Would you like a fish pond in your backyard? These garden pond ideas feature a range of styles for every budget including above-ground and in-ground backyard ponds. I’ve provided lots of pictures for you to gather ideas.
From there, use this advice for starting a new pond to build your own.
The Beauty of Backyard Ponds
It’s hard to believe that garden ponds were fairly rare not so long ago. Now they are considered an essential part of most backyard gardens.
I built my first backyard pond about twenty years ago. After seeing a massive in-ground pond on a rural garden tour, I was hooked (that’s it in the photo above). The sound of the waterfall was enticing. Dozens of fat fish frolicked in the waterfall. Dragonflies dipped down to drink and then zotted off into the garden. Squirrels would lean over the edge, taking sips of water with their little red tongues. Water spiders danced across the surface. Water lily stems held their flowers high above the surface, leaning their pink and white petals toward the sun. Frogs sunbathed and snoozed on the floating leaves. That pond was clearly the heart of the garden and it was just beautiful.
My own first pond was not nearly so grand. In fact, it was simple preformed pond that I buried in the ground, probably not more than 500 gallons. I added a little makeshift waterfall and a couple of aquatic plants. But that was enough to bring the entire garden to life.
What I wasn’t expecting was how a pond—no matter what size—truly transforms a space. Suddenly my little perennial and veggie garden became the hub for all living things in the area. All creatures great and small made use of the fresh water and chose their nesting spots nearby. As someone who loves not just plants but the living things that rely upon and sustain them, this was a wonderful thing.
Since then, I have built several more ponds: in-ground ponds with waterfalls, above ground ponds in containers, bathtub ponds, patio container ponds, and miniature desktop ponds.
What you build will depend on your resources: the space available, your budget, how big or permanent you want the pond to be, if you prefer a naturalized pond or want something with more of a human touch, and what you want the pond to do for your space.
I encourage you to first browse the backyard pond photos below to get inspired and find the type of pond you want. From there, I have provided tips for everything from advance preparations to building your own beautiful pond.
- Backyard Pond Ideas
- Frequently-Asked Questions
Backyard Pond Photos
The first step when planning a pond is to get inspired. There are so many choices to consider:
- Above ground, inground, or partly inground
- Type of materials to contain, surround, and line the pond
- Formal, casual, or naturalized
- Waterfalls, bubblers
- Fish, plants (the other wild things will find it on their own)
I’ve collected ideas, ranging in size from small containers to very large ponds that cover all budgets and styles. I took these snapshots on garden tours and in my own garden, so don’t expect prize winning images, but I think you’ll find lots of ideas for your pond project.
Start collecting ideas by pinning your favorites to a Pinterest board.
Once you know the style you’re after, you can start the real work of planning and building. And attracting frogs.
It’s probably obvious but, the larger the pond, the more likely you are to need professional help with the planning and installation, the greater the cost, and amount of ongoing maintenance work. This said, some of the smaller ponds can be costly too, depending on the choice of materials and whether you buy them new or used.
Some of the product links below go to my affiliate’s account at Amazon.com. I encourage you to try and buy used first, or seek out local end of season sales for the best deals.
1Container pond with stained-glass water lily
This is as simple and low maintenance as it gets: a water tight container, a recirculating pond pump, and a stained-glass water lily. This is the type of recirculating pump I use:
2Formal raised pond with paving stones
3Small whiskey barrel water feature
These whiskey barrel ponds with liners can be purchased as kits. Check the shop listings carefully to be sure it’s the size you want: some of them are doll size! If you can wait until the end of the season, you might be able to find one for a great deal.
4Old well converted into small garden pond
52-tier wood-framed raised pond with water feature
This one would take some planning to work out the flow of the water from the top tier to the lower tier. Fun idea to add the gargoyle fountain and statues if you dig that kind of thing.
See a Fish Spitter on Amazon.
6Hot tub converted into backyard pond
This pond was created by a friend of Empress of Dirt on Facebook. Her husband built the wood frame around their old hot tub to create this little pond.
7Farm stock tub used as small container pond
Stock tubs come in plastic and galvanized metal. You can find them at farm supply stores. The metal ones are gorgeous but a bit pricey for a little pond. Be sure you choose a style that is water-tight.
This pond belongs to Empress of Dirt Facebook friend, Olive:
Wooden Barrel Waterfall
8Pond form in wooden raised bed
This one is from the garden at my previous home. We loved having the pond near the house where we could enjoy it.
I took a pond form and built the raised bed to fit: the instructions are here. Conveniently, it worked for a 4×8′ structure.
Watch How to Add Fish to a Pond
9Pond form inground garden pond
This was the very first pond I installed in the back garden at my previous home. This was the pond that told the wild things, hey, there’s a great garden here and fresh water! Come enjoy it!
And they did. And yes, I concealed the pond form with flat rocks.
You can buy pond forms like this one at any home and garden store.
10Small inground backyard pond with pond liner
This is the pond at my home today. I found a pond liner kit with a pump for 70% off and, because the soil is so sandy (easy to dig), I had it installed within 2 hours. The branches draped across the pond keep the birds of prey from eating my beloved fish.
You can also buy pond kits with liners:
11Pond liner style inground backyard pond with waterfall
12Midsize inground pond with lilies and small waterfall
13Midsize oval pond with flat stone surround
It takes some planning to have an inground pond like this more formal one that conceals the edges of the pond liner. This deep, flat stone hides it nicely.
14Container pond with water wall
I saw this water wall on a garden tour. If you have a sheltered area without much wind, it’s a neat idea (wind would blow too much water away). You can see how it’s made here.
15Midsize inground garden pond with bridge
16Midsize inground pond with tall grasses
17Midsize inground pond with tall waterfall
18Large double backyard pond
19Large water lily garden pond
20Large backyard garden pond with tall waterfall
Waterfalls can look pretty silly (unnatural and out of place) unless you have a natural hill to work with beside your pond area like this one.
21Large naturalized backyard garden pond with garden art
This was actually the first homemade garden pond I ever saw. It was gorgeous. I went home determined to create my first pond. And I did.
22The number one fan of backyard ponds
It is a badge of honor when the wild things settle in. If they don’t, your pond is too clean! Frogs are honored guests in my pond.
I hope you found some ideas you can use in your garden. If you’d like tips on how to set up a small backyard pond, see my how-tos here.
Frequently Asked Questions
1How much does it cost to build a pond in your backyard?
This will depend on the size and depth of the pond, if you need to buy materials like rocks to line the pond, and the cost of any landscaping and plants both for the pond and surrounding it.
You could build an inground 4×6-foot pond using a pond form and a submersible pump for a few hundred dollars. You can do it even cheaper if you’re willing to search for a used pond form at yard sales or in online classified ads.
An 8×10-foot inground pond, made with a pond liner kit, complete with a waterfall and 2000 gph (gallons per hour) pump, lined with rocks from a landscaping business, and stocked with aquatic plants and goldfish could cost between $2,000 and $5,000 US.
A larger in-ground pond installed by professionals could cost $10 to $20,000 US or more. I’ve seen magnificent 20×50-foot garden ponds that cost $100k or more. I’ve also seen others that size and budget that were …not good!
That’s why it’s good to have an idea of what you want first, and, if hiring help, be certain the builders share your vision and your budget will cover it.
You could also build a little patio container pond in an old barrel with a liner and small fountain pump for $50 US.
2How deep does a fish pond need to be?
Two feet is considered a good minimum depth for the health and safety of pond fish. There are formulas for calculating how much water space each fish should have. I like to allow at least 2 cubic feet of water per fish.
If you are in a cold climate like I am, you have to also plan for overwintering the fish. I use both pond heaters (de-icers that float on the surface and stay heated all winter long) and I keep the recirculating pumps running.
Cold water fish like goldfish go dormant in the cold weather, staying deep down in the pond. They are safe from predators the deeper they can go, and they will not freeze so long as the water is never allowed to ice up or freeze over.
3How deep does a frog pond need to be?
Frogs and fish have similar needs in backyard ponds. It’s best if there are deep areas (at least several feet deep) along with shallower areas at least two feet in depth. Greater depths also keep raccoons and other hungry creatures from being able to reach into the water and grab a snack.
Just like fish, frogs will survive the winter if the water continues circulating and is never allowed to ice up or freeze over.
It is also good to let the bottom of your pond naturalize with some mud and dead matter, providing frogs with places to hide and rest.
4How do I keep my pond water clear?
It can be a challenge to keep pond water clear. The location of your pond is one big factor. Tree leaves can cause lots of trouble and so can hot sun, which makes algae spread like crazy.
Keeping your pond clear of debris, with the right strength of recirculating pump is good preventative care.
Barley straw is shown to do a good job slowing down or preventing the growth of algae as well.
If you have too many fish for the volume of water, their waste can also dirty a pond. More is not more with fish!
If your water is getting murky, often from algae dispersed throughout the pond, you can try my water filtering trick.
The Garden Pond Tips and Ideas section has lots more detailed advice.
Garden Pond Tips and Ideas
Free Tip Sheet
~Melissa the Empress of Dirt ♛