Contractor’s Corner | Next-Level Filtration

By Shawn Cutroni

Published on February 1, 2019

Look at that clear and beautiful water. There is no other filtration for this water feature besides the upflow wetland filter.

When it comes to filtering backyard ponds and water gardens, there are many ways to skin a cat. Everyone has a preference, but we always try and create an ecosystem that harnesses the power of Mother Nature instead of fighting against her. The majority of the time, this means using biological waterfall filters and skimmers. However, when the customer wants the absolute very best water quality possible with the least amount of maintenance, we will always suggest upgrading to a constructed wetland filter.

Budget and space permitting, there is nothing more powerful than a wetland filter. It’s a significant upgrade over even the largest biological waterfall filter in footprint, performance and cost. The water quality and clarity are impeccable! We’re talking read-the-date-on-a-dime-at-the-bottom-of-the-pond good! Above and beyond crystal clear water, it greatly increases your total water surface area in turn, giving your customer more water feature to enjoy. If they have the funds and the space available, it is a no-brainer.

wetland filter
This large double wetland filter is all that is needed to keep this 70 x 80 recreational swimming pond crystal clear.

Get creative. There are many ways to incorporate a wetland into a feature. They can be part of the edge of a pond, where they appear to be just a shelf of the feature and the entire system is below water level. You can use it to start your stream or have them hidden somewhere along the way so nobody even knows it’s there. You can have them slightly elevated on the edge of a pond, acting as a natural spring, or raised higher to create a more dramatic waterfall. We have even used them on the bottom of recreational swimming ponds to act as a jet system to push deeper water up to the surface and improve circulation. The sky and your creativity are the limit to how you can implement these bad Larrys.

A wetland filter cuts down on the homeowner’s overall pond maintenance. They will experience fewer algae blooms and water quality swings, because the ponds act much more stable throughout the season. All this gives the homeowner a much better experience, in turn making you a shining star in your client’s eyes. 

Besides increasing your word-of-mouth advertising, they are also extremely easy for you and your crew to manage during clean-outs. Just unscrew the cap of the snorkel and drop in your clean-out pump and backwash the filter to remove built-up sludge and debris. Without getting too technical, these systems are designed in a way that prevents them from clogging over time and allows sediments and such to settle out on the bottom, where you can easily access and remove them. 

You can see the wetland filter completely rocked in and edged. You cannot tell what it is or how complex it is below the gravel

The average depth of water on top of a wetland filter is 6 to 12 inches and can be heavily planted with sage, rush and other aquatic plants that do a number on keeping things clean. You don’t have to plant them to get result, however, because the bacteria and organisms that live 4 feet of gravel used to construct the filter do 90 percent of the work in terms of filtering. 

These filters do such an amazing job of removing stuff from the water that they even strip the available dissolved oxygen from the pond, so it’s crucial to make sure you add aeration in some form or another back to the pond. We typically do this with waterfalls, but we also are big fans of adding decorative fountains to wetlands. We love to sneak in a spillway bowl or a few stacked slate urns to churn things up and add a vertical element to the feature. Again, get creative and have fun with it!

We even have friends who use their wetland area for aquaponics to grow vegetables. Just be leery of nightshades; they aren’t good for your fish friends.

Don’t just think these are for large-scale projects. We have installed these with the same amazing results on small, 8-by-11 ponds, up huge recreational swimming ponds and inside existing concrete formal features, retention ponds, natural earth bottom ponds and more. 

All in all, we love wetlands and think they can put an already really cool project over the top! Their power, ease of use and flexibility allows them to be installed almost on any project new or existing, making them one of our favorite upsells.

For more info or instructions on how to properly install the snorkel vault, centipede module and Aquablox, or for help sizing a wetland filter to your specific project, you can look to the product manufacturer for guidance. 

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Authors Profile:

• Shawn Cutroni is a combat veteran and Master Certified Aquascape Contractor based in the Greater Boston Area of Massachusetts. His company, New England Aquatic Landscaping, is a full-service water feature company dedicated to transforming lives with water, while hiring veterans in the process.

• They have been transforming backyards all over New England for more than 11 years, designing, building, maintaining, repairing and remodeling all varieties of water features.



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