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    Thread: Getting back into koi - 4600g DIY build in a tiny yard

    1. #1
      jcardona1's Avatar
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      Getting back into koi - 3800g DIY build in a tiny yard

      Hey folks - as you can see by my join date I have been a long-time lurker but finally hope to be more active as I finally start my own build. I’ve been into fish-keeping for as long as I can remember. My parents say the fascination started when I was very young after my dad built a small concrete goldfish pond in our backyard in the early 80s. From there on out I always had fish tanks growing up, killed a lot of fish along the way and eventually learned from my mistakes as I better understood the biology of fish-keeping.

      Eventually the goldfish pond was shut down as I became busy with teenage things but never did lose the passion. Fast-forward a few years later while in college (around ’01~’03) I convinced my girlfriend’s parents (who is now my wife) to let me build a small pond at their house, allowing me to use their yard as practice. For me the fish-keeping hobby will always start and end with koi ponds so it was nice to have an outlet until the time was right for my own pond.

      This is the pond as it was originally built. As with most first ponds it was poorly designed and not big/deep enough for koi but I did have the foresight to at least install a bottom drain – in the shallow end, DOH! Eventually we added a no-niche skimmer after-the-fact. The whole system is filtered by a large bead filter and that’s it! As bad as this seems on paper the fish have done surprisingly well and the water stays crystal clear. Taught my in-laws to flush the bead filter and perform water changes regularly. We have lost fish along the way but still have some of the original fish from 2002.

      Earliest photo I could find after getting everything running:



      And a recent photo. This pond is grossly overstocked especially now that several offspring have survived. Plan to take some of these over to my pond once it’s done.



      And this big ol’ manatee is one of my favorites:



      While I haven’t been able to have my own koi pond up until this point I have kept fairly intense aquarium setups throughout. Here’s some of my more memorable setups:

      55g live planted tank





      405g peacock bass tank





      57g rimless discus, then live planted tank







      190g wild discus biotope, then mixed cichlid community tank









      Okay so enough of an introduction, this website is for koi right! After taking a break from fish-keeping for a few years I finally feel I’m at a point in my life where I can start on my own koi pond. I am still a bit apprehensive putting all this time and money into a pond given my wife and I are in our mid-30s and will most likely end up moving a few more times in the future but hell, you only live once right? I think because of that I’m okay with this not being my ultimate dream pond but something nice I can live with for a few years.

      We’ll be coming up on 3 years at our new place. It’s new construction so in California that means nice big house but small lots/yards. Given that we’re in the larger single-story floorplans it means we have a very tiny backyard so space is an issue. Needed to design everything with limited room in mind and utilize all the square footage efficiently.

      Here is the final design I ended up with, rough outline pictured here is about 15x10. I’m on a corner lot so the fence you see here faces the street. This all started Aug’18:



      So far everything has been DIY except for the digging. That is something I refuse to do especially given the rocky clay soil I have. My lot is about 5-6’ higher than street level and my back neighbor so that means they brought in a lot of soil to grade the land. Except the “soil” they brought in is mostly river rock. Hired a landscape maintenance crew to do the dirty work. They rented a green waste container which holds about 10yds of soil. The rest they hauled away to the local dump site via several truck loads.



      And here is the final excavation. I had them dig down to 3’ deep and I then shaped the bottom for dual bottom drains.



      Here I was just about finished plumbing in the first 4” bottom drain. The one closest to the patio/viewing area is a non-aerated Rhino 90-degree drain. The area around the BD and all elbows was packed in with concrete.





      And bottom drain #2. This is a Koi Toilet 4” aerated drain. Air will be supplied by a Hakko 60l air pump.





      I knew for a large pond given the small space it should be semi-raised to deal with runoff and pets/kids around the water. With the BD plumbing out of the way I was able to move on to raised wall (collar?). I know many folks will say the only way to build a deep liner pond is to pour a footer and build the walls using concrete blocks tied together with rebar and filled with concrete. I see that as overkill but I’m no engineer so don’t take my advice. Maybe once I build my final final dream pond I will go that route but for now I think this should work. I opted to only run two rows of blocks to bring the water level slightly about ground level. Starting the first course:



      Starting the 2nd row:



      And just about done at this point. The 2nd row also used landscape block adhesive before filling with concrete. The bulkhead connector you see in the back is for the Pentair auto-fill/overflow valve.



      With the raised wall complete I can get an idea of the final dimensions. Max depth at the BDs is about 4’5” and slopes up to about 4’ at the edges. My estimates are that this will hold about 4600+ gallons of water.



      Next up was the TRPs and skimmer connector. 2” skimmer connector is at the far right. I chose Zac’s large no-niche skimmer due to ease of installation and access for maintenance. Running an in-wall skimmer was more work than I cared to tackle at this point. The next 3 ports you see are 2” TPRs and as mentioned the connector at the far left is for an auto-fill.

      The plan is to have the skimmer/TPR circuit powered by a Periha PB-23000 pump. This circuit will not run through my filtration – it will be used only for surface skimming and circulation. And again this decision was based on space constraints to run plumbing around the pond.



      And here is how the pond sits as of now (10/30/2018). Because of the rocky clay soil I have I chose to reinforce the walls with mortar (pond will be liner). I figured this along with the ‘collar’ of construction block filled with concrete should give me a pretty solid foundation that can support a large liner pond. Not bad for 2 months of mostly weekend work!



      And some other notes about the pond…

      The main filtration circuit will consist of the two 4” BDs gravity-fed into a Red Label Basic 25 RDF which I purchased used from Seaside Aquatics. Plan is to place this unit close to where the two 4” pipes exit the pond. The pump will be an Evolution ESS6400 (6400 gph).



      Pre-filtered water will then be pumped to a DIY shower that will hold an estimated 4.5 cuft of media. The 4 main totes are 24x15x10 each + 24x15x5 “catch basin”. For filter media I will be using 4-6” pieces feather rock from a local rock yard; $30 for 150lb bag.

      Here is my collection of parts in the spare bedroom. Totes for shower filter can be seen against the wall:



      And last item for now, a few weeks ago I picked up a few small koi to grow out in my QT tank. I love admiring high-quality koi but just can’t bring myself to spend big bucks on top shelf koi. I’ve spent a lot of money on a lot of fish in the past so I’m resisting the urge to go off the deep end…for now. Pond-grade mutts will have to do





      Last edited by jcardona1; 03-19-2019 at 02:18 PM.

    2. #2
      rainblood's Avatar
      rainblood is online now Assembler of Water Droplets
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      Your fish tank setups are amazing
      -Rain

      :I CAN'T BRING THIS SHIP INTO TRTUGA ALL BY ME ONESIES, SAVVY?:

    3. #3
      Magnolia7330 is offline Junior Member
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      This is great. I'm hoping to build one about the same size. If you are in the Sacramento area I recommend going to Sacramento Koi. I visited them and they are very nice and helpful. The owner said he is willing to help answer any questions and offer advice to anyone building their own pond. Plus, they have some amazing fish to go in and dream about. He said they will be having a fish show in November 17th where they bring out their fish they just recently picked up in Japan.

    4. #4
      jcardona1's Avatar
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      Quote Originally Posted by rainblood View Post
      Your fish tank setups are amazing
      Thanks! I do miss them all but I don't miss the maintenance - especially the planted tanks as those were an absolute chore. The one I miss the most though was the 190g. Put a lot of work into that setup. This one in fact was almost zero maintenance as it was setup on an auto-water changer that drained into a sink and refilled automatically.

      DIY stand:



      Drilled all the holes myself and built the overflow box:



      Made my own LED light fixture using a large aluminum heatsink:





      Which was ran by an Arduino controller



      Sump setup







      And even had my anglefish spawn in the tank! Looking back at this setup I don't know where I found the time to build all this.



      Quote Originally Posted by Magnolia7330 View Post
      This is great. I'm hoping to build one about the same size. If you are in the Sacramento area I recommend going to Sacramento Koi. I visited them and they are very nice and helpful. The owner said he is willing to help answer any questions and offer advice to anyone building their own pond. Plus, they have some amazing fish to go in and dream about. He said they will be having a fish show in November 17th where they bring out their fish they just recently picked up in Japan.
      Thank you - And yes I am local and was planning on being there for the unveiling on the 17th! Been to their shop a few times but haven't purchased fish from them. Hoping to pick up a few more small guys to throw in the QT tank until the pond is done.

    5. #5
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      Nice job hopefully in the future I can build one like that I have a spot for it already also

    6. #6
      JGS107 is offline Senior Member
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      Looks great. Are you suing electrical conduit for your bottom drains

    7. #7
      jcardona1's Avatar
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      Quote Originally Posted by JGS107 View Post
      Looks great. Are you suing electrical conduit for your bottom drains
      Yeah the BDs were setup using a mishmash of electrical conduit and ABS pipe with DVW PVC fittings.

    8. #8
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      Small update - finished hooking up the Red Label RDF. Really like the small footprint of this unit. And because my pond will be partially above-ground, the RDF only required a small indent in the dirt vs a large pit.

      It was a bit tougher than expected because I didn't put any thought or planning into the BD plumbing, I simply had two 4" pipes coming out of the pond. I had to get really creative with multiple 22.5/45/90 degree fittings. In hindsight I think it would have been cheaper to use flexible 4" PVC pipe but at $20/foot I thought it was way too expensive. I think I spent just as much in a couple feet of fittings Oh well, next time!

      Because the RDF is slightly below ground level I plan on building up a small 'retaining wall' around it, perhaps made out of small brick. And as you can see because I'm really limited on space it's still TBD if I will excavate more for the pump or run it above-ground. The pump will be above-ground relative to the RDF but still below water level so I don't think I'll need a check valve...right?



      The blue arrow you see here is where the approximate water level will be. This will be just about flush with the top lip of the waste tray/drain inside the RDF.

      Last edited by jcardona1; 11-12-2018 at 04:33 PM.

    9. #9
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      That’s an advance rdf system how much does one of those run about?

    10. #10
      jcardona1's Avatar
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      Quote Originally Posted by Nguyen365 View Post
      That’s an advance rdf system how much does one of those run about?
      This is actually the smallest entry-level Red Label RDF. Currently $3400 on Seaside Aquatic's website.

      Sent from my SM-G950U using Tapatalk

    11. #11
      Zac Penn is offline Supporting Member
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      I am digging that sweet No-Niche Skimmer you have!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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      kevin32 is offline Inactivated
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      Looking good. As soon as I saw the clay soil I thought hmm he must be in ca. I have very hard clay only here and it is very unstable. Going all the way down with the cement was a good idea. At 7 feet deep though Ill do cinder block. Congrats on the new pond build and maybe one day I can visit it lol.

    14. #14
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      Quote Originally Posted by Zac Penn View Post
      I am digging that sweet No-Niche Skimmer you have!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
      What can I say, that guy Zac makes some nice stuff

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      tf104 is online now Senior Member
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      I would also recommend not choking down the waste tray exit, I kept mine full size to a two gallon bucket with a shower drain and screen installed in the bucket . it is very easy to clean out large debris and leaves and not worry about them clogging the smaller line.

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      kevin32 is offline Inactivated
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      Quote Originally Posted by tf104 View Post
      I would also recommend not choking down the waste tray exit, I kept mine full size to a two gallon bucket with a shower drain and screen installed in the bucket . it is very easy to clean out large debris and leaves and not worry about them clogging the smaller line.
      Yeah I reduced mine on the profidrum just because I had the piping at the time. It will back up the waste tray and will need manually cleaned . Went to full size and no worries

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      kevin32 is offline Inactivated
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      Quote Originally Posted by jcardona1 View Post
      What can I say, that guy Zac makes some nice stuff
      Indeed he does. I really like the in wall skimmer and fits into 2 cinder blocks high. Perfect cinder block and liner install. Still a no niche with a very high leaf capacity underneath.
      Attached Images Attached Images  

    18. #18
      jcardona1's Avatar
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      Quote Originally Posted by kevin32 View Post
      Looking good. As soon as I saw the clay soil I thought hmm he must be in ca. I have very hard clay only here and it is very unstable. Going all the way down with the cement was a good idea. At 7 feet deep though Ill do cinder block. Congrats on the new pond build and maybe one day I can visit it lol.
      Yup this soil is awful! Ridiculously hard to dig through but crumbles away with the slightest movement. I'm in the Sacramento area so I think we're pretty close.

      Quote Originally Posted by tf104 View Post
      I would also recommend not choking down the waste tray exit, I kept mine full size to a two gallon bucket with a shower drain and screen installed in the bucket . it is very easy to clean out large debris and leaves and not worry about them clogging the smaller line.
      Quote Originally Posted by kevin32 View Post
      Yeah I reduced mine on the profidrum just because I had the piping at the time. It will back up the waste tray and will need manually cleaned . Went to full size and no worries
      Thanks for the tips. Good thing I haven't done any plumbing yet for the waste line. I know it's impossible to compare setups, but how much waste water would you say your RDFs generate on a given day? I still don't know what I'm doing with the waste water. I'm hesitant to send it to the surrounding plants because my heavy clay soil has very poor drainage and I don't want to overwater/drown the plants.

      tf104 - does the water in the 2g bucket go somewhere else or do you manually empty it regularly?

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      tf104 is online now Senior Member
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      The 2 gallon bucket has a shower fitting plumbed into the bottom and that drains to the back of the property
      when I first set my combi up I had it running into a five gallon bucket for a short time some days the bucket would be half full and others it would be overflowing.
      Last edited by tf104; 11-13-2018 at 09:19 PM.

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      kevin32 is offline Inactivated
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      I had a 16 gallon tub. I have a heavy fish load and no uv light. There were days in the summer that the 16 gallon tub would overflow. But I also have 14 koi in 1,000 gallons

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