Tips for Designing a Koi Pond

As with any large project, you must plan before you begin your build. Whether its a simple DIY pond or complete landscape redesign and rebuild – planning is key. Building any water feature can be a major undertaking – even for the simplest of water features. If planning is poorly executed, it can potentially impact the amount of time required, resources required, and overall bi-weekly koi pond maintenance required. After all, who wants to spend countless hours every month maintaining something that was meant to bring joy and tranquility to your home and garden?

If you plan on building a water feature similar to that of a koi pond or fountain, location is key.  One constructed, you cannot control many factors that will have an impact on your initial design. From vegetation potentially penetrating your liner and causing a leak, to your equipment used in conjunction with the water feature – all of these items are important to consider before you break ground.

In Ground Koi Pond With Mossy Green Water Fall

The slope, and grade on the property will need to be considered.

Ask yourself this – Is the slope flat or on a hill? Will it require a retaining wall to support the foundation and water?

Sometimes it helps to use a rope or even your garden hose to help you to see how some potential designs will look and look at them from all angles before you go to the drawing board. Look at them from inside your home, outside and even from any upper levels of the home that will overlook the pond.

Depth must be considered 

A proper depth must be planned for the pond or fountain. Rocks and the roots of trees that are on the property can become a problem. Koi can become large fish when they are fully grown, sometimes living for as long as 20+ years, will your water feature be suitable to handle koi and turtles? Will it be deep enough to protect them from herons, racoons, feral cats, and potentially coyotes? Just a few items for thought. Fortunately you can build predator control into your design – but let’s be happy we thought about that in advance right?!

Ideally ponds should not be smaller than 6 feet by 9 feet and must be at least 3 feet deep (36″). A pond of this size will hold 1400-1600 gallons of water depending on the shape. Another item to consider is while you are planning the depth of the pond, you must allow for the waterline to be 6 inches below the top edge. Which raises the question, where will your water go if you need to drain the pond or fountain? Should you add this into the designs as well?

Hand Drawn Koi Pond With Brick Retaining Wall And 3 Steps

Keep it simple

Simplicity in design and function is essential when you are planning any water feature build. Simple layouts may not look spectacular, but may allow for better movement and filtration of water, predator control, etc.

A complex water feature may impress your neighbors, but at times can be that much harder to clean and maintain. For example, did you buy that fancy expensive bead technology filtration? Sadly they are really good at advertising, yet not so much at doing what the “bead technology” says it’ll do.. A simple pressure filter setup using natural filtration has been proven for years but isn’t as fancy as bead technology. 

How about adding nice porous rock with your cement? Full of nooks and crannies, make for a fun cleaning come springtime.. These are all things that should be considered earlier than later.

Easy and consistent maintenance of your pond helps achieve a successful ecosystem required for the health of your fish and wildlife. This is where simple designs come into play as well.

Typically a rectangular or oblong shape makes for the best design for a Koi pond or water feature. These shapes can be easier to maintain and clean. It’s a design that can accommodate multiple drains/ return and this eliminates areas that can have poor or no circulation.

In Ground Koi Pond With Mossy Green Water Fall

As with most, you probably want your water feature to be located at a spot where you can most enjoy looking at it. Which is great because can choose to have an above-ground water feature on your porch or balcony, or get ready to dig your heart out and go below ground. Whatever the location you choose, make sure that it becomes the focal point of your garden or backyard setting – yet considering the other items we are discussing in this article.

There are additional points to consider when finding the perfect location for your pond or fountain. A water feature which gets sun all day will most likely grow algae easier than that of a water feature in shade most of the day. On the other hand – water features under trees can collect debris easier than that of a water feature not surrounded by trees. This debris will need to be regularly collected, as otherwise the acidity in the water will increase and make it harmful for the fish in additional to creating issues for your equipment down the road.

Eucalyptus Trees By A Pond

Ponds near large trees can have their walls cracked and liners punctured by growing roots. Eucalyptus trees are a nightmare by the way – don’t say we didn’t warn you!

Ponds must also be protected from receiving any rainwater runoff in large amounts. Plants that are close to the pond must not be those that require the use of harmful insecticides.

a few suggestions that can help you to plan your build



Where do you want your new water feature? The location you choose must fit into the overall plan that you have in mind for your yard. It must be in a place where it can be enjoyable, yet can also accommodate the water feature footprint including equipment, while also being conveniently located for maintenance. A cool shaded area is always the best choice. This is a place where you can also relax, while the pond water itself will have a temperature that is not high – yet isn’t surrounded by thick maintenance-inducing vegetation. 


Typically Koi ponds have a soothing nature and its design must fit in naturally with the other parts of your backyard landscape. Perfect circles or rectangles are not natural shapes. If the natural terrain of your yard has some curves, use them as a guide for the building of your Koi pond. As for fountains and waterfalls, these can be squeezed into corners, tucked away from troublesome areas and can be great alternative to a pond. 


Size can be dictated by the limitations that the yard has, as well as the overall design of the water feature. Remember, these can be permanent for the most part so we always suggest go a little bigger than originally intended so that way you wont need to rebuild anytime soon.


The design of the water feature needs you to include good systems for filtration, aeration, UV-light, and water movement. Filtration systems will help isolate the nasty algae and debris from the pond if you have fish or debris near by. Aeration systems are required to give the Koi fish oxygen they need (you can avoid this if you are running a non-natural system). UV-Lights help kill bacteria, and good pumps will help move the water to the appropriate areas. 


Do not get impatient if your new water feature is not perfect when you start out. Often times these things can be a progressive build. With the water feature acting as the focal point while the surrounding landscape is developed over time. 

Interested in a fountain, pond, or waterfall? 

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