Open-Pond Surgery

By Eric Twigg

Published on September 30, 2016

Before first consultation meeting, this is how the pond looked.

We have worked on ponds all over the country, from the East Coast to the West Coast, and all the way down to Las Cruces, New Mexico. At the moment, we’re in Springtown, Pennsylvania, helping the Fitz’s Fish Ponds crew on a massive project. Some of our favorite builds are only a few miles away.

When I ponder our favorite builds, I often think of “retros” — not tearing the pond out, but just making the existing one work correctly. It feels great afterward — almost like a surgeon must feel after completing open-heart surgery. Or in this case, open-pond surgery.

Pond is cleaned and all the old rock has been taken out and thrown away.

Allow me to explain. Sometime in late March, we got a phone call from a client who lives about two hours away from our headquarters. He said he had a pond problem. His 6,000-to-7,000-gallon pond had been cleaned and serviced yearly with regular maintenance, but the water wasn’t clear, and his landscaper was done with it. After a referral from the Kloubec Koi Farm and a few phone meetings, it was time to go see the pond.

When we finally descended on the rather stinky pond, it was black with a few shades of green. You couldn’t even see the fish. After talking to the client, clearing up some basics and discussing some solutions with a few pictures, he became excited. “So you think you can get my pond this clear?” he asked. No problem! Our solution consisted of an Ultima II bead filter, two Sequence external pumps, a Helix skimmer and an undergravel filtration system (UGF), topped off with a UV system.

So, how was this related to heart surgery? To a doctor, it’s probably not. But keeping with the theme, the previous “heart” of the pond wasn’t keeping the pond alive with only two skimmers and three submersibles. A lot was missing from this picture — for starters, oxygen, filtration and good bacteria. Water movement and turnover alone was not enough.

The UGF,  aerator are installed, rock is starting to be put over the top of the grid.
The UGF,  aerator are installed, rock is starting to be put over the top of the grid.

The whole project and process took about a week. The sharp, pointy rocks in the bottom of the pond, which ranged from 3 to 8 inches thick in various spots, were taken out after it was discovered that they had poked through the liner. After vacuuming and scrubbing, it was time to place the undergravel grid and cover it with a consistent 6 inches of ¾-inch smooth. round river rock. Good luck putting a hole through that liner!

In a dead spot of the pond, the aerator was incorporated into the UGF with a 9-inch air disc, flush with the gravel and completely out of sight. Air was supplied with flexible PEX piping underneath the gravel to the aerator, because we didn’t want to risk the air line being crushed with the softer hose. Next, the Helix skimmer went in to catch all the leaves and debris.

This is the pond 3 months later!!

We were just finishing up when the clients came home from out of town. They were ecstatic, except for one thing — the client’s wife did not like the Ultima filter sticking out of the ground like an eyesore. So, we took some corrugated tile and dug it into the ground with about 2 feet of rock at the bottom, burying it down to the in/out fittings. The problem was solved.

It’s been almost four months now since we finished this project, and the water is still crystal clear. One of the client’s favorite pastimes is sitting by the pond and feeding the fish with his granddaughter.

So, next time you are building a pond or thinking about upgrades, just think about what you need to survive — lungs (aerator), heart (pumps), immune system (UV system and beneficial bacteria) and kidneys (filtration, Ultima II, UGF). It’s kind of like being a doctor. Well, maybe not quite. But regardless, everyone knows you need these important, basic things to survive healthily.



Contractors Corner

Contractors - Tell us Your Story!

Submit a 1,000 to 1,200 word article on a recent pond installation or technology application, along with three photos, and enter to win a spot in Contractor’s Corner spotlight on Our Contractor’s Corner sponsor, Pondliner, will review all case studies submitted for each quarter and will pick the best one to feature on’s home page. The winner will also receive $250 worth of Pondliner products. A few rules apply. You must be a professional pond installer in order to write an article. Please provide the name of your company too.

Click here for more information.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *



Designer: Eric Twigg

Installation: Aquatic Sphere Construction & Design

Location: Williamsburg, Iowa

Contact Info:  515-391-1444

Size: 6,000 to 7,000 gallons


  • Two Sequence external pumps
  • An Ultima II bead filter
  • A custom undergravel filtration system,
  • A UV system
  • A Helix skimmer

Completion time:  5 Days

Crew size: 2-man crew

Project cost: $8,000 – $10,000



gallery spotlight

More Articles

More Articles

It’s a Pump Canyon! It’s a Basin! It’s a Canyon Matrix!

Blue Thumb's newest product development changes everything for DIYers and contractors alike. The ...

Dream Pond Renovation for POND Trade Publisher

From left to right: Omar Aguilar, Edi Aguilar, George Janowiak, Pablo Gonzales and ...

Laura Reale Announces Rebranding of Pondtent to BlueGreen Marketing

Laura Reale is thrilled to announce the rebranding of her pond marketing company, ...

The Atlantic-Oase Annual Conference is Moving to Denver, Colorado!

The Atlantic-Oase Professional Conference is back for its eighth consecutive year! This year ...
Scroll to Top