For quite some time, I have failed to understand where the controversy arose between the two major factions within the water feature industry festering over whether to put rock or gravel in the bottom of ponds. At times I am even amazed at how adamantly people will attempt futile arguments over this easily resolved issue. So I wanted to make an attempt to show you how rocks are not the culprit and allow the industry to move forward on more pressing issues rather than squabble and debate over issues that already have solutions.
No matter how attractive or “unnoticeable” manufacturers’ attempt to make their products, few seem to want to look into the bottom of a pond and see a rubber liner! It just doesn’t look natural, and natural appearances, after all, are the single most important issue that allows professional water feature contractors to ultimately generate higher levels of profit for their work. Yes, we need water features to operate in a practical and functional manner, therefore components and equipment are important, but these are not seen or thought of on a day-to-day basis.
Only when filters need cleaning or pumps fail to operate, do most end-users even think about these items. As long as these necessary components are working properly, they are simply forgotten. However, the cosmetic appearance of a water feature is seen and viewed daily. Think about it, once the water feature has been properly installed, all of these necessary, yet unsightly components should be fully hidden from view. The excavation, underlayment, liner, pumps, plumbing, filters, etc. have all been adequately hidden and camouflaged.
Recent contractor surveys from two separate organizations, and the phenomenal success of industry popular educational programs from responsible manufacturers, have clearly shown that end-users will pay substantially more for a truly natural appearing water feature. Not just attractive water features but truly natural appearing ones. It therefore makes perfect sense for contractors to learn to make their designed features appear more naturalistically within the landscape!
Cover up this unnatural liner so that it cannot be seen! One of the easiest and most cost effective methods of hiding liner has been with the use of rock and gravel products. This technique provided the sought after natural effects in the end result.
The rocks and gravel used to hide the liner created spaces between each individual piece of material where dirt and unwanted debris can accumulate while providing difficulty for later removal.
Whether the rocks and gravel are actually causing the problem…but wait a minute. The rocks and gravel are not creating the dirt and debris that sits at the root of this controversy but merely providing a location for the debris to accumulate!
Solve the real problem, “Inadequate filtration and circulation!” This is the real issue no matter what anyone says. “IF” dirt and debris is entering a contained environment and settling to the bottom of a pond, (with or without rocks and gravel), that is simply an issue of inadequate filtration.
As a successful veteran water feature contractor, I have personally installed thousands of water features with rock and gravel bottoms in virtually every geographical region around the globe and they remain crystal clear without the need for frequent and unnecessary clean-outs. The reason for this undisputed success is proper filtration systems where good water circulation and flow rates exist in these gravel bottom ponds…AND they look so natural appearing without seeing all that liner!
Too many times humans tackle problems from the issues created by a situation and not by solving the actual problem. Rocks in a water feature have never been the problem but rather the difficulty in cleaning out excessive debris in a water feature with a rock-covered bottom. We all know that rocks are not getting up in the middle of the night and manufacturing debris in our ponds while we sleep. So why then are we blaming the existence of rocks in the bottom of a pond for the problem while not actually solving the real issue?
The Closing Argument
If excessive debris is settling to the bottom of any pond, it clearly tells us that the existing filtration system is inadequate or incomplete. If there is debris accumulating in the bottom of your water features, this is simply a filtration issue and nothing more. It is not an issue of whether you used rocks or gravel during the installation process in an attempt to hide man-made components such as a liner.
Remember…water is wet, fire is hot and rocks do not create debris in water features. No matter how often we discuss this, you can never change these facts! PLEASE filter your ponds!
Note be sure to take a look at the pictures. Includes sample ponds and pond details.