Garden ponds – mini ecosystems with diverse fauna and flora

Goldfish are swimming around a blossoming water lily in a garden pond.
A garden pond can be fascinating – as long as you pay attention to a few things beforehand.

A garden pond is without a doubt a real head-turner. But it is also so much more. In particular, it’s a unique spectacle of nature with a harmonious balance between plants and animals. Frogs, toads, newts, dragonflies, water snails and of course fish are just as much a part of a garden pond as marsh marigolds, water lilies, irises and plain grass. It’s all about having the right combination. The pond doesn’t even need to be very large.

In our guide, you will find everything you need to know about the different ways of building a garden pond, the possible materials and about the various fauna and flora in and around a garden pond. It also contains an overview of the various types of garden ponds there are for different garden designs. Our step-by-step guide will show you how to create your very own nature pond using pond liner. A brief word of caution: as lovely as a pond can be, it brings with it a certain amount of danger. If the edge of the pond drops too quickly, especially along the sides of the pond, it can be dangerous and even life-threatening for animals and humans. Even the smallest body of water – provided it’s deep enough – can be hazardous for anyone unable to swim.

Vom Folienteich bis zum Miniteich

Firstly, you should think about what type of pond would work for you and in your garden’s surroundings. There are three different types to decide from. The fishpond, the nature pond and the swimming pond. In the last couple of years, mini ponds have even become an increasingly popular fixture for balconies.

Tip
Helpful hint:
Once your pond is finished, it can be quite relaxing to just sit back and enjoy its fauna and flora. A pallet sofa with backrest or a DIY suspended bed is the perfect accompaniment to this moment of relaxation.

The fishpond

Dozens of small and large koi are swimming in a fishpond; goldfish can be seen just beneath the surface.

The most common fish in a fishpond are colourful koi, goldfish, bitterling and gold tench. The size of the pond and the flora are decided based on the type and the amount of fish. Some types of fish need a lot of places to rest and hide, for example. You can forget the plants if you have koi, since they love to munch on them. A minimum of 8,000 litres of water is recommended for goldfish. If the fish are to swim out the winter outside, your garden pond should have one area that is at least one-metre deep.

A filtration system is essential for a fishpond. The amount of upkeep is heavily dependent on the type of fish. For example, koi require consistent water quality in order to survive and can be a little bit of challenge for many who have ponds as a hobby. Don’t forget to take into account the time needed for feeding the fish. Also, not all fish get on with one another. When deciding on what types of fish you would like to have, make sure to look into whether they can cohabitate. 

The nature pond

Lilies are blossoming in a nature pond. Various green plants and rocks can be seen along the edge of the pond.

The nature pond is defined by its diverse ecology. Grass, stones, lilies... they all play a part, as if Mother Nature had free reign in the design process. Her natural ways also attract a large amount of animals to and even into the pond. It’s a paradise for salamanders, frogs and dragonflies. The upkeep is minimal since the plants and animals make for an ecological balance. However, items such as waterspouts and fountains, chemical additives and exotic plants in and around the water are not suitable for a nature pond. To sum it up, the operating and upkeep costs for a nature pond are low but so too is the amount of space you have to get creative and personalise your pond.

The swimming pond

Two wooden lawn chairs have been placed on a little wooden bridge on the side of the pond.

Swimming ponds have become increasingly popular over the last few years. They have one major advantage over traditional swimming pools: they don’t require any chemical water treatment. Really? Of course, equipment can be used to maintain the swimming pond. Ideally, however, the plants should provide enough nutrients and produce enough oxygen for the water instead of needing to rely on equipment.

The swimming pond is divided into a swimming area and regeneration area during the building process. There is a wall between the two areas that goes up to just before the surface of the water. The regeneration area creates a harmonious visual transition between your garden and pond. In order to have enough space to swim comfortably, the pond should have a surface area no smaller than 60 square metres. The regeneration area and the swimming area should be divided in a ratio of around 60/40.

The mini pond

A plant pot has been filled with water and water plants.

Ponds are also suitable for small spaces. Even if we’re talking about a balcony, you don’t have to miss out on the soothing effect of a mini natural habitat. Different materials can be used to house your mini pond, such as wood, clay, metal and plastic. As long as it’s sealed and not too small, it doesn’t matter what material you use. To be safe, you can always line the container with pond liner. Your mini pond should be able to hold 50 to 70 litres of water.

When choosing plants, it’s important that you select compact ones that don’t have deep roots. Use a planting basket for the plants. This means that the top of the soil will be covered by pebbles to prevent it from being washed away by the water. When placing the plant baskets in your mini pond, make sure they are barely covered with water. If the baskets are sitting too deep in the water, you can always raise them by placing them on top of a stone.   

Don’t forget, a mini pond can quickly come to weigh more than 150 kg. Therefore, you should always make sure if the designated area can withstand the weight. The surface on which it’s going to be placed should also be level.

 

A pre-manufactured pond made out of plastic: the simplest type of garden pond

A plastic pond is set in the ground and the edge of the pond is laid with stones.

Once you’ve decided on what type of pond you would like, it’s time to decide on the material. Pre-manufactured ponds made out of plastic have the advantage of being relatively quick to install. You just have to dig out the correct-sized hole, cover the bottom with sand and other materials and insert the walls. It’s important that the hole fits the shape of the pond. When it comes down to it, you have the choice between two different types of material. Fibreglass basins (that is, containers made of reinforced plastic) or polyethylene moulds. These materials are usually thinner, smaller and can only hold up to 1,000 litres of water. In terms of prices, basins made of polyethylene can be purchased for under €100 at your local DIY store. The majority of them only have two depth zones, which means that the pond could potentially freeze over completely in the winter. Basins made out of fibreglass are thicker, more robust and are available in different colours. They usually consist of three depth zones and go up to approximately one metre deep. However, these tend not to have surface areas larger than five square metres.

A pond made with pond liner: the classic garden pond

The water has been drained from a pond made with pond liner and a person is watering the blossoming plants and grass in the pond with a garden hose.

The biggest advantage of creating a garden pond with pond liner is that you have complete flexibility. Even larger basins can be easily lined with pond liner and are easier to fill with plants than with ready-made basins. Make sure to pay attention to the quality of what you buy. You can determine whether the liner is of a high quality if it is resistant to UV rays, can withstand the pressure of roots, can easily handle temperature fluctuations and is suitable for fish. The material should be at least one millimetre thick. The major disadvantage with this type of garden pond is the amount of planning necessary because every area of your own creation has to be specifically planned out. That’s why ready-made basins require much less work. By the way, the pond liner version is not necessarily cheaper than a plastic basin.

Cement pond: the most durable version of the garden pond

Large water lily pads and blossoming plants are floating in a garden pond made out of concrete.

The concrete garden pond is definitely the most durable version. Its benefits are felt once it’s all ready. That’s because there’s no better option for the garden in terms of durability. Laying the cement, however, is a complex, cost-intensive process. Once the hole has been dug out, the walls are first laid with concrete, shuttered and then sealed with a final layer of concrete. Unlike with the pond liner, animals can’t damage the concrete wall, which stops your garden from turning into the set of an aquatic disaster film. One drawback is that it’s hard to make any changes once the concrete pond has been constructed. 

Plants that enrichen any garden pond.

The striking blossoms of a purple marsh calla.
A blossoming marsh calla along the edge of a garden pond.

There are a few things to consider when planting plants in your garden pond. Having a wide range of colours in and around the water is what it takes to make your garden pond beautiful to look at. That’s why you need to carefully plan exactly which plants you want along the edges, in the marsh area, in the shallow water area and in the deep water area. Here are a few things to get you inspired.

Along the edges and marsh area (20 cm and water depth)
The meadow iris is a real looker with its blue-violet flowers. And don’t forget the purple loosestrife with its red tones. If you’re looking for something more discreet, you could always go for a yellow primrose, marsh marigold or marsh calla with its distinctive flowers, which will surely warm your heart. For something even more inconspicuous, why not go with plants such as white clover, meadowsweet, ferns or reed plants? In order to properly take care of your plants along the edge of the pond, make sure to completely cut them back once winter is over. Using our EasyPrune power-assisted secateurs for this can lend you a real helping hand.

Shallow water area (between 20 and 60 cm water depth)
A distinctive feature of these plants is their particularly strong roots. That does mean, however, that you will need to cut them back regularly. Examples of these types of plants are watercress, flowering rush, common mare’s tail and bulrush. These types of plants should only be planted in large ponds.

The pink flower of a water lily floats across the surface of a garden pond.

Deep water area (as of approx. 60 cm water depth)
The water lily is without question the ‘Queen of the Garden Pond’. The majority of water lily species require a water depth of one metre and even more for their roots. In any case, the flowers and the leaves float on the surface of the water. There are countless varieties of water lilies to perfectly fit your garden pond depending on its size. They’re vary in colour, pad size and the rate at which they grow. Helpful hint: Water lily pads don’t like to be splashed by fountains. As for plants for the deep water area, some good ideas are water moss, water lettuce and floating heart.

 

To find out where the plants are best placed in the pond, whether they prefer sunshine or shade and when a basket is a good idea or not, you should refer to the planting and care instructions of your preferred pond plant.

There is one more important aspect to note in terms of caring for your garden pond – regardless of what material it is made from: it is essential that you clean the pond at the start of autumn. This includes checking all of the equipment, how the population of your fish is looking, testing the liner along the edges and, most importantly, ensuring that no dead plant remains or leaves can be blown into the water from the edge. Rotting plant remains and leaves disturb the ecological balance of your garden pond. Do you find raking the leaves in the garden too laborious? The battery powered UniversalGardenTidy makes cleaning the garden fun and easy again. Click here to see how easy it is to use this tool.

Animals in and around the garden pond

A frog is sitting on a lily pad.

Once your garden pond is properly set up and all the important parameters, such as the size, material, the immediate area and the plants are properly coordinated, your pond will attract a range of fauna in no time at all. The following is an overview of the different types of animals that typically inhabit a balanced mini-ecosystem in the garden:

Frogs
You will most often certainly be seeing green and water frogs at your pond. These leapers and divers feed on insects and larvae. They can often be found close to the garden pond. They are particularly delightful when they spawn in March and April since you are usually graced with a symphony of ribbits. You’ll also often come across brown common frogs. They mainly use the pond for spawning. Otherwise, they like to stay near the damp edges of the pond.

Toads
The nocturnal common toad uses the garden pond primarily for laying their eggs. They can lay up to 6,000 eggs at once. So don’t be surprised if you see an army of tiny toads leaping around. But don’t worry, they tend to disappear quickly.

A shimmering bluish dragonfly lights on a long leaf.

Libellen
Sicherlich der faszinierendste Teichbewohner ist die Mosaikjungfer. Dieses prächtige Exemplar der Libellen wird etwa 8 Zentimeter groß und kann bis zu 50 km/h schnell fliegen. Spektakulär ist sicherlich die letzte Häutung und das Schlüpfen an einem Halm oder Blatt einer Teichpflanze. Außer ihr gibt es noch etwa 50 bis 60 weitere Libellen Arten, die an Teichen anzutreffen sind.

Molche
Perfekt auf seine Umgebung angepasst hat sich der Teichmolch. Bei den geringsten Geräuschen taucht er sofort ab. Daher sieht man ihn auch nur sehr selten im Garten. Ist er einmal im Wasser, wird er von seiner dunklen Färbung des Rückens geschützt. Molche sind nachtaktiv. Ihre Eier legen sie gern in Blattfalten der Wasserpflanzen.

Ein Moderlieschen schwimmt am Grund eines Gartenteiches.
Eine Schnecke kriecht auf dem Blatt einer Seerose in einem Gartenteich.

Fische
Die Auswahl geeigneter Fische für ein Leben im Teich ist sehr vielfältig. Zu den Klassikern zählen sicherlich Goldfische, Bitterlinge, Moderlieschen und Kois. Aber Vorsicht. Nicht jeder Fisch kann mit einer anderen Art und wie beispielsweise beim Koi sollte der Teich auch ganz bestimmte Spezifikationen vorweisen. Denn nur so habt ihr lange eine Freude daran. Beim Koi ist es, dass er sehr tief und nur mit dickstängeligen Pflanzen bepflanzt sein sollte. Wenn du dich jetzt fragst, wie viele Fische für deinen Teich ideal sind, dann kann dir folgende Faustformel einen Anhaltspunkt geben: Auf einen Kubikmeter Wasser passt ein Fisch von 10 Zentimeter Länge oder eben 2 Stück mit je 5 Zentimeter.

Des Weiteren gibt es noch eine Vielzahl an kleineren Insekten und Schnecken, die das Leben am und in einem Gartenteich genießen – und teilweise auch für einen wichtigen, biologischen Ausgleich sorgen. Zum Beispiel der Rückenschwimmer, die Stechmücke, der Seerosenblattkäfer, der Wasserläufer, der Gelbrandkäfer, die Posthornschnecke oder die Tellerschnecke.