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Water Gardens

Written by Jessica on June 19th, 2011

Gardeners who want to add an extra layer of depth to their landscape may consider creating a water garden. Water gardens, like traditional gardens, require care and maintenance. These gardens can range in size from only several gallons of water to large ponds holding thousands of gallons. Many different aquatic plants can be added, and some gardeners add fish to their water gardens.

Set Up

Water gardens do require some planning. The gardeners should first consider what size their garden will be. A small setup, which holds on 50 gallons, may only be able to support one or two plants and very few fish. Larger setups will need a water pump or another way to create motion in the water. This motion will provide a more fit environment for both plants and fish. Once the size and location of the garden is set it is recommended to completely fill and drain the garden twice before introducing any fish or plants.

Water Garden Plants

Climate and the size of the garden should be considered when choosing aquatic plants. Floating plants, like water lettuce and duck weed, grow on the surface of the water, and their roots grow directly under them. Water lilies and other emergent plants take root at the bottom of the pond, and grow up ward to float at the surface. Submersed plants, like coon tail and fanwort, grow entirely under the surface of the water.

When planting aquatic plants gardeners should consider if fish will also be added. If fish are added emergent and submersed plant roots should be protected. This can be done with a layer of stone at the bottom of the pond.

Fertilizing should stop when temperatures fall below 60 degrees F during the day. This allows the plants to go dormant for winter. If tropical plants are placed in the water garden they may have to be removed during the cold season. Tropical plants can be over wintered in a larger bucket in a warm area.


Adding fish to a water garden can greatly improve the garden’s ecosystem. Fish will take in the oxygen created by plants and expel carbon dioxide that the plants need for growth. Both gold fish and koi are cold hardy, and can thrive in a water garden. Pond fish will eat more during the warm season, and less during the cold season. Feeding fish extra food during the fall can help them store extra fat supplies for the winter.


Some algae is beneficial to water gardens, but excessive algae can disrupt the ecosystem. To avoid high amounts of algae do not over feed fish, and plant floating or emergent plants to shade the bottom of the garden. Adding snails and tadpoles to the garden can also help control algae.


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