Repeat Business – Formal Turtle and Koi Pond

Published on August 29, 2023

Second time around for formal turtle and koi pond

Formal turtle and koi pond
Recently bought a new home? Time to get a new pond!

It’s not often that you get a chance to design more than one formal turtle and koi pond for a customer. I’ve been fortunate enough to have that happen a handful of times. The client will move, or in one instance, just jump from one general contractor to another.

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This last pond was almost two years in the making. The clients sold their dream house only to build another larger dream home. This time in a more rural area without a homeowner’s association. I’ve had their fish and turtles in quarantine for the entire time, and it’s time to take them back. Woo hoo!

Revisiting Paradise

pond construted with shotcrete and bond coat then Polyurea
Shotcrete (top) is coated with Bond coat and ready for Polyurea. Polyurea is complete, with extra poly on spring returns to be trimmed as necessary.

Their previous pond was a 7,500-gallon formal entry pond with large steps through the pond leading to the front door. Pictures can be found in two articles: (“Hold the Shotcrete”) and “Finishing up the Formal Pond”) . The new pond is to be more of a garden setting. It holds about 10,000 gallons of water with a separate habitat for the turtles. In the previous pond they shared the koi pond with the fish. The backyard is large, with the house surrounding the pond, patio, outdoor kitchen and pool. Waterfalls were not an option because the pond is surrounded by glass on both sides of the house. No one wants to look at the back of a waterfall. The plan was to build low, spring-like spills between the pond and the house. Water sources are slightly hidden by the landscape.

The equipment area is about 300 feet away on the west side of the house in an area shared by the pool equipment. It’s not quite enough space, but better than most I get to deal with. The two Aqua-Niche in-pond, shelf-mounted skimmers and a midwater drain flow to a Wave 1 ¼-Hp Wlim pump at about 7,000 gph. This water is sent through a Wlim EZR up-flow sand and gravel filter and flows back to the pond through a 4-inch line, which is split into four 2-inch returns at the head of each spring return with an additional valved 2 inch as a bypass in case the water flow needs to be reduced to the returns.

Three of my 4-by-3 vertical pond return drains are spaced along the floor, with those three 4-inch lines flowing to a radial separator of my own design. I would usually use a Wlim Wave 48 tank for this, but the pool plumbing went right under one edge of where that tank needed to go. The Wave 48 was too deep, so I used a shorter 300-gallon water tank that would fit in the space. The tank is mounted upside down, placing the cone-shaped top at the bottom. The existing tank top was removed and sealed with a circular piece of PVC cut to fit. The bottom of the tank is now the top. It was cut open a couple of inches in from the edge, leaving a 2-inch return for strength.

Creative License

My first choice for gravity flow returns to the vertical pond return drains would normally be an airlift inside an aerated biofilter for maximum dissolved oxygen content, but there wasn’t enough room for a 3-foot diameter tank buried in the ground. This led me to using a shower filter of my own design. The bottom of the shower filter collection tank is slightly below water level, preventing any burping that occurs when water is returning to a pond from above water level. In gravity-flow tanks above water level, the returning water flow will draw air with it, causing burping and bubbling in the pond unless you install an air purge chamber to allow the air to escape first. Slightly submerging the lower catch basin solves the problem without needing the purge chamber because the tank becomes the purge chamber.

The shower is fed by a Wlim Wave 1 ½-Hp pump. Three 4-inch outlets in the bottom of the tank lead back to the pond. Each of these 4-inch lines are split just before an individual bottom drain into one 3-inch for the vertical return and two 1 ½-inch side returns near the floor, for a total of six side returns.

formal turtle and koi pond construction photos
The final edge dimension (far left) is determined by batter board. The plumbing trench (middle left) has seven 4″ lines, three 2.5″ lines and three ¾” lines. In-pond plumbing (middle right) leads to VPR drains. Three 4″ return lines (far right) lead from shower filter to VPR returns and 1.5″ return lines.

Weathering the Heat

Once the shotcrete was completed and the surface was parged with a BondKote. Paul Parszik of Artisan Aquatics came in to apply the polyurea. It was a brutal 112 degrees every day that week, so a large cooler was attached to one end of the protective tent. But it was still rough!

Monte Malloy’s crew at M&M Masonry rocked the edge and created the return spills all in that same temperature range. Some sections of black Mexican river pebble were added to the edge to blend in with the pebble being used in the landscape. This helped integrate the edge with the surrounding surfaces.

Three Medo 45-lpm air pumps on a timer power the aerator rings on the drain covers. I’ve opted to use multiple smaller pumps instead of one larger air pump with valves to balance them. In the past, it has been a little bit of a challenge to keep them balanced without constant adjustment. I’ve also started using inline check valves to prevent water from migrating up the line under the pond when the pumps are off. The 87-watt LWS Flow-free UV light is mounted in the center of the EZR up-flow sand and gravel filter as a downflow unit, eliminating the need to mount it externally.

Time for fish! They’re finally out of quarantine after almost two years in my 1,500-gallon quarantine tank. I think they’re actually bigger after being fed Kenzen all that time!  

Kent Wallace is president of Living Water Solutions, located in Las Vegas, Nevada.

1 thought on “Repeat Business – Formal Turtle and Koi Pond”

  1. Would love to see more of the finished project, Kent! Show the fish/turtles enjoying their new homes. Incredible job.

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