Above Ground Ponds

There are a few things to consider in building your own above ground ponds.

The first and foremost is to consider that water weighs approximately 10 pounds per gallon.  Once you go above ground level, you will have the force of this water pushing on the sides of your pond.  Those sides must be constructed strongly enough to withstand this force.

I once tried to put together a rather large but very shallow water lily display pond in our nursery.  I thought (wrongly it turns out) that if I stacked only two railroad ties high, the weight of the ties would hold in the water with no further bracking. After all, it was only 12-inches tall -what could go wrong? Wrong answer!  As soon as I started filling the water, it started pushing those railroad ties around like they weren't there. 


I note that the rather flimsy in-ground preformed ponds will not hold their shape if left unbraced above ground.  They can be used but they have to be contained by a strong holding wall.

Otherwise the Same

All other facets of summer pond management are the same.  It doesn't matter whether the pond is above or below the ground, you have to have the proper combinations of plants and water aeration for the size of the pond to keep it algae free and enjoyable.

All of the recommendations on these pages (except below) apply to above ground ponds.

Major Difference

The major difference is in the winter care of the pond.  Because the pond is above ground level, it will likely freeze solid if you live in a cold zone where water freezes. This means that any plants will have to be moved indoors or to a frost free area and fish will certainly have to be wintered safely.

Even hardy water lilies will not take being frozen solid and live.  Note that in nature, the water freezes but not the ground they are in.  The root zone stays relatively frost-free because of the temperature of the ground beneath it.

In practice, hardy lilies can take a "bit" of freezing but not extended nor repeated.  This variability and extended freezing is what happens in above ground ponds.

Hardy oxygenators are also not very impressed by being frozen solid.  In nature, they sink to the bottom of the pond for the winter and overwinter in unfrozen areas.  If you freeze these solid, be prepared to purchase them again next spring. Luckily, they are relatively inexpensive.


Build your containing walls for your pond very well braced and your pond is only limited by your imagination.


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