How to Build Small Fish Ponds

Build a small fish pond to attract wildlife.
Build a small fish pond to attract wildlife. (Image: seerose2 image by GYNEX from

Adding small fish ponds into landscapes is an effective and attractive way to enhance the aesthetics and appeal of a yard. Ponds create a natural environment by attracting wildlife, birds, butterflies and dragonflies as well as frogs and toads. Small fish ponds are inexpensive to build, easy to maintain, and provide a pleasant place to relax or meditate. Preformed fish pond liners make it easy to build a small pond in a day or two.

Things You'll Need

  • Small preformed pond liner
  • Shovel
  • Rice
  • Sand or clay kitty litter
  • Garden hose
  • Dechlorinator tablets
  • Decorative stones
  • Floating pond plants
  • Fish

Choose a location. Ponds need at least four hours of sunlight a day, but small ponds can heat up quickly, so find somewhere with some shade. Stay away from areas that have trees that lose their leaves often or drop seeds or fruit. An ideal location is near the house, with convenient access for maintenance and electricity if a filter or pump will be added, and be in a spot conducive to viewing and relaxing.

Turn the preformed pond liner upside down in the desired location. Mark the perimeter by sprinkling rice around the edges of the liner. Set the liner aside.

Dig inside the area outlined by rice up to the depth of the pond liner, plus 1 inch, removing any roots or stones. The hole needs to be at least 1 inch larger than the liner on all sides.

Pour 2 inches of sand or clay kitty litter into the hole and level. Set the pond liner in the hole. Fill the liner with 3 inches of water. Check if the liner is level. If the liner is not level, pour more sand or clay kitty litter under the area that is too low. When level, pack dirt around the base of the liner until the surrounding area is 1 inch lower than the lip of the liner. Fill the liner with water to within 2 inches of the liner lip.

Dechlorinate the water by adding dechlorination tablets according to the manufacturer's directions. Let the pond sit for at least two days.

Arrange decorative stones to cover the lip of the pond liner, making sure they will not fall into the pond. Use leftover dirt to fill in any gaps between stones.

Add floating pond plants and fish.

Tips & Warnings

  • Most small ponds do not need filters or pumps, but adding a water feature enhances the overall look of a pond.
  • Water lilies and water hyacinth are good choices for floating plants.
  • Ponds attract predators like raccoons, opossums, cats and birds. Installing netting over a pond will keep fish safe.
  • Do not use any chemicals, weed killers, pesticides or fertilizers near a pond.
  • Do not add too many fish; five to seven is a good number of fish to begin with.
  • Small ponds are suitable for many of the goldfish varieties, but are not recommended for koi fish.

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