Mini ponds are movable, easier to care for and less expensive than full-sized ponds. They work as centrepieces for patios and small beds and can be brought indoors during winter months. You can cut your water-gardening teeth on a mini pond before tackling a larger pond, or have several in different spots through your home and garden.
Purchase or repurpose a 30- to 50-gallon container that is either food-grade or pond-safe. Half barrels work well, but should be lined with polythene sheeting or have a waterproof container set inside them so that they don’t leak over time. You may also coat the inside with a pond-safe water sealant. Allow sealants to cure according to package instructions before installing plants, water and fish.
Install small marginal and aquatic plants in pots. Don’t overload the mini pond. Use bricks, stones or overturned planting containers to elevate the pots to the correct depth. Small, free-floating duckweed is beneficial for a small pond, but you may have to scoop out some from time to time because it’s aggressive. Fish nibble on it, it is edible if steamed, and it’s fantastic for the compost pile. Try to keep 40 per cent of the surface water of your pond clear of plant matter.
Fill the mini pond with water and allow the chlorine in the water to volatilise (evaporate) for at least 24 hours. Test the water for proper pH and amend as necessary with water treatments. Tests and treatments are available in garden and pet shops. Add small fish if you want. Goldfish are commonly used, and they’ll fertilise the plants. Limit yourself to a single 1-inch fish per square foot of surface area. If you add too many fish, you will have to install a pump and filter system, and possibly an aerator as well. Purchase these from a shop that sells aquariums and install according to package instructions.
Install the mini pond outdoors in a cool, partially shaded area of your garden or patio. For garden spots, bury the container from halfway to as much as 2 inches below the top of the container to help stabilise pond temperatures. On a patio, surround the mini pond with potted plants for added wind and temperature protection. Store the pond indoors when temperatures drop below what your plants or fish can handle. A mini pond can freeze solid.
Birds don’t like to land on slippery edges next to water too deep for them to wade. If you’re worried about birds getting to your fish, just make sure they don’t have a comfortable place to land. If you want to attract them, provide them with a textured landing surface and a shallow place in the water to play or bathe. Cats are a different matter. Install a mesh screen with openings smaller than a cat’s paw over the surface of the water and secure it to the sides of the pond to keep cats from catching your fish. Make small slits in the mesh and work the leaves and stems of the aquatic plants through. Leave once side free of plants so you can pull the screen aside for maintenance.
Don’t set a mini pond under the edge of nonguttered eaves. Toxins, debris and bird droppings from the roof can wash into your pond and harm the water quality and your fish.