Contractor’s Corner | Mask the Mechanics to Create a Seamless View of Your Waterscape

By Craig McBride

Published on July 5, 2017

pondless waterfall
Hiding the “goods” with this pondless waterfall feature installation.

In many of my installations I look for ways to hide the components out of view. Not only does this create a better work of art, allowing your eye to focus on the movement of the life that has been created, but by doing this, it also allows you to escape into each corner of the waterfalls that flows over each stone and the nature that surrounds it.

Commonly there are pump vaults, filter falls, skimmers and electrical items that are left in sight, obstructing the seamless view of the landscape you just created. Sometimes this requires us to think outside the box and recreate the layout of the standard cookie-cutter water feature installation.

Pondless Waterfall with Hidden Pump Vault

For this project, I was able to hide the pump vault by arranging the layout so that the vault itself was placed off to the side and using additional Aqua Blocks to extend the distance of the water return, allowing us to place the stone work and plants around the access to the pump vault lid. Also, this permitted us to isolate the pondless catchment, or gravel area, from the pump vault by placing extra liner over the top of the pondless Aqua Block basin, leaving only the pondless catchment and pump vault lid access uncovered.

aqua blocks
Hiding the pump vault by arranging the layout, so that the vault itself was placed off to the side and using additional Aqua Blocks to extend the distance of the water return

I used pressure-treated lumber to create what looked like low-profile planter boxes to help frame out the different areas. Once we had a layout, we built the waterfall over a portion of the pondless basin Aqua Blocks, reducing the excess amount of gravel usually visible on a traditional pondless waterfall build. Finally, I placed a mugo pine in front of the pump vault lid. This is a common plant of choice for me, because it is evergreen and can be groomed into any shape over time. I chose to use two pieces of slate cut in a way to be easily removable for maintenance.

Hidden Skimmer Openings

Skimmer openings can be hard to hide and can become a concern when your customer is evaluating the look of their newly built pond. Some manufactures offer skimmers with extended inlets to help set back the skimmer from the pond. This only helps to hide the cover to the skimmer, but you’re still left with the skimmer mouth to try to hide.

I have had success using natural stones with a hole cut in the center a little smaller than the opening to conceal the plastic opening. I adhered it using black rock foam.

On some projects, the customer is concerned with seeing the mechanical components when building a pond, such as a skimmer or filter fall box. I had this concern come up with a build earlier this year. The customer wanted to look at her pond without seeing the opening to the skimmer, while also having a low-maintenance filter system while in use while she was away.

pond skimmers
How to hide the goods? Placed a skimmer on the edge of a shallow area, with the mouth of the skimmer facing away from the pond.

I was able to design a system with an intake bay concealing the pump from the elements. Moreover, the pump only needed to be serviced about once a year. With the area of the intake bay like a cove, I placed the skimmer on the edge of the shallow area, with the mouth of the skimmer facing away from the pond so that it would skim the water that was in the intake bay whenever it was desired. I also added surface jets to help push surface debris toward the skimmer when it operates.

As in most things that are customized, they require more time and money. This type of craftsmanship will cost more in materials, additional downtime and construction time. This project would normally take only two days to create, but it took us four days, nearly doubling the price for the customer. However, “Money well spent” were the customer’s words.

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Designer: Craig McBride

Installation:  All Aquatics

Location: Dallas, Tex. 

Contact Info:  469/400-4769

Size: 3,000 gal.   


  • Aquascape materials

Completion time:  4 days 

Crew size: 3

Project cost: $20,000



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