The Pop-Up | Perfect Patio Indoor or Small Garden Pond

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The Pop-Up pond ... makes winter storage easy too. No space for a pond you said? .... You can't get a quicker, simpler, attractive small garden or patio pond than this one. Very clever ....

Place the Pop-Up Pond on your deck or patio to create a beautiful outdoor pond or water garden. Heavy-gauge polypropylene pool is ready to unfold and fill. Includes a submersible pump for aeration. Now you can have the seasonal pond you've always wanted, without the off-season maintenance

Some topics to consider before buying your pop-up pond (reference Jeff Cook article about half barrel ponds available in full here): Note that wherever Jeff refers to half barrel pondsyou can just as well refer to pop-up ponds

Container .. Water... Plants ... Snails... Fish... Mechanicals... Maintenance

Contrary to common sense, a half barrel is not required to construct a half barrel pond! Some people prefer to use a rigid plastic barrel line, which can be used with or without the half barrel. These liners should be available for around $30. Other substitutes, such as clay or concrete containers, are not specifically covered here, but most of this discussion should apply.

I chose a whiskey half barrel for my miniature pond, because of its rustic good looks. I purchased one at a home improvement store for $16.


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Water is a crucial ingredient! And chlorine-free water is mandatory if you want fish. If you are using a wooden half barrel and are not using a liner, fill the barrel as full as possible and keep refilling until the slats expand to seal the container. If using a liner, then just fill up with water. If the water is chlorinated, let it sit in the barrel for a couple of days and the chlorine will evaporate.

The initial stocking of the pop-up pond is of primary importance, in order to get the proper bacteria going so that a stable ecosystem can develop. It has been suggested that the simple use of plants from existing ponds, even those bought from the nursery, coupled with chlorine-free water, is sufficient to start up a small pond. But in my experience, this alone can result in an infection characterized by white oily-like surface sheen, white tendrils in the water, and an obnoxious sulfur-like smell. I have been told that this is due to a paramecium infestation. I have seen a barrel with such an infection completely recover naturally, and I have eliminated such an infection in other barrels by starting over by emptying, refilling, and then adding beneficial bacteria (Microbe-Lift bacteria to keep ponds healthy). In my opinion, a good way to ensure proper start-up is to supply part or all of your water from an existing barrel or pond. Alternatively, one may purchase beneficial bacteria from an aquarium supply shop and use it for start-up. I have tried both methods with success. Also, I like to drop a large piece of lava rock into the bottom of the barrel, to ensure that the bacteria have a large surface area on which to grow. *****

Here is a perfect example of a use for Alfagrog ... comment by Pond Professor. See last edition of Gazette for stockists

I use filtered water (no lead, chlorine, etc.) when topping up to account for evaporation; chlorinated water may be used if preceded with a chlorine neutralizer. It has recently come to my attention that topping up with filtered water may eventually have an adverse effect on water quality, due to increased concentrations of the substances that are not removed by the filter, such as salts. If this is a concern, which I must admit has never been a concern of mine, then occasional water changes are recommended. For example, one could periodically siphon (or use a pail) and remove 25% of the water volume, and then replace it with unchlorinated water.


Plants make the pop-up pond pleasing to view, especially flowering plants. The following four types of plants are desirable for a balanced ecosystem:

pygmy water lilies, hardy or tropical, oxygenating plants (anacharis, milfoil), floating plants (water hyacinth, water lettuce, duckweed), and

bog, or marginal, tall accent plants (rushes, canna, horsetail, lobelia, reeds, cattails).

To my first half barrel pond I added one anacharis (oxygenator), one zebra rush (bog), one Blue Capensis (day-blooming water lily), and a few water hyacinth and water lettuce (floating). Duckweed came attached to the other plants. Note: duckweed can quickly multiply to cover the entire surface of a small pond unless controlled by consumption (in my experience goldfish like to eat it) or by occasional removal by, for instance, a net.

The soil-rooted plants should be planted in individual containers and fertilized appropriately (water lilies, especially, require frequent fertilization). Bog plants should be placed so that their root tops are within one inch of the surface of the pop-up pond, above or below. To help prevent algae growth, plants should cover 75-80% of the surface of your pop-up pond.


Snails are the cleanup crew in a pop-up pond. Frequently, snails will accompany the plants you buy for your pop-up pond. My current advice for snails is to suggest that you consult with aquaria store personnel if you wish to purchase snails to populate your pop-up pond. Certain snails, such as apple snails, will consume your plants, and are not necessarily recommended for planted barrel ponds.


While plants make a pop-up pond pleasing to view, fish add an element of fun. Even if no fish are desired, one type of fish is almost mandatory, and that is the mosquito fish (gambusia). (Mosquito fish can usually be obtained free from your local mosquito abatement program.) A few small mosquito fish will prevent your pond from becoming an insect breeding ground, and will not require feeding or mechanicals. One or two small goldfish can also serve this purpose. Do not put fish in your pop-up pond until the water has "aged" for 2-4 weeks, that is, until the beneficial bacteria have had time to get established, or, alternatively, you can hurry the process by adding liquid or dried bacteria purchased from a pet store.

It is rumored that a pond will support one inch of fish for every 5 gallons of water without requiring oxygenation or filtration. If you see your fish "gasping" at the top of the water (low oxygenation), or you intend to put a lot of fish in a small space, then your pond will require mechanical filtration and aeration. But regardless, it is inappropriate to put large fish in a small space like a half barrel pond. And even goldfish can eventually outgrow a half barrel pond.

Notice: Please do not put koi in a pop-up pond. They will soon outgrow their container and they tend to devour plants.

Notice: I have been informed by various sources that combining mosquito fish and goldfish can be fatal to the goldfish. The reasoning behind this is that the fast, energetic mosquito fish will deprive the goldfish of food and they may even disable the goldfish through aggression. However, my small ponds contain both mosquito fish and goldfish, some for three years now, and the goldfish are thriving and have produced offspring. Perhaps the problem only occurs when the mosquito fish population far outnumbers the goldfish population. I only keep two goldfish and a few mosquito fish in each barrel.


Mechanicals are not necessary in a pop-up pond unless you overstock. If you want to support a lot of water creatures, you will need an aerator and biological filter to keep them alive.


A 5% water change per week is recommended. I accomplish this by topping up with filtered, chlorine-free water once a week (I attach an EverPure water filter to my hose and top up with that). I have been advised that topping up with dechlorinated but unfiltered tap water will eventually cause the water in the barrel to become brackish, but have yet to see such a situation occur.

Note also that one can use liquid dechlorinators if only chlorinated water is available. A couple of my barrels are topped up twice weekly by my watering system, with no apparent ill effects.

Plants need fertilizer. Fish need food when you overstock. Filters require periodic cleaning. To minimize maintenance, I keep the plant load high and the fish load low, and do not filter, so all I have to do is feed the plants periodically.