Pond Styles: Stone Design Step-By-Step

Water garden and homemade pond features bring style and a sense of tranquility to your surroundings, adding a different and attractive element to your gardening and outdoor landscape. Create a habitat for exotic fresh water fish or simply expand your gardening horizons with flora made possible by a pond.

Planning Your Pond

The first step in pond construction is to determine the its location. Aesthetically speaking, it’s a good idea to design a pond that will blend in nicely with your landscape, giving it a natural look. Next, decide what size water pond you want. If there is a natural slope to your land, you might consider a stream or a waterfall. Spend some time making sketches, comparing sizes and shapes before you start to dig. Another trick is to use a garden hose as a marker. Lay it out in the area designated for the pond, trying out different curves and shapes. Experiment until you find the right design.

Materials You'll Need:

For the excavation:

  • Spray paint (to mark your area)
  • Shovel
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Pickaxe
  • Level
  • Mallet (to flatten out unwanted bumps)

Liner: For the pond, you can choose to buy a pre-molded pond liner, but this will limit its size and shape. A better option is a flexible rubber pond liner that is safe for fish and has a good warranty. Also needed is flexible PVC pipe, a knife or saw to cut it, a large wrench, underlay for the liner to protect it from rocks and sharp edges, filters, a pump (to channel water from the lower pool to the higher one), and, of course, a selection of stones. If you build a still pond, one filter will suffice, but if you plan on running a stream or a waterfall, you’ll need one filter for the top pool and a second for the lower pool. Lastly, you’ll need aquatic plants, fish, and life-giving bacteria after the pond is built.


  1. Clear away any brush, sod, or other debris from the area.
  2. With the spray paint, mark off the area for the pond.
  3. Determine the layout of the filters. The water will flow from the top filter down the stream or waterfall. The bottom filter should be placed the greatest possible distance from the top filter. Try to avoid creating any areas of the pond that don’t circulate water.
  4. Connect the two filters with the flexible PVC and conceal it in a shallow trench.  
  5. Dig the pond. Depth should be determined by the type of fish and plants you plan to keep, from 18 inches as much as 5 feet for Koi,which need to be able to swim vertically. It doesn’t have to be perfectly uniform. Different levels will give it a natural look and feel as well as create deeper areas for the fish.
  6. Set the bottom filter in place at the far edge of the pond, and secure the top filter into place with a shelf of excavated dirt and stone to stabilize it.
  7. Place the underlay in the pond over the filters, followed by the pond liner. After the stone is set, make any necessary adjustments to accommodate the filters.  
  8. Set the stone. You want an assortment of small pebbles, medium and large sized stones. Again, experiment with different arrangements. If you have a waterfall, you may want to place jagged rocks up higher than the smooth ones to give the effect of tumbled stone. Make caves so fish can avoid predators. This is your chance to be creative with your pond. The stones will keep the liner in place, protect it from UV rays, and provide surfaces for algae and bacteria to flourish which will give your pond a natural look. Apply small pebbles or gravel last.

Now your pond is ready to be filled. It may take a week or two to filter out any excess dirt and to give the organisms time to grow. Once it does, enjoy your work and the new tranquil setting.