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How to Build a Pond Part 3 - Adding a Fountain or Waterfall | A Bradshaw's Guide

21st Nov 2019

In the 3rd of our 'How to Build a Pond' series of Bradshaw's guides we telk you through how to add a fountain or waterfall.

How to Build a Pond Part 3 - Adding a Fountain or Waterfall

For most people the sound of moving water is one of the top reasons for having a pond. The gentle splash of a fountain or waterfall is relaxing and adds to the calming escapism to be found in your garden.

What do you need to consider?

Mains or Solar

Solar power is an option if you want a small fountain. Solar panels collect the sun’s energy and either send it straight to the pump or to a battery for use later. If there is no battery then the pump will only work when the solar panel is in direct sunlight.

It helps to angle the panel toward the sun and make sure that it is in the sun at the right time of day, if you generally sit in your garden in the late afternoon, make sure that the panel is in full sun at that time. People are often dissatisfied with the performance of this kind of pump.

If the pump has a battery then it will charge up during sunny hours, so angle it to catch the midday sun. You can then turn it on whenever you want the fountain to run and it will be ready. This kind of pump will even work at night and lots of them come with lights to illuminate the fountain too.

Solar fountains are usually quite small, perhaps up to 50cm tall, if you want a bigger fountain then you should consider mains power. It can be tricky to get power to your pond depending on the distances involved. For a lot of people it’s just a case of running the pump cable (they always come with 10 metres or 32’) back to an outside socket or one in the garage. We always recommend that you use a circuit breaker either at the socket or back at the consumer unit in the house or garage. If the pump were to become faulty (a damaged cable perhaps) then this could literally be a lifesaver.

If you need to take the power further or you’d like to put more electrical items in the pond (think about lights or an ultraviolet filter (UVC)) then you should either get an electrician in or make sure that you have the right kit. Any permanent electrical work, like adding an outside socket, is governed by the Part P Electrical Regulations. This means, for us non-electricians, you can only connect your garden electrics to a plug that goes into a socket.

Fountain or Waterfall - or Both!

Fountains make a lovely display, firing water up above the pond surface and letting it fall back into the pond. There are lots of different fountain types and most pumps come with a choice of fountain heads so that you can choose your favourite.

If you want a fountain then get a fountain pump, these usually have a plastic mesh cage around them with small holes in it. The idea is that anything that can get into the pump can also get out of the fountain head so it shouldn’t block up too often. If it does block then just get it out, open the cage and squirt it with a hosepipe. With that in mind think about where you put the fountain, if it is in the middle of a large pond then you’ll have trouble getting it out for maintenance.

The fountain head needs to poke out of the surface of the water. They usually come with a telescopic stem or tube that helps with this. If the pond is deep you might have to raise the pump up a bit. Use a stack of bricks, an upturned planting basket or a pump stand.

Fountains can be blown by the wind causing some water to be lost to the garden and potentially emptying the pond. If your pond is in a windy location choose a lower type of fountain like a bell jet (or mushroom jet) as it is less likely to be affected.

Fountains add oxygen to the water, safeguarding the health of fish in hot weather and reducing the build-up of algae. Some people will only run the fountain when they are in the garden, others will run it day and night. I’d suggest running it when you want to enjoy the garden and whenever the weather is good.

Waterfalls have a pump in the pond attached to a hose. This then leads to the top of the waterfall. Water leaving the waterfall goes back into the pond and the cycle repeats. These types of pump have a plastic mesh cage with large holes in the outside so that big lumps of dirt are drawn into the pump. This dirt goes straight through the pump and will be sent back down the waterfall with the water, the pump is very unlikely to block up. If you want to add a filter to keep your pond clean then it goes between the pump and the waterfall and catches all the dirt that the pump has collected.

This kind of pump needs to be positioned on the bottom of the pond as far from the waterfall return as possible. This gives the maximum turnover of the pond water. Waterfalls add movement and oxygen to the pond and just like a fountain they can help with fish health in hot weather and in reducing algae problems.

Most people run their waterfall all the time but this is only necessary if you are using it to power a filter. Waterfalls can be noisy and if you are worried about that then there are ways that you can easily reduce the noise factor . The water is noisiest when it falls back into water so make a series of short falls where the water lands on rocks, and at the end where it does go back into the water have it just run in off a rock rather than fall.

In these days of high electricity costs some people are worried about the running cost of their pump but this needn’t be a real problem. Pumps are much more efficient now than they were and a small fountain pump might be as little as 10 watts, while a fairly large waterfall pump can be around 60 watts. A traditional light bulb is 60 watts. Often the cheaper the pump is to buy the dearer it will be to run so take note of the wattage when you're buying your pump.

When choosing a pump for a waterfall you need to consider the size of fall you want and the height you’ll be sending the water up to. Look at the table below to give you an idea of the flow rate that you’ll need. All of our pumps show their performance when pumping to 3’ (or 1 metre app.) above the pond surface, if your waterfall is higher than that you could give us a call on 01904 698800 and we’ll work it out for you.

Width of WaterfallA Thin Film of water Over a Ledge
InchesCMGallons Per HourLitres Per Hour
6153001400
12309004000
164013006000
205016507500
2460285013000

If you plan to use a pump to run a filter look at our blog post on calculating flow rate, as it is a bit more complicated, or give our friendly team a call on 01904 698800.

If you want both a fountain and a waterfall then there are lots of pumps for that too. These are bigger fountain pumps that have an additional outlet to attach to a hose. The hose goes to the waterfall and the fountain sticks out of the tip of the water.

These pumps have quite small holes in their cages and so they will block up more often than a waterfall pump, so it is sensible to raise them up a bit. There will be a tap or flow control on the fountain stem of the pump so that you can control the height of the fountain and the force of the waterfall.

Bear in mind that if you intend to add a filter then this pump will need to run all the time. Lots of people who want a fountain and a waterfall buy two pumps. With fountain pumps starting at around £20, for not much money you can have the freedom to turn the waterfall and fountain off independently.

Enjoy your pond!

Want to know more?

Introduction To Filter Pumps...

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Fountain pumps...

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