How To Build A Koi Pond With A Waterfall In 9 Steps

How To Build A Pond And Waterfall You’ll Fall In Love With

Have you ever imagined having a serene water feature right in your own backyard? What if you could build a koi pond with a waterfall that not only enhances your outdoor living space but also brings peace and nature closer to home?

This post will guide you through the essential steps on how to build a koi pond, complete with a cascading waterfall.

By the end of this article, you’ll know how the pros in Maryland construct a koi pond that will be the envy of your neighborhood and a peaceful retreat for years to come.

How To Build A Koi Pond With A Waterfall In 9 Steps

  1. Plan placement and design
  2. Mark the boundary
  3. Dig
  4. Lay down underlayment and liner
  5. Install skimmer and biofalls
  6. Add rocks and gravel
  7. Install any additions
  8. Turn on and check for leaks
  9. Add fish and plants after the water clears

Preparing For Building A Koi Pond

As you prepare to break ground for your beautiful koi pond in Silver Spring, Ellicott City, or elsewhere in Maryland, ensure all legal and safety measures are addressed. This includes obtaining necessary permits and understanding local regulations that govern water features and pond installation.

Building a koi pond can require different permits depending on your locality’s zoning laws. Contact your local building department to find out what you need.

Also, calling 811 to have underground utilities marked is crucial to avoid disrupting any underground lines during excavation.

Materials And Tools

Collecting the right materials and tools is part of how to build a koi pond. It will streamline the construction process of building your koi pond. Essential supplies include a quality pond liner, filtration equipment, and aesthetic elements to enhance the beauty of your pond.

  • Shovel: For digging the pond and shaping the contours.
  • Wheelbarrow: To move dirt and rocks from the dig site.
  • Garden hose: This is used to fill the pond and adjust water levels as needed.
  • Utility knife: To trim the pond liner accurately.
  • Level: To ensure all components like skimmers and waterfalls are properly aligned.
  • Tape measure: Essential for precise measurements during the planning and construction phases.
  • Rake: For smoothing out liner underlayment and positioning gravel.
  • Pond liner: Choose a durable, flexible liner to conform to your chosen pond shape and ensure it’s capable of holding water without leaks.
  • Pond skimmer and biofalls: Essential for mechanical and biological filtration, these help keep the water clear and remove debris.
  • Water pump: A crucial element that keeps the pond water circulating and aerated, which is important for koi health and water clarity.
  • Rocks and gravel: These not only add a natural aesthetic to the pond but also provide surface area for beneficial bacteria to colonize, aiding in the biological balance of the pond.

Detailed Steps For How To Build A Pond And Waterfall In Maryland

Before you start transforming your backyard in Columbia, Baltimore, or another Maryland city into a serene escape, careful planning is essential to ensure the success of your koi pond and waterfall. Building a koi pond is not just about digging a hole and filling it with water; it involves thoughtful consideration of location, shape, depth, and aesthetics that align with the rest of your landscape.

Step 1: Plan Placement And Design

The first step in how to build a koi pond is deciding where to place it.

A good location should have a mix of light and shade to maintain moderate water temperatures and promote the growth of aquatic plants. Full sun can increase water temperature and algae growth, making the environment less ideal for koi. On the other hand, too much shade can lead to low temperatures and inhibit plant growth.

Building a koi pond under trees or at the bottom of a hill will mean more maintenance work.


Koi pond designs can vary widely depending on personal taste and the layout of your yard. Here are a few design options:

  • Formal ponds are usually geometric in shape, such as rectangles or circles, and are often located near the home to complement its architecture.
  • Natural ponds mimic the randomness of nature with irregular shapes and edges that blend into the surrounding landscape, perfect for creating a wildlife habitat.
  • Modern ponds incorporate sleek lines and minimalist features, focusing on the water itself rather than lush plantings.

When planning the depth of a koi pond in Maryland, it should be at least 2 feet deep to provide a safe haven for koi during cold weather and to protect them from predators.

Check out these amazing koi pond ideas to get your creativity started!

Step 2: Marking The Boundary

Begin by clearly marking the boundary of your pond using spray paint.

This visual guide will serve as your excavation map so that you don’t dig too much and have to recalculate the pump size and other aspects of the pond. It makes the process of how to build a koi pond much less complex.

Step 3: Dig

When building a koi pond, dig according to the planned depth and contours of your design.

For a koi pond, varying depths can create different habitats and help regulate water temperature, which is crucial for koi health. A smaller backyard pond in Maryland should be 2 feet deep, minimum.

Remember, the excavation for your pond installation should create shelves inside the pond for plants and possibly lights, enhancing the biological filtration and aesthetic appeal.

We usually dig 1 foot down, go towards the middle of the pond about 1 foot, and then dig down another foot. This makes a shelf for plants and, if you need to get into the pond, an easier way to do that.

Step 4: Installing Liners And Underlayment

After shaping your pond, underlayment should be placed to protect the liner from sharp rocks and roots. This barrier not only prevents leaks but also extends the life of your pond liner.

Then, lay down a quality pond liner to ensure the water stays inside the pond.

Choose a flexible pond liner (like EPDM) that can handle the shape and size without stressing the material.

Step 5: Filtration And Waterfall Setup

Install a robust filtration system, which typically includes both mechanical and biological components.

The pond skimmer and biofalls are an essential part of pond installation as they keep the water clean and oxygen-rich.

The biofalls part is the waterfall and is also home to beneficial bacteria. The bacteria here clean the water so it stays clear and good for fish and plants. It’s a waterfall that is beautiful in how it looks and its function as a water filter.

For the waterfall construction part of how to build a koi pond waterfall, begin by deciding on the location and design that complements the layout of your pond.

It’s typically positioned at one of the higher elevations of the pond to allow gravity to assist in the natural flow of the water.

Use large stones or pre-formed rigid plastic to create the base and sides of your waterfall.

Secure these materials in place with mortar or special waterfall foam that helps direct the water and prevent leaks.

Select a water pump that can handle the volume of your pond—at least half the pond’s water should be circulated every hour. Connect the pump to the filtration system, which should include both mechanical and biological filters.

These filters are vital for removing debris and promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria that break down harmful waste products from koi.

Step 6: Add Rocks And Gravel

Adding rocks and gravel to your koi pond in Maryland is not just about aesthetics; these elements play a crucial role in the ecosystem of your pond.

Like the biofalls, the rocks and gravel have more than one purpose. They give the pond a more natural look, protect the liner, and give a home for more beneficial bacteria. They also provide essential hiding spots for the koi, which can help reduce stress and provide shelter from predators.

When building a koi pond, spread a layer of coarse gravel at the bottom of the pond; this will support plant life and also host beneficial bacteria that are vital for the biological filtration of the pond water.

The gravel should be large enough not to disturb the pump or clog the system but small enough to allow for easy maintenance and cleaning.

Step 7: Install Any Additions

a garden at night with a pond and lights.

Once the primary structure of your koi pond is complete, it’s time to install any additional features that enhance its functionality and beauty.

This can include underwater lighting, which not only makes the pond a focal point in your garden at night but also helps you enjoy the view of your koi after dusk.

Adding aeration systems can further improve the oxygen levels in the water, promoting healthier fish and aiding in the breakdown of waste products.

Auto-fill devices can ensure your pond has the right amount of water in it at all times.

If you’re in a colder region of Maryland, consider installing a pond heater to maintain a stable water temperature throughout the winter months.

These additions are not only functional but add significant value to the overall charm and health of your koi pond.

Step 8: Filling And Checking For Leaks

a man in a green shirt standing next to a pond.

Begin filling the pond slowly with a garden hose and check for any signs of leaks.

Proper pond installation should result in no water loss (except for over time due to evaporation).

Pay special attention to the areas around the pond skimmer and biofalls, as these are common sites for potential leaks.

You may also add treatments to the water to help balance it to be healthy for pond fish and plants. Tap and hose water usually has chemicals in it that, while safe for humans, aren’t healthy for fish.

Step 9: Adding Plants And Fish

a pond filled with lots of water lilies.

This is the final step for how to build a koi pond.

Once the chemistry of the pond water has stabilized and cleared from the initial fill (which may take several days), you can start introducing aquatic plants and koi fish.

Plants play a crucial role in the pond’s ecosystem, providing oxygen and shelter for the fish.

Gradually add koi fish to the pond, allowing them to acclimate to the new environment.

It’s essential to monitor water quality regularly to ensure it remains safe and healthy for the koi.

And that’s how to build a pond and waterfall!

Maintenance And Care

Now you know how to build a koi pond, but what about taking care of it? Maintaining your koi pond in Maryland is crucial to ensure it remains a beautiful and healthy environment for your koi fish. Regular maintenance not only keeps the pond looking great but also ensures the ecosystem is balanced, which is essential for the health of the fish and plants.

Routine Maintenance

Every week, check and clean the pond skimmer and filters to remove debris and prevent the build-up of harmful bacteria.

It’s important to test the water quality regularly, adjusting pH and ammonia levels as needed to keep conditions ideal for koi.

Monthly tasks should include inspecting the pond liner for any signs of wear or damage and ensuring that all equipment, such as pumps and UV clarifiers, are functioning correctly.

Seasonal Care

As the seasons change in Maryland, so do the needs of your koi pond.

  • In the spring, it’s crucial to gradually reintroduce your koi to the pond after winter, checking the water temperature and conditions.
  • During summer, ensure your aeration system is working efficiently to provide enough oxygen on hot days and consider adding aquatic plants that can provide shade.
  • In the fall, prepare your pond for winter by reducing feeding and installing a pond de-icer to prevent the surface from completely freezing. This helps maintain gas exchange and keeps fish alive during cold months.

Troubleshooting Common Issues

Even with diligent care and a perfect pond installation, you may encounter issues such as algae blooms, murky water, or sick fish.

Algae problems can often be managed by balancing light exposure and nutrients in the pond water. If the water becomes cloudy, it may be a sign of overfeeding or inadequate filtration. Adjust your feeding practices and enhance your filtration system if needed.

For sick fish, immediate isolation and water quality tests are crucial to prevent the spread of disease and to diagnose the problem accurately.

Build Your Slice Of Paradise With Premier Ponds

At Premier Ponds, we understand that building the perfect backyard koi pond goes beyond just digging a hole and filling it with water; it’s about creating a harmonious ecosystem right in your backyard. Our expert koi pond builders know how to build a koi pond the best way, equipped with the best knowledge and tools to beautify your landscape and provide you with a tranquil retreat.

Ready to transform your outdoor space into a peaceful oasis? Fill out our contact form today or give us a call to start your journey towards a stunning koi fish pond that you’ll fall in love with, crafted by the skilled artisans at Premier Ponds.