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    Thread: What to ask contractors for mid-size pond project?

    1. #21
      Paul Sabucchi's Avatar
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      Forgot to say that even the infamous YouTube can be a valuable source of ideas. Over here in Europe, maybe because space is often limited, ponds tend to be on the small side and mostly of unimaginative design (mine is not small but not of extravagant shape either) but there are exceptions and even rectangular ponds can be made more interesting with large viewing windows.
      Worth checking this channel, he is from Holland (speaks good English, only rarely double-dutch) but has shown ponds from Switzerland and Germany as well. This is the latest video
      https://youtu.be/ovPaTiQGEdw
      On this very nice pond and stream, as in some of the others (like this one https://youtu.be/CmrRMFoKYgw) the filtration is in a dugout so can be disguised as decking or some such. In others the filtration is above ground so has to be housed in some kind of shed (so you would have to think where to place that as well)
      This pond is on another level (actually a lot of levels) https://youtu.be/AlRFyCkEZIY
      Some other European ponds here https://youtu.be/oL5FmsY3rIY
      Last edited by Paul Sabucchi; 01-06-2022 at 09:23 AM.

    2. #22
      Jerome is offline Member
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      My notes after meeting the young contractor this morning. Overall, fairly positive feeling (when combined with more experienced design from Sacramento Koi or equivalent), although I need to figure out if his reluctance of doing a bottom drain came from lack of experience about it (that would be blocking).

      - fairly young, 5 years of professional experience (plus 10 years of indoors tanks/etc). Works closely with the local landscaper who gave me his name.
      - easy-going, seems competent within his boundaries, he listens and explains. Got the feeling he's honest and a hard worker.
      - water run-off on the right side of the lawn is confirmed, needs some landscapiing to contain, details tbd
      - 3 feet deep + 3 feet above design with "wall lip" was fine with him. Informal shape, bare bottom, ~20 fish. Garden State Koi seems the right local seller for kois.
      - he suggested a slope of the bottom from right side (~3 feet) to left side (~5 feet).
      - he pointed out the trees on the right side should provide some welcome shade, although the pond would be quite exposed to the sun overall.
      - he suggested a seating area under the trees on the right side of the pond (agreed). Landscaping/etc out of his scope, we need to think more about it (pergola?).
      - surrounding plants and the likes to discuss with landscaper (I'm thinking to relocate the two big green bushes up the slope; get rid of the pointy bush; extend the path around the house)
      - he suggested a powerful skimmer on the left side, circling to the waterfall (located near left side)
      - waterfall flow (from right side) + two power heads would redirect water to the skimmer
      - liner + SUBMERSIBLE PUMP + aerator (on a schedule, mostly active at night) to stir things up towards the skimmer. I expressed skepticism vs. bottom drain...
      - pumping capacity needs to account for main pond AND waterfall and pipes, hence more 8000/9000 gallons
      - UV system (I think? make him repeat) to prevent some algae issues, plus some chemical treatment for other types of algae
      - fine with setting up 2 or 3 underwater lights
      - would get somebody to test the ground first (e.g. steel probes to test if big boulders or rocky plateau or tree roots/etc)
      - interesting question: was there a farm around in the past, with possible debris in the ground?
      - should not be a problem to avoid the underground cables (FiOS, power) on the right side
      - he pointed out the water closing valve in the lawn on the left side (didn't notice so far!); should be fine, it's far enough.
      - doesn't have a customer in our town, doesn't know the exact regulations, but he recommended a fence (kids, local dogs, wildlife)
      - will show me his own pond + ask the owner of 10,000 gallon project to show me around (same concept, bare bottom, no plant/rock, wall "lip" around it) + send me pics of construction
      - seems that he would line up somebody else to do the bulk of the excavation (Covid makes his life difficult, less work, harder to find co-workers)
      - no professional monthly maintenance required (as long as I check the pond myself, plus clean/replace the filters ~monthly)
      - netting around October (he spontaneously suggested to show me how to do it myself)
      - close the pond for the winter (shut off waterfall, set up two openings with aerators for the pond to breathe even if it ices out).
      - when reopening the pond (~early April), empty it, put fish away in a big tank, power wash the pond and pipes. Could be once a year or every other year if we can tolerate imperfect visibility. Cost around $2k.
      ==> seems like a dubious consequence of lack of bottom drain?
      Last edited by Jerome; 01-06-2022 at 01:37 PM.

    3. #23
      Paul Sabucchi's Avatar
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      Hi, I suppose if eventually you decide to go with this contractor his ideas can be fed to Sacramento Koi or equivalent. I probably would use the slope for some kind of stream/series of pools/waterfall as it provides ready made elevation and great view from the bow window, but probably not very feasable with a 3' above ground design

    4. #24
      icu2's Avatar
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      Welcome and thanks for joining Koiphen!

      - when reopening the pond (~early April), empty it, put fish away in a big tank, power wash the pond and pipes. Could be once a year or every other year if we can tolerate imperfect visibility. Cost around $2k.
      If the pond is built and filtered correctly there's no reason to ever power wash it imho.

      - he suggested a powerful skimmer on the left side, circling to the waterfall (located near left side)
      I'm not sure what a "powerful" skimmer is but remember flowing more water through a skimmer doesn't always mean
      it "skims" better. It depends more on the width of the weir.

      I've never been a big fan of Sacramento Koi's pond designs only due to the the lack of gravity fed filters and small "jet"
      type returns. High head pressure filters and small diameter pump fed pond returns equal bigger pumps and more cost.

      Looking forward to watching your build!
      --Steve
      ..WWKC Treasurer


    5. #25
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      Sounds like his experience is mostly with small low budget landscape type water features/ponds, hence the submersible pump system. A lot of homeowners want a water feature added, so the local landscapers have someone on call who specializes in smaller liner ponds who can come in and make it happen. I think most on Koiphen will advise that if you want a fairly serious koi pond, you want to use external pumps and filtration systems, along with bottom drains. To save money, you can skip the underwater lighting, which will collect debris and algae on the wires and lights, and end up being a pain in the neck. I got talked into this by my pond guy, and took them out after a few years.

    6. #26
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      Here is another established pond on YouTube that I like:

      SPECS
      Most the koi were born in the pond. Savio skimmer, sediment chamber, retro bottom, 2 barrels, long history of videos. Filters are cleaned once a year. 6 min flow-though water changes 6 days a week. I'm not sure what he does with his koi during the winter; whether he drains all the pipes and closes the pond up for winter etc. A flow-through system of water changes is a must to keep the work of maintenance down.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mt3xNoFEjbA&t=134s

      Being in an area that experiences deep freeze for weeks on end I would make sure the pond design is such that it could easily accommodate a pond cover should you decide to cover the pond during winter. Also research on how to properly drain/winter prep a bottom drain for winter?
      Last edited by KoiRun; 01-06-2022 at 08:11 PM.
      Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time. ---- Marthe Troly-Curtin

      KoiRun on YouTube, latest video:
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Wnm5F86BQc&t=6s

    7. #27
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      Regarding choosing where to place your skimmer, also think about any prevailing winds you have. It's best if your winds help move surface debris towards your skimmer, rather than having any tprs and your skimmer fighting against the wind.

    8. #28
      pondfishguy is offline Senior Member
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      Quote Originally Posted by Jerome View Post
      Yep, I had understood that much in my prep work! I went to see a local Aquascape vendor and my eyes were rolling as he tried to make his case. And yes, I won't commit till early spring. I am well aware of the power of peer reviews who don't have a sales-driven interest in the matter (been an active contributor to a passive investing forum for years and to a carp-fishing forum for 20 years!).


      Two bottom drains was my preliminary thought. Aerated... I don't know. I really dislike fishing or walking around aerated ponds, this seems so unnatural and unaesthetic. Something to ponder.


      Runoffs from the street... Oh shoot, that's an interesting point. The area is pretty new (was build around 2000) and apparently using fairly modern street water draining. Still, your warning is well taken and we'll have to watch what happens in case of heavy rain. My guess is that it would go down via the street -which goes downwards-, but maybe this is wishful thinking as I see some marks in the corner of our lawn which are suspicious. There isn't a ton of space between the sloped area and the house, unfortunately. See the picture with the hose I just posted.
      I would definitely put in aerated drains. They make a huge difference in cleaning all the poop and other stuff off the bottom. I run mine on a timer at night both to save electricity and allow viewing of the fish during the day.

    9. #29
      coolwon is offline Senior Member
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      Build me a gunite pond please.
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    10. #30
      pondfishguy is offline Senior Member
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      Quote Originally Posted by Paul Sabucchi View Post
      Hi again, with regards to the issue you were mentioning on the Hawaii build post of eventually getting the pond cycled, there are products that add the useful bacteria to the pond speeding up the natural process (you also have to add ammonia to feed them). Opinions vary about their effectiveness, I used Pure Pond Bomb and it seemed to make a positive difference, don't know what is available in the US. As you are doing your planning worth checking what your tap water is like, your utility company should publish regular reports. If they add chloramine you will need a good water conditioner (maybe with the resulting ammonia you may not need to add any to start feeding the nitrifying bacteria.
      Iíve tried more than six brands, three or four times side-by-side in identical aquariums with identical filtration systems and never saw a significant improvement using the bacteria starters. They are a great profit center for manufacturers and retailers, Iím sorry to say that I even have a good friend in the business who thinks itís snake oil. Unless youíre running side-by-side comparison with a identical water quality Filters and Fish, I have no idea how you could tell whether it was beneficial in accelerating the cycling process. Just add a few fish or pure ammonia to get the cycle started and let time and nature
      take itís course

    11. #31
      One Poet's Garden's Avatar
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      Quote Originally Posted by Jerome View Post
      - surrounding plants and the likes to discuss with landscaper (I'm thinking to relocate the two big green bushes up the slope; get rid of the pointy bush; extend the path around the house)
      Just a few things. First, you need a bottom drain. Of some kind. Even if it's a retrofit bottom drain.

      Yes, the pond must have a fence, to exclude wandering children.

      You need to figure out what those shrubs are, and then plan the landscaping well. The road is going to be a challenge, but with creative solutions the pond can still have a sense of serenity.

      Best,

      Bill

    12. #32
      coolwon is offline Senior Member
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      Quote Originally Posted by One Poet's Garden View Post
      Just a few things. First, you need a bottom drain. Of some kind. Even if it's a retrofit bottom drain.

      Yes, the pond must have a fence, to exclude wandering children.

      You need to figure out what those shrubs are, and then plan the landscaping well. The road is going to be a challenge, but with creative solutions the pond can still have a sense of serenity.

      Best,

      Bill



      Just call in the landscaper after the pond is built is really.
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    13. #33
      Jerome is offline Member
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      Quote Originally Posted by icu2 View Post
      If the pond is built and filtered correctly there's no reason to ever power wash it imho.
      Thanks, this was my understanding so far. Glad to hear experienced people confirm.

      Quote Originally Posted by stevek View Post
      Sounds like his experience is mostly with small low budget landscape type water features/ponds, hence the submersible pump system. A lot of homeowners want a water feature added, so the local landscapers have someone on call who specializes in smaller liner ponds who can come in and make it happen. I think most on Koiphen will advise that if you want a fairly serious koi pond, you want to use external pumps and filtration systems, along with bottom drains.
      Yes, I am pretty sure you are right on. I'll keep the door open for a bit longer (we got snow on the ground today anyway, I may not be able to ask another contractor to come for a little while), but I doubt this young guy, as nice as he seemed, is the right fit for the job.

      Quote Originally Posted by pondfishguy View Post
      I would definitely put in aerated drains. They make a huge difference in cleaning all the poop and other stuff off the bottom. I run mine on a timer at night both to save electricity and allow viewing of the fish during the day.
      Yes, I get it now. I didn't like the idea of an aerator working all day long, but with a timer and night activation, this sounds good.

      Quote Originally Posted by One Poet's Garden View Post
      Just a few things. First, you need a bottom drain. Of some kind. Even if it's a retrofit bottom drain.

      Yes, the pond must have a fence, to exclude wandering children.

      You need to figure out what those shrubs are, and then plan the landscaping well. The road is going to be a challenge, but with creative solutions the pond can still have a sense of serenity.
      Yes, I get it, a bottom drain + external filtration is needed. Landscaping requires much more thinking, that is for sure. Agreed, between children, dogs and wildlife, a fence has to be added. This is a residential lot, impressively quiet overall, the road is a dead-end, not really not an issue for serenity (plus, unfortunately, our backyard is not suitable for the project).

      Quote Originally Posted by johnc808 View Post
      Regarding choosing where to place your skimmer, also think about any prevailing winds you have. It's best if your winds help move surface debris towards your skimmer, rather than having any tprs and your skimmer fighting against the wind.
      With the terrain slope, I doubt the pond would get much wind at the surface, but still, point taken.
      => actually, with some snow accumulating today, I should be able to easily visualize wind patterns in the coming few days...
      Last edited by Jerome; 01-07-2022 at 11:03 PM.

    14. #34
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      Speaking of external filtration system, I can envision two locations, what do you guys think?

      a) on the side of the house (fairly protected area, but outdoors, plus I fear that corresponding noise would bother us at night -bedroom upstairs is right there; we're very light sleepers).
      b) in the basement, right under the bow window room (large unfinished space in there, without much of a purpose), hence close to the pond

      I did an approximate drawing (satellite view of the house; road on the left side) to explain:
      - blue = informal pond
      - green = waterfall
      - pink = seating/viewing area
      - arrows = possible location for filtering equipment
      Attached Images Attached Images  

    15. #35
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      I suppose the basement would entail the filtration to be at a lower level than the surface of the pond (particularly if you are going 2'-3' above ground) so it would have to be a pressurized system (or one that gets water from the pond only through an overflow), not one usually employed.
      For the outdoor option you could avoid the more noisy systems like Bakki showers and line with plenty of soundproofing the housing of the RDF and moving bed. Maybe oversizing the volume for biological filtration could allow a more sedate flow of air and water through it, a bit like having a big engine running at low revs rather than a small one going like the clappers. Anoxic and wetland filters make no noise whatsoever but you may not be too keen on these "alternative" systems

    16. #36
      icu2's Avatar
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      Like Paul mentioned, especially if using gravity fed/returns to the pond, height in relationship to the pond is critical.
      If it's hard to eyeball the height of the filter locations to the pond water level, you can make a level with tubing and
      a small reservoir of water and get a very good idea if you'll need to raise or dig a pit for filtration. An example:

      https://www.koiphen.com/forums/showt...12#post1226812
      --Steve
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    17. #37
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      This is fun ! As with many hobbies, the planning and anticipation of a project adds greatly to the overall joy of a completed pond. We get to help out without spending any of our own money, so we get the best of both worlds.
      I'm still trying to understand how your lot grading will work out. If you have the waterfall in the middle of the pond as shown, and you are going to have a raised stream/rock waterfall , then the drainage from the top half will have to drain somewhere. The waterfall area would be raised, so it can't drain through there, so you would have to grade the area away from the pond in 2 directions.
      Another option would be to have the raised waterfall at the far end ( top ) , and grade everything down from there in one direction for the water to end up along the side of the house. It sounds like you have a natural grade to lower elevation along that side .
      You will have plenty of fill from the excavation to build up the waterfall area so that drainage can be smooth. The skimmer could be at the bottom opposite the waterfall, which would work out well.
      Not too many folks have their filtration in the basement. Water inside the house is rarely a good thing. If a pipe leaks, or a clamp lets go, you can have a disaster pretty quickly. Plus the potential negative impact of increased humidity and even smells inside the house. Better to have outside , and you can have a small shed/enclosure to house the systems.

    18. #38
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      Quote Originally Posted by stevek View Post
      This is fun ! As with many hobbies, the planning and anticipation of a project adds greatly to the overall joy of a completed pond. We get to help out without spending any of our own money, so we get the best of both worlds.
      Love the positivity! I am VERY appreciative about all the help I received so far and will undoubtedly receive in the future. Thank you!

      Quote Originally Posted by stevek View Post
      I'm still trying to understand how your lot grading will work out. If you have the waterfall in the middle of the pond as shown, and you are going to have a raised stream/rock waterfall , then the drainage from the top half will have to drain somewhere. The waterfall area would be raised, so it can't drain through there, so you would have to grade the area away from the pond in 2 directions.
      Another option would be to have the raised waterfall at the far end ( top ) , and grade everything down from there in one direction for the water to end up along the side of the house. It sounds like you have a natural grade to lower elevation along that side. You will have plenty of fill from the excavation to build up the waterfall area so that drainage can be smooth. The skimmer could be at the bottom opposite the waterfall, which would work out well.
      I'll be honest, I don't understand what you're saying. In all likelihood because I'm a total newbie. By definition, waterfalls have a grading of sorts. Here I have a natural grading to work with. How is that a problem? What am I missing (something very basic, undoubtedly)? I was assuming water would be circulating infinitely between the pond, a pump/pipe of sorts making the water go up, then down the waterfall, etc. Why would we need to grade the area in 2 directions?

      Note: I don't have any special preference on where the waterfall should be located...

      Quote Originally Posted by stevek View Post
      Not too many folks have their filtration in the basement. Water inside the house is rarely a good thing. If a pipe leaks, or a clamp lets go, you can have a disaster pretty quickly. Plus the potential negative impact of increased humidity and even smells inside the house. Better to have outside, and you can have a small shed/enclosure to house the systems.
      Got it. Outside, it is. To reinforce your point, the grading of the terrain on that side is such that if a clamp gives up, the water will naturally flow on the side of the house and then down to a small woods area.

    19. #39
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      [QUOTE=

      I'll be honest, I don't understand what you're saying. In all likelihood because I'm a total newbie. By definition, waterfalls have a grading of sorts. Here I have a natural grading to work with. How is that a problem? What am I missing (something very basic, undoubtedly)? I was assuming water would be circulating infinitely between the pond, a pump/pipe of sorts making the water go up, then down the waterfall, etc. Why would we need to grade the area in 2 directions?

      Note: I don't have any special preference on where the waterfall should be located...


      I'm thinking about drainage for rain water outside the pond. You're going to have a lot of drainage water coming from the bank between the road and the pond, since the pond is much lower than the road bank. After the pond is in, that water has to be planned for. It's hard to tell where it's going now with your lawn, but once you have the pond in, you'll have less ground to soak the water up. In the winter, ground will be frozen, and rain water will follow the contours of the land.
      Planning drainage starts with determining the high point of the land and working downhill from there. If the high point of the finish grade is at the top of the pond, then you can grade everything down from there, and have all drainage go to the side of the house where the natural downslope is. If the highpoint is in the middle of the pond, then you have to plan drainage in 2 directions, since the built up waterfall will stop any surface water from getting past it. You can't go towards the house for obvious reasons, you can't go uphill towards the road, so the only other option is going towards the driveway . I can't tell if this is possible or not.
      I'm assuming you want the typical raised waterfall built up with rocks and soil, which has to extend from pond edge away from the pond, perhaps even out to the road bank. There are other types of waterfalls, however. You can have a more contemporary look by just having the waterfall come out of the pond wall. This would eliminate all the fill reguired to build up a natural type fall, and not impact the drainage grading issue.

    20. #40
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      If the waterfall would cut off some drainage could Jerome have the raised waterfall laid over some sort of culvert to allow the water to run down unobstructed?
      Last edited by Paul Sabucchi; 01-09-2022 at 10:51 AM.

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