10 Easy Steps to Create a Simple Backyard Pond with Children

July 19, 2011

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This year for his birthday, MacGyver asked for a birthday gift that is slightly outside of the box. He asked for a fish pond for our backyard. In our post GIVEAWAY: A Little Birthday Math Outside of the Box, I share how MacGyver researched and planned for his pond. We’re not pond experts so we visited local water garden centers and interviewed others who already have a pond. Join us as we create our simple backyard pond . . .

1. Select Your Tank

  • MacGyver has coveted Aunt Joyce’s fish pond for many years, so he selected a galvanized tank just like hers.

2. Fill Tank with Water

3. Treat Water with Conditioner to Remove Chlorine, Chloramine, Ammonia and Heavy Metals

  • It was recommended we let the water sit for at least 24 hrs before adding any fish.

Disclaimer! Next, we should have added our water plants, especially the oxygenating plants. But MacGyver COULD NOT wait to get his fish so we broke down and let him buy five little goldfish.

4. Add Fish, letting them first adjust to the water temperature (about 30 minutes).

5. Release the Fish! Big Excitement!

Now, time to add the plants! Generously, Aunt Joyce offered MacGyver water plants from her ponds.

MacGyver collected the very important oxygenating plants and a variety of plants of different shapes and textures.

Even better, Aunt Joyce let him collect a few handfuls of snails!

When Mrs. Spider moves out of the Blue Flag Iris, Aunt Joyce will also give MacGyver some of these beautiful plants for his pond.

7. Add Oxygenating Plants

8. Add the Snails

9. Pot Pond Plants

  • We used potting soil in plastic pots.

  • We first added rocks to the bottom of the pot to stop the pots from floating around in the water.

  • We also topped the soil with small rocks to keep the potting soil in the pots.

10. Add the Pond Plants and Watch Your Plants and Fish Grow!

It shouldn’t surprise me, but I have been shocked at how MacGyver has “tamed” his goldfish. They eat from his hands and come to the top of the water to greet him throughout the day. They swim through his hands like little obstacle courses. MacGyver has named each goldfish and knows their unique markings. I can’t help myself, I am completely fascinated by my little nature boy!

Aunt Joyce has given MacGyver a little homeschool assignment for his journal. She asked him to research the scientific names for each of the pond plants she gave him. One helpful website we found is AQUAPLANT by the Texas A&M System. “Whoop!”Easy DIY Water Fountain You Can Build in a Weekend from waddleeahchaa.com

Easy DIY Fountain You Can Make in A Weekend!

  • Ready to tackle a little bit larger pond with a fountain and colorful koi fish?
  • We made our courtyard pond in a weekend!
  • And we didn’t have to dig a giant hole!
  • I am in love with my fountain!
  • step-by-step directions with photos

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

maryanne July 19, 2011 at 2:28 pm

What a fabulous pond! I’m afraid it would freeze solid in our Massachusetts winter, though.

Debi July 19, 2011 at 4:15 pm

We get to visit grandma’s beautiful pond often, which the boys love. This must be such a special treat for MacGyver!

Jackie July 20, 2011 at 8:38 pm

What a cool kid to request a fish pond for his birthday! These are great tips.

Jennifer Altman July 20, 2011 at 11:15 pm

Thanks for stopping by my blog! This is a great post….my kids and hubby would love it, he has always wanted a pond!

JDaniel4's Mom July 21, 2011 at 9:23 pm

What a wonderful pond! I bet he spends hours looking at the fish.

Deb @ Living Montessori Now July 25, 2011 at 10:21 pm

This is awesome! Great birthday request – and what a wonderful family to spend so much time researching and working to meet MacGyver’s interests! Thanks for writing about your steps in creating the pond! I pinned this to my Pond Unit Study board on Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/debchitwood/pond-unit-study/.

Karen January 22, 2012 at 12:52 pm

One question, do you have to clean this, if so, how often and do you have to clean it like an indoor fish tank?

Jeannine January 23, 2012 at 1:14 pm

The experts at the water garden center told us we simply needed oxygenating plants. It becomes like a living pond with algae that the fish actually eat. The water does evaporate so we add fresh clean water as needed. We always treat the tap water before adding it to the tank. This tank is extremely low maintenance. So easy an eight year old can take care of it!

Sharee October 31, 2012 at 9:40 pm

How do u maintain the water? When it evaporates do u just add more? Do u have to condition when u add water?

Jeannine November 1, 2012 at 8:02 am

Yes, you have to condition the water before you add it to the tank. We add water to a bucket, condition according to directions and add water.

Sonya January 15, 2014 at 4:06 pm

Hi, I came across your post while researching how to create a small outdoor turtle tank. Do you mind me asking where you get the tank from?

Jeannine January 15, 2014 at 5:53 pm

Sonya, we went to our local feed store. You can also try a tractor supply store. Be sure that it is a tank that won’t leak. Some of the smaller galvanized containers will leak. I guess if it is for a turtle and not fish, leaking water won’t be as big of an issue. Best of luck!

Nicole April 17, 2015 at 10:29 am

I want to do something like this with my girls but we live in an area with very rough, below freezing for weeks kind of winters. I am wondering if something like this is possible to maintain and survive through winters here?

Jeannine April 24, 2015 at 6:14 pm

Nicole, I would ask the advice of a nursery in your area. You might be able to find perennial plants that will return after they freeze back in the winter. Our water lily plants went dormant in the winter but are now growing again. We did not purchase “tropical” lily plants so they would have a better chance of surviving. Our goldfish and koi also make it through the winters. Good luck!

joyce May 23, 2015 at 6:27 am

How do you keep the water from becoming stagnant and causing misquitos

Jeannine May 26, 2015 at 4:39 pm

Joyce, if you add oxygenating plants and fish the pond becomes a living pond. The fish eat both the mosquito larva and the algae that grows in the pond. We add fresh water almost weekly, as it evaporates in the summer. We treat the tap water before adding it to the pond. If the water begins to look a little murky we might scoop out a few buckets and then add some fresh water. But mostly, we let the plants and fish “care” for the pond.

Heather Lewis Sebring September 17, 2015 at 10:04 pm

Dear Jeannine,
My daughter and I love your pond and are grateful for the instructions. Do you live in California where it is rather temperate all year? Any advice on how I can find out if our pond can stay outside all year? We live in SoCal.
Also, how have you protected against predators?
Warmest Regards,

Jeannine December 7, 2015 at 11:43 am

Heather, Sorry for my delayed response. Lately life has been a bit unexpected around here!

We live in South Texas where we experience HOT summers and a some freezing temperatures during the winters. Goldfish and Koi can take the temperature changes and handle freezing temperatures. Your plants and lily pads may freeze but ours return when temperatures return. You’ll need to ask locally for perennial lily pads that are not tropical and can handle the freeze.

We do have trouble with deer eating our plants and an occasional raccoon swiping a fish. We try to find plants that are deer resistant. Deer don’t like going through barriers. So the more deer resistant plants and walkways we add around the tank the less trouble we have with deer.

Good luck!

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