Wildlife and beneficial insects are key to creating a sustainable self-sufficient garden. They help form part of a balanced ecosystem and creating a small wildlife pond in the garden is an incredible way to attract them. Wildlife ponds can be a transformative addition to any garden or outdoor space, offering many amazing benefits including beauty, tranquility, and increased pollination. Whether you have a sprawling backyard or a compact urban garden, a small DIY wildlife pond has the potential to create a thriving ecosystem, attract beneficial insects, and help your gardens grow an abundance of food.
Today I’m going to share the process of creating my own DIY wildlife pond including choosing a location, pond plants, and why I have chosen native Australian fish for the pond.
One of the key advantages of having a wildlife pond is the ability to attract beneficial insects. Many of these insects, such as ladybugs, lacewings, and hoverflies, are natural predators of garden pests. By providing them with a water source and a suitable habitat, you can encourage their presence and create a natural pest control system within your garden. No need for harmful chemical pesticides making your garden healthy, thriving, and sustainable.
Click to WATCH the transformation or continue reading below
Planning Your Wildlife Pond
1. Choose a location for your wildlife pond
The first step in creating your small wildlife pond is to find suitable location options. Look for an area that is relatively level and away from large trees or shrubs whose roots may interfere with excavation or cause water quality issues. Consider the overall layout of your garden and how the pond will fit into the existing landscape. Keep in mind that a wildlife pond can range in size from a small, shallow pond to a larger, more expansive water feature, so choose a location that suits the space you have available.
Important things to consider when choosing the location for your wildlife pond:
Sunlight – most pond plants will need 6-7 hours of sunlight per day. This is more important in spring and summer than in winter as many pond plants will slow or die down over winter anyway.
Shade – Shade is also important, especially during the hottest part of the day. Shade will help keep the pond cool, especially in summer and reduce the algae. Adding plants will help shade out the pond.
Water source – Having a water source or hose available nearby is important especially in summer if the pond water gets low or too hot.
Safety and access – Pets or young children – depending on the size of your pond you will want to consider access if you have young children or pets (my water-loving dog would jump in immediately!). It would be worth checking out your local council’s requirements for ponds.
Close proximity to gardens – If you are wanting to attract wildlife to your gardens to help with pollination and pest management then it would be a good idea to have it close to your veggie patch or gardens. Existing gardens will also create wildlife corridors for safe access to and from the pond.
My pond location:
- Front garden away from my water-loving dog
- In an existing garden bed for a wildlife corridor
- Outside my office window to enjoy the aesthetics and tranquility
- 6-7 hours of sunlight mainly in spring and summer
- Afternoon shade to reduce heat
- Beside my main food-producing raised garden beds
- Hose/water source within 1m of the pond
2. Choosing Your Wildlife Pond Structure
The size and design of your wildlife pond could be determined by the space available or the structure you choose to use. Whether that is a prefabricated pond, pot or barrel pond, or full DIY pond with a pond liner.
I sourced a preformed poly pond that was roughly 1m x1m and 30cm deep. There is a huge range of preformed ponds available to fit a range of spaces. Baths, tubs, and tanks also make great DIY pond structures.
3. Filling and Balancing the Pond
Having a water source nearby is important to be able to top up or cool the pool down during the warmer months. Rainwater would be ideal to fill your pond but if like me, you only have access to mains or system water you will need to do a few extra steps to balance and remove the chlorine.
To condition the water you can either leave it to sit and gas off for 2-3 weeks or you can speed up the process by running an aeration pond pump in the water. The other way to condition the water is to purchase some water conditioning treatment. This is what I did and I also waited two weeks before adding in fish just to be sure and to allow natural bacteria to build up. I also added “splosht” which are small dissolving sachets of good bacteria to help keep the pond clean. The ones I used are made here in Western Australia so it is native bacteria. Speak to your local pond shop to see what will work best for your pond.
4. Introducing Plants to the Pond
Selecting plants for your pond is an exciting time! Firstly, it is important to determine what types of wildlife you would most like to attract to your pond. This will help you select plants to suit and reduce some of the overwhelm.
- Frogs like lily pad like leaves and grasses or reeds to hide in.
- Small birds like nectar-producing flowers and dense shrubs to hide in.
- Bees like a variety of flowers
- Ladybugs and beneficial insects like pollen-rich flowers such as herb flowers
- Lizards like low-lying dense ground covers to easily hide in
- Native wildlife often are attracted to native plants and flowers
Another thing to consider is whether you would like them to all be edible or a mix of both. I chose to plant edibles, natives, and herbs. A wide range of leaf types and plant heights/structures will help encourage a wider array of wildlife to your pond.
There are 4 main types of plants you may like to select for your pond:
Full Aquatic Plants: These grow completely submerged underwater such as Water lilies, and Vallis grass. They are great for deeper parts of the pond and can help oxygenate the water.
Filtration plants: These help keep the water clean and act as natural filtration. These are plants such as: Lebanese Cress, Water Mints, Gotu Kola, Pennywort, Watercress, Kang Kong. Most of these plants like to be partially submerged. I have mine propped up on bricks with 1 inch out of the water.
Marginal Plants: These are plants that can be planted around the edge of the pond or in shallow water. These are plants like: Fairy Lights, Blue Grass, Reeds, Bull Rush, Taro, Water Chestnuts, Mint, Queensland Arrowroot, Iris, Lebanese Cress, Watercress, Thalia, Papyrus, Society Garlic, Sweet Violet, and Moneywort.
Floating cover plants: These plants multiply quickly and cover the surface of the water. This can help regulate the pond temperature and shade out the pond. This can reduce algae and also offer food to many fish. Plants such as: Duckweed, Azolla, Frogbit and Hornwort.
Check out the video for a full tour of the plants I selected for this project.
5. Adding Natural Elements
Natural elements such as logs, rocks, and sticks offer surfaces for wildlife to rest on, cross over or hide under. It is important to make easy access in and out of the water. This will allow frogs, lizards, and bees the ability to get in and out. Shallow areas, ledges, ramps, and varying heights around the edge of the pond will help with this. It will also help your pond blend in and look more natural and integrated within the garden.
6. Adding Fish to the Pond
Adding fish to your pond can help with filtration and keep mosquito larvae in check. Understanding what type of wildlife you would ideally like to attract to your wildlife pond can help determine the type of fish for your pond. I am hoping to get frogs in my pond and many introduced fish such as goldfish or Koi may eat frogs’ eggs. This can be ok in a large pond with more space for frogs to hide and lay eggs. As I have a small pond and would like to encourage frogs, I have decided to go with West Australian Perch and White Cloud minnows that eat mosquito larvae but not the frogs eggs. They are also low maintenance and can handle ponds without pumps.
After purchasing the fish from the pond store, I let the bags sit in the pond water for 5 minutes to let the water in the bag adjust to the pond temperature. I then gently opened the bag and let the fish out. The Minnows dart about on the surface often but the Perch love to hide and I never see them! So that is something to consider.
7. Maintaining Your Wildlife Pond
It is important to regularly check on the pond, especially during the first year as things grow and temperatures change. Observing will allow you to see what types of wildlife are using the pond and what changes or additions you could make. Adding a small pump or water fountain will also help keep the pond cool and reduce algae. I do plan to add a solar pump and fountain eventually.
- Scoop out dead leaves or excess algae
- Top up water in summer if needed
- Regular top-ups of “Splosht” good bacteria or similar
- Repotting plants or managing overgrowth
8. Adding Solar Lights
I decided to add solar lights to the pond as it is outside my office window and is nice to view during the evenings when I’m working late. I selected floating solar lights and also spotlights to point at feature plants. The fun thing about these lights is that I can change the colours and turn them on and off via a remote. The floating lights also offer more protection for the fish whilst the plants are established.
Just like the rest of your gardens your pond will change and develop over the seasons and the years. It will require some tweaking and editing as you go to find a good balance. There are so many amazing reasons to create a wildlife pond for your gardens.
By creating a wildlife pond, you are not only providing a habitat for a variety of natural life but also fostering diversity in your surroundings. These ponds act as sanctuaries for a wide array of wildlife, including frogs, lizards, birds, dragonflies, and beneficial insects such as bees and butterflies. These creatures play essential roles in pollination, pest control, and maintaining a balanced ecosystem.
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