Natural swimming ponds
|Natural swimming ponds do not use the
complicated technology of chemical sterilization and filtration. Instead,
they use nature's infinitely more sophisticated technology: ecological
balance. As in a natural lake, micro-organisms break down organic matter
into materials which plants can use as nutrients.
The use of natural processes in artificial swimming pools was pioneered in
Austria (c 1985) by Peter Petrich and a company called Biotop. Since then,
the principle has been widely used in continental European homes, hotels and
resorts. The swimming pools are ecologically balanced, self cleaning and
beautiful. Instead of worrying about whether chlorine is damaging their eyes
and mucus membranes (possibly aggravating asthma and nasal congestion),
swimmers can feel confident in doing what their ancestors have done since
prehistoric times: swimming in fresh clean water.
Design principles for natural swimming ponds
- Pool Area -
natural ponds are larger than chemically treated pools (eg swimming area
of 25 sq metres and a biological area of 25 sq metres). One or two walls
of the pool will rise above the water surface to allow access for
swimmers. The other walls (between the swimming and planted areas) will be
100mm below the water surface.
- Swimming Zone -
a deep swimming area (1.5 to 2.5m). This zone can be walled and tiled (and
cleaned with a normal pool bottom cleaner).
- Regeneration Zone
- a marginal area planted with aquatic and semi-aquatic plants. This area
needs to be at least as large as the swimming zone. The aquatic plants
grow in shingle (without topsoil) so that they are forced to take their
nutrients from the water. Pruning and removing plants (usually in winter)
takes nutrients out of the pond.
- Pump Chamber -
the pump (1) draws water through the Regeneration Zone (2) draws water
from the surface of the pool, to remove floating debris (3) returns the
water to the Swimming Zone, after filtration.
- Heating - if the
pool is heated the plants will grow faster than normal and will have to be
thinned from time to time.
- Drainage Ditch -
the pond is surrounded with ditch to keep out surface water runoff (which
would introduce nutrients and affect the ph of the water)
Cost note: costs
tend to be higher for natural swimming pools than for conventional swimming
Let’s Go Swimming
Have you ever seen how many pounds of chemicals go into a
typical swimming pool? Have you ever read the warning labels on the
chemicals used to sterilize typical swimming pools? The basic philosophy
behind water quality in a typical swimming pool is to kill everything
short of killing the swimmer. There is another way.
Visualize this: you are lazily floating, toes up, in a
pond of sparkling clear running water, surrounded by wild grasses.
Hummingbirds land on nearby trumpet flowers and the scent of jasmine and
mint is in the air. Is this a dream or some mid-life fantasy? Neither. You
may just be part of a new trend in swimming the natural way -without
chlorine or other harsh chemicals in the water.
In a natural swimming pool we harness natures’ own processes to produce
clean, clear water. If you have ever had the opportunity to swim in a
crystal clear lake or stream, then you know the sense of bliss that only
nature can supply. Swimming is much more enjoyable without burning eyes
and chemical odour.
In Europe they have built hundreds of natural swimming
pools since 1985. Interviews with pool owners have shown overwhelming
We have tested and swam in pools by Bio Nova and BioTop
(see photo of Mick in Germany). Their systems' work well when water
temperatures are cold (colder than 25 degrees centigrade). We have
developed a system for much warmer climates. From Canada to Mexico, our
system is biologically safe and will pass the bathing water standards in
Algae, swimmers and other
varieties of pond life
By Julia Stephenson
First published in the 1st
August 2005 edition of The Independent
|I grew up in the gin `n jag
belt in the 70's when going green was something that happened to your
hair after swimming in a kidney shaped pool without a cap. In those
hedonistic days my mother and her mahogany tanned pals baked on flowery
sunloungers, consoling themselves with endless Pimms sharpeners beside
our bright blue swimming pool while my father escaped to his study from
where the plaintive strains of Engelbert Humperdinck's Please Release Me
wafted out on an endless loop.
This Hawaiian Tropic idyll was interrupted every week by the lugubrious
swimming pool man who would appear bearing vats of chemicals with skull
and crossbones emblazoned upon them. These vats of chlorine were deemed
so poisonous that we children could only swim in the brief moments
between chemical dumping. The adults rarely swam either although
occasionally toppled in late at night when feeling particularly
Maybe they were wise. Chlorine by-products found in swimming pools are
linked to higher incidences of asthma, skin diseases, lung damage,
stillbirths, miscarriages and bladder cancer, according to credible
research conducted in the U.S., Canada, Norway, Australia and Belgium.
One researcher noted that 10-year-old children spending an average of
1.8 hours per week in a swimming pool environment suffered lung damage
she would expect to see in an adult smoker. Dr. K. Thickett of the
Occupational Lung Diseases Unit at the Birmingham Heartlands Hospital
explains that swimmers are more prone to asthma than athletes in other
sports. "Our results show that
(produced by Chlorine) is a cause of occupational asthma in swimming
pool workers like lifeguards and swim instructors,"
When his asthma patients stayed away from swimming pools their asthma
symptoms were often resolved, many came off inhaled corticosteroids
altogether. Although there are alternatives to chlorine like ozone for
example, it remains the most popular pool cleaner.
However there is an alternative. Pond pools have been popular in Germany
for years and are taking off here in a big way. Britain's natural
swimming pool pioneer, Michael Littlewood, author of Natural Swimming
Pools says that swimming pools use chemicals such as chlorine to kill
bacteria, whereas a swimming pond cleanses the water naturally. They use
the natural purifying properties of plants, as well as a small filter to
extract surface debris such as leaves, and a small pump to keep the
water circulating sufficiently through the planting area. Natural
swimming ponds are a wonderful way of harnessing nature's intelligence.
They completely eliminate the need for chemicals and constant cleaning
as their biological self-cleansing processes are completely effective.
Surplus nutrients and impurities, as well as harmful bacteria, are
transformed by plants and natural water organisms. There are many public
swimming ponds dotted about the country. In London there are the
celebrated Hampstead Heath ponds as well as the Serpentine pool in Hyde
Park, which is purified by its own artesian spring. During the hot spell
I stumbled across this delightful Elysian paradise, which obscurely
remains a well kept secret. There one can
|swim eau naturel amongst
swans and ducks, the city feels miles away. There is a wonderful
restaurant, coffee bar and a supervised children's playground. For those
used to blue pools, the natural mossy green of natural ponds may take
some getting used to. However a bit of algae is part of the charm and
may even be good for you - Harrods offers an `algae wrap' where a
therapist smears you with the stuff, wraps you in foil and abandons you
in a dark room for 40 minutes before relieving you of £150. I get this
beauty benefit for the princely sum of £3.50 when I swim at the
Serpentine, one of the many examples where going green improves your
quality of life and saves money too. The excellent website
www.river-swimming.co.uk lists public swimming ponds nation wide and
enthusiastically promote all open swimming from tidal pools to the sea.
However these lovely swimming spots, used safely for generations, are
under constant threat from public safety busy bodies who toil
energetically to close them. Having worked feverishly to ban conkers,
unpasteurised cheese and hanging window baskets these non-elected bodies
are now trying to close many open air swimming spaces that provide
endless pleasure and do no harm to anyone.
Fortunately common sense sometimes wins, and there was much jubilation
recently when Hampstead Ponds swimmers won a resounding victory over a
proposed ban on swimming. But the future of many other open air ponds
lies in the balance.
With much of the Med now a giant cesspit these natural ponds, many of
which have sparkling Blue Flag status, remain an under-utilised national
treasure. Use them or lose them!
What about mosquitoes?
Natural predators and moving water make a Natural
Swimming Pool practically mosquito free. Four tires stacked in your
neighbour's backyard will create 100 times more mosquitoes.
What do we clean from the Water?
- Ecoli and other harmful bacteria
- Plankton algae
- Oils, including skin oils
- Body fluids (all kinds, including accidentals)
- Fish and fish food waste (if needed
|Ponds cost roughly 20 % of
what a pool would cost!
Planning an aquatic habitat is
basically a three step process:
- Where are you now?
- Where do you want to go?
- How much effort do you wish to invest?
WHERE ARE YOU NOW?
This is the foundation of your
success. Aquatic systems can be very complex; thus, overlooking important
details can come back to haunt you in the future. We often describe this
process as looking for the poison needle in the haystack. The "poison" may
not kill your habitat, but it can cause chronic "illness". Many owners of
lakes and streams are not even aware they have problems until they see a
professionally designed habitat. Continual application of chemicals and
mechanical treatment of your lake or stream are symptoms of this design
deficiency syndrome. Once you see a professionally designed habitat with
larger, healthier fish, fewer weeds, clearer water and enhanced aesthetics,
you will realize just what you have been missing or could have.
A clear understanding of what your
resources are to begin with will build a solid foundation for the best
possible design. Please consider the following list of topics when
contemplating your lake or stream project. You may not have all of the exact
answers to start with, but do the best you can, then you will be able to
write us and convey your situation much more clearly.
NOTE: If your site does not have an existing pond, collect information
from a nearby pond. This will tell us the natural tendencies of your
Click here for a printable version of this page so you can answer
as many of these questions as possible when you talk to us.
- Do you have a photo/video of your lake, stream or site? This is very valuable in the process. A set of
photos taken each season or change of water appearance is best.
- Where is your lake located? At what elevation?
- What sort of bottom does your lake have, i.e.: mud, sand, rock? Tell us roughly what proportion of each
type of substrate. If mud is present, what colour is it? Does the mud have an odour? How deep is the mud?
- Is the land flat around the lake, or sloped? How steep? What aspect does it face?
- What do you have for a water source, i.e.: springs, creek, rain, wells etc.?
- If it is a spring or creek, what temperature and volume does it produce in summer and winter? (You can
use relative terms; we can interpret.) Is the water supply cold, cool, or warm? Would it fill a garden hose, 2" pipe, 12" culvert etc.?
- Does a stream flow directly into your lake, or is water diverted from a stream?
- Do you have an idea of the water temperature of the pond in summer at the surface and in the deeper
areas? Even general descriptions are helpful here, such as: "It's warm enough to swim in." "It gets as warm as a bath tub." "It's a bit cool for
swimming" etc. How thick is the ice in winter? Does the snow get deep?
- Can you describe the general shape of the pond, including the lay of the bottom of the pond? Is a small portion deep, or is most of it deep?
- What direction do the prevailing winds come from in summer and winter?
- Are there any aquatic plant
species present? If so, can you send photos of the aquatic plants. How
much of the pond bottom is covered in vegetation?
- Roughly how old is the lake?
- Can you tell us a bit about the
history of any fish in your lake: species, sizes etc.?
- Add any other comments you
might think relevant.
WHERE DO YOU WANT TO GO?
Now we get to the section that is
more fun for land owners. You get to tell us what YOU want! The description
you developed above will give us the parameters we need to consider to
produce your dream lake or stream. They tell us what can be possible.
In this phase, don't let your
goals be limited by preconceived notions of what you think your habitat can
produce. Let the fish and our experience show you what is possible. With the
correct habitat design and the right type of fish, you will be astounded at
the possibilities. As mentioned earlier, we have a wealth of knowledge in
stretching the limits of suitable habitats for cold water trout and salmon.
So many people let their notions limit what they can have. Dream a little
about what you want and we can do the rest. Just because your lake gets warm
at times does not mean you have to settle for warmwater game fish. We blend
science with practical experience to develop creative solutions for
challenges in marginal habitats.
Here are a few of the standard
goals we have helped people attain. Remember there are always trade offs.
Prioritizing your goals will give you the best results.
- I want trophy size fish
- I want the kids to have a clean
place to swim
- I want to heat/cool my home
while warming the water in my swimming pond
- I want a clear swimming pond
and beach that's much cheaper than a pool
- I want to avoid potentially
hazardous chemicals and expensive additives
- I want my pond to be completely
- I want clear water
- I want a small pond in my yard,
that is very easy to maintain
- I want my pond to look like it
was torn from the pages of a fly-fishing calendar
- I want a lake with large areas
free of aquatic plants
- I don't want to worry about
maintaining an aquatic habitat
- I want to water livestock or
irrigate from my lake
- I want to pasture the banks of
- I want bigger fish in my stream
- I want to be able to use my
lake for fire suppression in emergencies
- I want to be able to land my
float plane on my lake
- I want my property value to
- I want to buy land, build a
lake or pond and make a profit when I sell
- I want to build a private
refuge for a sensitive species or strain of fish
HOW MUCH EFFORT DO YOU WISH TO
This is where you decide exactly
what you want. From an analysis of all of the information you have provided,
we can give you an idea of what we offer at various levels of assistance in
your project. We can almost always provide immediate results with only a few
hours of energy invested in your project. With a bit more time, we can
provide solutions that only a professional, who has dedicated a lifetime to
studying aquatic systems, can develop. A sound investment in professional
advice usually results in much greater savings in maintenance and
construction costs, as well as the highest quality design and finished
project. Every dollar invested in proper planning and design, will come back
to you several fold in construction, maintenance, enjoyment and value over
the life of your aquatic habitat
gartenART, specialists in designing and building natural swimming
A swimming pond
looks like a natural garden pond, but is specifically designed so
you can swim in clean, pure water with no chemicals.
swimming ponds have the practical advantages of swimming pools,
but also look beautiful and respect the environment, offering a
fresh and vivid display of nature in your own garden. They are the
next step in man-made swimming facilities, combining design, an
understanding of how ecological systems work, and the latest
technology to produce one of the most innovative and complete
garden features currently available.
If you are
interested in swimming in clear, pristine water in your own
garden, or simply in having a beautiful garden feature all year
round, please browse our site.
We hope you
enjoy your visit here.
What are natural swimming
surface a swimming pond looks like a natural garden pond, but it
actually consists of two zones – a deep, central swimming area,
and a shallower surrounding area with plants which are specially
chosen to purify the water.
This is the
basic difference between a swimming pond and a swimming pool – a
swimming pool uses chemicals such as chlorine to kill bacteria,
whereas a swimming pond cleanses the water naturally. It uses the
natural purifying properties of plants, as well as a small filter
to extract surface debris such as leaves, and a small pump to keep
the water circulating sufficiently through the planting area.
swimming ponds (also known as natural swimming pools) are a prime
example of how we can harness nature’s intelligence efficiently.
They completely eliminate the need for chemicals and constant
cleaning as their biological self-cleansing processes are
completely effective. Surplus nutrients and impurities, as well as
harmful bacteria, are transformed by plants and natural water
around half of a swimming pond's space is devoted to aquatic
plants, it is as much a garden feature as a pool and can be
admired year round without the need to be covered at the end of
summer. It is constantly alive and evolving, changing with the
seasons, and even maturing over the years, allowing the plants to
grow into their habitat.
How do natural
swimming ponds work?
water is the naturally occurring state in ponds and lakes if the
body of water is large enough and deep enough. Swimming ponds are
purposely built to emulate this state by using the natural
purifying properties of plants and micro-organisms to produce
clear, clean and healthy swimming water.
The water is
kept circulating slowly by differences in temperature in the
shallower and deeper zones, and also by a small pump. When water
leaves the swimming area it passes through a skimmer where any
surface debris such as leaves are removed. Then in the plant zone
(also known as the regeneration zone) the water is further cleaned
through natural processes in a number of different ways. For
example in and around the roots transformation takes place on a
microbacterial level, whereas the leaves of different plants take
out different types of nutrients, important to restrict the growth
like an amazing idea. Why have I never heard about it?
The concept of
natural swimming water is new in the UK, but it is very well
developed in other countries. In the last 20 years more than
25,000 swimming ponds have been built in Germany, Austria and
Italy for private clients, hotels, and public authorities.
natural cleaning process really do as good a job as chlorine?
better. The thousands of ponds already built have been subjected
to rigorous testing and have exceeded all EU standards for both
health and water clarity. The water tested in large public
swimming ponds was reported to be drinking water quality in almost
How big is
the swimming zone and plant zone?
To ensure the
swimming pond is a stable ecosystem, you need a large enough plant
zone relative to the swimming area. Usually the balance between
the two is approximately half swimming area to half planting area.
maintenance required is very low as nature itself carries out the
cleaning service. However we do recommend we carry out an annual
service to remove sediments and clean filters, as well as taking
care of proportional growth of suitable plants.
swimming ponds be heated?
the water in a swimming pond is naturally several degrees warmer
than a conventional swimming pool because the planting area is
shallow and acts as a natural solar panel.
plants we use can easily accommodate heated water temperatures,
however we do not recommend heating the water much above 25ºC
(77ºF). One reason for this is that usually people find it
uncomfortable to swim in water that is much warmer or cooler (more
than 10ºC [18ºF] either way) than the air temperature. Another
reason is that as water increases in temperature, its ability to
hold oxygen reduces, which is harmful to the life cycle in the
The two most
cost efficient ways to heat the pool given the temperatures
required are solar panels and heat pumps, both of which we offer.
Swimming pool to swimming pond conversions
mark a new step in the evolution of man-made swimming facilities
and the number of people who have upgraded their swimming pool to
a swimming pond indicates the growing recognition of this. You
could say the chlorinated swimming pool was a product of the 20th
century, whereas the natural swimming pond is truly a product for
Today it is
possible to convert your existing swimming pool to a swimming
pond, keeping the original swimming area (or altering it if you
wish) whilst adding a shallow plant area around it to enable
natural purification of the water. This idea of converting your
swimming pool to a swimming pond is new in the UK, although well
established in other parts of Europe.
swimming ponds have the benefits of swimming pools, with many
additional advantages, for example:
all year round
educational for children
designed to suit your garden and your tastes – no two swimming
ponds are the same.
We also convert
garden ponds to natural swimming ponds and many people are finding
this is the ideal way of keeping their existing water feature and
attracting wildlife, while at the same time keeping it clean and
being able to swim in it. Every situation is unique so please
contact us to discuss this more.
Myths are what happens when we make an observation that may be true in
one instance, but quickly leads to trouble and frustration when we attempt
to employ the observation elsewhere. It doesn't help that there are forces
out there that perpetuate myths because there is a profit to be made. It is
not our purpose to point fingers, only to shed light on some of these
misconceptions in order to help our clients attain the finest aquatic
habitat possible. We believe that most myths are actually perpetuated by
well meaning, yet uninformed advisors such as neighbors, "experts" from
internet forums, and fishing pals. This brings us back to the axiom that
free advice is worth every cent you paid for it.
Probably the most damaging misconception we hear of is the idea of
using bottom-feeding scavengers to keep a pond clear and clean. These
would be fish such as carp, bullhead, some catfishes, and grass carp in a
few cases. In most every instance these fish will be a major problem for
your pond. While they will slightly reduce the organic load in pond
sediments, the price is huge. These fish root in the sediments, which
releases suspended sediment and nutrients that will cloud/muddy the water,
promote algae growth, release toxins that naturally get sealed into the
sediments, and reduce oxygen levels during critical times of the year. If
you need to reduce the depth of the organic layer (muck) in the bottom of
your pond, there are much easier ways to accomplish this without introducing
undesireable fish or spending a small fortune on chemicals, or commercial
bacteria that already exist in your pond! You may need to look into a design
that pulls nutrients from your pond, or have aeration built in. Aeration
itself can cause problems if it disturbs bottom sediments. Well designed
ponds will not need the added expense of aeration.
We see statements over and over by "internet experts" who claim
earthen bottom ponds are trouble. To the contrary, we have developed
proprietary techniques that produce earthen bottom ponds that are more clear
than expensive synthetic lined ponds, while requiring much less maintenance.
Even our clear water swimming ponds are earthen ponds. To be more accurate,
these people might say they don't know how to build a clear pond without a
liner; we do it daily. As is our philosophy, we work with the natural
environment to achieve our goals; this includes the natural clay used in
most of our designs.
Maybe the least intuitive of the major myths is the hatchery versus
natural environment way of managing habitat. While it is true your fish
were most likely bred in a hatchery, this is where the similarity ends with
respect to the way you manage your pond or lake. Some people, who claim to
be Biologists, manage ponds and lakes just as if they were a hatchery. They
usually end up spending too much money and fight the natural environment
every step of the way. Methods that work in a controlled environment like a
fish hatchery don't translate very well to a much more complex wild type of
habitat. In our experience, we use some of the principles learned from
hatchery examples, but we modified them for use in the wild. To be fair, you
can't expect a person who has worked their whole life in a hatchery to be
able to plan and design a wild habitat for you. However, they will be able
to design a very nice fish hatchery if this is what you want.
If you are talking with Biologists who want to inject things like
bacteria into your lake, it is our opinion that they do not understand the
complete picture of how an aquatic habitat functions. We have come in behind
people who use these methods, to redesign the habitat to function properly.
Consequently our clients saved money and ended up with a better habitat.
What about these hatchery bred "super trout" like the Donaldson trout?
During the mid 1900s Dr. Lauren Donaldson developed a rainbow trout
specifically for the food fish industry who raise their fish entirely on
fish farms and hatcheries. The result was the Donaldson trout, or more
accurately, the Donaldson strain of rainbow trout. These fish have performed
wonderfully in fish farms around the world. Again, these are farms and not
wild habitats. There are differences in these environments which any
qualified Biologist will easily recognize.
If you hear someone calling themselves a Fishery Biologist extolling the
qualities of a Donaldson trout for wild habitat situations, we suggest you
ask them why Donaldson trout are suppose to be such wonderful fish for wild
evironments. In the wild, Donaldson trout rarely compete with fish that have
been selected for wild habitats for as long as trout have been on the
planet. We tend to question the qualifications of Biologists who promote
fish in habitats where a wild type fish is better suited. Of course it may
just be that they sell Donaldson trout from their hatchery. This poses the
question: are they Biologists, or are they a fish hatchery posing as
Biologists? On the other hand, if you are simply looking for a quick fix to
get larger fish into a poorly designed pond or lake, an inexpensive hatchery
fish will fill this need. Just don't expect a greeat deal of performance,
longevity or quality from them, unless your lake has become a hatchery via
A quality lake produces plenty of forage for fish. You should never have
to repeatedly stock your lake with any sort of forage fish etc. Of course if
the trout hatchery supplying your lake sells forage fish, they will probably
suggest you plant your lake with forage fish.
There are a few myths that are so ingrained that they approach legend
status. One of the best examples of this is the "Kamloops" trout. The
history of this discussion could span several pages. For now, we will
condense the story. Kamloops is actually a small city in the interior of
British Columbia. There are numerous small lakes in the area that were
barren of fish before the mid 1800s. Early pioneers stocked trout into these
lakes and ponds from surrounding waters. The first generations of these fish
grew to Herculean proportions. Eighteen to twenty pound fish were reported
from legendary lakes such as Paul Lake. Now that's a huge rainbow trout for
any size pond! After the standing stock of prey species was trimmed down by
the first fish, the size of the "Kamloops" trout dwindled to the size of the
rest of their rainbow trout cousins. The analogy here is like the first
starving man to the banquet hall. There is an abundance of food, but the
stove can only cook so much.
There actually are a couple stocks of rainbow trout in the interior of
British Columbia that deserve the status of the Kamloops name, however these
fish are rare. The Gerrard stock of rainbow trout which reside in Kootenay
Lake are probably the most well known of these fish. They evolved in deep
lakes of glacial origin with cold, clear water and kokanee as their prey
species. These fish can grow to huge sizes: over 30 pounds in places such as
such as Kootenay Lake in B.C. and Lake Pend Oreille,Idaho. Does this sound
like your pond??? If this isn't exactly an accurate description of your
pond, then Gerrards are not the stock of trout for you.
"But the guy at the hatchery told me my fish are Kamloops!" If that's
what brand he wants to call them then they are. The Kamloops name may be the
most abused name in trout history. Even if these fish were of a stock like
the Gerrard stock, they have been in hatcheries for so many generations that
they have lost their potential for top performance in a wild environment
like your pond. If the "Kamloops" in your local hatchery are spawning at two
and three years of age, then they are the same fish as most all hatchery
stocks of trout. There are a few stocks of trout from hatcheries that will
perform better for your local waters. Where you are located will dictate
which of these stocks is best for your situation. Be careful about being
sold on the latest super trout developed in a hatchery. These fish were
actually developed FOR the hatchery. If they do well in a hatchery,
chances are they won't do as well in the wild. There is an entirely
different set of traits that allow fish to perform in the wild instead of a
Now before you go beating down the door of your local trout hatchery,
think for a moment. The hatchery owner probably bought these fish eggs from
someone else. He doesn't have a high tech genetics lab to figure out the
exact origins of the stock of trout he is selling. His customers probably
pleaded with him to stock Kamloops trout in the first place. The suppliers
are just giving the public what they asked for.
"But I have heard of huge steelhead coming from Kamloops trout". "Huge"
is a relative term. There are some very large steelhead that inhabit rivers
in Northern British Columbia. Are your Kamloops coming from these genetic
stocks? In a word, no! A client came to us recently and told us there were
some very large Kamloops steelhead somewhere on the east coast. He said
these fish got up to eight pounds. We pointed out that if those fish would
have been winter steelhead stocks then they would be over twelve pounds in
size. Rainbow trout of the interior of British Columbia and the Pacific
Northwest are of the redband group ( Oncorhynchus mykiss gairdneri ).
They are summer run steelhead. Winter run steelhead are coastal rainbow
trout ( Oncorhynchus mykiss irideus ) that spend an additional six
months at sea, which allows them to attain larger sizes. An eight pound
steelhead is a nice fish in most peoples' experience, so you can see how the
So how do you get the best trout for your pond? You have to know the
history of these fish and ask your local hatchery the correct questions.
My non-native animals and plants won't escape my pond - or will they?
Many people believe the natural environment is safe from the non-native
plants and fish they stock in their ponds, as long as there is no direct
connection between the waters. This is a very dangerous thought which is
currently damaging our wild habitats, native plants and animals. Entire
lakes have been ruined by thoughtless introductions of plants such as water
hyacinth and parrots feather.
The companion misconception is the idea that warmer climate plants will
never invade cooler areas because they die in winter. We are personally
seeing vegetation such as parrots feather invading areas that were
previously thought to be too cold for this plant. Plants adjust and evolve
faster than we are prepared for. The result is a huge problem where there
wasn't one a few years ago. There is a wide variety of native plants and
fish that will thrive in your habitat. Please be careful when talking to
someone selling fish and plants. They may have no idea if the plant is
native or an invader.
Many people do not believe their fish can escape if there is no direct
aquatic connection to natural waters. It is amazing how fish can fly in the
egg form when tucked into the feathers of a duck. There are also times when
herons or osprey catch your fish and lose them in flight. There are numerous
examples where undesirable fish become established in a river, then within
several years these fish appear in most of the ponds within a couple miles
of that river. It is difficult to imagine these dispersal mechanisms, but
they exist. Please avoid contributing to this problem.
(Rorippa nasturtium-aquaticum) invaded from Europe
over a hundred years ago. While it isn't the most dangerous plant on the
continent, it has displaced native vegetation. If you are interested in
this plant from an aesthetic perspective, the irony is there are much more
attractive native plants that fit this niche.
(Iris pseudacorus) is in a similar situation as
watercress. Again there are more attractive native Iris which can be found
at a qualified nursery.
(Mentha aquatica) is an invader that again probably
hasn't done much damage. There are numerous native mints that are better
This is a minor point for most people, but it can be significant for
those who want trophy size fish: Fins on hatchery fish are mostly worn down
by other fish nipping on them. The walls of concrete raceways are not
damaging most of the hatchery fish you are buying. For some reason this
concrete raceway idea is widespread. If you come across someone trying to
blame the walls of the pond or raceway, you might ask about this. Chances
are they haven't closely observed what is actually happening to their fish.
When fish are crowded, they stress and become aggressive. The response is
to nip at each other's fins. The construction of their habitat is not a
significant factor, crowding stress is. Fish with enough fins nipped away
will eventually die. This can be used to an advantage when purchasing fish
from a hatchery. Select the fish with the best fins. These will be the
stronger fish. If the fish get a healthy start to life in the hatchery, they
will live longer and grow larger in your pond. They will also look much
better in your lake, providing the water is clear enough to see them.
What do I need to be able to
have a quality pond, lake or stream?
Each site is unique in its
qualities and requirements. Most of the time our ponds and lakes only need
roughly 20 gallons per minute of water flowing into them per acre of surface
area. In other words, you can have trophy size fish in a pond with
only a garden hose for a water supply! Usually this amount of water
is only required during the heat of summer. Winter requirements are much
lower. This is much less water than most people assume is necessary. The
proprietary techniques we employ were designed from the need for more
habitat on less water resource. While we can design for lower flow rates, we
prefer not to do so because the measures we have to take result in a
somewhat less aesthetically pleasing habitat.
Water for a pond or lake may come from a variety of clean water sources
such as springs, wells, streams and even surface runoff. A large proportion
of new ponds are now using well water to support them. Our efficient use of
water minimizes water supply cost in these cases. Land is usually much less
expensive when there is no stream or spring, which requires a well to
support the aquatic habitat.
How can Spring Creek help
me if I am far away?
Due to the effectiveness of
our proprietary techniques, we design projects across North America. The
principles of aquatic habitat management are universal; our techniques are
not. Our methods work wherever you live. On smaller projects we can easily
work from video tapes and phone conversations. Larger projects are more
efficiently managed on site since small adjustments can save much more
construction expense than the travel costs. We have gained a great deal of
experience from western Oregon and California ponds that are quite
technically challenging due to dry summers (most all of our rain comes in
winter) and rich muddy soils. If we can turn a mucky Oregon pond that
usually produces 1.5 pound fish into a clear water pond that grows trout of
five pounds and up - all without feeding - we can do the same for you. Our
experience has been that most areas are more conducive to building this type
of habitat. If for some reason we do not believe our techniques will perform
well in your area, we will decline the project. Our reputation for success
is much more important than any lost opportunities.
We are blessed with a diverse environment here in a state which gains
much of its reputation for unending rain. These diverse environments have
sharpened our abilities as Biologists. Oregon actually has habitat types
that are similar to most areas of the country. We work in coastal areas that
never seem to see the sun, hot dry inland valleys which are brown most of
the year, alpine settings with prodigious snow packs, and high desert
environments that challenge all aquatic life forms. We use ideas from all of
these diverse habitat types to create your habitat. We also use techniques
we learned by designing projects in places like Maine, Georgia, Texas,
Indiana, Montana, California and many other states and Canada. Chances are
that we have already been in your area.
If we only had experience in one type of local or regional habitat, our
expertise would suffer. This is probably the reason we get the call when
other people say "it can't be done". We get excited not when we land some
large project, but when we get a very difficult project. This gives us the
opportunity to learn and grow, to develop new techniques which no one else
has ever employed.
While we thoroughly enjoy working in places like the Rocky Mountain
States of Montana, Colorado and Wyoming, we find these are some of the very
easiest places to design habitat. Our goal in the Rocky Mountain states is
to produce stronger and larger fish in a highly aesthetic and cost effective
habitat, while using less water. Due to drought conditions we have recently
been restoring poorly designed habitats in the Rockies to get more habitat
on the reduced water supplies. If we only worked in these less challenging
areas, our abilities would suffer. What really catches our attention are the
difficult projects in places like Georgia and the Midwest where people don't
believe it is possible to develop trophy size trout in smaller ponds without
feeding the fish. If we are successful in these areas, think of what we can
offer in places like Colorado and Montana!
Are we the best Biologists for aquatic habitat design and restoration? We
don't know if there is one real "best". What we do know is we often get the
call to come in and fix habitat that was designed by people who claim to be
"the leader" in this field. We are not sure if this makes us the best, but
it is pretty reassuring to our capabilities.
Empty phrases such as "recognized industry leader", "world class" and
"gold medal fisheries" don't really impress us; the environment and the fish
Do I really need a
Biologist to design my pond, lake or stream?
The answer to this question
depends on your goals. If you simply want to store water with little
interest in aesthetics, recreation, property value or fish, then we suggest
you find a qualified contractor to dig your pond. On the other hand, if you
are looking for the perfect recreational or aesthetic pond, lake or stream,
then you are in the right place.
There is a wealth of publications to help you build a pond to safely hold
water. While these publications are a good place to begin, they cover only a
very small portion of the factors that go into producing the quality
habitats we are known for. If you are satisfied with investing your money to
build a lake of the same quality and value of other lakes in your vicinity,
then you do not need our help. If you are motivated to get the best
emotional and financial return for your investment, we can help.
There are many businesses that will design and build a pond for you.
Thousands of people claim to be "professionals". Our definition of a
professional is much more rigorous than most. Simply taking money to build a
pond does not make one a professional, no matter how many years of
experience is claimed. Advanced knowledge of aquatic ecology, chemistry,
physics and construction methods is required to become a true professional
at Spring Creek.
Thousands of terrestrial landscape designers and landscape contractors
advertise to design ponds and streams. Most do not realize an aquatic
habitat requires a three dimensional design instead of the more two
dimensional terrestrial landscape. In a lake, the water becomes the soil.
This opens a Pandora's box of complexity that does not have to be considered
on dry land. We focus on these complexities to deliver the Spring Creek
If you need to evaluate the qualifications of a habitat designer, look at
the number of technical crutches they use. If they have to rely upon
filters, skimmers, sterilizers, additives and chemicals, they are attempting
to compensate for lack of scientific knowledge. You have to pay the direct
price for these crutches as well as the significant maintenance expense
associated with them. Chances are there is a huge warehouse of plumbing
parts that support their "natural" methods. Obviously we see these crutches
as less than desirable. Naturally functioning habitats need none of these
Our true professionalism may be the main reason that much of our work
comes from referrals by Landscape Architects and other landscape design
professionals. We have been brought into projects by some of the finest
Landscape Architecture firms in the nation. Why would they ask for our help?
Because they know the quality of our work and how exceptional aquatic and
terrestrial landscapes compliment each other. They know our designs make
their terrestrial designs look better, as theirs do for our aquatic designs.
A glass clear lake simply looks better reflecting against a naturally
flowing landscape instead of the usual unattractive pile of rocks, or worse
yet, mounds of barkdust one sees along the shorelines of many projects.
The decision of who should design or build your pond, lake, or water
feature ultimately comes down to your goals. If you are satisfied with murky
water with visibility of only a few feet, or a contrived unnatural looking
water feature, find out who the designer was and hire them. If you are more
interested in a very aesthetic natural habitat, we can help.
How many years should
lakes and ponds last?
Well designed man-made ponds should last for centuries. The reality for
poorly designed ponds can be less than ten years due to factors such as
siltation and excessive residual nutrients. We expect our lakes and ponds to
be going strong for generations to come. We design them to become a lasting
legacy to be handed down for many generations.
Synthetic lake and pond liner life expectancies run a couple decades. We
do not agree with the idea of a pond needing to be rebuilt after just a
couple decades. Regardless of the life expectancy of a synthetic liner, many
of these ponds are experiencing siltation and choking with weeds long before
the liner wears out. It isn't unusual for one of these poorly designed ponds
to choke out with weeds in as little as five years. We know because we get
the call to fix them. In most cases we rip them out and restore them for the
long term. To be fair, poorly designed earthen ponds can expect similar life
expectancy, even if the clay seal will function for centuries.
For lower construction budgets we could design and build lakes and ponds
that would stay clear for just a few years before deteriorating, but we
don't. We do not see that as providing valuable service to our clients. It
is our hope that people will not allow themselves to be taken in by firms
who lack the ability to design for the long term and ultimate value.
We've evaluated numerous existing lakes on property our clients were
considering purchasing. It is easy for us to see if the project was well
designed or if it was built "on-the-cheap" just to last long enough to take
advantage of the unsuspecting buyer. There are innumerable people who have
been taken in by poorly designed lakes and ponds in housing developments.
These waters eventually become serious burdens for the home owners
associations. If you are considering purchasing property in a waterfront
development, we strongly urge you to ask who designed the man-made lakes,
ponds and streams. Then research the pond / lake designers to see if
they have a reputation for long lived water bodies that maintain the
elements you value in waterfront property. We have heard too many nightmares
from home owners associations who inherited liabilities instead of the
wonderful lake they had hoped would improve their property investment.
Beware of the developer who simply pushes up a dam in a low area, then
attempts to verbally embelish an aquatic eyesore.
To put all of this in perspective, we don't believe most people would buy
a home if they only expected it to stand for twenty years. Lakes and ponds
should also withstand the test of time. A long life expectancy results in
significant property value appreciation. A short life expectancy actually
What does all of this cost?
Our services are a very sound investment instead of a cost, especially
considering the money you save by taking advantage of our experience and
efficient construction methods. Our fees are similar to what a Landscape
Architect would charge. If we don't believe we can give you a better habitat
value, we will tell you. For instance, if you want a muddy pond to water
livestock, you don't need our help. If your dream is an aesthetically
beautiful and natural aquatic habitat with low maintenance, we can get you
to your goal. Compared to the actual cost of constructing a pond, our fees
become a small portion of your habitat investment. We help you save money on
the larger end of the scale: the excavation and maintenance of your aquatic
Spring Creek works for you not only as resource professionals, but as
your professional advocate to get the most out of your investment in
planning, design, construction, and management of your pond, lake or stream.
Technical FAQ page for pond construction costs, leaks and other
We just dug our pond. Can you make it perfect now?
Creating a high quality lake or pond begins with design. Yes we can
improve your pond, but you can expect to have to drain the pond and make
major modifications to what you have installed. Much of our business comes
from redesigning and rebuilding new ponds that were not efficiently
designed. If you are thinking of building a new stream, pond or lake, talk
to us before you break ground.
Can Spring Creek help me find land for my pond or lake?
Absolutely. We help people evaluate property for their stream, pond or
lake. Once they locate the best land, they often realize construction
savings in excess of 80%. This has translated into conservative savings of
well over $20,000 per acre of water for some people. If you are in the
market for land, you are very aware that land with water already on it is
much more valuable than dry land. If you identify the right piece of land
where you can develop a high quality lake or pond, you have made a very
sound financial as well as emotional investment. Professionally designed
aquatic habitats bring a higher value to the property. Visit our
property page to see a few of the quality lake or pond properties we
Can I have trophy trout habitat without buying land in a far off place
like the Rockies?
Absolutely. A considerable portion of our business comes from people who
want to enjoy the benefits of the famous fishing destinations without the
expense and inconvenience of travel, or the purchase of high value
recreation property. They want a trophy fishing experience right out their
backdoor so they can enjoy these environments on a daily basis. One of the
cornerstones of our proprietary techniques is to make it possible for more
people to enjoy these habitats at home or even at their offices. Bringing a
bit of "vacation" into our daily lives makes perfect sense to us - maybe
that's why we work as Biologists in the first place.
What if I own waterfront property on a larger lake?
We use the same principles and slightly different techniques to improve
the habitat on your portion of the lake, river or stream. It is possible to
attract the best fish in the lake to within casting distance of your portion
of the shoreline. In many unproductive lakes there are still a few large
fish; we can design habitat that will encourage these fish to spend more
time near your shoreline to improve your enjoyment of the property. These
techniques also improve the habitat of the lake or river as a whole.
is the financial value of a pond or lake?
This is a pretty wide open question. On a qualitative scale, the highest
value habitats have several features in common:
1) they have clear water
2) they do not choke with weeds
3) they require very little to maintain
4) they are biologically and chemically clean enough for swimming
5) trophy size fish live in them.
6) they are very aesthetically pleasing
7) they look completely natural
The value of these attributes varies across the country. We estimate that
a nearly perfect pond with these qualities is probably going to bring at
least several times more value to the property than the average pond.
Conservatively estimating, the value of the pond will be on the order of
three or more times the value of a typical pond. The more exotic and
aesthetic, the higher the value. A trophy trout pond in the south where most
people do not believe it is even possible, is going to bring a great deal of
value to the land. Likewise a project in urban Los Angeles will return great
value. Even in the middle of prime fish habitat, a well designed project is
going to be worth significantly more than the usual lake or pond. We have
estimated our value from the usual areas for ponds and not the unlikely
locations such as Los Angeles where values are orders of magnitude higher.
Ultimately the value of a pond, lake or stream will be dictated by its
owner. You simply have to ask yourself what it is worth to step out your
back door on a daily basis and have an excellent chance of hooking into a
six pound trout in a pristine aquatic habitat. Most people never get that
opportunity. That is the real value!
Does Spring Creek work with
habitats other than trout lakes, ponds and streams?
Yes, we have worked with many types of ponds lakes and streams such as
warm water fish ponds, bass lakes, garden ponds, swimming ponds, duck ponds,
golf course water features, and ornamental fish ponds. Most of the stream
work we perform is with trout streams, but we also design landscape streams
for housing complexes, offices and homes. Our experience spans the spectrum
from trout lakes in Canada to an indoor/outdoor pond on a Caribbean island.
This breadth of experience provides us with a wealth of insight to solve
challenges in your aquatic habitat.
We emphasize our experience with trout since this is our origin and trout
habitat is more complicated to design and build than other aquatic habitats.
The Swimming Pond / Natural Swimming Pools
The Swimming Pond or Natural Swimming Pools have taken Europe by storm over
the last 20 years. New to the U.S. but beginning to take hold, and for good
reason. All natural, good clean water! No chemicals of any kind with lasting
beauty all year round. Designed with the swimmer in mind and taking the best
of the garden pond, combined to create the ultimate swimming experience.
A simple dividing wall separating swimming area and
Biological Filtration in the ‘regeneration zone’ is what truly makes a
These backyard swimming holes are built to naturally and
effectively keep water crystal clear. If designed well, water quality can be
so good that they will easily pass even the toughest municipal “drinking”
Now that’s clean water!
In Germany there are some 16 public Natural Swimming Pools
that consistently prove to be safe and fun places to be.
The overall system works the same as any other water
feature, as cover throughout Pond-Doctor-Dave.com. They also incorporate
most of the basic infrastructure of a regular chlorine pool. Skimmer basket
etc., all combined to make for the ultimate in natural and personal luxury.
Costs can run close to what it takes to build a cement basin
pool or it could be a lot less. Depending on the home owners ability to DIY
and what types of “extras” one would like. It comes down to personal
tolerance to decide whether to add
UV Sterilizers , Backyard Waterfall, or pond pump for that matter.
Indeed the first Swimming Ponds were built extremely
passive, meaning they didn't use skimmers, plumbing, or pumps. They simply
allowed the natural Bio filtered System to do all the work. It’s really
quite simple to create a system good for swimming if you don’t mind it going
‘green’ quite often.
People have become accustomed to what they think of as a
‘swimming pool’. Your basic "kill everything but ourselves" approach. Now we
are aware that may not be the best way to do things. Especially considering
that Chlorine Hazards have recently been placed on the EPA Watch List.
Chlorine Poisoning, Chlorine Allergy, Chlorine Irritations, and other
Chlorine Dangers are questioning Chlorine Safety (excuse the strange
wording, search engines are quirky things). Not to mention chlorine is a
known carcinogen when combined with organic compounds within the pool.
Natural Chlorine Free Swimming Pools are a real alternative.
Imagine, your own private water feature and backyard
waterfall, no wait, it’s a Swimming Pond.
Dive in the water’s fine!