Small Water Garden – How to Build One

Wild Lettuce

(I’ve included affiliate links for your convenience. I earn a small percentage from a purchase using these links. There is no additional cost to you, and I appreciate any support. You can read more about affiliate links here)

Want know how to build a small water garden? While you might think a smaller space precludes the enjoyment of a water garden, it doesn’t. You can make a water garden from a small tub or half-barrel that would be perfect for a small space such as a patio or deck.

You can spend warm summer evenings watching the play of patio lights and fireflies on the moving water of your pond. It’s a great way to spend an evening!

Build A Small Water Garden

Designing A Small Water Garden

A natural-looking water garden should have sloped sides with planting terraces that step down toward the deepest area of the pond. This allows you to plant a diversity of plant material and create different habitats. In northern areas, a depth of 24 to 36 inches is usually necessary to ensure that the pond will not freeze solid during the winter.

If you live in a warm climate, where frost heaving is not a problem, you can line the bottom of your pond with concrete, brick or even clay. Today, most gardeners and professional landscapers use a preformed liner made from fiberglass or plastic, or a flexible, cut-to-fit liner made from PVC or butyl rubber. The preformed liners are quicker to install, but the flexible liners allow for much greater creativity. via

Where to Put a Water Garden

Most ponds will be enjoyed more if they are installed close to the home. Select an area where you can see your small water garden all year round. Ponds are great attractants for wildlife including birds and butterflies. Position the pond where runoff from rain will not flow into the pond. This may carry fertilizers, chemicals, and organic debris into the pond. It may be necessary to alter the terrain to accommodate this.

Avoid placing a pond too close to trees. Falling leaves and other debris will need to be removed from the pond. You will want to place your pond where it will receive at least 4 to 6 hours of direct sun if you want to grow water lilies. Shade is fine for fish-only ponds. via

  • Place in a location that receives at least 5 hours of sunlight a day.
  • Avoid low spots or areas that accumulate runoff.
  • Don’t put the garden under large trees
  • Find a level spot.
  • Provide easy access to electrical power and fresh water.

What Size Water Garden?

If you’re building a small water garden for a patio, you are limited by the amount of available space.

It is of course prudent to build the biggest tub for your water garden that your space and budget allows. The smaller the pond, the more quickly the ecosystem you create can break down. A bigger tub garden is also lower maintenance. Water evaporation will empty a tiny water garden faster than a larger one.

For something on a smaller scale, consider a patio water garden. Many water plants can be grown in a tub of water on your deck. Use an ordinary whiskey barrel lined with plastic, or purchase a plastic tub that is specially designed for a water garden. Put soil into the bottom of the container and plant right there, or submerge pots filled with the different kinds of water plants. via

First Buy A Tub For Your Small Water Garden

Tuff Stuff Circular Tub 25 GallonTuff Stuff Products KMB103 Circular Tub, 25-Gallon

This particular tub is a decent size at 25 gallons and is a circular shape which is always attractive.

A 25 gallon pond is a good starter size if you’ve never had a pond before. You’ll have room for some plant variety, a small pump and fountain, plus a couple of goldfish to add life and interest.

There arre a few different options and sizes for water garden tubs…

Oval Tank 30 gallon
Tuff Stuff Oval Tank 30 Gallon

Rectangular Tank 75 Gallon
Tuffstuff Rectangular Tank 75 Gallon

Aquaponics Tub Small
Tuffstuff Small Aquaponics Tub


Choose A Water Pump For Your Pond

You will need a pump that circulates all the water in your pond at least once per hour. It’s better to buy a bigger pump than you need than a smaller one. If you don’t get adequate water circulation, you will have mosquitoes breeding in your pond due to stagnant water.

To give you an idea of what size pump you need … 30 gallons per hour is more than enough for a 25 gallon pond.

If you are including fish, I would also advise having a backup pump on hand in case the first one breaks. Otherwise your fish will die before a new pump can be shipped.

A good pump will work well for extended periods of time and it requires no regular maintenance, which is a big plus. And check it there is a decent length in the power cord. Most pumps will come with a  a one year limited warranty.

Here are some more pond pumps – choose a size that is suitable for the size of your water garden.

EcoPlus Submersible Pump
Submersible Garden Pond Pump

TetraPond Water Garden Pump
TetraPond Water Garden Pump

Active Aqua Submersible Pond Pump
Active Aqua Submersible Pond Pump


Choose a Water Fountain For Your Pond

Water Fountain For PondFirst of all, I will mention that it is not strictly necessary to have a water fountain at all.

You can of course simply place your pump such that it bubbles on the surface of the pond. However, it does add a lot to the enjoyment of a pond if you include a fountain. The sound of running water is very relaxing and really adds to the atmosphere of your garden

Be sure to choose a fountain type that fits with the scale of your pond. For a small tub water garden, this means a simple bell or spray rather than anything ornate.

Pond Fountain Nozzle

Pond Small Nozzle KitAgain, choose a system to suit the size of your small water garden.

Fountain nozzle sprays create beautiful visual effects for ponds and water gardens of all sizes. Fountain heads can also add soothing sounds while providing a valuable aeration function for healthy ponds.

The performance of all fountain spray heads is directly affected by the gph pumped through the fountain nozzle head. For a higher and wider spray pattern in your pond, a higher gph pump is required. via

The TotalPond N16015 Pond Small Nozzle Kit (pictured on the right) is a nice pond decoration that aerates the water providing a good environment for water plants and fish. The kit includes nozzles for three fountain shapes, which are trumpet, bell and spray. It will attach to your choice of fountain pump easily and is the perfect scale for a small to medium sized pond.

See other options for your pond sprayer here:

Small Fountain Nozzle
Small Fountain Nozzle Combo

Brass Fountain Nozzle Spray Head
Brass Fountain Sprinkler Head

Water Fountain Spray Head Set
Water Fountain Spray Head Set


Water Tub Garden Fountains And Decorations

Add some uniqueness to your pond! You might like to think about adding some special decorative fountains to your tub pond. Of course these are not necessary and a certainly a personal choice.

But there are some seriously cute and also practical ideas for pond decorations. Below are pictured a few of my favorites.

Floating lights can look so stunning, even in a small water garden. Check out the large range available. You can find all sorts of decorative pieces for a garden pond. So, why not let your imagination run wild!

In the photo on the right, you can see this gorgeous set of columns which can be arranged in many different combinations for a very interesting and relaxing display. Molded from actual rocks, the realism of these columns is fantastic. This water feature is 20 inch tall and 8 x 9 inches at base.

Solar Floating LED light
Waterproof Solar Floating LED Lotus Color-changing Light

Foaming Globe Garden Ornament
Foaming Globe Garden Ornament

Bubbling Water Feature
Basalt Rock Bubbling Water Feature


More Water Garden Decoration Ideas

Show Your Style! Depending on the size of your pond, there are many decorative features you can consider. Here are some more ideas:

Floating Solar Frog Light for Ponds
Floating Solar Frog Light for Water Gardens

Turtles on a Log Solar-Powered LED Light
Turtles on a Log Solar-Powered Outdoor LED Light


270 Gallon Pond Kit with Lighting
Koolscapes 270 Gallon Pond Kit with Lighting

Floating Lily Solar Fountain
Solar Aquatic Range Floating Lily Solar Fountain


Water Garden Dechlorination Filter

Rainshow’r GG-2010 Water Garden Filter System

Rainshow'r GG-2010 Water Garden Filter SystemBy attaching Rainshow’r Water Garden Filter System to your garden hose, your pond will be filled with mostly dechlorinated water, as the Gard’n Gro takes out more that 85% of chlorine.

This eliminates the trouble and mess from adding tablets every time you need to top up your pond, and will keep your plants and fish (if you have any) safe and promotes their growth

This filer system has replaceable cartridge filters and is totally non-toxic. It process a minimum of 20,000 gallons of water.

Test Your Pond Regularly

Buy A Good Quality Water Testing Kit

Pond Test StripsTetraPond 5 in 1 Pond Test Strips, 50 strips is a quality pack of 5 in 1 Pond Test Strips.

You need to keep an eye on the water quality of your pond, by checking it regularly These strips are very convenient and thorough. They will test for nitrate, nitrite, GH, KH, and pH, all on one test strip.

These types of test strips are really very easy to use. The reaction will stop in only 60 seconds and this stops any false higher readings.

Add Some Water Plants To Your Pond

Brighten up your pond with glorious color

Water Lily for Water Garden

Adding water plants to your small water garden will head off algae problems later on. Choose as large a variety of plants as the size of your tub water garden allows. Here are some suggestions

  • One or two clumps or reeds. Horsetail reeds or miniature cattails are good for this size pond
  • A floating plant such as a single water hyacinth or water lettuce
  • Add some underwater plants such as creeping jenny
  • Put in a small water lily.

For most of your plants, it’s best to pot them hydroponically to avoid getting dirt in your pond. This means removing any potting soil from your plants and potting them up using a small plastic mesh basket and river rocks. (Note: you can’t do this with water lilies.)

Add Pebbles To Your Water Tub

Exotic Pebbles Add That Final Touch

Pure Water Pebbles Aquarium Gravel TurquoisePebbles are important in a pond. They provide a base for plants to set their roots into and also act as a type of filter. The color you choose can add a nice, individual touch to your mini water garden.

There is a wide range of colors and sizes to choose from. Below is just one example of what you can find in the way of pebbles for your tub garden.

Pure Water Pebbles Aquarium Gravel, 5-Pound, Turquoise

I have chosen this color of pebbles for display here, but of course they come in all sorts of colors and sizes. Click on the image and go check them out.

How To Pot Water Lilies:

Water lilies need some sort of soil-like medium to grow. Pot them in a small bucket or planter that does not have holes in the bottom, then fill the bucket with aquarium-grade sand. Cover the top with a layer of pea gravel, then carefully sink the planter into the pond so all the sand doesn’t rush out.

Water Lily Supplies

Keep Your Beautiful Plants … well … Beautiful!

You will need special food for your water lilies, if you decide to grow those. There are also special tubs to put inside your pond to help keep the lilies growing well and their roots forming correctly.

You can see a small range of supplies available here. The Winchester Gardens Highland Rim Aquatic Fertilizer is a copper free formula. Food is specifically designed for water lillies and is completely safe and non-toxic. It won’t do any harm to other plants or any fish you have in your tub garden.

Pond Plant Lily Fertilizer
AgSafe Aquatic Tabs Water Lily Fertilizer 100 Tabs

Aquatic Fertilizer
Winchester Gardens Highland Rim Aquatic Fertilizer

Lily Planting Tub
Laguna Lily Planting Tub 5 Gallon


Add Some Fish To Your Small Water Garden

Fish help keep your tub water garden’s ecosystem balanced. So, what fish are suitable for a small water garden? Your best bet is to choose a few goldfish. Up to five is usually plenty, depending on the size of your tub. Note that Koi should not be put into a small tub water garden, as they grow fast.

It isn’t necessary to feed your fish since they will happily eat any insects that wander past, but you might like to keep some food on hand for emergencies. Pellet type fish food is better than flake fish food for ponds, as it makes less of a mess in the pond.

TIP – Before Buying Water Plants and Fish:

De-chlorinate any water used to fill your garden pond. Chlorine isn’t good for plants and will also kill your fish. Use a special filter on your hose when you fill the pond. Then, check the hardness, pH, etc. of your pond with the appropriate test strips. If it’s outside the safe levels for plants and fish, fix the problems before you buy your finny friends.

Thanks for reading! Did you enjoy having a look at this page? Would you like to leave some feedback, or just make a suggestion? I’m always glad to hear what more you’d like to see here! Please leave your comments below.


  1. Helen Smith September 18, 2016
  2. Lorraine March 26, 2017
  3. David June 19, 2017
  4. Tom Rice June 26, 2017
  5. Koibids February 26, 2018
  6. Abraham Johnson January 30, 2020

Add Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.