Pond Design Gone Wrong

Ponds Gone Wrong

It should be blatantly obvious to you The Pond Digger Waterscape Design & Construction company is much more than just waterscaping or the enjoyment of ponds, backyard waterfalls and pondless waterfalls. We are about the information, education and inspiration of pond design, pond care, pond construction and training of how to build a pond properly!

Some say rules are made to be broken, however breaking the rules in the management of pond water quality, the husbandry of Koi, and the basics of pond construction and pond design could spell disaster, wasted time and wasted money!

Do not let this happen to you!Cutting edge photographers regularly challenge the conventional wisdom of placing objects into their photographs by a third and yet they occasionally capture something amazing and spontaneous that can hold your attention for a long period of time. However challenging the basic principles of pond design and pond construction like the improper placement of your skimmer, biological waterfall filter or incorrect pump sizing could make the difference between an absolute wonderful pond experience or a spine tingling waterscapes nightmare!

HELPFUL HINT – While we are the subject of photography let me pause and point something out – When you are presented with a pond design portfolio of beautiful photographs including backyard waterfalls and ponds, there is a strong possibility you will be looking at pictures of somebody else’s work! NO KIDDING! Manufacturers provide professional photos for beginner contractors to use on their websites, in their design portfolios and marketing materials!

We see these photo scams ALL the time on pond construction websites and pond design portfolios, at home shows and market nights, on vehicle wraps and business cards, on brochures, flyers and more! Ask your pond designer if ALL the photos in their portfolio are pictures of their actual work and absolutely do not be afraid to ask if you can see some of the work in person.

Our team hosts several pond design construction seminars each year here in Southern California, that are geared to inform, educate and inspire our community. For example, Pond for Schools does more than just beautify our children’s schools; it teaches the next generation of the pond hobbyist and pond construction specialists, not only team work, but “How To Build A Pond” and properly care for a backyard waterfall and an ecosystem waterscape.

We host Pond Construction Seminars regularly each year to teach both home owners and contractors how to build a pond, but more importantly pond design and pond care. Along with our Spring Pond Care, Fall Pond Care and Koi health and Disease seminars, we cover the full circle of educational seminars.


Pond Construction Dos and Do Nots!

Dangerous pond installations happen all the time!Lets Jump into some Ponds Gone Wrong and cover some fundamental Pond Construction Do’s and Dont’s. Here is a terrific way to get electrocuted while working in your waterscapes! No pond or backyard waterfall is worth dying over, SERIOUSLY! Building codes in California require a G.F.C.I. (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) outlet to be installed a minimum of five feet AWAY from any outdoor waterscapes.

This electrical outlet was installed within one inch of a pond skimmer box, by a POND CONSTRUCTON SPECIALIST that has been CERTIFIED by a pond equipment manufacturer! Better to be safe than sorry, install a G.F.C.I. Outlet a minimum of five feet away from any outdoor waterscapes.

It happens much to often; A homeowner gets a bid for a pond or backyard waterfall before they do any research on the person giving them the pond design or waterscapes estimate. What if the pond design company doesn’t even have contractor’s license? What if your pond designer is a contractor, but doesn’t have up to date workman’s compensation insurance? What if the Pond Designer tells you they are certified by a pond supply manufacturer to gain your confidence, but the manufacturer certification process is a rubberstamp program? What if the contractor you are getting the bid from is going to sub-contract the job out to another contractor that you don’t even know?

HELPFUL HINT – DO YOUR HOMEWORK BEFORE YOU EVEN LET A POND DESIGNER OR CONTRACTOR ONTO YOUR PROPERTY! We have put together a list of questions for you, to ask before you sign a pond design contract with anyone! Help yourself to our Pond Contractor Warning Report.


Nasty algae can be a symptom of a problem, like a leaky pond!Look at this water connection made by a California landscape contractor that is hooked up directly to a pond. It may not look that bad to you but let me point out, there is no shut off valve. If is ever a problem with this main waterline, that leads to the pond, you will need to shut the water off to your home, at the street. Okay well maybe you say, that’s not that big of a deal. Well, the reason The Pond Digger was called out to this property was because the algae in the pond was so unreasonable and out of control the homeowner was at her wits end! Nasty algae can be a symptom of a problem, like a leaky pond for example!

Back to the point of the need for a water shut off valve. One of the most common reasons for Out Of Control Algae is a LEAK IN THE POND! In order to properly troubleshoot a pond for leaks, you must first turn off the automatic water fill on the pond for a period of 24 hours. That’s a long time for your bathroom to be without water!

On the first evaluation of this pond, four moderate leaks were detected EVEN before turning the auto fill off. Now, major issues were at hand and the California Landscape Contractor that originally installed the pond didn’t worry about a thing because the automatic water fill to the pond kept up with the leaks. Same ole story goes here with the contractor not returning calls, and a poorly informed homeowner on water treatment procedures and pond care routines.


The homeowner is devastated!Believe it or not, this is a completed pond design project! This is a close up of the pondless waterfall at the top of this page. The home owner contracted with a California landscape Contractor with the lowest bid to build their backyard waterfall in order to save a couple thousand dollars. The problem is, the homeowner didn’t get exactly what they wanted. In fact they are simply horrified to walk into their backyard because of the constant reminder of this pond design gone wrong.

Additionally, The unfortunate couple is out of pocket the monies spent on this project! The pond contractor simply won’t return their calls! The couple doesn’t want to go through the aggravation of taking the pond contractor to court because it will just cost them more money by missing work. Now the couple needs MORE money just to demo the poorly installed waterscapes before they can start the project all over again.

The original bid of 6,500.00 for the backyard waterfall was tossed out the window for a bid of 4,000.00. Now they are faced with a bid of 1,000.00 to demolition the existing waterfall before they can spend the original 6,500.00 to get the water feature they really wanted. We are faced with this unfortunate situation time and time again. Why turn a 6,500.00 job into 11,500.00? Get it done right the first time! Do yourself a favor and read the Pond Contractors Warning Report before you invite a pond construction contractor onto your property to prevent something like this happening to you.


Low bid contractors will always need to cut corners on your job!“This one took my breath away and I’m not talking about like when I see my wife each morning! I was in disbelief, shock and total disappointment when I stumbled across this mess.” – Eric Triplett, The Pond Digger®

Now the manufacturers of this particular pump had some issues with this line of pumps, one of them being the plumbing connection. The plastics were just not strong enough for the typical pump installation process and very frequently the fitting would fail upon installation.

This Pond Specialist ran into a glitch on the jobsite and had a faulty pump from his manufacturer. Obviously he didn’t have any extra equipment in his pond construction trailer to complete the job in a timely fashion and quite possibly under bid the job to begin with. Instead of getting the pond done CORRECTLY, the pond designer decided to cut some corners.

As you can see from the photograph the contractor attempted to repair the pumps plumbing connection with some drywall screws! “I mean, this floored me, just when I thought I’d seen everything!” – Eric Triplett, The Pond Digger®

The sad thing is that the connection didn’t seat correctly (wonder why?) and when the pump was installed this way the water flow was lost, not only to the filtration system but to the waterfalls too. The crime was that the customer was convinced that everything was in order.


You get what you pay for!Here are a couple of examples of inexperience in waterfall construction. One of the pond designers was a just a beginning pond designer and was glad to learn some tips and tricks to backyard waterfall construction. However, the other contractor unfortunately is a so called veteran pond builder and was not open to suggestions!

First notice how both the beginner and the veteran pond builder are using the plastic waterfall stone that comes in prefabricated pond kits. A veteran Pond Builder should certainly not be using the plastic stone, just for the sake of pride. At any rate, it is important that when you have a pond design ready and you are installing you backyard waterfall, you use expanding waterfall foam to not only secure the larger stones into place, but to also direct the water OVER the waterfall stone instead of under the waterfall stone.

HELPFUL HINT – Another frequently made mistake that we come across is homeowners (& sometimes contractors) believe that you can stop leaks with waterfall foam, however that is not the case. When you are building a custom Backyard Waterfall, it is important to know you will be using the waterfall foam primarily to direct water flow. When the waterfall foam solidifies it is extremely hard, practically like mortar, however it is porus and will not prevent water from slowly bypassing through the foam.


Certified Programs may not be what they seem!Even when you have the perfect elements to create an ecologically balanced eco-system, your pond may still never fully achieve it’s natural balance if the pond designer doesn’t install one of the elements correctly. For example, if you have a skimmer on your pond, which in our opinion is a mandatory necsesity, and it isn’t installed correctly, you may as well not even have one!

This photo depicts a typical waterfall filter box that first of all, wasn’t disguised to blend seamlessly into the landscape and secondly wasn’t correctly installed! If this filter was installed correctly the filter pads that you see would be covered with media bags filled with ¾ ” or 1″ lava rock. Typically this takes a couple two or three media bags and approximately forty or fifty pounds of lava rock.

As you can plainly see this filter only has one media bag filled with approximately ten pounds of smooth gravel. The smooth gravel in these media bags can’t host as much beneficial bacteria as lava rock, which is an important consideration in a biological filter. We see contractors cut corners all the time on this step of pond construction. This pond design was constantly battling to achieve it’s natural balance and unfortunately this customer ended up filling in the pond and giving up on waterscapes all together. Now that’s a crying shame!

The sad thing is, the California Landscape Contractor that installed this filter is a CERTIFED CONTRACTOR by the pond supply manufacturer! Don’t be mislead by a MANUFACTURERS CERTIFICATE! Do your homework, ask the right questions and get in front of some of the actual waterscapes that your pond designer has built! Don’t just read some testimonials on a piece of paper or a website. Anyone can get their mother to write something nice! Go on a pond tour and talk to actual pond owners that your pond designer as built for! Guarantee your own pond design satisfaction, read our Pond Design Warning Report!


Backyard Waterfalls & Pond Re-Design

A Pond gone wrong turned around by The Pond DiggersThis pond design was installed by a California Landscape Contractor that specializes in pond construction and backyard waterfalls. Notice the green water that was perpetual and never went away a year and a half after the pond installation. The home owner hired The Pond Digger to do an On-site Pond Design Consultation to figure out if there was any hope for the waterscape.

The Pond Design Consultation unveiled a pond with undersized filtration, undersized pond pumps – thus creating poor circulation, an inappropriate number of mechanical skimmers and a home owner poorly informed of the proper water treatment routines and pond maintenance procedures.

Unfortunately, most pond filter manufacturers tend to overrate their filtration capabilities because of the fierce competition on the market. When the original pond design contractor built this waterscape he very well may have used calculations from the pond supply manufacturer’s catalog and built this pond with good intensions based on suggestions from the pond supply manufacturer.

After the Pond Design Evaluation, the homeowner contracted The Pond Digger® to remedy the pond design issues and within 6 short weeks, as you can see for yourself, the pond found it’s balance (without U.V. Sterilization) and has been crystal clear ever since!

The Proper Pond Design is essential to success“I love my redesigned pond! We are constantly outdoors next to our new and improved waterscape. My son loves the sound of water but never considered, in fact was adamantly against, having a pond because of my permanent green water problem. Now that he sees how easy it is to maintain crystal clear water with a properly designed pond, he wants a pond!” – Carole Thompson

Here is an important time to point out that The Pond Digger® is not California Landscape Contractors turned pond specialists. The Pond Digger® is a Fish Specialist turned Pond Specialist, turned California Landscape Contractor!

When you are preparing to contract with a pond specialist for a custom one of a kind waterscape on your property, do your homework and ask your pond designer if they have any background in the care & husbandry of fish! When your pond designer gives you confident responses to questions regarding the ecology of ponds and the care and maintenance of the fish and other pond inhabitants, then and only then, should you begin to have confidence you are dealing with the appropriate pond contractor for your project!



Pond Design Done Right!

Don't break the basic Pond Design Rules or you will pay in the long runWhile the greatest writers understand the rules of grammar perfectly, and break those rules, by occasionally twisting them to introduce emphasis and surprise to their writing, there are some fundamentals that are not appropriate to twist when it comes to pond design and pond construction.

If you are located in Southern California and looking for a professional pond contractor to build a pond for you, The Pond Digger would love the opportunity to make your pond design dreams come true. If you are outside of our pond construction radius we will gladly help you research and connect you with a contractor that understands these pond do’s and don’ts.

Get educated on ponds and waterscapes by attending one or all of the many Pond Seminars that are offered by our organization or our TalkPonds message board. We have people from all over America connecting with The Pond Digger® to learn more about Pond Design and Pond Construction. We get visitors from more than just Southern California. Pond Contractors and Pond Enthusiasts come from all over America including, Nevada, Northern California, Minnesota, Indiana, Florida, Louisiana, and even Mexico to network and learn from The Pond Digger.

The Pond Digger himself travels across America on learning and teaching excursions annually, Hawaii, Georgia, Florida, Arkansas, Louisiana, Nevada, Chicago, Washington and Pennsylvania, just to name a few places. With this knowledge we never bore on the topic of pond design, pond construction, backyard waterfalls and waterscapes so call or email us your questions and let us share our nationwide pond information with you.