How To Build A Backyard Pond On The Cheap

Ponds add beauty and value to a property, but they tend to be expensive to build, costing several hundred to several thousand dollars. If you've been holding back because of the costs, you're in luck. You can build a backyard pond cheaply using an old tire and fish from your local streams. Just follow the steps below to get started on your inexpensive pond!

Materials Needed:

  • Tractor tire or other large tire removed from its rim
  • Reciprocating saw
  • Shovel
  • Thick plastic sheet (20 mil)
  • Water
  • Pond pump
  • Decorative stones or flat rocks
  • Aquatic plant containers
  • Aquatic soil
  • Aquatic plants (e.g., lily pads or Canna)
  • Pea gravel
  • Solar lights
  • Small freshwater fish caught from local streams (e.g., sunfish and minnows)

Step 1: Cut the Sidewalls off the Tire

Use a reciprocating saw to cut the sidewall off one side of the tire. To make cutting the tire easier, outline the area to be cut with white chalk. Cut slits in the rubber to the chalk line in several areas so you can cut in smaller sections. Removing the sidewall opens up the tire when viewing it from the top and keeps fish from hiding under it.

Step 2: Dig a Hole

Use your tire as a guide to gauge how wide and deep the hole needs to be. Allow for an inch or two of the tire above the ground to keep soil and rocks from falling into the pond. Use a shovel to dig the hole, ensuring that the bottom is smooth and flat when finished. Place the tire in the hole.

Step 3: Add the Plastic

Spread your plastic sheet over the tire, making sure that the center of the plastic is over the center of the tire. Place a heavy rock in the center of the plastic to hold it in place while the tire is filled with water. The plastic needs to be thick, heavy-duty plastic; twenty (20) mil is ideal, as it is commonly used for Aquaponics and landscaping. Do not cut the plastic after the pond is filled. Burying it will add to the structural integrity of the pond and will help keep the plastic in place.

Step 4: Add Water to the Pond

Fill the pond slowly, allowing time for the plastic to settle into the tire. When the water is about an inch from the top of the tire, turn the water off. Put the pump in place to provide water movement. Let it run for about 24 hours before adding water or fish if the water is cloudy or muddy.

Step 5: Backfill and Decorate Around the Pond

Use the shovel to fill in dirt around the tire. Pack the soil down tightly as you work to prevent the soil from sinking in later. Once the soil is in place, it's time to add your decorative rock. You can purchase decorative stones from your local hardware store or gather your own from local streams. If you choose to gather your own, look for flat rocks, as they stack better. Paint the rocks if you'd like to add more color and variety. Going around the tire, stack the flat rocks one layer at a time, building up to two or three layers.

Optional: Add solar lights around the edge of the rocks for a beautiful, soft glow for viewing your pond at night.

Step 6: Add the Plants

Fill an aquatic plant container with aquatic soil, and place the plant inside. Lily pads and Canna work well in many climate zones. Cover the top of the soil with pea gravel. This allows water penetration to keep the soil moist, but the gravel provides a barrier that prevents the soil from dispersing into the water. Place your plants in the pond, giving them a few days to acclimate before introducing the fish.

Step 7: Introduce the Fish

Acclimate your selected fish to the water slowly. You can do this by placing the container of fish in the pond, allowing the container to gradually become as warm or as cool as the water surrounding it. Carefully tip the container to the side, letting the fish swim out into the pond.

As you can see from the materials list, local fish are recommended for small yard ponds. While Koi and goldfish are popular choices, they can wreak havoc on local ecosystems if your pond floods and the fish make their way to nearby streams. Using local fish prevents these problems and is a nice change from traditional pond-kept fish.

Your new pond should be relatively easy to maintain. If you find that the fish are reproducing too quickly or getting too large, you can move some of them to local streams without upsetting the ecosystem. For more ideas ask companies like Kona Land and Water Escapes.