Water features to liven up your pond

Water features can turn your outdoor space into a natural, living environment, populating your garden with wildlife and plants, not to mention introducing the soothing sound of trickling water. But with the sheer variety of options like garden fountains and cascades, as well as indoor water features, it can be difficult deciding what will work in your garden. You will also need to consider how to power your water feature, whether you want to harness free solar energy or use a pond fountain pump.

So if you’re thinking of installing a pond, or want to liven up an existing water garden, this guide will take you through where to site a water feature, the practicalities of different types, as well as advice on some pond care essentials such as pond filters and pumps.

Where to put your water feature and pump

The position of your water feature depends on a few different factors. If you just have a small fish pond, the best place for a feature or fountain is usually the centre, as any pond pumps and piping can be hidden directly below, where the water is deepest. However, with larger ponds, it’s not always practical to set up a pump out in the middle, since you will need to access it occasionally for cleaning.

You could have a separate pump attached to the side of your pond, or place your water feature closer to the edge. Think about where the electrical supply will be coming from the house and position accordingly.

If you don’t already have a pond, but are thinking of installing one, you have a little more leeway choosing the best site for any water features. It’s also easier to install a water feature when you’re at the building stage of a pond (though it’s still possible to add in extra features later on). The ideal place should be protected from wind and at least partly in the shade, but try to avoid overhanging trees as this can cause problems with leaves and other debris.

You could even create a standalone water feature on a rockery if you don’t want the hassle of building an entire pond. Some plug-in models can also be placed directly on a patio or in a pot, so long as you have a nearby power point.

Types of water feature


The classic water fountain is formed of a simple jet of water, propelled up into the air by a pump, but fountains now vary greatly, from columns to globe and bowl designs. Standard floating fountains sit on the surface of the water and are often used to draw the eye into the centre of a pond, but you can add more if you have a larger pool and also buy different nozzles to adjust the height and water output.

Some fountains come with garden lights to jazz up a water garden in the evening. Stone water features which feature ornaments or statues will need extra support on the pond bed, so you may need to use rocks to build up a solid surface below the surface for the water feature to rest on.

Waterfalls and cascade water features

This kind of garden water feature will need additional construction either to the side of a pond or building as a completely separate feature. Cascade water features work by drawing water upwards from a pond and storing in a smaller pool to trickle down a series of shelves or rocky steps. Waterfalls have the same principle, only they typically pour over the side of one shelf, rather than many.

You can buy ready-made cascades that can be both indoor water features or used as part of a water garden. They have a built-in pumping mechanism and don’t require separate, high pressure pumps, but they will need to be located near a plug socket.

Accessories and indoor water features

If you’re looking for something lower in maintenance, you can also buy more accessory-style water features, such as decorative garden animals like faux-ducks and crocodiles to liven up your pond.

Don’t have a water garden? There’s an extensive range of smaller indoor water features which can usually be placed anywhere with an available power point. While most outdoor water features are made of resin, indoor models are intended to be mainly decorative and don’t have to be as weather-proof, meaning more creative designs are available, from marble globes and steel water features to ceramic dishes and candle-holders.

Pumps for water features

For most outdoor water features, you will need some kind of pump, though it depends how elaborate your water garden is and how you use your pond.

Feature and fountain pumps

Generally, these types of pond pumps are submersible (used below the waterline) have a rectangular or oval base and a vertical pipe coming out of the top, designed to attach underneath your water feature or fountain, with an outlet for an electric cable to the side. A pond fountain pump works by sucking water out of the main pond or ‘reservoir’, up through your water feature and drawing it back into the pump again. If you have a two-spout fountain or more complicated, cascading feature, look for pumps labelled as fountain pumps and check that the model has a flow diverter to redirect the water two or more different ways.

You can also find solar water features and pumps, which don’t need an electrical supply and therefore can conserve a lot more energy, as well as being free from wires. Monitor how much light your pond or water garden receives to check if a solar powered water feature will be effective.

Pond filters

Filter pumps are an essential piece of equipment if you have any kind of fish pond but are also a good idea to keep water features looking clear and fresh.

Fish need a constant flow of water, as in nature, and these pumps act as a kind of replacement for natural water currents. If you have a koi pond or water feature with a high ratio of fish to plants, you may need a more powerful pond filtration system – look for those labelled ‘bio’ filter or pump. These filters have a layer of bacteria which break down debris and animal waste, as well as syphoning off solid matter as the stagnant water is pumped through. It’s possible to create a natural filter cycle with lots of water dwelling plants, which will process the waste themselves and stop algae thriving, but this may take over a year to establish.