You inherited a pond... now what?

pond came with the house

More and more lately we've become experts with the "inherited pond." You moved into a new house, and lo and behold, the previous owners left a pond! But... now what do you do with it?

This is so exciting for us, as your pond guides. We get to teach you how to be a water gardener! It's akin to getting someone hooked on your favorite show. You just love spreading your hobbies, right?

We've seen a range of types of inherited ponds. We've seen ponds that people have unearthed underneath a forest of weeds. We've seen beautiful, established ponds that enchanted people to buy the home in the first place. For every situation though, we get pretty much the same question. "What do I do now?"

First,  we invite you to visit our shop. Bring photos of your water feature, take a tour of our gardens to see what our water features look like, and talk to us about what you'd like to do with your new water feature! Trust us, no question is too small or too silly. We have all the pond supplies you need to get your pond looking just the way you like it.

This blog post is a comprehensive guide to your new water feature. Click the links below in the table of contents to jump to that section. 

This is the "Delight" pond at our display gardens.


We define a "pond" as a man-made body of water lined by either a rubber liner or plastic insert. We describe these features in terms of their gallon size, and we deal with a wide range of sizes: from 100 gallons to 10,000 gallons. If your pond is clay-bottom or naturally-made, you should know up front that much of the information we have is not designed for your type of pond. 

This is a pond-free waterfall.

Pond-free Waterfall

A pond-free waterfall is recirculating waterfall with an underground basin. There is no standing body of water.

This basalt column feature would be considered a "fountain."

Bubbling Boulders and Other Fountains

Bubbling boulders are quite popular. There's a rock, or several rocks, or sometimes a large, decorative urn on top of an underground basin. The water recirculates. You may see other features like this, but the principle is the same: no fish, very little standing water (if any), and no ecosystem.

Parts of a Pond-free Waterfall

Cutaway of a pond-free waterfall showing the basin below ground level.


We call the underground reservoir the "basin." It houses the pump and also holds the water that recirculates through the feature. You should see no standing water on top of the basin -- water is meant to seep through the rock on top of the basin and right into the basin below.

Pump Vault

Pump Vault

Your pump should be housed in the basin inside what's called a pump vault. There are lids to the top of the pump vault. This lids are sometimes covered in real, flat stones and sometimes with fake stones. 



At the top of the waterfall is likely a spillway box. The spillway's function is just to shape the waterfall. It is not a filter. In fact, a pond-free waterfall doesn't need a filter at all!

Cutaway view of a skimmer

The skimmer sits at pond level, buried in the ground. It houses the pump. Its function is to draw in debris and catch debris in both a net and some sort of mat or brushes. You can clean the skimmer net and mat / brushes as often as you need to: generally most ponds need their skimmer nets emptied about once a week and mat / brushes every two to three weeks. Check out skimmers on our online store.

You will also use the skimmer to see how much water your pond needs. We'll talk about water loss later in this post. Read here how to check your water level using your skimmer.

By the way -- if your pond does not have a skimmer, you can read more about other filter types here.

Cutaway view of a waterfall filter

At the top of your waterfall should be a waterfall filter box. Inside the box is biomedia meant to grow beneficial bacteria. Read more about what this biological filter does here.

You'll only clean the waterfall filter once a year in the spring or fall. 

Pump (right) and a universal check valve assembly (left)

If you have a skimmer, your pump sits in the back of the skimmer. Your pump is the motor that powers your waterfall, pulling water through the skimmer and through pipe to the waterfall. 

A good pump should last between 5 to 7 years. The most common reason for pumps to quit is that the pump runs out of water -- in other words, you don't keep an eye on the pond to keep it topped off from evaporation. Read more about water loss at the end of this blog post.

You should run your pump 24/7. Your pond needs this constant circulation to stay healthy. You may choose not to run the pump in the winter, however. You can read more about disconnecting your pump for winter here.

You should be able to easily remove the pump with a connection like a rubber boot or a union fitting. Watch our video to see how to remove your pump.

All four types of water plants: marginal (left), submerged (top, middle), floating plants (top, right), water lilies (bottom, right).

We group aquatic plants (all plants that live in the water) into four categories: marginals, floating plants, submerged plants, and water lilies. Marginal plants grow in the shallow parts of your pond. Floating plants are tropical plants that float on top of the water. Submerged plants do just that: they are plants that are fully submerged in the water. Water lilies are those classic pond plants with the lily pads on the surface and beautiful blossoms.

Plants are absolutely essential to proper pond care. You need plants to compete with algae for nutrients (i.e. to keep your pond clear). Specifically -- you need plants OTHER THAN water lilies. Water lilies do not compete with algae.

You can find a full selection of water plants at our shop in the late spring and summer.

Koi and goldfish

We could write a book about advice for fish! Check out our blog posts for a full library of info. 

Basically: your pond should have fish to complete the ecosystem, fish do not need to be fed with fish food, and you should keep a hole in the ice in the winter time to keep them safe.

Algae is a part of your pond. The surfaces in your pond should be covered in a green coating or film: this is an essential part of keeping your pond clear. Your pond should look just like the photo of the fish above!

If you have excessive algae growth, green water, or string algae, then there are steps you can take to correct this problem. Check out our clear water checklist and make sure you follow each step!

The name of the clear water game is beneficial bacteria, and that bacteria needs a lot of  oxygen! The very best way to oxygenate is with an aerator. If you see small bubbles coming up from the middle of your pond, that is very likely an aerator. 

Aeration systems have an air compressor that sits outside the pond and air diffusers that go to the bottom of the pond. Your aeration system should last you a long, long time. But they do require a little bit of maintenance once year.

If you don't yet have an aeration system, we suggest getting one. You can shop aeration here.

This is a very healthy pond: clear water, green coating on the rocks -- even the frog is happy!

Your pond should have rocks. You'll read a lot of conflicting information about that online, but since you're here on the Cool Ponds' blog, let's assume you want Cool Ponds' expert opinion. You need rocks!

You should know what "normal" looks like for your new water feature! For every feature, each individual homeowner will have different tolerances for algae growth. Some prefer as pristine as possible. Some prefer deep, lush algae that looks super natural. 

For pond-free waterfalls and fountains -- a small covering of algae is totally normal. If you'd like less algae, you can add a weekly treatment of Algae D-Solv.

For ponds, your water should be clear and you should have a green coating on the rocks (see the "rocks" photo above). 

If you want to see some examples of what water features should look like in person, feel free to stroll our display gardens.

We've already mentioned that pond-free waterfalls and fountains can use Algae D-Solv weekly. That's all those types of water features need. The only other maintenance you'll have is to top off your water feature when it needs water. Easy!

For ponds, we're trying to establish and maintain a functioning ecosystem. We utilize several treatments once a week to accomplish this. To make it super simple for you, we sell these treatments in a convenient package called a water treatment tote. You can watch our five minute video here to see how we apply these treatments. 

On a weekly basis, you should also expect to clean your skimmer net and possibly the skimmer mat / brushes (if needed). And top off your pond from evaporation. A well-built pond should only take about ten minutes a week to care for!

If you're new to the world of water features, then the first time you see your feature has lost water might make your heart sink. You may think you have a leak. 

Don't panic! You may not have a leak at all. You may just be experiencing water loss from totally normal means like evaporation and splash. Our ponds and pond-free waterfalls need to be topped off generally about once a week under normal weather conditions -- less in cooler weather, and more in hot, dry weather. And remember -- the larger your waterfall, the more water loss you're bound to see.

How can you tell the difference between a leak and evaporation? A leak will have very consistent water loss no matter what the weather is doing. Water loss from natural means will be very inconsistent. Read more about water loss here and detecting leaks here.

The four owners and operators of Cool Ponds -- we're here to help!

Other Cool Ponds FAQ

Does Cool Ponds maintain ponds?

We perform pond cleanings in spring and fall and we can also do pump replacements. To sign up for these services and to learn more, visit our website.

Can Cool Ponds give me an on-site consultation?

We may not look like it, but we are a very small company! We simply don't have the staff needed to provide on-site consultations. 

However, we invite you to our display center, where we can demonstrate in person all the products you need to keep your water feature looking great. Bring photos of your pond and even a water sample if you'd like further advice.

What if I want to "remodel" my existing water feature?

Water feature remodels are a popular service of ours. When we say "remodel" what we really mean is a rebuild. If you picture a house, we're tearing down the entire house, removing all the old building material, and putting a new house in its place. 

You can read more about water feature remodels on our website.


So, congratulations on your new adventure! We're thrilled to be able to share the experience with you. We are very fortunate that we have the opportunity to share our water gardening passion with you, and we wouldn't be able to share our knowledge without your support. Purchasing products from us helps us foster a life-long relationship with you -- and that is our ultimate goal!


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