No matter how small or large your pond is, you will need a pump. A completely still body of water will soon become an airless, algae choked habitat that will look and smell unpleasant. Fortunately, modern pumps are quiet, energy efficient, and engineered to run for a very long time without the need for servicing. Keeping your water moving and filtered can be as simple as a submerged pump circulation and filtering the water, or as elaborate as fountains and jets of water. As you plan your pond, familiarize yourself with the pond supplies you will need before you even begin to dig. Planning prevents failure, especially in a pond which can become a big mess if done poorly.
Your pond pump must be capable of circulating all the water in your pond within two hours, so calculate this out when planning the pond. The pump manual will specify the gallons per hour it is capable of. When choosing your pump, you will want to consider the submersible pump or the external pump. The external is on dry ground and tends to be more powerful for larger ponds or extensive water features. In a small to moderate sized pond, you will want to then decide between a surge pump and a regular pond pump. The surge pump is less expensive and quieter, the regular pump provides more power when a greater than 16′ rise will be used in the water features.
What is a Surge Pond Pump?
A surge pump can be used in or out of the water, although if used out of the water it must be mounted at a level lower than the water. They are ideal for submerged uses. A surge pump is powered by a magnetic drive, which does not have any seals to wear out. It is filled with epoxy rather than oil, eliminating the possibility of oil spills in your pond.
They are designed for less head pressure than a regular pond pump, but for a smaller pond their quietness is greatly to be desired for peaceful enjoyment of the water. Surge pumps are very capable of powering a fountain or a waterfall to add the sounds of splashing water and aeration to your pond, without the continuous noise of a pump in the background.
A filtration system is a necessity for a smaller pond, detached fountains, or statuary that are part of a water feature. Surge pumps are ideal to power a filtration system with their ability to run continuously. The pumps should be serviced yearly, the filtration system should be cleaned weekly in a pond with many plants and fish. Without filtration fish waste and debris will accumulate and decompose in your water, releasing harmful chemicals that will kill your fish and smell bad. For best results, use not only a filter, but a pre filter to catch larger pieces of detritus. If deciduous trees or shrubs shade your pond, keep in mind that annually you will need to clean the filter more often as their leaves fall. If they are flowering, this will need to be scheduled spring and fall.
A surge pump is far more energy efficient than a regular pond pump, and important factor in a piece of equipment that must be operated constantly. The design of the pump impeller to operate in only one direction allows this, reducing energy consumption by a third below a pond pump. Surge pumps can also be installed horizontally or vertically allowing for greater flexibility in installation. They can be left in the pond year round as long as there is no danger of the pump and pipes freezing. A frozen pump will have to be replaced, as the force of the ice will break seals and destroy the internal components. Frozen pipes will force the pump to overwork and possibly burn out. For best results, if you live in an area with extreme winter, remove the pump from the pond and store in a safe, dry place until spring.
Pond pumps allow for the construction of waterfall, fountains and streams in addition to your pond. Because the pumps can be concealed completely, and especially with the quieter surge pump, you can create the illusion of a completely natural water feature. You can even choose to create a recirculating pond, where the water is pumped from one pond to another higher up, and allowed to flow naturally back into the lower body of water via an artificial stream.
The addition of water to your landscape can be soothing with a pond or stream, or playful and exciting with fountains and jets. None of it would be possible without the hidden workhorse of a pond pump or surge pump. Not only do they push the water around, they add the capacity of cleaning the water with a filter. As you plan your pond and water features, make sure you select the best pump for your pond. Talk to a designer, or even someone knowledgeable at the pond supplies store. Find a friend or a neighbor with a pond and ask questions. Learn from their mistakes and you will make less of your own. Before you know it, your hard work will have paid off in a beautiful, valuable addition to your garden or yard.
What’s the Difference Between External Pumps and Submersible Pumps?
External Pond Pumps
External pond pumps are the type used for swimming pools, mounted on the ground above water level, with an attached basket to keep the intake clear of debris. Many pondkeepers, especially Koi enthusiasts, prefer external pumps because the ones that are specially modified for ponds are very quiet and very efficient, and the two inherent drawbacks of external pumps, that they are visible (and sometimes audible) and that their intakes need to be plumbed precisely, aren’t much of a problem for them. Koi ponds typically have above-ground filtration systems which need to be screened anyway, so having to hide the pump too is no big deal. As far as plumbing goes, Koi ponds usually feature elaborate valving, filtration and bottom drains which require a talented installer; external pumps are relatively easily connected in comparison. Proponents of external pumps point out that they are also readily accessible for cleaning and maintenance. IMPORTANT! If you are thinking of using your old swimming pool pump, forget it! Those are designed for intermittent duty, not the continuous duty required in ponds, and are high-pressure and very power-hungry. Pumps designed for water garden use are so much more efficient, you’ll typically recoup the entire cost of a new pump in one season with what you’ll save off your electric bill.
Submersible Pond Pumps
Submersible pond pumps are by definition hidden from view (and hearing) underwater, and don’t need any intake plumbing at all, since they draw water directly into the pump. Since they are easier to hide and connect, and are often less expensive than externals, they have become the most popular type of pump for water features, but they have their drawbacks too. Submersibles that sit directly in the pond, sucking up sludge, typically require more time and effort to maintain than externals. Clogged intakes are the number one cause of pump failure, so regular maintenance is critical, and since they have to be removed from the pond for cleaning, that can be pretty messy. That’s why for ponds larger than a few hundred gallons, Skimmers that prefilter the water through a basket, pad or net and keep pumps accessible at the edge of the pond have become the industry standard. Since a Skimmer makes it easy to keep pump intakes clear and makes maintenance easy (and relatively clean), submersible pumps in Skimmers have become the most popular option for ponds.