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Creating a Water Garden Teeming with Aquatic Animal Life


by John Leger, http://cabbageroses.net/  

Water gardens are wonderful ways to add beauty to your landscape. A water garden can be home to a variety of animals, including birds, frogs, turtles and fish. Building a water garden that is animal friendly requires knowledge, the proper tools and a little manpower. This article will dive into how to create a water garden that sustains and encourages aquatic animal life as well as wildlife.

Building a Water Garden

There are many choices when it comes to building a water garden. Whether you choose to use a preformed pond, a pond liner or a natural pond with no liner, you will first need to determine the size of your water garden. The best method for determining the size and shape of your pond is to use a rope to form the shape on the ground. Once you have determined the layout, it is time to begin excavating for the pond.

The best pond will have 3 levels of water- a shallow area, a mid-level and a deep level. The shallow area of the pond will encompass the outer area of the pond. It should be no more than a foot and a half deep and should be at least a couple of feet wide. The mid-level area of the pond should be around 2 feet deep. This area should span approximately half of the length and width of your pond. Lastly, the deepest point of the pond should be over 2 feet deep. The deepest level will be where the pond pump will be located.

Having different depths in your pond will ensure a variety of aquatic animals, amphibians and birds can enjoy the water garden. If you will be using plants in your water garden, you may want to consider adding a ledge to the shallow area of the pond. This area should be between 9 inches and 12 inches deep and at least 18 inches wide. Place a few stable rocks along the edge of this area to give birds, frogs and turtles a place to enjoy.

Adding Water

After you have excavated your pond, it is time to begin adding water to the pond. It will require quite a bit of water to fill your pond. Place your water hose in the pond and open your water tap. Check on the water level every hour until the pond is full. Once the pond is filled, a dechlorinator should be added to the water to help remove the chlorine.

Oxygenating Your Water

There are many ways to increase the oxygen and nutrient levels in your pond. One of the best ways is adding aquatic plants to the pond. Some of the best plants include water hyacinths, water lilies and water purslane. These plants help shade the pond and reduce the carbon dioxide levels in the water naturally.

Another way to add oxygen to your water is with a fountain or a waterfall. The water at the bottom of your pond is less oxygenated than the water near the surface. The pump for a fountain or waterfall, will pull water from the bottom of the pond up to the surface and oxygenate the water.

Adding Fish

Once you have dechlorinated your water, added plants and installed a fountain or a waterfall, it is time to begin adding fish to your pond. There are numerous fish that can be added to your pond, including goldfish, Koi, sunfish, minnows and comets. Only add a few fish to the pond at a time. If you will be adding small fish, such as minnows, you can add around 18 fish when you first set up your pond. For larger fish, like Koi, only add 2 to 3 fish at a time.

When you purchase your fish, place the bag of fish in the pond for about 20 minutes. This will help the fish acclimate to the pond's temperature. Then, untie the bag and allow some water from the pond to enter the bag. Slowly tip the bag up and allow the fish to swim out of the bag and into the pond. The fish may be a little skittish at first, but they will eventually swim out of the bag and into their new home. Allow these fish to enjoy the pond for a week or two before introducing any new fish. Then, follow the instructions listed above to add more fish to your pond.

Encouraging Turtles and Frogs

Once your water feature is up and running, you can encourage amphibians and reptiles to use your pond. Many times, frogs and turtles will find your pond on their own; however, there are certain things you can do to help them find it.

You have already provided the water they need, now it is time to provide food. Placing bits of lettuce around the pond and adding earthworms to the soil will provide the turtles with food. Frogs will naturally be drawn to the pond, so nothing needs to be done to attract them.

In addition to providing food for these amphibians and reptiles, place rocks and branches around the edge of your pond and out into the water. This will give them a place to enjoy the pond and sun themselves. When choosing rocks for your pond, find ones with a smooth flat surface to help protect against accidental injury. Finally, incorporate a variety of plants that hang over the edge of the pond to provide shade and screen for the frogs.

Bringing in Birds


Birds will naturally be drawn to your pond. They will use your pond to bathe in and drink from. It is important to provide a safe area for these birds. The birds will use the shallower edge of your pond. Place a few rocks about an inch below the surface. This will allow the bird to safely bathe without the danger of falling in the pond and not being able to get out.

Placing a bird feeder nearby will help increase the number of birds in your yard. There are a number of different seeds available. These include black oil sunflower seeds, thistle seed, millet and corn. The different types of seed will attract different types of birds. For example, cardinals enjoy sunflower seed, while finches prefer thistle seed. You can use individual types of seed, or you can use a bird seed mixture. The choice is yours.

A water feature is a great way to add enjoyment, beauty and value to your home. Additionally, a water feature will allow you to invite a variety of animals to your yard, including birds, fish, turtles and frogs. Don’t just dream of a water feature. Get outside and make your dreams come true!

About the Author

Jonathan Leger is a sponsored member of the Garden Writer's Association and a gardening enthusiast. He runs a small site dedicated to the history, education and care of a variety of roses at  http://cabbageroses.net/ CabbageRoses.net 
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