There is something about the combination of longer daylight hours and spring air that brings a hunger for back-yard projects. And it’s been growling in the Kelly household these past few weeks. First, there was the wooden trellis installed at the end of the porch, with a trumpet vine climbing to the top. Then came a new concrete path along the back of the house. And last week, hubby Patrick got a hankering for a fishpond.

“The preferred spot for a fishpond is typically at a high visual point from inside your home,” explained Steve McIntosh, who, along with wife Kristin, owns San Diego Pond & Garden in Poway (858-486-0033).

“Having a waterfall against a natural backdrop, whether it be a sloping hillside with lots of foliage, is always a plus, giving you a more natural look. The waterfall is typically the high point of the pond, providing beautiful white water and incredible sound, all the while providing a great source of oxygen for aquatic life.”

Does the pond need to be placed in a shady spot?

“Although partial shade is fine, it is preferable to have exposure to the sun for several reasons; better viewing of your fish and increased water temperature is healthier for the underwater environment. Sunlight is necessary for many types of aquatic plants, such as flowering water lilies.”

How many fish can a pond support?

“Many people believe that the recommended number of fish is based on the amount of gallons in your pond. This has changed some due to advanced technology in the area of circulation, filtration, and UV sterilization. Having said that, I don’t encourage overstocking your pond as it can cause poor water conditions and unnecessary stress to your fish.”

What type of fish should you use?

“Typically, people stock their ponds with both Japanese and domestic koi. Many pond keepers may also keep turtles, goldfish, and banded high-fin sharks. Although the high-fin shark is an algae eater, they will not keep your pond free from the ever-growing algae.”

Are koi expensive?

“Koi can get expensive; many collectors can spend hundreds of thousands of dollars stocking their ponds, but this is not typical. We regularly stock koi ranging in price from $10 up to $4500 each.”

How long can koi live?

“Maximum life span is over 200 years in exceptional cases; the average life span is somewhere around 25 to 45 years.”

McIntosh says the size of the pond can vary based on personal preference, “I’ve worked on pond projects that were more than an acre in size. The average back-yard pond is typically 3000 to 5000 gallons. The one important thing to keep in mind when it comes to koi is the depth of the pond. I recommend nothing less then three feet. This will provide the fish with adequate protection against natural predators, such as raccoons, herons, and egrets.”

San Diego Pond & Garden offers pond construction, service, maintenance, equipment, and koi. “For the do-it-yourselfers, we have great instructional videos and provide on-site consultation. We are seeing an increase in the number of people who are building their own back-yard waterscape. An average-sized pond can be installed in less than a week.” Prices vary based on the size, type of equipment, and rock being used on the project. “You can spend a couple thousand dollars on a pond or you can spend $100,000 on a pond, depending on how lavish one chooses to get.

“Be sure to start with a pump that provides good circulation and a biological filter. Having the right equipment will allow you to keep a beautiful pond with relative ease. I also recommend installing a UV sterilizer; this kills bacteria and single-cell organisms. This can mean the difference between crystal clear water and pea-soup water.”

We talked recommended brands.

“The most commonly used liner is manufactured by Firestone; it’s 45 millimeters [thick], also known as 45mil EPDM.

“Our number-one filtration system sold in our store is the Ultima II, made by Aqua Ultraviolet. These filters start at $400 and go up from there,” depending on the number of gallons in your pond.

“Aqua Ultraviolet makes one of the most popular and dependable UV lights on the market. The ultraviolet light size is based on the number of gallons of the pond. They start at 15 watts and go up to 1200 watts.”

“It is important that your pond has adequate circulation; for example, if your pond is 3000 gallons, I would suggest a pump that is providing a minimum of 3000 gallons per hour. Most of our customers prefer waterfalls with greater flow for aesthetics and the sound. The pond at our store is about 3000 gallons, but due to the size of our waterfalls, we run a pump that moves 12,500 gallons per hour. Pump prices can range from $300 up to $1200.”

What about maintenance?

“With the right equipment, pond maintenance can be kept to a minimum. Once a week you will need to backflush your filtration system and replace your UV light bulb about every ten months.”

What plants can be used?

“Shallow plants or bog plants are used and are typically placed at a depth of zero to six inches. People use umbrella palms, horsetail, or cannas. There are all sorts of reeds that you can put in; variegated reeds are real popular. Irises grow very well in and out of the pond. And in the pond, water lilies and water poppies. There are floating plants, water hyacinth, and water lettuce, which are nice for coverage on the pond, providing some shade and a place for fish to hide under.”

Any new trends this year?

“Pondless waterfalls are the new trend; this is essentially a waterfall coming down to a underground basin with a layer of rock at the surface. In the basin is your submersible pump that circulates the water back to the top of the falls and down again. This is ideal for the individual that has no interest in keeping a pond, or it may simply be a space issue. Pondless waterfalls are great for the aesthetics of a beautiful waterfall and the pleasant sound and because it’s not necessary to run all the time.”

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