Want to add a small above-ground pond to your garden? Use these tips and ideas to discover the best option for your outdoor space. And yes, waterfalls and fountains are possible too.
For more options also see Backyard Pond Ideas for All Sizes and Budgets.
How to Build a Small Pond
Adding a small pond or water feature to your patio, balcony, or garden is not only lovely for humans but vital for all the living creatures that bring life to our yards. Birds, bees, butterflies, dragonflies, and everything else needs fresh water to survive.
Before you get started with any pond project, there are several things to consider.
This article on Advice For Starting a New Garden Pond goes into greater detail if you would like a more thorough overview.
Whether you choose a small table-top water feature or a 500-gallon container pond, many of the considerations are the same.
For starters, the pond needs to legal and safe. Does your municipality or home owner’s association allow ponds? Will it be securely located where children cannot freely access it?
From there you want to think about where you would best enjoy the pond, choosing a location near a sitting area with access to electricity and running water.
Also watch out for things like overhead trees that drop leaves and make maintenance a headache.
The fun part is deciding whether you’ll have a waterfall, fountain, or weeping water wall (see below).
There are also lots of options for aquatic plants which may be hardy or tropical depending on your climate and ability to overwinter them.
Fish are not recommended in ponds under a few hundred gallons. Cold water fish like goldfish and koi need plenty of room to move around and an abundance of natural flora and fauna for food and habitat including hiding spots. Predators including birds of prey, wild mammals, and pet cats can also be a problem. Plus, any fish will need proper winter care.
8 Small Pond Ideas
All of the small pond ideas here have one thing in common: they are container ponds. By creating a pond in a durable, watertight container, you have more options than you do with an in-ground pond.
I mentioned the need for any pond with a pump or fountain to have access to electricity. This means having a proper GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) electrical outlet.
For filling and topping up the pond, you’ll also want access to a water faucet.
1Old-Fashioned Water Pump Pond
This style of pond is available at home improvement stores in the garden section. Kits may come with a barrel and waterproof liner, plus the old-fashioned (decorative) water pump and a recirculating, submersible water pump. Or, you can buy an all-in-one unit.
You can see more on how to create a pond like this here.
The next picture shows a lily pond in an old cauldron. If you live in a region with mosquitoes, it’s best to add a recirculating to pump or fountain to a container pond like this to prevent mosquitoes from laying their larvae in the water.
2Clay Pot Tabletop Fountain
If it’s the soothing sound of running water you want with minimal maintenance, you might like something like this clay pot bubbler. While this one is one-of-a-kind with its stained-glass water lily but you could certainly do an adaptation.
To make one, you’d need to block off the drainage holes in the clay pot or add a watertight liner along with a small recirculating pump or bubbler or mini fountain. Add a few aquatic plants or some floating garden art and you’re all set.
A bubbling urn is another option. You can buy them in kits with everything ready to go.
3Stock Tank Water Garden
Stock tanks are used as water troughs for farm animals and they also make excellent mini ponds. They come in galvanized steel or a rubber-like material in various lengths (4-feet, 8-feet). Make sure the one you get is water-tight—some are just made for use as raised beds.
Check farm supply stores and watch for seasonal sales to get one at a good price.
While the metal ones look great above-ground, you can also partially bury a (less attractive) rubber one in the ground.
4Small Pond in a Bathtub
When an old bathtub is beyond repair for indoor use, turn it into a pond. This shows how to make a pond using an old bathtub.
Use it as a planter for aquatic plants (above), or a place to display a collection of potted annuals (below).
This next pond is home to a collection of rubber ducks and plenty of water hyacinth and floating lettuces.
The advantage to container ponds is, you do not have to worry about aggressive or invasive water plants (like the hyacinth) the way you do with a larger, in-ground pond.
5Pond in an Old Hot Tub
Years ago a reader sent this picture of her hot tub which she converted into an above-ground water garden.
To convert it, first the hot tub needs to be watertight. Next (optional), it is framed in wood. To complete it, a recirculating pump with a fountain and water plants are added.
What a lovely repurpose!
6Formal Block Pond
I saw this pond many years ago on a local garden tour. It’s built next to a concrete garage wall and works very nicely in the space. The rectangular shape, choice of building blocks, and traditional touches like the wall fountain give it a more formal appearance.
Also notice how the water plants are in containers which makes ongoing maintenance a lot easier. Otherwise, plant roots tend to run away and overtake the space.
7Small Pond in a Raised Bed
The idea (above) is more of an advanced project with two layers of ponds. It involves building two ponds in raised beds, one on top of the other. Look for “pond forms” to use as watertight containers and build the wood structures around them. The waterfall piece is what’s called a spillway—available at pond supply shops.
This next picture is the first pond in a raised bed I built many years ago. It too started with a pond form. I added the 4×8-foot raised bed around the kidney-shaped form and filled in any gaps with soil.
This next one is a sleeker version:
8Weeping Water Wall Pond
If you have an area protected from winds, a weeping water wall is a beautiful option. The one shown here is a basic container pond with a wood structure added overhead to hold the weeping water pipes.
No matter what you choose, you can always add a water fountain (electric or solar) if you want more water sounds.
Empress of Dirt
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If you have room, maybe a bridge over your pond would be fun.
~Melissa the Empress of Dirt ♛