large and will need 5000+ litres.

What type of pond and stock

Which brings us nicely onto what you would like in your pond.  It’s important to have an idea of what you want in your pond before you start building, to make sure you have the right size, environment and equipment.
There are many varieties of fish that will add colour and movement to your pond, just make sure you do your research before so you know they’re the right fish for you.


Koi Carp are considered one of the most popular choices for ponds; they come in a variety of different colours and patterns. Koi are known to live between 20 – 75 years and can grow to over 90cm, meaning they would require a larger space.
Fun Fact: Koi fish are sociable creatures with an inquisitive and friendly nature which has led to many koi being trained to feed right out of their owners’ hands.


There are large varieties of Goldfish available, the best for ponds being the Common Goldfish. Common Goldfish are a great choice for most ponds because of their hardy nature and tolerance of a wide range of temperatures. Their average lifespan is between 15 to 25 years.


Sturgeon are very hardy fish that live and feed at the bottom of your pond. This species of pond fish requires well-oxygenated water and a large pond capacity (minimum of 10,000L) due to their great size when they reach maturity. A average sturgeon can grow to approximately 1.25m and has the average lifespan of 55 years.

Pond Style

Decide on the style of pond you wish to have in your garden. Two of the main choices to consider are between a pre-formed pond and a flexible pond liner. A pre-formed plastic pond comes in a variety of shapes and sizes, sometimes including plant shelves to make it easier when planting. They're quick and easy to install and safe for both fish and plants.

Your other option is to go for a pond liner. A pond liner allows you more flexibility in terms of your desired size and shape making them near limitless in design possibilities. Liners are cost effective and long lasting making them ideal for more natural looking ponds, streams and waterfalls.

Your Equipment

Pumps and filters have an important part to play in keeping your pond clean and healthy. Now you have decided on your pond size, type and what you would like to have in your pond, it will make picking out the correct pond equipment easier. When it comes to purchasing a pond filter there is no one size fits all. Finding the best one for your pond is often circumstantial and varies greatly depending on your pond type, volume and stock. Take a look at our Pond Filter Guide to find out what the right filter for you and your pond is.

Pond Pumps help keep the pond water clear and healthy by oxygenating it with constant movement.  This is better for fish, other wildlife in the pond, plant health, and preventing stagnant green water. To work out the right pump for you, you need to work out the pond's volume; you can do this by using our Pond Volume Calculator. This way you will be able to determine the correct flow rate needed.

Getting Started!

Now that you’ve spent time planning and know exactly what you want from your pond, it’s time to get your hands dirty!

Mark out & excavate your pond

You don’t need expensive equipment for this part, using a simple hosepipe or string will do the job perfectly. The shape is entirely up to you, experiment with different shapes until you find the one that’s right for you. When you’re set on a design, use a spade to mark out your desired area, making sure there are no sharp corners as they will impede optimum filtration.

Excavate the new pond, taking care to ensure the sides have a gradual slope to them rather than vertical drops. Marginal areas should also be created at depth of 20-40cm, either a complete shelf or set areas to your design. Ensure it is level across all extremes upon completion of the excavation.

Installing Your Pond Liner

Before placing any liner or underlay ensure that all sharp objects have been removed. Next lay your underlay on the base and on all sides, positioning the liner in place once you are happy all areas are covered. Finally, anchor the liner in position around the outside edge. Gradually fill the pond with water, slowly pulling and adjusting the liner to ensure a crease-free edging and a neat finish. Fill it and then leave overnight to settle. Remove any excess liner the next morning; leave at least 30cm overlap at the edge.

Edge the pond in paving or as desired, ensuring a small overlap to protect any exposed liner from UV damage. Grass/Turf can also be used, which can overhang into the body of water if desired.

Add your pond equipment

Once your liner is fitted and settled, and your pond is filled, it’s time to add in your pond pump and filter. This is where your pre planning pays off as you already know the exact systems you require. When setting up your pond pump and pond filter, make sure to follow the instructions fully.

Adding Plants to your pond

When you create a water garden around a pond, the pond plants you choose should balance the ecosystem and harmonise with the environment.

There are many varieties of plants to choose from, each one comes with its own benefits and must be planted and maintained in a different way. Two great starter varieties for ponds are Floating plants and oxygenating plants.

Floating plants help to cover the surface and provide much needed shade for the water below. Free floating plants can be placed on the surface of the pond by carefully spreading out the leaves and roots.

Oxygenating pond plants do exactly what they say on the tin, they increase essential and beneficial oxygen to your pond. These plants grow entirely under water and use fish waste and decaying organic matter as a fertiliser.

Adding fish to your pond

Before adding fish to your pond it is important to make sure your pond has had time to settle. You need to make sure that the water quality is high enough for the safety of your fish and that the plants and filtration devices are settled and established before introducing fish to your garden pond. You can do this by testing your water using a water testing kit.

When adding fish to your pond it’s important to introduce them slowly as they need to acclimatise to the new water temperature. If your fish are transported in an oxygenated bag, float the bag in the pond for at least 20 minutes. You’ll then want to add a small amount of the pond water to the bag to help the fish get used to the different water quality. After another 20 minutes of this process, carefully begin to release them into your pond.

Pond Safety

The most important thing when building a pond or water feature is safety. If there are young children around or pets that do not swim, ponds can become very unsafe. Check out our Pond Safety 101 for key pond safety tips.