Simple barrel upflow filters can greatly improve water quality in your pond, and are relatively inexpensive to build. However, there is no "one size fits all" filter solution. The size of the filter barrel, density of the filter material, and the strength of the water pump must suit the size of the pond. Experts at aquarium and garden supply stores can often help to identify the appropriate components for your system. Consult with them before beginning construction.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Challenging
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Things you need
- 55-gallon plastic barrel
- 2 Concrete blocks
- Hole saw, 2-inch diameter
- Electric drill
- Shower drain, 2-inch diameter
- 2 Bulkhead fittings, 2-inch diameter
- Bulkhead to PVC fittings (two to four, depending on fitting design)
- PVC pipe, 2-inch diameter at least 4 feet
- 4 PVC elbows, 2-inch diameter
- PVC T fitting, 2-inch diameter
- Knife valve (to fit 2-inch diameter pipe)
- 2 Matala filter rounds
- Bird netting (or other mesh netting)
- Plastic lighting cover grate
- PVC Saw
- PVC Glue
- Water pump
- Flexible tubing
Drill a 2-inch diameter hole in a flat area on the bottom of the barrel at or near the centre. Insert the male piece of the shower valve through the hole (from the inside), turn the barrel upside down, and screw on the flange on the outside.
Connect an elbow fitting to the outside of the shower valve using a short length of PVC pipe. Test fit these parts---the entire drain should extend less than 8 inches below the barrel. Glue these pieces in place and allow to dry.
Connect the knife valve to the elbow on the drain, using a short length of PVC pipe. Test fit these parts---the knife valve should be positioned near (or past) the edge of the barrel for easy access. Glue these pieces in place and allow them to dry.
Position the two concrete blocks on the ground with approximately 8 inches between them (along their length). Turn the barrel upright and place it on the concrete blocks---situate the drain between the blocks.
Drill a hole in the side of the barrel about an inch above the bottom. Insert a bulkhead fitting through the hole, according to the supplier's directions. Use flexible tubing to connect the pump to the outside of this fitting when you install the filter.
Connect a short length of PVC pipe to the inside of the bulkhead fitting, using adaptors and PVC glue as needed---the PVC pipe should extend to within approximately 2 inches of the barrel centre. Connect and glue the PVC T fitting to the end of the pipe at the barrel centre. Allow glue to dry.
Connect an elbow to each side of the T fitting using two short pieces of PVC pipe. Test fit these pieces---the elbows should extend nearly to the edges of the barrel, and should be pointed horizontally in opposite directions. Glue these pieces together and allow to dry.
Add two Matala filter rounds to the barrel, placing them on top of the inflow pipe. Use a small piece of PVC pipe to support the bottom of the inflow pipe if necessary.
Unfold and wad up the bird netting and add it to the barrel. The netting should fill the barrel to within a foot of the top.
Cut or break the plastic lighting cover grate to fit the inside diameter of the barrel. The size doesn't have to be perfect---the grating will simply hold the netting in place. Place the grate in the barrel on top of the bird netting.
Drill a hole in the side of the barrel a foot or less below the rim. Insert a bulkhead fitting through the hole, according to the supplier's directions.
Connect a short length of PVC pipe to the inside of the bulkhead fitting, using adaptors and PVC glue as needed---the PVC pipe should extend to within approximately 2 inches of the barrel centre. Connect and glue an elbow fitting to the end of the pipe at the barrel centre, with the open end facing up. Allow glue to dry.
Connect PVC pipe or flexible tubing to the outside of the bulkhead fitting, using adaptors and PVC glue as needed---this pipe will return water to the pond by gravity feed.
Connect the pump, allow the filter to fill, and experiment to find optimal overflow drain placement.
Overflow (Return) Drain Installation
Tips and warnings
- Draw out plans for your filter before beginning construction---show these plans to an expert at an aquarium store for help with pump (and other component) selection.
- Never run the water pump dry!
- Be sure the lower drain valve is closed before you attempt to fill the filter!
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