Pro Pond Builder Crafts an Oasis of his Own

By Bobby Brown

Published on September 1, 2016

45 mjl rubber line
The pond is lined with 45 mil. epdm rubber liner.

When I founded Dominion Ponds, my wife and I were living in a two-bedroom apartment just outside the hustle and bustle of Washington, D.C. In December 2015, we moved 20 miles west to Reston, Virginia. Reston has an interesting history, being one of the first planned communities with homes and business centers nestled around its five man-made lakes. One of the things we were most excited about our new home was the opportunity to design our own backyard oasis.

I had made dozens upon dozens of sketches and filtration diagrams for different pond designs. The designs varied from formal, raised-bed ponds with ornamental scuppers to natural, rocked ponds with multiple waterfalls. The design we selected was an advanced ecosystem design using an undergravel suction grid and Helix Life Support filtration products. One of the things I have always liked about the undergravel design is its rustic, natural look — compared to a dedicated, koi-pond design — while still providing massive amounts of filtration for high fish loads. The pond was sized at 15-by-16 feet and 4 feet deep and would be fed from a pair of 20-foot streams with multiple waterfalls.

undergravel suction grid
Most of the stream boulders are set. Many of the larger stones weighed more than 2,000 lbs.

Our backyard is mostly wooded, so before construction, several large white oaks had to be taken down to clear a site for the pond. We are close to Great Falls Park, which features an amazing series of rapids and waterfalls. When it came to choosing rock for the project, we used boulders from a quarry near the park to line the inside of the pond and to use as coping stones. Larger boulders from Pennsylvania were used to build the streams and waterfalls. We also visited some of the local trails and parks for inspiration.

We have had very positive results with the Helix Life Support product line in the past, so when it came time to design a filtration system for our personal pond, we decided to use just about everything they offer. We installed the Helix pond skimmer, Bio-Mechanical waterfall filter, Moving Bed waterfall filter and two external pumps. The undergravel grid is composed of a 3-inch PVC spine with 2-inch laterals pulling water equally across the entire pond floor. There are also UV clarifiers and two aeration systems that feed the Moving Bed filter and air diffusers in the pond.

When it was time for landscaping and plant design, I reached out to my friend Ian McKeown for advice. Ian is a horticulturist and has done award-winning work in landscape design. He helped us choose a variety of plants that would both blend in with the environment and provide a color palette we preferred. There are a mix of junipers, hostas, Persicaria, sedum and sweet flag, and aquatic plants such as waterlilies and irises. We are looking forward to watching the plants bloom throughout the seasons and fill in over the coming years.

aquatic plants
The addition of plants really naturalized this feature.

We started adding koi to the pond and have had no issues with water quality. Coming home and sitting by the pond is awesome, especially at night. Our neighbors love bringing their children by to see the fish. It has been a great experience in all, and I am really pleased with the finished product.




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Designer: Bobby Brown, owner of Dominion Ponds

Installation: Dominion Ponds

Location: Reston, Virginia

Contact Info:

Size: 15 x 16 pond with two 20-foot streams


  • Helix Life Support Filtration

Completion time:  2 1/2 weeks

Crew size: 2-man crew

Project cost: $1.2 million



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