A pond with pond pumps waterfalls fountains

It is widely regarded that a garden is not complete without a water feature, and that a garden literally comes alive when that water feature involves moving water.

There are a number of alternatives that bring the enchanting atmosphere of moving water to a garden. A new dimension of the sight and sound of water bubbling and sparkling as it tumbles from its source through the sunlight. The erratic, yet natural routes that water chooses to take, producing a similarly random backdrop of hypnotic sounds as it trickles, falls or tumbles into an effervescent pool.

There are three ways to fill your senses with moving water in a garden:

1). A self-contained water feature

2). Water falls to give any pond a living, breathing backdrop.

3). Fountains as a source of aquatic music in a pond

1. A self contained water feature

A garden pond is not compulsory when seeking the benefits of moving water. Self contained water features offer many advantages for introducing those hypnotic qualities to a garden, patio, back yard or even conservatory. Their popularity over the last 5 years has increased at the same phenomenal rate as new and alternative designs of water features have been introduced for our selection. Self contained water features have experienced this rise in popularity, for similar reasons that cats have overtaken dogs as the number one companion animal. They are relatively easy to keep, undemanding and are cheap to run. They suit our busy lifestyles.

Self contained water features make moving water accessible, without having to invest the time, effort and expense of building a pond. They are not installed to house fish or plants and can be switched on or off whenever there is a call for that ‘instant atmosphere’.

Problems that can be common in a pond, such as nuisance algae and green water can easily be managed in a water feature with chemical treatments that do not have to be fish-safe.

Pond and Waterfall

A waterfall makes a very natural addition to a pond, with many ponds integrating one when constructed. (They can be added at a later date, but this poses many practical obstacles). It makes sense that having taken the step of introducing a pond into a garden, that the full potential of water is exploited – bringing the pond to life.

In fact, I recently met a water garden installer in the USA who prides himself on his ability to ‘tune’ waterfalls so that they make the best sound for his customers.

A water fall will handle more water than a water feature and will look rather disappointing if it is not party to a torrent. A ‘waterfall’ pump is required for such an effect, – something that is more powerful than one used in a water feature – after all, it does have to move more water. Furthermore, a waterfall pump will have to lift water to greater heights, through a larger bore pipe and should be purchased to satisfy your waterfall’s specific requirements.

The greater the vertical distance a pump has to reach, the lower the flow rate, resulting in a trickle rather than a torrent. A useful ‘rule of thumb’ is that for a 6 inch wide water fall to covered with a realistic layer of water, a pump should be delivering approximately 600 gallons per hour at that height. Check the pump’s specifications before purchasing.

A considerable benefit when running a waterfall compared to a water feature is that there is a considerable reservoir from which to pump – the pond itself. This is not to say that splashes from a waterfall will not impact on the pond’s level as I have seen even the smallest of splashes from a water fall cause a pond level to drop several inches over the course of a day. Water loss from a waterfall will not only cause the level to drop (and topping up can be a real chore), but can also cause subsidence leading to greater leaks in the water fall at a later date. This can be avoided, or at best reduced by following a few simple rules when constructing a waterfall.

Waterfall construction to avoid water loss.

Waterfalls are notorious for causing ponds to lose water. This can be through splashing, leaking, as well as evaporation (which cannot be avoided).

Water falls can be constructed from either preformed units (which can inter link), or from natural stone, and the same measures against water loss should be taken whatever the construction method.

Having excavated the site for your pond and the course for your waterfall, purchase a piece of pond liner sufficient to line the pond and water fall without having to cut the liner between the waterfall and pond. This may appear a little extravagant, but by making the waterfall an integral part of the pond, any leaking or splashing water will naturally return to the pond. Steps should be cut out of the earth, ready to create a waterfall, and the liner laid onto the steps. If preparing the site for a natural stone water fall, create a series of depressions in the earth that will form natural pools when the waterfall is not running.

Having laid out the liner, a bed of mixed sand and cement can be laid, on which either your preformed cascade or stream units can be placed, or into which your natural store can be embedded to form a stepped ‘crazy paving’. Either way, a lime neutralising compound should be added to the mix to avoid water quality problems during the waterfall’s life.

Preformed Units

These can range from semi-rigid plastic units through to rigid fibreglass and even reconstituted ‘stone’ shapes, ready to be laid down in an order and sequence of your choice. Even though these will not leak, water loss can still occur between units and through splashing. This should not lead to a drop in water level if the cascade is laid on a foundation lined with the same piece of liner that makes the pond.

Natural stone

The easiest stone to work with when making waterfalls is York stone. This sandstone easily forms flat surfaces and can be chipped and broken into the desired size and shape. The stone can be embedded into a foundation of mortar which sits on the waterproof liner, returning any leaks or splashes to the pond. The waterfall should be constructed from the bottom up so that at each level, the lip of the upper cascade can overlap the pool below it. Do not trim off any excess liner along the sides of the waterfall until after test running it. This will show you where water is likely to splash or spill over, allowing you to catch it in the liner. The path that the water takes can also be trained by the strategic placing of stones in the waterfall channel. Having trimmed the liner, it can be buried out of sight. With this form of construction, although not essential, to guard against leaks, the finished waterfall can be sealed as an extra precaution with a suitable water proof sealant.


Fountains are the simplest way of introducing moving water into a pond, but do not look appropriate in every pond situation. They suit more formal ponds that have a regular shape, giving a classically shaped pond a real sparkle. As they are not something mother nature would create, they can look out of place in an informal or ‘natural’ garden pond.

Easy to install, they simply attach directly onto a pump, with a huge array of different fountain heads, effects and ornaments through which the water can be delivered. There are even floodlit fountain heads that will give any evening garden party a touch of glamour.

Of the many options of introducing a dynamic aquatic touch to a garden or backyard, each has its advantages and limitations. At the heart of each is a reliable pump, delivering water through the feature of your choice and a quest to satisfy our innate need to be close to moving water.

Orfe (Ide) Leuciscus idus

More golden than a goldfish and at times too swift for the eye to follow, the orfe is a very popular and undemanding pondfish.

The orfe (or ide) is quite a distant relative of the carp and is more accustomed to the dynamic life of a flowing river. Its streamlined body makes its life an easy one in rivers but also makes it one of the fastest fish in the garden pond. Typically a surface dwelling fish, the orfe can often be seen splashing and taking flies from the surface.

Seen as a shoal of darting slices of peach, flitting in and out of the shelter of lilies and submerged plants, this shy and yet inquisitive fish can become quite tame. Often the first to feed, it is the orfe’s darting activity during feeding time that can alert other fish to the food. An orfe’s character seems to change with age, developing from quite a restless juvenile to a calmer, more sedate lifestyle, often to be seen lazing in the sun at the surface.

Golden orfe are also remarkably fast growing fish, shooting on rapidly to the size of the pond. There are different ‘grades’ of orfe available in the shops, with qualities ranging at the top end with clear blemish-free golden skin through to the less stunning orfe that can show a random arrangement of ‘black pepper spots’ on their dorsal surface. Sometimes this black pigmentation can be so intense that a significant part of the golden orfe is actually black.

A less common variety are the blue orfe. Although the same species as the golden orfe, they can be found in a variety of blue tones from a pale grey right through to black, where the darkest colouration is found on the fish’s top surface. A mixed shoal of contrasting blue and golden orfe can put on a stunning display in any pond.

A highly impressive feature of golden orfe when in top condition are the blood-red fins that are contrasted against the paler flanks of the fish. It is only when you get really close to larger orfe that you can appreciate the real depth and muscular nature of the body. The colouration of both fins and skin can be enhanced to become even more vivid by feeding a colour-enhancing diet.

The orfe is one of the first fish of the year to spawn, being a river fish it breeds at cooler temperatures compared with other pond fish. Typical boisterous spawning activity is observed in mature fish around April to May. Spawning activity can be such a physical affair that we often hear the splashing caused by the spawning activity before we see it. Hundreds of adhesive translucent eggs once released will smother submerged plants and hatch in about 10 days (depending on the water temperature).

Unfortunately, both eggs and fry can be too tempting for other pondfish, feasting on them before they have had a chance to hatch.

Orfe can grow up to 60 cm long and weigh over 3kg, but this size is rarely achieved in garden ponds and they will stop growing according to the size of the pond. They are a carnivorous fish and will easily be tempted by flies and pond skaters, jumping clear of the water in their efforts to catch a tasty morsel. They are easy to cater for with a high quality pond pellet or stick.

Orfe seem to add another dimension to the life of a pond and their rapid growth and sleek lines are a real reward to any caring pondkeeper. Go out and try some!

Kill blanketweed and string algae.