How to make a fish pond from an oak barrel

Updated March 23, 2017

An oak barrel provides a generous foundation for creating a small fish pond. You can place it anywhere in your garden, on a porch, deck or even in a sun room. The oak barrel creates a country styled look that accents any country garden nicely. Oak barrels are durable and can withstand natural weather elements easily. These barrels develop a patina or weathered look over time that adds a more rustic look to the pond.

Position the barrel where it will be used because it will be too heavy for you to move after it is full. Gather the supplies and set them out for easy access.

Clean the barrel completely. If there are remnants of wine or alcohol in the barrel, rinse thoroughly and then allow it to be exposed to the air for up to one week before you add water. Remove the top head metal hoop from the barrel and set it aside --- wedge it off with a screwdriver if needed.

Fold the liner in half and place the middle of the crease in the bottom of the barrel. Pull the liner over the edge. Make sure the liner is free of wrinkles and creases.

Place the breeze block on the bottom of the barrel: this will provide support and structure for the plants. It will also allow the block to provide a solid support for plants.

Turn coffee cans upside down --- these will provide the base for the non-floating plants. Position the selected bog and oxygen plants on the coffee cans. Add floating plants to complete the look.

Begin to fill the barrel with water. Reposition plants if necessary. Add fish and snails if desired.

Re-attach the top head metal hoop over the edge of the liner for support. Use tack nails if necessary to readjust.

Maintain the garden by applying a fresh top layer of water every one to two weeks. Remove scum and dirt build-up as needed.


A pump and filter system is not necessary in the barrel unless a large amount of plants and fish will be inhabiting the barrel. If water has a high chlorine or chemical content, allow it to sit for 48 hours before constructing the pond. This will allow the chlorine to evaporate.


Do not purchase apple snails because they will eat the plants inside of the barrel.

Things You'll Need

  • Half of a 30 gallon oak barrel
  • 1 5x5 foot plastic pond liner
  • 1 breeze block
  • 3 large coffee cans
  • 1 hardy pygmy water lilies
  • Choice of an oxygenating plant such as a milfoil or anacharis
  • Choice of a floating plant such as water lettuce, duckweed or water hyacinth
  • Choice of a bog or heightened plant such as a canna, reed horsetail or cattail---in soil and stone containers for weight.
  • 1 mosquito fish
  • 1 goldfish
  • Flat head screwdriver
  • Head hoop
  • 3 tack nails (optional)
  • Purified non chlorinated water
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