5 Backyard Pond Ideas for All Budgets

Water features provide an easy, affordable way to create a unique ambiance in your yard. The soothing sound of water instantly creates an atmosphere of comfort and relaxation. Whether you have a large, spacious backyard or one with limited landscaping options, adding a water feature will create an outdoor area that draws you outside.

If you’re looking for a water feature with natural appeal to enhance your Bergen County landscape, consider backyard pond ideas. An outdoor pond not only creates a relaxing atmosphere, it also creates an environmentally sound outdoor environment that attracts and benefits wildlife. Whatever the size of your yard and your budget, you can build a backyard pond that fits both.

Choose a Pond that Fits Your Space and Your Style

Before you build a backyard pond, think about the size of your yard and your preferred style. A pond can be designed in various sizes and shapes with or without special features. To get started, ask yourself some important questions to determine what type of pond works best for your backyard and your lifestyle:

  • Do you prefer an in-ground or above-ground pond?
  • Do you want a pond that reflects a casual or formal style?
  • Would you like a natural water garden?
  • What building materials will enhance your home and landscape?
  • Do you want special features like waterfalls, bubblers and underwater lighting?
  • Do you want to add fish and plants to your pond?
  • How will you handle cleaning and maintenance?

Choose the Right Location

When thinking about backyard pond ideas, it’s important to choose the right location. The location of your pond will impact your enjoyment, as well as the amount of maintenance required. Consider where the pond will look best and provide the most visual enjoyment. Think about views from your yard and patio, as well as the views from inside your home.

If you choose the right location, your pond maintenance will be easier. Ponds that are built under trees for shade often end up being a maintenance nightmare because of leaves and debris that end up in the water. Ponds installed in low-lying areas are subject to flooding and pollution during rain storms.

If you want fish and aquatic plants in your pond, good sunlight is crucial. Water plants need at least five hours of sunlight each day in order to thrive. Finally, make sure that your pond is in a location with easy access to electricity and water supplies.

Determine the Right Size

Whether you prefer in-ground or above-ground backyard pond ideas, you need to determine the best size for your yard. Keep your outdoor pond size in proportion to other design elements in your landscape. When designing a pond, measure the width, length and depth. These three measurements will determine the volume of water needed to fill the pond.


Larger, deeper ponds with a higher water volume are easier to maintain. The water in small, shallow ponds will warm up quicker in the sunlight and create an environment for bacteria and algae growth. To avoid these problems, your pond should be at least two feet deep. In Northern NJ with freezing winters, three feet deep is even better.


Volume, measured in gallons, refers to the amount of water needed to fill the pond. A pond with a higher water volume will stay cleaner and be easier to maintain. You will need to know your pond volume to purchase the right pumps and filters. To calculate your pond’s volume multiply the length x the width x the depth.

Design a Pond that Enhances Your Landscape

Now that you have considered some basic factors that impact outdoor ponds, it’s time to design a pond that enhances your landscape. Take a look at five backyard pond ideas that will add beauty, interest and tranquil atmosphere to any backyard.

Natural Water Gardens

If you love nature and want a pond with organic appeal, consider a natural water garden. Water gardens are designed to blend naturally into the landscape. They are often designed in organic or free-form shapes and surrounded by rocks, stones or boulders.

They are filled with a variety of aquatic plants that attract birds, bees, frogs and wildlife. Since water gardens have such a natural appearance, they work well in casual landscapes and gardens.

To enhance water sounds and create movement, you can build a cascading waterfall or flowing stream that runs into your water garden. For a completely natural setting, keep circulation pumps hidden, but easily accessible. When designing a natural water garden, get your inspiration for backyard pond ideas from nature. Your water garden should never look contrived or overly planned. Keep the pond design simple and natural.

Ponds with Waterfalls

Backyard ponds with waterfalls add a wonderful atmosphere for outdoor entertaining and relaxation. Falling water produces a peaceful sound that’s soothing to the soul. It can give your backyard the feeling of a tropical oasis where you’ll love spending your time with family and friends.

Ponds with waterfalls offer many benefits. The constant flow and movement of water helps to keep the pond water clear and free of algae and bacteria. It also adds oxygen to the pond, a necessary component for fish and plants.

When including a waterfall in your backyard pond ideas, it’s important to get the height right. A waterfall that’s too tall will overshadow the pond, while one that’s too small won’t have enough visual impact. The height of the waterfall will also impact sound and water loss. Here are a few design tips:

  • Make sure the waterfall is properly proportioned to the size of the pond.
  • Build the waterfall on a slope for a more natural look.
  • Increase the pond depth where the water falls to prevent splash and water loss.
  • Leave a hollow space behind the waterfall to amplify water sounds.
  • Don’t place plants directly under the waterfall.

Koi Ponds

Koi ponds are beautiful backyard pond ideas that will add visual interest and enjoyment to any landscape. Since koi fish can live for 20 years or more and grow to a large size, koi ponds have certain size requirements that other outdoor ponds don’t have:

  • The pond depth should be at least three feet or more.
  • The pond size should provide 25 square-feet for each koi fish.
  • The pond volume should be a minimum of 1,000 gallons of water.

In addition to size requirements, koi ponds have other requirement to keep fish healthy:

  • Water Plants – Water plants are essential in koi ponds to provide oxygen and food. They also provide shade, a necessary element for large koi fish. Water plants should provide shade for at least half of the pond’s surface, so fish can escape sunlight and hide from predators. If you install your pond in a sunny location, floating plants like water lilies work well.
  • Water Quality – Koi fish thrive in temperatures between 39 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit and pH levels between 7.0 and 7.8. Chlorine is harmful to koi fish. It will burn their gills and potentially kill the fish.
  • Filtration – Koi fish produce a lot of waste, so a good filter is essential. Mechanical filtration devices like skimmers, bottom drains and pump baskets trap debris and fish waste. Biological filtration devices use good bacteria to turn toxins into harmless substances.

If your favorite backyard pond ideas include a koi pond, talk to a licensed, Bergen County landscape professional like Borst Landscape & Design. They can help you design and build a beautiful koi pond where fish will thrive.

Modern Ponds

Modern ponds can be built in-ground or above-ground. They’re often designed in L-shapes and tucked into quiet corners of the yard. They are usually built with simple materials like concrete and stone that reflect a contemporary, minimalistic style. Modern ponds are designed with straight, clean lines and right angles and are often an interconnecting series of squares and rectangles with multiple levels.

Often, a smaller body of water or a simple waterfall is raised above the main pond and flows quietly into water below. Spill overs are typically wide and flat so water can flow smoothly without noise and splash. Modern ponds often have floating stepping stones or pavers that have been set on the surface of the water.

Typically, modern ponds have very dark water that looks black, because the architecture of the pond is the main focus. You can achieve this look by finishing the inside of the pond with a dark waterproof coating. Water plants are minimal, if they are used at all. You can find a variety of modern backyard pond ideas on sites like Houzz or in contemporary design magazines.

Simple, Casual Ponds

If you’re interested in a simple, above-ground pond for a smaller yard and a smaller budget, you can design your own with some creative backyard pond ideas, interesting containers and the right tools. Here’s a few creative ideas:

  • Turn an old bathtub or stock tub into a backyard pond. You can find stock tubs in galvanized metal and plastic at most farm supply stores. The metal tubs get a bit pricey, but they look great in the landscape.
  • Convert an old hot tub into a pond filled with water plants and small fish. Hot tubs often have a small seating ledge which is great for enjoying a cup of tea next to the pond. Some even have underwater lighting, so you don’t have to add it.
  • Create a small pond with a whiskey barrel kit. They’re simple to build and have a natural look in the landscape. Since they’re small, they can be placed next to the patio, in a garden setting or along an outdoor pathway.
  • Build a simple container pond with a large clay pot or colorful ceramic container. Since these containers are watertight, all you need is a small, re-circulating pond pump. For color and visual interest, float a few water lilies complete with tiny fake frogs on top of the water.