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What’s the Difference Between a Decorative Pond and a Large Pond or Lake? – Water Garden & Feature Q & A


The Difference: Decorative Ponds • Water Gardens • Water Features • Ponds • Lakes:

Water Gardens & Features Q & A

Q: What’s the difference between a decorative pond and a large pond or lake? – Laura in Maryland

A: A pond is a pond, right? Maybe not. Decorative ponds and large ponds or lakes do share several similarities. They’re both bodies of water, habitats for fish and wildlife, and they both require upkeep to maintain their pristine beauty. But that’s where their similarities end. Upon closer look, decorative ponds and large ponds or lakes differ quite a bit.

Size Matters

A decorative pond fits nicely in a back yard – a suburban back yard, that is. Rarely larger than a 1/8th acre, the decorative pond provides homeowners with a tranquil retreat where they can tend their aquatic plants, care for their fish and relax with a cold drink in hand. They are also usually no more than a few feet in depth.

A large pond or lake, on the other hand, typically takes up an acre or more of space. Rather than decorating a back yard, a lake is often part of a larger landscape and serves some sort of function, whether it be a water element on a golf course, a holding pond for a watershed or a stocked fishing spot. Depths can be 10’ or deeper.

Planned Inhabitants

Though wildlife is drawn to decorative ponds, the majority of the critters living there are introduced into the environment. Pond owners fill their features with koi, goldfish, shubunkin and oranda – fish not typically found in the wild in the United States – and they care for them as they would a pet, feeding them and keeping them healthy.

Many decorative ponds also feature potted and planted aquatic plants, like water lilies, bog plants or lotus. Pond owners sculpt and develop their waterscapes with plants, décor and fountains just as they would develop their landscapes.

A large pond or lake is a different story. It’s typically stocked with game fish like bass, catfish or trout, and although lake owners can feed the fish and provide habitats for them, the fish can fend for themselves. Plants and landscaping surrounding a large pond or lake also tend to require minimal human intervention – other than controlling invasive weeds or rampant algae blooms.

Clean, Oxygenated Water

Because they’re closed systems, decorative ponds require filtration systems to keep the water clean. As biological pollutants, like plant matter and fish waste break down, the mechanical and biological filtration systems remove the pollutants to create an ideal environment for aquatic life.

Many lakes or large ponds, however, are open systems fed by steams or springs that continually refresh the water. The water quality self-regulates, thanks to wild aquatic plants that naturally remove pollutants. Plus, the large bodies of water can be too large (and expensive) to mechanically filter.

Both decorative ponds and large ponds or lakes can benefit from aeration systems that pump oxygen into the water, but the methods differ. Decorative ponds can be aerated with air stones or small diffusers, like the KoiAir Aeration System. Larger ponds or lakes can be aerated with fountain aerators, high volume surface aerators, or larger underwater diffuser systems like the Airmax Aeration System.

POND TALK: What are some other differences between decorative ponds and lakes?

2 Responses

  1. Rose,

    You can have goldfish in really any sized decorative pond. The question really comes done to how many you want to have? I wouldn’t suggest 25 goldfish in a small 100 gallon pond, but a couple goldfish would do just fine. And as you increase the size/filtration of your pond, you can add more fish.

    As for cats, well it depends how tame your cat is. Some cats won’t really bother the fish while others will.

    Hope this helps!

  2. That looks amazing! It puts my garden to shame at the moment, although I am trying! I have just bought a pond water feature and am struggling to even out it together. i never thought about doing something to include birds as that is my other passion, i’m hoping the pond will attract wildlife and birds. This site is inspiring me help the local wildlife and dedicate my garden to creating a healthy habitat. What size pond can you have goldfish and is it a good idea if you have cats?

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