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  • O R N A M E N T A LG A R D E N

    P O O L S

    A N R - 7 8 9

    A l a b a m a C o o p e r a t i v e E x t e n s i o n S y s t e mA l a b a m a A & M a n d A u b u r n U n i v e r s i t i e s

  • O R N A M E N T A LG A R D E N

    P O O L S

    Ornamental pools, long common in the Orient,are becoming very popular in the UnitedStates. The soothing, visual beauty of pools isenhanced by aquatic plants, the ever-changingview of fish swimming among these plants, andthe play of light and shadows reflected in thewater. Pools can be found in private back-yards, public parks, hotel lobbies, mallcourtyards, restaurants, apartment bal-conies, and even basements in colder cli-mates. In Japan, where ornamental poolshave been popular for centuries, pooland garden designs are highly artistic.Some Japanese extend the pool into theirliving rooms where fish watching becomesa restful evening activity.

    Little replicated research has been conduct-ed on ornamental pools, therefore most of theinformation discussed herein is from relatedresearch areas and practical observation. Thispublication is intended to assist in understandingthe requirements of fish within these miniatureaquatic environments and in evaluating optionsin pool design.

    P O O LL O C A T I O N ,S I Z E , A N D

    T Y P ELocation of the pool can be critical, not only to

    its owners enjoyment but to the maintenanceand biological performance of the pool. Site yourornamental pool to receive a minimum of 6 hoursof sunlight each day. Sunlight is needed for pho-tosynthesis by pool plants including algae, which

    provide oxygen to the pool. Abundant oxygenmeans a healthy environment for fish and otherorganisms in the pool. Locate your pool to avoiddirect sunlight at mid-day during the warmestmonths. Fish can become stressed by high tem-peratures unless shade is provided by aquatic

    plants. For indoor pools, lights are availablethat simulate natural daylight.

    Several advantages to locating the poolwithin view of the house are: To enhance human enjoyment. To more easily supervise childrenplaying around the pool. But, be sure to

    take precautions, such as controllingaccess, to ensure the safety of children.

    To help you spot and ward-off predators,such as birds, raccoons, snakes, or that rare

    human thief.

    To reduce expense of pipes, electrical hook-ups, and pumping, which are usually lower forpools built close to the house.

    If you plan to excavate rather than build anaboveground pool, check with utility companieson the location of underground gas, water, sewer,and electrical lines. Do not locate a pool aboveutility services. Pools should not be locateddirectly under trees, as their roots hamper exca-vation and may eventually cause structural dam-age to the pool. Also, leaves can foul the waterand over-hanging branches may exude toxic sub-stances into the pool.

    Pool depths may vary depending on local cli-mate and over-wintering management. Manypools are only 18 to 24 inches deep. Most of theseshallow pools will require heaters in winter or theplants and fish will need to be moved indoors.Most permanent outdoor pools should have a


  • Table 1. Typical Construction Materials For Ornamental Pools.Pool Type Advantanges Disadvantages Special Considerations

    Earthen Inexpensive, Seepage; Soil must be high clay.especially for wild plants larger pools. may establish.

    Flexible liners Ease of construction. Possible punctures; Type of liner will de-must be pumped or termine lifetime,siphoned to drain. usually 10 to 20 years.

    Fiberglass or plastic Durablelong life; Shallow, not year- Very small pools; good for plant-only round habitat for fish. could be moved insidepools. Can crack if water during the winter.


    Concrete Very long life; can Expensive; must be May need coating withadd decorative tiles. cured. Epoxy or pool paint

    to stop leaching ofminerals.

    portion at least 3 or 4 feet deep. This allows thefish an area deep enough to resist most winterfreezes and a cool retreat during hot weather. Koicarp, in particular, tend to lose color andbecome stressed if they do not have a coolplace to retreat to during hot weather.However, a depth of 18 inches is suffi-cient in the deep South, as long as only afew fish are stocked and plenty of float-ing aquatic plants are provided forshade.

    Ponds are built out of several types ofmaterials. Some of the more common con-struction materials are earth, plastic liners,fiberglass, and concrete (Table 1).

    Many commercial firms selling pool equip-ment offer consulting services on design, con-struction, and maintenance. Use available exper-tise and your own creativity to design a pool thatreflects your own imagination and taste.

    E Q U I P M E N TA N D C O S T S

    Pools can be relatively expensive to build andmaintain, although many beginners start with lit-tle expense by using an old wash tub or a childswading pool. Construction costs for most poolscan range from several hundred to several thou-sand dollars depending on size, depth, materialsused, and labor. Labor costs can be reduced bydoing the work yourself or acting as back-up laborfor the professionals you hire.

    List Of Possible Pool Equipment And Materials Pipes, drain structures, nets, buckets. Spare tanks for acclimating and isolating fish,

    feed, chemicals, brushes, and test kits tomeasure oxygen, pH, etc.

    Electrical hookups, lights, pumps. Filters: biological or mechanical, filtermedia such as zeolite or charcoal. Sand or stone overlays or borders. Fountain, waterfall, aerator.

    Plants, plant enclosures.Consult ornamental fish specialists or

    dealers of ornamental pool materials for assis-tance. Draw up a detailed plan so that a specialistcan suggest specific improvements or spot poten-tial pitfalls. A word of advice: Most pool ownersregret not building their pools larger.


    Constructions plans should be reviewed bylocal governmental departments (for example,Building and Zoning) to ensure that the proposedsystem complies with all building codes: water,drainage, and electrical requirements. Permitsmay be required.


    Construction of a backyard pool can be simpleor complex. Pools built on site of fiberglass orconcrete take considerable construction skills.Earthen and plastic-lined pools require less con-struction skill or experience.


  • Pools may be irregular or geometric in shape.Irregularly shaped pools have a natural look,while the geometric shapes appear more formal.Try designing different pool shapes by using agarden hose or rope to outline the pool edgesprior to excavation.

    Before you start to dig, plan how pipes, filters,fountains, or water heaters will be concealed.Decide where electrical and water lines should beplaced for night lighting, pumps, fountains, orwaterfalls. This is also the time to set foundationsfor such structures as stepping stones, a walkingbridge, or the base of a fountain.

    Pools without drains are common, particularlythose with liners, but a drain allows for easiermanagement. Draining facilitates cleaning andfish removal in cases of maintenance or diseaseproblems. Of course, pools can be drained bypumping or, in some cases, siphoning. Beforebuilding the pool, plan how the pool will bedrained. Draining into city sewer lines or a stormdrain is probably legal, but draining onto aneighbors property is not. When in doubtconsult local government agencies.

    An important consideration whenconstructing a pool is to make sure thebottom slopes at least 1 percent (1 footdecline per 100-foot distance) so thewater will drain. A catch basin, usually 6to 12 inches deep, in the deepest part ofthe pool will help concentrate the fish dur-ing draw-down. Remember, the drain, pump,or siphon intake should be covered with mesh sono fish will escape during draw-down.

    Pools that are at least two-thirds below groundlevel retain heat in cold weather and keep thepool cooler in hot weather. Pools that are builttotally aboveground may have to be drained dur-ing the winter, requiring that fish and plants bemoved indoors.

    Excavated pools can have problems fromwater run-off. First, care should be taken duringconstruction so that run-off water does not flowinto the pool. If the surrounding terrain is higherthan the pool, a berm may be required to controlrun-off. Run-off water can introduce chemicalcontaminants or cause muddiness or oxygenproblems. Secondly, rain water saturation of thesoil under the pool may cause the pool to over-flow or float out of the ground. To prevent thisproblem, you will need a special under-pooldrainage or water-pressure relief system. Consultthe USDA Soil Conservation Service on soil char-

    acteristics in your area.Liners are very popular because of their versa-

    tility. Liners allow for relatively quick and lessexpensive construction and allow future changesin size or shape of the pool.

    Vertical pool sides can erode rapidly and letdetritus (dirt, leaves, etc.) build up along the edgeof the pool bottom. Tiered or sloping sidesencourage movement of detritus toward thedeepest part of the pool where the material canbe drained or siphoned out. The pool sidesshould be cut in two or three tiers, each about 12inches wide. Tiers help to hold liners in place aswell as to provide ledges for plants and other dec-orative items. To protect a liner from puncture byroots and rocks, the dirt along the pool sides andbottom should be covered with sand prior toinstalling the liner. Firmly pack the pool sides andbottom, especially if liners are used. Smooth thepool corners so they will not become detritus traps.

    Borders that overhang the water by 1 to 2 inch-es are visually pleasing and help conceal liner

    edges and hide openings to equipment. The


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