Summer trend

Turn Your Backyard Into an Oasis With a Water Feature or Pond

Two local experts share tips on how to elevate your outdoor space—and the mini-ecosystem a body of water can bring.

By Kim Doleatto June 7, 2022

koi fish swimming in a pond.

Koi ponds offer the ultimate relaxation experience.

We don’t need to know why— we just know the sound of trickling water is international speak for relaxation. That may be why people aren't just outfitting their outdoor areas with knock-out kitchens, but adding ponds and water features as well.

“Studies have shown the sound of water lowers blood pressure. Plus, it's good for covering city noise and connecting with nature,” says Oasis Ponds owner Sean Kaplan, who started the Sarasota-based pond and water feature business two years ago with his father, Joel Kaplan.

Like home offices and gyms, ponds have gained popularity during the pandemic. “We've seen a steady pickup since Covid," Kaplan says. "Being stuck at home and often gathering outside, clients wanted to add a layer to that outdoor experience."

Beyond a hammock for the ears, it’s also a great way to create a mini-ecosystem right outside your window. “Water attracts wildlife, and a lot of the flowering plants you can place around ponds will bring butterflies and any animal that wants a drink, including all kinds of birds,” says Justin Zeller, owner of Total Water, a Sarasota-based pond and water-feature installment company that services Punta Gorda to Palmetto.

The price range can be anywhere from $5,000 to $40,000, and if you add Japanese koi fish to a gurgling pond, you’ll to the top of that range faster. Japanese koi are domesticated carp prized for their size, color, patterns and luster. Adding them to an outdoor pond increases maintenance, but for many it’s worth it. “Koi are living gems. They become more majestic as they grow. But they need more space and more elaborate filtration,” says Zeller.

Japanese koi in a pond.

Japanese koi are the ultimate backyard pond pet.

And they aren’t cheap. A full-size koi can cost anywhere from $600 to $3,000—sometimes more if they’re specialty colors. But they can also live up to 30 years, says Kaplan.

However, koi aren’t the only pretty fish out there. For smaller ponds, he says fantails, kōhaku and shubunkins, all smaller fish that resemble koi, work too. Some goldfish also mimic koi patterns. They’re also all more economical, at roughly $5 each.

But what both Zeller and Kaplan say are most in demand are pondless waterfalls, because they create the sound of trickling water and the mini-ecosystem ponds bring, without the need for more sophisticated filtration systems, upkeep and feeding.

Ponds and water features can take anywhere from two weeks to months to build, depending on whether items that require machine transportation and lifting, like large boulders, are added 

A pondless waterfall.

A mix of different sized and textured rocks add depth.

But doesn’t water attract mosquitos?

With a koi pond, there's no issue: the fish eat mosquito eggs. With waterfalls, water flow keeps mosquitos from settling to reproduce.

A pond with bromeliads.

Bromeliads thrive near the water.

As far as plants for your water feature, canna, iris, pickerel, arrowhead, birds of paradise, taro and mint love wet soil and will thrive. Bromeliads and palms also do well. It’s all about not having extensive root systems that will interfere with the rocks or move or poke a hole in the pond's liner, Zeller says.

A backyard pond.

Landscaping for backyard ponds requires shallow rooted plants.

As for stones, they recommend Tennessee field stone and brookstone multi-color gravel–the trick is to avoid anything with sharp edges that might tear liners.

And if you want to DIY your water feature, both Oasis Ponds and Total Water can customize a do-it-yourself kit and consult homeowners along the way on how to install it correctly.

Finally, some more food for thought. Know who loves a water feature in your backyard, especially on those hot summer days? Your fur baby—as evidenced by one of Zeller's clients below.

A dog enjoys a pond in the yard.

Household pets love their owner's backyard ponds.

Image: Courtesy Photo 

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