Our Pond

Julieta and I built a pond in our back yard in July of 2000. We added plants later that summer, and fish in the spring of 2001. In the Spring on 2002 we added a second smaller pond for water plants.

Click on the following years to jump to a particular year or scroll down to see the evolution of the pond.


Colours of the month in the garden










Before the pond in 1998.


First we dig the hole. The backyard had a lot of grass at the time ...

Then we line the hole with some ugly carpeting we removed from the den, add the liner (which gets really really hot really really fast), and then fill it up with water. The pond takes about 550 US gallons (2000 litres) of water to fill.

Finally we add some rocks around the edge and some more landscaping.

Then comes winter. We leave the pump running but he pond comes close to freezing over a couple times on the coldest days of the year


Spring again and now we add 3 goldfish which by the end of summer have become 55

Its late summer and we are starting to think about the coming winter, and pond stuff is going on sale. To increase the chances of our fish surviving, we are going to bring some of them inside for the winter, so we need to build an indoor pond. This time we are going with a pre-formed 75 gallon pond which we are sitting up in our family room.

In October began introducing plants and fish to the indoor pond eventually moving 12 inside for the winter. The plants survived until January when the water lettuce and water hyacinths died off, leaving only the oxygenators ... which continue to grow quite happily. The fish are still doing fine and are also growing quite happily.

Outside the fish are hanging out on the bottom and are doing OK so far. We left the pump running again and added a small doughnut-shaped heater this year to make sure the pond doesn't completely freeze over.


We only lost one fish over the winter and we brought the inner fish back out to join their brothers and sisters. We also added a couple tadpoles and didn't see them as frogs until the middle of August.

We added a UV clarifier this year to help with the algae, and built a smaller shallow pond for bog plants since the netting that we were using in the man pond made it hard for plants to grow there.

Here are some pictures of the pond as of June 2002:

In late July 2002 we suffered a major loss of fish. Within 3 weeks we lost more than three quarters of our fish to infection, with 51 dead. Among the dead were all 3 of the originals, most of the biggest, and my favorite fish (the overly friendly goldfish) but at least we were able to save some of the family ...

Since we wanted to completely clean and disinfect the pond anyway, we took this opportunity to make part of the pond deeper in preparation for winter, and added a bigger and better filtration system. Now we have an in-pond filter, an external filter in the garage, and a U/V clarifier, all of which has made the water much clearer. We also added an air bubbler to help during the very hot weeks of late July and early August.

Fortunately our two frogs were fine, though they needed some encouragement to leave their home for the temporary renovation.

Then another winter (2002/2003) was upon us and we moved 4 of the fish inside to the same indoor pond we set up last year, and left the 5 fish and the two frogs outside. For several days over the winter the pond was almost completely frozen over.

Here's a picture of the indoor pond and the 4 indoor fish

This year the indoor fish shared their room with another small highly excitable goldfish in an aquarium. Here is the small goldfish swimming (quickly) around his Christmas tree.


In the summer of 2003 we added 4 bullfrog tadpoles to the upper pond, and while we were doing that we found that we had at least 5 small fish swimming around the upper pond as well as several small fish in the lower pond. The new frogs are much more interested in sunning themselves on the rocks than the previous 2 frogs which we haven't seen for a while.

By the end of the summer we did see a big tadpole swimming around in the big pond ... so we may have more frogs than we thought.

We brought 6 fish inside this 2003/2004 winter along with the UV clarifier (which helped a lot) to augment the indoor pump and air generators. We left 11 fish outside.


Everybody survived.

Now they are all back outside and there are at least four frogs, including one new one, hanging out in and around the pond.


Spring again and the indoor fish head outside ...

and again this year we found a bunch (at least 10) of little fish in the upper pond, so we are thinking some eggs hitched a ride on the plants that spend the winter at the bottom of the big pond and then get moved to the upper pond in the spring.

Here is a picture of one of our bull frogs.

After continued attacks by raccoons (who like disassembling the lights in the pond) and cats (who like to stare at the fish) we decided to add a defense system to the pond. For $60 the motion and heat detecting water sprinkler has done a pretty good job deterring the local critters from menacing the pond without driving away the birds.

This is the first year we tried adding Microbe Lift to the water and that did a very good job keeping the water clear in the summer.

        in 2005

This year we added a second web cam that can see a bit into the infra-red so we can get an idea what is creeping around at night.

        at night


This year we decided to add a bunch of oxygenators to the pond. They quickly took over and needed to be culled back pretty aggressively.

We are now back up to about 30 fish.

This year we decided to leave all the fish outside during the winter and that went fine. We also left the net on the pond over the winter which seemed to help during the late fall and early spring keeping critters away from the fish.


In August we slowly started losing one of the bigger fish every few days, so we did a week-long potassium permanganate treatment and removed all the sludge from the deepest part of the pond. That seemed to stop the problems and gave us incredibly clear water.

We left all of the fish outside again this winter with the net over top of the pond.


In the spring we found that we lost a couple fish over the winter. This is the first time we saw this, but it may be that its the first time the pond was clean enough that we could find them.

For the first time in years we did not lose any fish during the hot summer months. The summer was cooler in Chicago this year so that probably helped.

We had a new visitor to the back yard this year

We did however get hit by a couple strong storms that came close to affecting the pond, but there was no major damage (and the fish and the rabbit were fine.)

On Thanksgiving we had another new visitor which looks like a Cooper's Hawk.


Again we lost a few fish over the winter - all the large ones, leaving us with about 30.

We also got some replacement fish kites from Japan to replace the ones that had been worn down over the years and were finally destroyed by the free limb falling on them. The new ones are a little bit bigger than the previous ones.

We also had a new wooden fence put in replacing the older metal chain link one,

2009 daytime  2010 evening


All the fish made it through the winter.

During the spring cleaning we tried a couple doses of Potassium Permanganate to help clean things out at the beginning of the year, and the water seemed to stay clearer for the rest of the year compared to previous years.

This winter we switched over to a 10w fountain pump to keep the water moving in the winter which saved us a noticeable amount of power from leaving the current 90w pump running all year around.


in the winter of 2011 we got snow and then some more snow in an almost record Chicago blizzard.

snow and more snow

We lost a couple fish over the winter but still appear to have about 20. We then lost a few over the summer taking us to about 10.

Again we used a couple doses of Potassium Permanganate as part of the spring cleaning and 'reactivation' of the pond, and the water has been very clean through May.

Over the last few years we've been trying to more aggressively reduce our electricity usage. This year we tried to keep the pond healthy with a 35w pump, a 15w air bubbler, and a 10w UV light, so that will be about 1.5 kilowatts per day for the pond or about 15% of our daily usage, but less than half of what we have been using in previous years.


After the winter cleanup we found that the liner for the upper pond was ripped making it impossible to use the waterfall between the two ponds. Rather than replace the entire upper liner we decided to isolate the upper pond with just the plants and a small pump to keep the water moving. We also decided to remove the big physical filter in the garage and just use the small filter, the bubbler, the 35w pump, and the UV clarifier in the lower pond. As you can see in the photo below the UV clarifier is now sitting on the edge of the lower pond - we need to try and hide it some more.

We did not use any Potassium Permanganate this year since it seems like all of the issues related to the infection a decade ago have ended, but we continue to add the beneficial bacteria.

We have a new water lilly that's very aggressively taking over the lower pond and pushing out the other three older lillies, so we need to keep it in check.

This year we seem to be down to about 7 fish, but we didn't see any obvious losses.

The Japanese maple hadn't been doing very well for the last couple years after something tried climbing on it, so we removed it late in the year. Otherwise things in the garden are growing quite well.


As usual the pond gets covered for about a week each winter. Some hot water from the stove is enough to keep a hole open in the ice.

The wisteria has now pretty much taken over the garage roof, and has wrapped around all four sides.

We were down to about 5 fish this year but they look healthy.


Winter again

We can see some new small fish in the pond this year so it looks like the population is increasing again

We painted the garage this spring and in fall the back yard looked like this:


The fish population is coming back up as we have four large fish and what looks like at least 10 smaller ones. We are continuing to use the beneficial bacteria and the UV clarifier, and along with the lillies covering the pond we haven't had much trouble this year, aside from the raccoons trying to re-arrange the upper pond to their liking.



Here is a summer photo of the back yard from our neighbor's balcony.

and a photo of the various water lilies in the pond

In the fall we had to completely replace the garage and its foundation, which was, as you might imagine, traumatic for the garden in general and the wisteria in particular.

Here is the new garage, with wood siding, glass block windows, and a party door in November after an early snow, but before it has been painted, with the wisteria still covered by tarp


After the snow melted and some paint, here is the new garage in January with the remaining parts of the wisteria back on the roof.

It looks like all of the fish survived the winter and now we have 25-30 in the pond. We are
continuing to use the beneficial bacteria and the UV clarifier.

We now have an underwater camera, so here are some shots of the fish in May 2016 from below the water

and a movie

Over the summer we painted the doors of the garage and the wisteria began reclaiming the garage roof. Here is a 360 panorama taken over the summer.


This year we finally removed the last patch of grass in the back yard and planted vegetables there.

The wisteria is continuing to work on reconquering the new garage, and we have moved our eating area to the party door.

It looks like we have about 15-20 fish in the pond.


'pac man' ice in the pond in January

Algae eye in the pond in January


Views near the upper pond

and one from on top of the garage looking back at the house

This year we added a 240 V outlet to the garage to support our two electric cars, which involved digging a thin trench through the north side of the back yard, but the plants seemed to come through it ok.

We seem to have 8 decent sized fish and a handful of new small ones. All the fish came through the summer OK. Lots of hummingbirds this year.

Our regular list of bird visitors includes Robins, House Sparrows, Mourning Doves, Cardinals, Juncos, Starlings, Goldfinches, Hummingbirds, Downy Woodpeckers, Bluejays, and we are starting to see several new arrivals: Black Cap Chickadees, Carolina Chickadees, and House Finches.

We get several other regular visitors to the pond including raccoons, squirrels, skunks, possums, and an assortment of birds and butterflies.


squirrel squirrel

and an assortment of birds (pigeons, robins, starlings, hummingbirds, a pair of cardinals, a woodpecker) and various insects ...

yellow bird woodpecker cardinal


Below is a current picture of the pond taken from our web-cam:

Live WebCam Image

Here are some time lapse movies of the pond. The first is from 2003, and the second is from 2006.

Things that we have found to be really useful to have for the pond:

For a couple years we used a small heater in winter to keep the pond from completely freezing over (i.e. the Thermo-Pond), but haven't used it for a few years now. There are only a couple weeks where the pond completely freezes over and a kettle of hot water seems to do the trick opening it back up.

The web page was last updated (12/04/18)