A tabletop water fountain is essentially a submersible pump at the bottom of a watertight container. Glass or ceramic bowls make ideal containers, as do old cooking pots. Set the pump to bubble gently along the surface or add longer tubing to spray water up and trickle back down. Paint or decorate the bowl. Add features like rocks and plants to personalize the fountain.
Water Pump Basics
The water pump is the unsung hero of the tabletop fountain. Fountain pumps are available readily in many stores, including department, home improvement or specialty stores. Pumps vary according to how much water they pump per hour. A reasonable amount for a small fountain is 70 to 90 gallons per hour; 120 to 170 gallons per hour is fine for a medium-sized fountain. Some pumps have a switch to control the pump's speed. When choosing a pump, take note of the electrical cord length, as well as whether there is a power switch on that cord. Most pumps have small suction cups to hold them in place at the bottom of the container.
Narrow plastic or copper tubing carries water from the pump to the surface. Many pumps will come with additional tubing, or you can purchase tubing separately. Integrate the tubing into the fountain design to direct the water to a certain spot.
Manufacturers routinely claim that their motors run silently or very quietly; the only way to know how the motor sounds in your home is to run it in the fountain. If the motor is too noisy, experiment with different water levels; deeper water tends to muffle motor noise.
Replenish water as needed to keep the level above the pump at all times. Water levels will drop due to evaporation and splashing. Running the pump, even momentarily, when it is not submerged will damage the pump permanently, because water is needed to cool the motor.
Do not add anything to the tabletop fountain that will interfere with the pump's operation; this includes sand, unwashed gravel or stones and soil. Do not block the water intake vents on the pump. Add decorative features to the fountain, but leave access to the pump so that you can clean it periodically.
The topside display is the star of the tabletop fountain. Get this right to create that "wow" factor everyone is seeking. Use trial and error to find the best set-up. Fortunately, "what is right" is completely a matter of your personal taste. Try stacking broken slate tiles in a staggered pattern. Direct the tubing so that the water falls onto the tiles and trickles back into the container. Alternatively, cover the surface with river rock or marbles. Add a plant that grows in water, such as a jade plant, arrowhead plant or hemigraphis. Keep the plant separate from the main fountain water by putting it into a small vase or drinking glass.
Test out different configurations. Avoid aiming the spray near the rim of the bowl, because this will cause water to splash over the edge of the bowl. Test stacks of items to make sure they are balanced and securely in place.