Pond Maintenance for Shaquille O’Neal

Published on August 30, 2021

The Superman logo built into the feature screams, “Shaquille O’Neal.”

It’s hard to believe that an entire year has gone by since a handful of Certified Aquascape Contractors had the privilege of building basketball Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal a one-of-a-kind pond and waterfall system at his home in McDonough, Georgia.

>> View John Magyar’s Maintenance list for SHAQ’s pond

Even though this beast of a project only took four days to complete, it is completely loaded with all the bells and whistles, including a 70-foot stream flowing away from the main house over monstrous boulders and under a bridge before crashing into a 22-by-50-foot Aquascape ecosystem pond. The pond was also equipped with a constructed wetland filtration system, intake bay and a gas fire pit that is actually built directly into the pond itself. The main viewing area for the pond was provided by Pete Nelson of Animal Planet’s Treehouse Masters in the form of a massive custom-designed and built treehouse.

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The entire project required 85 tons of moss rock and 35 tons of river rock. The 3-foot-deep pond pushes 25,000 gallons of water per hour. Standout features of the pond include a 25-inch architectural block wall with a gas fire pit and three custom stacked-slate sphere fountains flowing into the waterfalls and stream. One of the fountains sports a Superman symbol — one of O’Neal’s many monikers — to clearly distinguish the property as the Shaq family compound.

After the build, the system had to be tweaked just like any other newly installed feature. It had to be drained and flushed again after the initial reveal in order to remove more of that gorgeous Georgia red clay that stuck to the rocks during the installation process. We reduced the flow of the jets and in the bog from 9 PL pumps to 5 PL pumps. This was done in order to reduce evaporation rates on the system. 

John Magyar, owner of Universal Aquatics in Lawrenceville, Georgia, helps perform routine maintenance for Shaquille O’Neal’s pond.

We continue to provide maintenance for Shaq’s pond on a weekly basis. Maintenance for the system is no different than any other system we care for — there’s just more of it!

Within a few months after installation, the system started to develop an algae bloom in the waterfall, which is right on point with water features in the Atlanta area. They don’t call it Hotlanta for nothing! 

The 12 koi were added a month after the pond was up and running, and the algae bloom occurred a few months later in the stream section. For most of the summer last year, the algae were growing quite well in the shallow sections of the stream and waterfall sections.

When summer turned to autumn and the leaves began to fall over Shaq’s water feature last year, the system performed beautifully. The majority of the leaf debris travelled to the intake bay, where it was easily collected with a net. The flow from the waterfall and the directional spray jets guided most of the leaves where they needed to go. Some of the debris did end up in a few pockets in the pond, but it was easily collected with nets. 

During the fall and winter months, most of the algae in the feature largely disappeared. Again, that’s common for ponds in the Atlanta area. 

When early spring rolled around, we did see a hefty algae bloom, which is typical for essentially every feature we service. We were able to manage it with the IonGen and low amounts of algaecide.

Pitcher plants hug the water’s edge while debris is removed from the pond.

Surprisingly, although the lotus, umbrella plant and one waterlily did return this year, most of the others unfortunately did not.

As of now, we are only planning on adding some more aquatic plants to the feature to make up for the ones that never came back from last year. We will be adding an assortment of plants to not only help soften the edges, but also to help with algae control. 

One year later, the pond is going strong. The Universal Aquatics team is proud to have been a part of the project, and it is a joy to be able to visit and enjoy the system on a routine basis. 

The first year was a success, so we’ll see what year two brings!

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