Koi and goldfish ponds are some of the easiest-to-maintain additions you can make to your landscape. Of course, we’re more than a little biased. We’ve been designing and installing eco-friendly backyard water features for more than 30 years.
In that time, we’ve learned a lot about the elements that make up an easy-to-maintain pond – and we love to pass on those tips to you. When you have a well-built koi or goldfish pond, maintenance shouldn’t take more than a few minutes of your time every week.
IN THIS GUIDE: Are Koi and Goldfish Ponds Hard to Maintain?
- How to Design a Low-Maintenance Pond
- 3 Basic Maintenance Tasks for Your Pond
- How Much Does It Cost to Maintain a Pond (2019)?
- Want Even Less Maintenance? Try a Pondless Waterfall or Patio Pond – Or Go Bigger!
- The Benefits of Pond Ownership
How to Design a Low-Maintenance Pond
Whether or not a koi or goldfish pond is hard to maintain depends largely on how it was designed. Does it have a skimmer pulling out debris? A biofilter where algae-fighting beneficial bacteria can colonize? A sturdy fish-safe liner protected by heavy-duty underlayment? Lots of plants pulling excess nutrients out of the water?
A well-built pond will include all of these elements, helping you create a balanced ecosystem with happy, healthy fish and crystal-clear water.
We call these kinds of ponds Ecosystem Ponds. An Ecosystem Pond is simply a pond that uses some clever man-made tricks to replicate processes that happen in nature. (This is different from what we refer to as a “koi museum” – a highly controlled environment made specifically to micro-manage water conditions for expensive fish).
You can read our full guide on Ecosystem Ponds here, but here’s a quick summary of how they work:
- A skimmer removes 80 to 90 percent of the physical debris that enters your pond.
- A biofilter has lots of nooks and crannies where beneficial bacteria colonize. These bacteria help keep your water clear. The water runs up through the biofilter then out through your waterfall.
- Fish-safe EPDM liner keeps water where it’s supposed to be: in your pond.
- Heavy-duty underlayment protects the liner.
- Gravel on the bottom of the pond gives beneficial bacteria another place to colonize.
- A stepped-shelf design gives you a place to add plants, and your family and pets a way to safely enter and exit the pond.
- Fish caves give your fish a place to get out of the elements and away from predators.
3 Basic Maintenance Tasks for Your Pond
Regular maintenance for an Ecosystem Pond with koi, goldfish or any other kind of fish includes emptying the skimmer about once a week, adding a regular dose of beneficial bacteria and, of course, feeding the fish.
1. Empty the Skimmer Basket
Your skimmer takes in leaves and other debris before they have a chance to sink to the bottom and decay. To empty the skimmer basket, simply lift up the cover, take out the basket and dump it into your garden, compost pile or trash. That's it!
How often you empty the skimmer basket depends on personal preference and how much debris ends up in your pond. Once a week is fine for most people. You might decide to empty yours more often if your pond is under a particularly messy tree, for example, or you might leave it go for longer if your pond stays pretty clean.
2. Add Bacteria
A second must for maintaining a clear pond is adding regular doses of beneficial bacteria. Beneficial bacteria consume excess nitrites in the pond that would otherwise feed the type of algae that turns your pond water green.
You can add liquid bacteria to your pond by hand about once a week via a simple pump bottle, or you can install an autodoser that constantly adds tiny doses of bacteria for you.
3. Feed the fish
The third thing you need to do to maintain your pond is feed the fish. Most pond fish can grab a lot of their nutrition from the bugs, plants and algae that naturally end up in the pond, but you do need to feed them fish food as well to keep them at optimal health. We recommend choosing floating fish food pellets with high-quality protein and multivitamins designed specifically for the needs of pond fish.
You can also buy foods that meet the specific needs of your fish. Some formulas, for example, are made to enhance your finned friends' colors, while probiotic foods work great for treating sick or stressed fish. You can also feed your fish treat like Koi Krunchies or watermelon.
Feeding your fish, emptying your skimmer and adding beneficial bacteria to your pond will make up the majority of the maintenance you perform on your pond - and they only take a few minutes to do every week. That leaves you with lots of time for relaxing with a book in your hand and the soothing sounds of flowing water around you.
Aside from regular maintenance, the only other work you'll need to do for your pond is a few once-a-year tasks that come with the changing seasons and some basic care for whatever plants you decide to add. If you have issues with green water, string algae or predators, you'll need to address those as well.
How much does it cost to maintain a pond (2020)?
How much pond maintenance costs depends on the size of your pond, but you can expect to buy a few bags of fish food (about $30 for a 5 lb. bag) and at least one bottle of beneficial bacteria (about $20 for a 16 oz. bottle) each year.
If you decide to use an autodoser, the unit itself costs around $160, while the refill bags run around $30. The electrical costs associated with running a pond are minimal when the pond is built with a modern pump and other equipment.
Hiring a professional to maintain your pond for you can cost several hundred to several thousand dollars extra per year. Exact pricing will depend on how much of the responsibility you want to shift to your service crew - i.e. what services you want them to perform - and the size of your pond. Check out our Seasonal Service Plans for details.
Want Even Less Maintenance? Try a Pondless Waterfall or Patio Pond - Or Go Bigger!
Not everyone has the time, space or desire to maintain a pond. If that's you, you still have lots of other options for adding the sight and sound of water to your yard.
Patio Ponds are little bowls of water where you can add a decorative spitter or fountain, as well as plants and even a few goldfish. Check out our Patio Pond guide here.
Want something bigger? A Pondlesss Waterfall looks a lot like a pond, but instead of the water flowing into a pond, it flows into an underground basin from which the water recirculates. Pondless Waterfalls are a great choice for homeowners with pets or small children, as well as for people who don't want fish. Learn more about Pondless Waterfalls.
Low-maintenance doesn't have to mean small. Did you know that large ponds actually require less work than tiny ones? Check out our FAQ on Natural Swim Ponds with Natural Boulders.
The Benefits of Pond Ownership
Your koi or goldfish pond should be a place where you can relax - not another chore.
The benefits of owning a pond far outweigh the small amount of maintenance they need. Again, we're a little biased - but the science backs us up:
- Investing in landscaping can increase your home value.
- Spending just two hours outside every week can make you feel happier.
- Gardens help promote healing - so much so that hospitals have started incorporating plants and water features into their design.
- Children and adults do better work and are better able to concentrate when outside.
- Ponds and plants shield wildlife from human intrusions.
- Growing up around nature lowers children's risk of developing certain mental illnesses.
If you decide a pond is right for your home, here are your next steps:
- Visit our store and display gardens in York, PA to browse hundreds of ideas for creating your own backyard oasis.
- Pick your favorite water feature. We'll use that as the starting point for your pond. Be sure to pick up a copy of our free Idea & Price Guide while you're here for details and pricing for everything you see at the store.
- Decide whether you want us to build your pond or you want to do it yourself.
- If you decide to build it yourself, talk to us about customizing your perfect DIY kit.
- If you want us to build your pond, take a few pictures of your yard then fill out our Pondsultation form. This form goes directly to our lead designer, who will look at your ideas and tell you what you need to do next.