How to Choose the Right Water Features for Your Landscaping Project

Water Features

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When most people think about landscaping, they think about hardscapes and softscapes – rocks, structures, and plants. Water features make a great addition to a landscaping project, but they’re often overlooked because, from the outside, they look both complicated and expensive.

Outdoor water features need not be either of these things. In fact, you can put together backyard water features that carefully blend into your yard without breaking the bank.

Is a Water Feature Right for Your Yard?

Thanks to the variety of water features available and the ease of building many of them, there’s no reason you can’t have some kind of water feature in your yard.

Only one issue exists in building these features: maintenance.

Water features are beautiful, but they can be breeding grounds for mosquitos and bacteria if they aren’t properly maintained.

You Need a Pump

If you’re building a feature larger than one you’d purchase at the store, you’ll need to maintain it both through regular cleaning but also by installing a pump. A pump will keep the water circulating to prevent unwanted guests from breeding in your water feature.

Hoping to grow plants and raise fish in your water feature? Then, you’ll definitely need a pump.

Where a natural pond will include enough plants and fish to maintain nutrient levels on its own, man-made ponds aren’t typically large enough to hold enough plants and all the microorganisms that keep a pond healthy.

Man-made ponds thus need man-made aeration to encourage oxygen back into the water to prevent the bacteria that otherwise cause the water to smell.

You’ll Need Electricity for the Pump

Pumps often require electricity, so you’ll need access to a power source if you want to maintain a healthy water feature.

That power source doesn’t need to be electricity – it can be solar.

Solar water features have come to the fore that allow you to run a pump for ponds or fountains without relying on your own grid. These pumps will typically operate on solar power during the day and use a backup battery to continue working through the night.

Common Water Features Even You Can Build

Let’s break down some of the most common water features found in yards as well as some of the pros and cons of these features:


A pond may seem like a simple pool, but it can transform your yard.

Ponds serve as a place of tranquillity in your yard – a place to go and reflect. They may also become the center of a conservation effort by supporting the ecosystem across your yard.

One of the most attractive features of a pond is that it’s fairly simple to build. By adding some stone and mortar walls and a strong butyl liner, you can create a small oasis in any yard.

From there you can add fish, feed local frogs or lizards, or populate it with plants that local insects love.

One of the reasons ponds are a common water feature is their versatility: you’re not required to dig a hole to build a pond.

The three most common types of ponds include:

  • Natural, in-ground ponds
  • Container ponds
  • Fish ponds

Natural Ponds

Natural ponds and pools are both popular and basic because they provide an appealing aesthetic with a coveted DIY element.

Why Install a Pond:

  • One of the simplest water features to install and maintain
  • Ponds look natural
  • Ponds are easy to customize

Disadvantages of Ponds:

  • Ponds may require significant digging
  • Keeping them clean is a challenge
  • Poor liners may break and leaks

Container Ponds

Did you know you don’t need to dig a pit to enjoy the benefits of a pond?

Container ponds have become increasingly popular in small spaces and or among households for whom a natural pond requires too much maintenance.

A container pond can be made in any water-tight container and can be as large or small as you like. You can even create a container pond the size of a natural pond if you can find a water-tight material large enough to create it.

You can create a pond out of anything from a large bowl to a barrel to a bathtub or something even larger. Salvage yards are a great place to find containers to refurbish for the purpose.

If the perfect container isn’t quite water-tight, it’s possible to line them to prevent leakages. You can even use liners that are safe for fish and create a container fish pond.

If a liner isn’t your speed, there are brush on sealants available at home stores that may do the trick.

One of the things homeowners love about container ponds is that there are no limits to your creativity – once you’ve found a suitable container, you can do virtually anything with it because it requires no digging or construction.

Why Build a Container Pond:

  • No digging or building for installation
  • Flexibility in size and style
  • Easier to maintain than natural ponds
  • Works well in small yards or gardens

Disadvantages of Container Ponds:

  • May be difficult to clean the container
  • Not using a pump may create hazards (mosquito breeding grounds, algae growth, etc.)
  • Need to seal the container to avoid leaks

Fish Ponds

A fish pond may masquerade as a natural pond, but it requires some of the features of container ponds in order to host fish safely. However, you’ll still need hardier fish, like koi, to house in the pond because they’re better able to adapt to inevitable changes in oxygen and temperature than other types of fish.

Why Build a Fish Pond:

  • Provides a calming aesthetic – great for feng shui
  • Easy to install
  • Easily customizable

Disadvantages of Fish Ponds:

  • Caring for the fish requires special maintenance
  • Maintenance becomes complicated during autumn and winter

In-Ground Hot Tubs

When you think of hot tubs, you may think of the giant, square above ground contraptions most commonly seen in high school movies. Those hot tubs are certainly utilitarian and are rarely the most attractive part of a yard.

But hot tubs don’t need to be hidden away. A recent trend has seen homeowners digging hot tubs that more closely resemble container ponds or fountains while also serving as a hot tub for sore, achy muscles.

You can even add a waterfall for additional tranquillity.

Pros of In-Ground Hot Tubs

  • Aesthetic appeal and can match masonry
  • Double as hot tub and tranquil water feature
  • Long lifespan

Disadvantages of Hot Tubs

  • Expensive to build compared to drop-in versions
  • Limited jet applications compared to drop in hot tubs
  • Few choose to maintain hot tub temperature all day with in-ground hot tubs

Water Fountains

Water fountains conjure up images of French chateaus with beautifully designed fountains complete with sculptures, but fountains are quite diverse structures and you can build one into any yard with as little or as much water as you like.

Pros of Water Fountains:

  • Perfect for small yards or even patios
  • Easy to install – no digging required
  • Low maintenance compared to outdoor water features

Disadvantages of Wall Fountains:

  • Don’t come with adjustable settings
  • Costly on energy bills
  • Cost of kits may match cost of building one

Spouting Fountain

A spouting fountain is one of the closest fountains to that most common image of this water feature.

These fountains spray water from a reservoir or existing feature like a pool or pond straight into the air using a pump. These are easy to add even to an existing pool because you can purchase a submersible pump and don’t need to build the pump into the feature itself.

Pondless Fountains

Pondless fountains are popular with those who are looking for a more contemporary look. These fountains draw the water from a hidden reservoir, usually underground.

A pondless water fountain is a useful solution for a smaller space and it can be built into other non-traditional fountain structures like a pot or urn.

Wall Fountains

Have you ever walked into an office building and noticed a display of incredible modern water features – often a wall of water – with water cascading down. There’s no reason you can build something similar in your yard or outdoor living space.

Water walls come in all shapes and sizes and are the perfect fit for someone who wants a low maintenance water feature around their living space.

These features can also serve as an art piece, performing double duty and saving space.

What Water Features Will You Choose?

A water feature can add balance, interest, and tranquillity to your backyard – even if your backyard doesn’t extend much further than your patio.

Indeed, there’s no reason to limit these landscaping features only to those with a large space and equally large budget. Many of them can be built with materials found at your local home store and they can be customized to perfectly fit your space.

Are you weighing your landscaping options? Have you found any features that surprised you? Share your design ideas in the comments below.

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