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Upgrading the instant pond


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Last summer, I described how to make an "instant pond" with a Rubbermaid stock tank. http://www.kokosgold...6-instant-pond/

Initially, I used the 50 gallon pond as a holding tank for a shubunkin and 3 comets, all about a year old, while I was finishing the pond they would move to. The tank worked great for them. When the new pond was ready, they moved out and were replaced by 4 fancies of the same age. These fish were not really getting an upgrade in water volume, since two of them had been in a 20 gallon and two in a 30 gallon. But since the stock tank is shallow with a huge surface area and a nice fountain for swimming space and aeration, it was an improvement. It was also a lot warmer since the the house ranged from 75 F at night to 80 at midday, while the outside air temperatures ranged from 75 to 95. But whatever the reason, they grew like crazy in the stock tank. By winter, it was clear that this little pond, as set up, wasn't big enough for them. They either needed a bigger tank or improved water handling. Another problem was that Hoover, who is copper-colored in an aquarium, was a "phantom" in the black stock tank -- virtually invisible. I wanted to see him.

So I decided on the following upgrades:

an external filter to replace the submerged bucket filter of the instant pond. A bucket of filter media in the pond with a pump in it will work just fine for handling nitrogen compounds, but it's not very good at mechanical filtration. These guys were turning into real poop machines, so I needed something better.

a trickle-in trickle-out water change system. This is like the automatic water change system I set up for my front pond. http://www.kokosgold...c-water-change/ Koi people have compared the growth and health of fish receiving weekly water changes to those getting the same amount of new water by trickle, and the results were convincing enough that if you go to a koi forum people don't talk about whether they use trickle in-out or conventional water changes, they just compare their trickle systems.

a sand substrate so I could see Hoover and also see debris.

So let's start with the filter. I started with a 5 gallon paint bucket that has been one of my "clean water" buckets for some time. Eventually, I will want to paint it, and old plastic is a lot easier to paint than new.


The first thing I did was put in an exit pipe to dump the filtered water back into the pond. Here's the materials and tools:

http://rs822.pbsrc.com/albums/zz146/shakaho/50 gallon upgrade/IMG_0160.jpg~c100


I needed from left to right: a drill, a hole saw (which is not a separate tool, but a drill attachment for making a hole), and a uniseal. There are two uniseals in the picture so you can see both sides. I was using a 1 inch pipe, so I had a one inch uniseal.

I marked where I wanted the hole for the out spout.

http://rs822.pbsrc.com/albums/zz146/shakaho/50 gallon upgrade/IMG_0162.jpg~c100

Now I screwed this up because I didn't put the hole saw up to the bucket before I marked the location. when I did, I realized both the lip of the bucket and the ridge below the hole were in the way of the saw. If i had noticed this earlier I would have cut off the ridge and moved the hole down a bit. But I didn't so I just cut.


So it looks a little messy. I trimmed off the ridge with a pruner, and filed and sanded the rough rim and the little tags in the hole. Then I pushed the uniseal into the hole.


It seemed loose, and I hadn't used a uniseal before so I was a little worried, but it was fine since the pipe expands the uniseal when it goes in. I didn't put the pipe in until I finished the interior plumbing.


Edit:  It took a long time to realize that I didn't have to put the outlet at the top of the filter to have a high water level.  I could put the outlet pipe in a convenient spot,  put an elbow on the outlet pipe inside the filter, then put a "stand pipe" in the elbow to collect the water at the desired water level.  That said, I think the pipe looks better coming out near the top of the filter.

to be continued.

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Edited by shakaho
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very interesting! I look forward to the next steps!

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Now for the internal plumbing. Let's start at the pump, which sits in the pond, and follow the water flow. Mine supposedly pumps 258 gph, but I haven't checked to see how much it actually pumps. It is similar to this one http://www.harborfre...pump-68395.html , which has replaced it.

Here you see the pump, 1/2" inner diameter hose, and the fitting that connects the hose to the pump.


You put the fitting on the pump and push on the hose. I don't even use a clamp, because I haven't gotten around to getting some plastic ones and the steel ones you get in the hardware store have a risky metal tab sticking out.


The hose runs to the filter where it must connect to pvc pipe (I used 1/2 inch pipe) Two fittings make the connection. The first has a 1/2 inch barb, which the hose goes on, and a 1/2 inch threaded male end. It looks like this one.  The next has a female threaded end that fits on the fitting above, and a female slip end into which I slid a short piece of pvc pipe. It's like this

The short piece of pvc pipe goes into the side arm of a tee like this.

Here's what you will see at the top of the finished filter:


From the top you see the black tubing pushed on the gray barb. Putting this together is the most difficult job in making the filter. You have to soften the end of the tubing in hot water then you push, twist, push, cuss, twist and push some more until it is firmly on. Then you screw the other end of the fitting into the second fitting. The piece of pvc pipe that connects the second fitting to the tee is black because it was recycled from a previous structure which I painted black. The water comes to the tee and goes down a pipe to the bottom of the filter. The top of the tee is left open to let air in. The air provides some aeration to the filter, but more importantly, prevents the water from siphoning from the filter to the pond if the pump stops running. You might notice I put a short piece of pipe in the top of the tee so the water doesn't splash out.

The pipe that attaches to the bottom of the tee and takes the water to the bottom of the filter should be about this long:


At the bottom of this pipe, I made a "swirler." I find these fun to make, It just takes a tee, two elbows, and two short pieces of pipe.
To determine how long the pieces of pipe have to be, I set the tee and the elbows in the filter.

IMG_0170.jpg The fittings are more or less in the places they will be in the swirler. The pipe will go up to about 3/4 inch into each fitting, so include that when measuring for the length of the pvc pieces.

Here's the swirler put together.


If I were doing it over, I'd have cut the pvc pieces a little longer. The vertical pipe in this structure slips into the bottom of the tee at the top of the filter.

So why the swirler? If the water just comes down the pipe, it hits the bottom of the filter and bounces up chaotically. The swirler starts the water moving horizontally, and it spirals up through the medium. The swirling action helps particles in the water to settle on the bottom or stay near the bottom in suspension. In a bigger filter, I would have a dump valve at the bottom the filter, and all that sediment would pour out when I opened the valve to flush the filter. I may put one in later, but the bucket is small enough that it's not really necessary.

Next to the bucket in the picture above, you see a pvc stool, which will be used to support the filter media. This style of stool uses four "side outlet elbows" like this:


I put the elbows in the bucket to determine how long to cut the pipe.


I cut the legs about 3" long. There's more of that recycled black pipe.


In the bucket over the swirler.


If you can't find side outlet elbows, you can make a stool using simple elbows and tees like this:



One warning. Don't glue together pipes and fittings that are underwater in the pond or filter. It's not necessary and it's irreversible. I've hardly built anything that I didn't go back and change -- often after months of use.

Next I needed a support for the biomedia -- something to set on the stool. There are many things people use for this and they work as long as they are porous and rigid.  Porous so the water flow through easily and rigid so the biomedium stays out of the muck that collects on the bottom.  Probably the most popular selection for a support is  an eggcrate light diffuser panel.


After using lots of supports, I have settled on matala.


This might seem expensive, but this stuff is durable. You rinse it off easily and use it for years, probably decades. This seller has frequent nice sales on matala, periodically and you can sign up for a notice of when they have a sale.

I used the bucket to mark where to cut the matala. It cuts easily with a kitchen knife.


I cut a hole for the pipe in the center, and slit the matala so I could remove it easily.


After placing the matala support on the stool, I put in my biomedia. It's a miscellaneous collection housed in cheap zippered lingerie bags, rather like this (used in a different filter).




I topped in off with some pvc ribbon.




I had a round basket from the dollar store. Trimmed down, it fit in the top of the filter as a plant support. I put a piece of filter medium from an old filter in the basket to keep plant debris out of the filter media.




You can also see in the above picture that the filter dumps into a basket of lava rock with plants in it. The basket sits on a little dollar store stool. The fish like to hide under it.

With the plants in place, the filter is inconspicuous.


Edited by shakaho
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This is maybe a dumb question, but is that swimming pool I see the actual pond? Or maybe it was never a pool? I've seen some people turn swimming pools into ponds, so I was wondering. Your filter is quite clever, but I just want to see the pond, please. LOL. :D

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Post # 10

So now, the trickle-in trickle-out water change system. This is very simple. It consists of a 5 gallon bucket with a faucet near the bottom into which I put clean water, an overflow pipe set up to remove water from the bottom of the pond, and a dishpan that collects the waste water.

Materials for the reservoir of clean water:

one 5 gallon bucket (I got food grade, which costs a little more),

one 1/2" hose bibb (faucet),

one 1/2 inch adapter with a female threaded end, 

one 3/4" uniseal,

one faucet-to-1/4 inch tubing adapter,

an adjustable dripper

a little piece of 1/4 inch tubing. Airline tubing is fine.

I used a drill with a 1 1/4 inch hole saw to cut a hole for the uniseal, placed near the bottom of the bucket so it can drain nearly all of the water.

I push in the 3/4 inch unseal. I screw the inlet end of the hose bib to the 1/2 inch adapter. Then I push the adapter into the uniseal from outside the bucket. You have to push very hard. The faucet is installed.

Then I insert the barbs of the faucet adapter and the adjustable dripper into the piece of tubing, and screw the adaptor onto the faucet. The construction is complete.

I set the bucket on some blocks next to the filter. It took a cement block and two "stepping stones" to get it high enough for the faucet to be over the pond.

Here's a close-up of the faucet



The black is the uniseal, the white the 1/2 adapter, then the faucet with the black adapter for the tubing. You don't see the tubing and the adjustable dripper because I hadn't put them on yet.

I'll explain the attachments on the faucet. When I first made a tank of clean water like this for the front pond, http://www.kokosgold...c-water-change/ I planned to just turn the faucet on a bit so it would drip. When I did that, within a few hours it would stop. The tiny crack inside the faucet would collect debris and close. So I needed to be able to turn the faucet fully on, screen debris, and still control the flow rate. With the dripper on the end of the tube, I can turn the faucet fully on, and simply twist the adjuster on the dripper to get the flow rate I want. There is a screen in the faucet-tubing adapter that catches debris to keep the dripper from clogging. It works beautifully.

As you can see here:



I put the clean water reservoir right next to the filter so I had all of the clean water entering at one end.

I found a lid for the bucket. (I need to get out there with some "Goof Off" and clean off that stickum.)




So the opposite end of the pond is where water will exit. I have the pump there and also the outflow pipe.

Here's a view of the outflow end.


I set the pump on a brick to keep it from picking up sand. I drilled a hole for a uniseal just as high as I could without cutting the rolled rim. Then I pushed in a short piece of 1/2 inch pvc pipe. I put an elbow on each end of the pipe. (The elbow on the outside is a "45 degree" elbow. I just used it because I had a bunch of them on hand.) I put a piece of pipe on the inside elbow long enough to reach within about an inch of the bottom. Note that I don't put a pipe down into the waste water pan, because in a heavy rain, the pond will fill up and create a siphon. I want to break the siphon high. I replaced the clear plastic box with a slightly larger black dishpan. Ideally, the waste collection bin would be a little larger than the clean water reservoir, but it's hard to find a five gallon container that will fit under the overflow pipe.

In a heavy rainfall, the overflow pipe will give me a big water change since the rain is landing on the top of the water and the overflow is coming from the bottom. This is fine where I live since our rainwater is pretty clean and pH 7. In an area of acid rain, I would either have the overflow pipe collecting water from the top or covering the pond to reduce rain collection.

Edited by shakaho
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Just a few finishing touches. I have a dark fish in this pond who was simply invisible. I considered very options for making the pond lighter, and decided on a sandy bottom. It was very hard for me to decide to scrub off the healthy biofilm on the bottom of the tank, but it didn't want it rotting under the sand, so I scrubbed. I left enough algae on the sides to reestablish the ecosystem.

I used play sand, which comes already washed. I still washed it some more, just putting it in a bucket, spraying in water with the hose, and then mixing it with by hands. After three such rinses, the water was coming off pretty clean, so I started tossing it in the pond -- literally. I found that with water in the pond, when I tossed in a handful of sand it spread out nicely. I just wanted a thin layer, so it didn't take much sand.

Nobody disappears against this background.


Sorry about the reflection of the palm fronds over the fish.

Here you see my plant stand with a little bit of trickle filtration.


The fish love to hide under the dollar store stool or just swim in and out of the little "house.". I didn't think the opening was tall enough, so I set the stool on bricks. I've always had plants in this tank for nitrate removal and for summer shade.

I can't resist an opportunity to add a little more filtration, so I had the water from my bucket filter trickling through lava rock in the plant basket on the way back into the pond. Here you see how I made a little pile of rock right up to the spout. (I took the plants out of the top of the filter so you could see this.)



An advantage of this is that it eliminates any splash noise. This pond is completely silent. I have to check visually for a water flow from the filter to tell if the pump is running.

Although water flows from the inlet end to the outlet end, the pond water is very quiet, and my fish love this. They seem so much more relaxed and peaceful when the water isn't splashing.

People have asked -- and I wondered too until I tried it -- how hard it is to clean the sand. Happily, it's very easy. I just take a small fish net and swish it above any debris I want to remove to get it off the bottom, then just scoop it up. I rinse the net in the waste water pan. Since there is a water flow toward the discharge end, most of the waste is concentrated behind the brick the pump sits on. It takes about five minutes to clean the bottom. Then I dump the waste water pan and refill the fresh water bucket. Once a week, I dump the water from the filter bucket, and pull the prefilter sponge off the pump and wash it. That's the total maintenance on this pond.

Edited by shakaho
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  • 2 weeks later...
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I decided to add a dump valve to the bottom of the filter. Cleaning the filter was already pretty easy. I just turned off the pump, pulled the media and plumbing out of the fliter bucket, dumped the water, gave the media a quick rinse in tank water, put it together and turned on the pump.

However, the dirtiest water in the system is in the bottom of the filter. By draining that out, I can clean the filter with minimal effort. So I put a tap at the bottom of the bucket. I drilled a 1 3/4 hole, which is the size required for a 1 inch uniseal.


The uniseal in the hole:


My tap is a 3/4 inch ball valve. The 3/4" means that a 3/4" pipe will fit into either end. I will put a short piece of 3/4" pipe in one end, which would fit into a 3/4" uniseal. But I don't have a 3/4" uniseal! :( I do have a 1 inch uniseal (already in the hole), and I also have a 3/4" coupling. The coupling is designed to join two pieces of 3/4" pipe together. The outer diameter of the coupling is almost exactly the same as a 1 inch pipe. So I can push the coupling through the 1" uniseal, put a short piece of 3/4" pipe in the coupling, and push the ball valve on the other end of the pipe. It looks like this:


You see the black uniseal, the rim of the coupling, a bit of the 3/4" pipe with a black letter on it, and then the ball valve fitting.

Now all I have to do to clean the filter is put a 2 gallon bucket under the valve, open it, and drain out the dirtiest 2 gallons of water in the tank-filter system. If I do this every other day, my filter will stay nice and clean. If I let it get cruddy, I can drain all of the water from the filter, and then dump a small bucket or two of water in the top to wash any crud out of the media.

Edited by shakaho
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I find this so helpful--thanks so much for taking the time to document with the step-by-step and all the photos! I have saved this post as I know a pond like this is in my future --and I am sure I will turn to this when I start to figure out how to do it.

BTW, what do you do abut birds/cats and such--do you put netting over the pond?

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In this case, there's no problem, since this pond is inside a screened pool enclosure. If it were outside, I would have a frame around it with a support for netting built into the frame. My front pond is exposed. I have a screen cover for part of the pond, plant tables the fish can hide under, big plants that limit the view of the pond from above. I also have smart fish out there that dive for cover at any strange sight or sound.

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  • 1 month later...
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Various stuff in mesh bags -- bits of pvc pipe and discarded irrigation pipe, some plastic bioballs, scraps of matala, a bag of ceramic biomedia from a tank filter that I didn't need, plastic bottle caps, cut up drinking straws plastic dish scrubbies. I keep a scrap bag into which I throw stuff that can go in a filter. When I make a filter, I raid the scrap bag.

Right now my favorite commercial biomedia is pvc ribbon. It's also probably the cheapest. Here's one example: http://www.thepondguy.com/product/bacti-twist-biological-mechanical-filter-media/water-gardens-fish-ponds-filter-media This stuff has huge surface area and permits very good water flow. It's also very clean and easy to work with, unlike my messy trash media. It all works.

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  • 9 months later...
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Here's what the plants in the filter and the plants in the pond looked like 4 months after the pond was set up.


Note that the sand has a green tinge from a healthy growth of algae.

The ferns eventually shaded about a third of the pond.

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Here's what the plants in the filter and the plants in the pond looked like 4 months after the pond was set up.


Note that the sand has a green tinge from a healthy growth of algae.

The ferns eventually shaded about a third of the pond.

looks good.

What is the growth rate on the pond lilies , I just bought a yellow nymphaea at lowes that has some leaves just about to open

Edited by Gustave
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I'm good at growing fish, marginal plants, terrestrial plants -- in ground, in bog filters, or in pots in the top of filters. I am terrible at water lilies. I have killed at least four of them.

The little plant in the tank above is not a water lily, but some species of Nymphoides. This I can grow.

I know there are people here who can grow water lilies. Start a thread on the topic. I could benefit from some hints.

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