How–to Disappearing Fountain Installation

Published on July 30, 2009


A Disappearing Fountain is a great way to add the sound and movement of water to your garden. Water is pumped from a hidden reservoir buried in the ground through the fountain piece and then seemingly disappears into the ground.

Using a pre-molded Reservoir, (our NWG unit is shown – installation may vary depending on the reservoir you use; check the manufactures instructions), installing a Disappearing Fountain is easier than ever. Disappearing Fountains are safe for young children because there is no open water. They provide water to pets and wildlife. Birds often visit Disappearing Fountains for a drink of water; and the millstone fountain makes a great birdbath.


Disappearing Fountains can be created from nearly anything. Traditional choices are decorative pots, statues, fountains or waterfalls. We even created a Disappearing Fountain from a trashcan just to prove our point.

Pot or Piece Choices

Granite and Basalt pieces will last forever. Mexican Urns are unglazed, come in earth tones, and have a 1-5 year life expectancy. Glazed Pots and Cast Stone Statuary come in numerous sizes and shapes, in a wide range of colors and have a 20+ year life expectancy.

Installation Directions:

1.Dig your hole about 14? deep, (or the depth recommended by the basin manufacturer you choose) and fill the bottom with 1? of sand. Note – Before you start digging check for buried utilities, cables, and sprinkler systems.

2.Place the reservoir in the excavation and level.

3.Backfill soil around the box packing in firmly.

4.Cut a 1 ½´ x 2´ piece from the corner of one of the grates. This becomes the trapdoor for pump maintenance.

5.Place the cinder blocks in the box; one in each corner and one bridging the adjoining pieces of grating (including the trap door).

6.Place 2-3 cinder blocks (depending on the piece) in the middle. For light pieces place the grating on top of the cinder blocks. Heavy pieces require several cinder blocks and must sit directly on the blocks with the grate cut away to go around the piece.

7.Place the mesh over the grating; cut a hole in the mesh for the tubing.

8.Connect the tubing to the piece (leave a fairly long piece of tubing exiting the fountain).

9.Pots that hold a large volume of water will need a check valve or stand pipe connected to the tubing inside the piece to prevent the water from flowing out when the pump is turned off.

10.Place the pump inside the box. We recommend using a Cal Screen on the intake of the pump to protect the intake of the pump.

11.Thread the tubing through the cracks of the grating and slowly lower the piece into place. Once in place, level the pot using shims.

12.Connect the tubing to the pump and clamp.

13.Put the decorative topping around the piece on top of the grating and mesh.

14.Turn on pump and enjoy.

Choose the Right Reservoir

Although you may be tempted to opt for a smaller reservoir due to space, labor and cost considerations there are some good reasons to go with a larger reservoir.

1. The larger the reservoir the greater volume of water it can hold and the less often you need to re-fill it.

2. Tall pieces 4´ or higher need a bigger box, water droplets have farther to fall and thus tend to splash out of the reservoir boundaries.

3. Larger reservoirs give you the opportunity to add additional pieces to your fountain display.

4. Larger reservoirs allow for a greater water flow creating more water “music.”

Instillation Tip

We’ve learned this the hard way; always connect the tubing to the piece and then to the pump not the other way around. We also recommend installing a valve on all pumps to control the flow of water coming out of the piece to match your expectations.

Care of Your Disappearing Fountain

The reservoir must be kept filled with water and can be accomplished in several ways:

1. Fill the fountain as needed with a garden hose.

2. Site the fountain near an irrigation head, so the sprinkler keeps the reservoir filled. Nelson’s does not recommend using automatic fill devices because they frequently “stick” and don’t shut off.

The fountain piece will need to be scrubbed occasionally to remove algae and scale. Fountec (safe for birds and pets) can be used to control algae growth but must be added every week. Use Protec to minimize hard water stains (especially on dark fountains or fountains close to windows) on a monthly basis. Note: Some folks prefer the natural patina of algae on the pieces, in which case no scrubbing, or Fountec, is necessary.

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