Building a Garden Pond for Aquatic Insects, Part 2

pondChoosing a Pond Location and Installing the Container

As promised, today I’m going to talk about choosing a site and installing the water container for an aquatic insect garden pond.  I think this was the hardest part of the process for the pond I built because it involved the majority of the planning and manual labor.  Once you get through these parts and get the substrates in, you’re basically done!

My pond was installed at the Biopshere II, so the first step was getting the project itself and the location approved by a committee.  If you are a homeowner, you should check your city ordinances for any regulations and restrictions regarding water features in your yard.  For me, the requirements were that the pond had to be a) low maintenance, b) at least partially above ground to keep people from falling in, and c) covered with something that would prevent children from drowning if they fall in.  These restrictions actually made every step harder than it might have been otherwise, but you have to work within the guidelines you are given.  Many cities require fences around ponds larger than a certain size or other safety features.  Be sure you follow the guidelines for the area in which your pond will be installed, especially if it’s going to be a large pond!

The next step was designing the pond.  When designing my pond, I decided to keep it simple.  I wanted the pond to be fairly small so that it would be reasonable to install within the time I had available and wouldn’t require a huge amount of water to fill.  (I do live in a desert after all!)  I wanted about 2/3 of the area to be open so that people could look into the pond and try to find aquatic insects, but 1/3 needed to be plants to keep the water properly oxygenated, absorb nutrients produced by things that fall to the bottom of the pond, and provide habitat for insects.  I decided which structures I wanted to put into the pond to make it as attractive to as many different aquatic insects as possible (the subject of my next post).  I also decided to have the pond self-fill to keep the maintenance level down.  This is about as basic as a pond gets, which was perfect for my needs.  However, you can make ponds that are quite elaborate.  You can add waterfalls, streams, filters, and all kinds of other features to make your pond look nice.  Some pond enthusiasts build ponds for fish or specific types of aquatic plants (such as water lilies) or use their ponds to raise frogs.  I have a single purpose for my pond – attracting aquatic insects – so I designed the pond to be appropriate for my needs.  If you are more concerned about aesthetics, you should consider some of the more complicated designs so your pondwill look pretty AND attract bugs to your yard!

Next, I chose a spot for my pond.  After moving having my pond’s location moved a few times by the Biosphere staff, I was finally assigned a spot, this courtyard:

Orchard Courtyard at Biosphere II

Orchard courtyard at Biosphere II

This space is outside the western part of the orchard area of Biosphere 2, the orchard courtyard.  Within this space, I was allowed to choose my exact spot.  My colleague had chosen her spot first, so I chose the area across the courtyard.  When choosing my exact spot within this space, I considered the following things:

— How level the area was.
— How hard it would be to move the things in the location (rocks, dirt, plants, roots, etc) to install the container that would become the pond.
— How much sun the area would get.  This is important when you consider what kinds of plants to use in the pond and the kinds of insects you wish to attract.
— How many trees were likely to lose leaves that would fall into the pond.

Moving more things than you have to is never fun, so I chose a location that was mostly flat already and only needed to have one large rock removed to work.  The area would be in the full fun for several hours a day, but not the entire day, so I could use plants that required full sun or partial shade in the pond.  Leaves are the enemy of any low maintenance pond because they accumulate quickly and need to be removed periodically, so I was very thrilled to find a space that didn’t have any overhanging trees and was unlikely to get many leaves blowing into it.  I think my site is about perfect!  That’s it in the image below.

Site of pond

Site of pond, before installation

The next step for me was choosing the container for my pond.  There are several options to consider.  Perhaps the most aesthetically pleasing is an in-ground pond.  To make these, you dig a hole and line it with either a flexible pond liner (the cheaper option) or a pre-formed plastic shell (the easier option).  I had originally wanted to do this, but the above-ground requirement imposed by B2 made this impossible – you can’t hold water above ground level with an in-ground pond!  (Good thing it didn’t work out anyway because it was nearly impossible to dig in this area without heavy digging equipment like a backhoe.)  In the end, I chose to use a stock tank, the kind you find at feed stores to water livestock.  Stock tanks are nice because they’re lightweight, they’re reasonably priced, and they’re durable, so they’ll last a long time.  You can also buy above ground plastic containers, but they’re likely to be more expensive and can disintegrate faster, especially in very warm or very cold areas.  My pond was created from a 6 foot diameter, 2 foot deep aluminum tank:

Stock tank

Stock tank for use as the container for my pond

I moved the stock tank from the top of my car to the bed of a friend’s pick up truck and we drove it out to B2.  Once there, installing the stock tank was very easy.  The big rock was moved so the tank would exactly fit into the space.  Because we were putting in an above-ground pond, we simply moved some of the larger rocks, leveled out the site out with a pick axe and shovels , rolled the tank up the ramp to the courtyard, and plopped it into place.

The two of us didn’t have any trouble at all getting the tank into place (and my friend is a very tiny woman), so this is something that I think anyone could easily do in their yards.  If you’re digging a hole and using a liner, you might want a small crew of diggers to help you out – or rent a small bulldozer or tiller to get everything loosened up and pulled out more quickly.  I’m personally pleased with how easy it was to get the tank installed and I’m happy I wasn’t allowed to do an in-ground pond.  It would have been so much more work!  The tank perhaps doesn’t look as nice as an in-ground pond, but the aesthetic gains don’t seem worth the extra time and energy to me.  Besides, once my pond has some landscaping done and rocks are piled up around the outside of the tank, it’s going to blend in well and look great!

Next time I’m going to talk about selecting substrates – plants and other features – to attract a variety of aquatic insects.  Check back soon!


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