Requests for a recreational pond, or a swim pond, or a natural swimming pool are increasing every day! People seem to have had enough of chemicals in their life. We understand this new trend and have always preached against chemically-dependent landscapes, using integrated pest management techniques instead.
The terms for these larger human-interactive bodies of water are often used interchangeably. The terms and descriptions in this article are based on how WE define them.
We deem a recreational pond to be simply a large ecosystem pond. Some people just want lots of Koi. Some people want to be able to wade in a bit, which would be necessary for gardening the feature. Some folks want game fish so they can practice their fly-fishing techniques.
A recreational pond starts in the size category of about 25’ x 30’, and includes a skimmer or intake bay, biological filter or constructed wetland, and is typically a 2-pump system. The plants and fish are contained within the pond itself. It is NOT designed for regular human swimming activities, as the pump is a submersible and the filtration system is designed for aquatic life, not human activity. You can get into any ecosystem pond, provided is designed and built properly for ingress and egress, for gardening activities, etc. However, we sell these as “landscape water features not intended for swimming.”
Budgets for this category begin around $40,000, and of course there are lots of options.
Swim Pond or NSP (Natural Swimming Pool)
A swim pond is a bit of a sticky subject as far as Arizona law is concerned. Arizona law currently does not have anything on the books for “swim ponds.” As it stands now, all bodies of water for human interaction over 18” in depth are considered “pools” and subject to those standards and restrictions.
A swim pond is a very large ecosystem pond, which would include at least one skimmer or intake bay, needs a constructed wetland for filtration at least 1/3 of the size of the pond, can have a separate pond area for the fish, and requires that the pumps be located outside of the feature. Yep, this is going to take up a little more room in your yard.
A natural swimming pool (NSP) is a whole different animal! The natural pool trend began in Europe several decades ago. Since then, they’ve been slowly gaining popularity in the United States, Australia, and other regions with sunny climates. Unlike a traditionally rectangular, chlorine-filled swimming pool, a natural pool is often designed to imitate pools, ponds, or other bodies of water in the wild with irregular shapes, rocks, waterfalls, and boulders.
This requires a pretty big yard because you’ll need a separate pump area and a very large regeneration zone for filtration.
An NSP is NOT cheaper than building a conventional pool. In addition, there will be a cumbersome permitting process, which Arizona laws are still not quite equipped to handle, so it’s going to be a hassle and take some time. But it can be done if you’re up to the task.
Budgets for this category begin around $85,000.
Pros & Cons of Swim Ponds or Natural Swimming Pools
There are a lot of things to think about when considering these types of water features.
If you’re considering any of these types of water features, here are a couple of cool videos about what goes into the design, construction & maintenance of recreational ponds, swim ponds, and natural swimming pools.
As a responsible contractor, we believe that you should have the WHOLE story. Here are a couple of resources for further research on concerns with recreational ponds, swim ponds and natural swimming pools:
Pond Itch is a concern in any open-air natural body of water, but can be avoided by simply hosing down or showering off immediately after being in the water. Ducks are actually the main perpetrator of this problem, as they transport this from pond to pond during their visits.
Brain-eating amoeba is a concern in warm fresh-water environments; however, this is a rarity that can be avoided by not putting your head under the water.
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Design of an indoor pond
The type of filtration will depend on what kind of aquatic life you’ll host. Goldfish would likely be the easiest to deal with. Turtles would add the most maintenance.
You’ll need a controlled overflow to the outdoors or the sewer system so that you don’t flood the house.
Plants for an indoor pond
Aquatic life for an indoor pond
Servicing an indoor pond
Here’s a great video of an indoor pond created for a unique pet store:
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What kind of filtration do I need for my Phoenix AZ pond?
The type of filtration you need for a Phoenix AZ pond varies wildly by what type of pond you want or have. It also depends on your goals. For example, if your goal is to raise show Koi, that's a decidedly different kind of filtration and circulation system (and entire pond concept, frankly), than if you want a water garden to host pet Koi or goldfish. Fish are an integral part of a pond ecosystem, but a water garden may not be the best choice for raising show Koi.
Basically, you need both mechanical and biological filtration for any living water feature. YOU can be both of these. OR, you can install systems that do the work for you. There are MANY to choose from. Just remember that you tend to get what you pay for in life. You can purchase most equipment online these days, but that rarely comes with good customer service.
We are absolutely familiar with all styles and types of ponds -- and there are literally HUNDREDS of ways to build a "pond."
Here are The Pond Gnome's thoughts on pond filtration for Phoenix AZ for creating beautiful low-maintenance ecosystem water features:
What Aquatic Plants Should I NOT Put in my Phoenix Pond?
There are LOTS of great choices for aquatic plants to put in your Phoenix pond. In fact, many terrestrial plants can be used in Phoenix ponds, as well.
However, there are several plants that you should absolutely avoid adding to your Phoenix backyard pond.
Yellow Iris (Iris pseudacorus) in a PHoenix Pond
This is not your typical Louisiana Iris that stays demure. This guy is a monster! If you're going to use it, you must absolutely stay on top of keeping it thinned. Here's what happens when you don't:
Bamboo in a Phoenix Pond
Although you might think that bamboo and ponds just naturally go together, this one is a huge no-no. It's roots (stolens) are super-sharp, travel underground, and will puncture even concrete, let alone any kind of liner. And it gets pretty darn big!
Cattail (Typha) in a Phoenix Pond
While the dwarf variety is fine, stay away from full-size cattail. Like the Yellow Iris, it can get out of control quickly. It also spreads via it's fluffy seed. Check out a quick video shot at the Hyatt Regency Scottsdale of this aggressive plant and what it takes to remove it:
Illegal Plants for Phoenix Ponds
There are some plants that are flat-out illegal in Arizona. Sadly, one of those is Water Hyacinth because irresponsible people have tossed them into canals and waterways, where they grow unchecked and clog up the systems. There are clubs and private parties that will give you cuttings, but it is absolutely illegal to sell, and the State looks unfavorably at anyone keeping it in their pond.
For a complete list of illegal plants/noxious weeds: POND PLANTS ONLINE
Watching your fish glide gracefully and happily through the pond is a sight for sore eyes after a long day and/or week at work. But do you have a pond that promotes the health of your fish? Several factors influence whether a pond is habitable by fish, so before you stock your new pond or choose a few new finned friends at your local pet store, take a few minutes to assess your fish’s dwelling space as it relates to pond fish health.
Healthy Goldfish and Koi in an Ecosystem Pond
It all starts with the size of your pond. You need to make sure that it is large enough to support the type of fish you want (whether that’s Koi or goldfish) and their growth potential. Pond fish generally need 10 gallons of water for every inch of their length, and you have to be ready for them to grow larger, so be careful not to overstock, no matter how tempting this may be! Some pond experts go so far as to recommend only ½ inch of fish per 10 gallons of water as a maximum stocking density.
You’ve probably seen ponds crowded with two or even three inches of fish per 10 gallons of water and the fish seem to be fine. However, the density and ecological strain of this kind of fish load turn these ponds into fragile systems. The fish tend to grow more slowly and disease can become a too-common occurrence. Too many rats in a cage, so to speak.
You won’t be able to salvage sick fish in a pond that’s overcrowded. Eventually, Mother Nature will pick off some of your fish (mostly likely your favorites) to achieve her ideal stocking density based on the environment the fish are in, and then the remainder will recover as if by magical intervention. Reduce the number of fish if your pond is over-stocked before Mother Nature handles this crucial step for you in a manner you may not appreciate.
Good Morning, Sunshine
Some aquatic plants that tolerate shade include Taro, Papyrus, Horsetail, Cardinal Flower, and Lizard’s Tail.Ponds that have at least some sunlight are also beneficial to pond fish. Valuable vitamins are contained in sunlight. Sunlight also helps the plants in your pond grow, thereby reducing nitrates in the water. Unfortunately, you can’t just up and move your pond, so if you have a shady-place pond, add shade-loving plants to help balance the water. Aquatic plants play a critical role when it comes to enhancing pond fish health.
When it comes to pond depth, Koi and goldfish aren’t really very picky. Just be sure that the pond is deep enough (generally about 2 to 2 ½ feet) to give the fish a chance to get out of the way of predators. Or you can opt for a cave network within the pond to allow them to hide when need be.
A Balancing Act
The quality of your water is critical to pond fish health and you want to make sure your water garden is balanced. The proper mix of fish, plants, filtration, circulation, and rocks and gravel all provide an important role in your pond’s ecosystem. Work with Mother Nature, not against her, and you’ll find you spend more time enjoying your pond and less time maintaining it. Now, doesn’t THAT sound like a dream come true?
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IT'S ALL ABOUT BALANCE!