The Best Pond Kit With Waterfalls, Pumps & Skimmers 2018
Pond kits are a convenient choice for building a “complete” garden pond without the headache of having to source every individual component. As well as this, pond kits often come with huge saving potential in comparison to buying parts separately, so they’re an incredibly attractive option for new pond builders In this article, we take a look at some of the best value pond kits for small, medium, and larger pond builds!
Why Choose A Pond Kit? (Benefits Explained)
Pond kits are a great option for new hobbyists or home owners looking for a simple and “complete” pond build solution without all the hassle of individually selecting every piece of equipment. Kits not only remove the time-consuming research process that can be daunting to new hobbyists, but often they come coupled with massive savings compared to purchasing every piece of equipment separately. Purchasing a full bundle from a manufacturer is usually accompanied by significant discount, and also gives you warranty cover over all items from the same seller – making the process of future returns and customer service much easier.
As well as this, there is also a fairly high barrier to entry when to comes to pond building, especially if you want to do things right the first time. If you are new to the hobby you would need to research every component going into your pond design, and make sure that each part fits and works in parallel with one another. Choosing the incorrect equipment can have major problems further down the road, so opting for a complete package with all essential equipment can potentially save you time, money, and maybe even some grey hairs if things happenened to go wrong!
What’s Included in Pond Kits? (Equipment Check List – What to Expect)
1) Pond Liner (PVC/LDPE/Rubber)
If you were designing a pond from scratch, choosing the liner would include the process of calculating the size of your pre-dug hole and then selecting a liner to fit the build. However, when it comes to pond kits, often the liner which is included comes in pre-cut sizes based on the most popular pond sizes the companies encounter. This means you need to work a little backwards here, and first check through the various pond kit liner sizes before you start digging a hole in the backyard. After finding a kit which supplies a liner suitable for your imagined pond build, you can then start measuring up the area and getting everything ready for installation. Many kits will supply this information as total pond volume (gallons) at a specific amount of depth, so if you want a 1,000 gallon pond with a depth of 3 foot, you’d need to go through the options and select the liner size which best meets these requirements, and then check it actually fits in your backyard.
In terms of pond liner materials, the most common to see included in kits are PVC, LDPE, and EPDM rubber. PVC is highly flexible, cheap, but more prone to tearing. LDPE is a middle-ground material, providing more durability to PVC but with a little less flexibility. Rubber is the heavy-duty material, providing maximum durability but at the cost of being very difficult to manage and install. For more information on liner materials, check our main article here, or refer to our calculation below for working out just how much liner you’ll need in your kit:-
*The extra 2 foot (1 meter) is for overlap to ensure you have enough spare liner to safely fix the sides of your pond in place.
2) Pond Pump & Filtration
Along with the liner, you’ll also fine that pond kits also include a pump and some form of active filtration system. The pump is usually a submersible model, as external pumps are much harder to install for new hobbyists. When choosing a pump, a general rule of thumb is you’ll want full water turnover every hour for fish, and every 2 hours for no fish. As an example, if you have a 1,000 gallon goldfish pond, you’d want a pond rated at approximately 1,000 Gallons per Hour (GPH) for optimal water flow and turn over. When looking through pond kits, you’ll just want to double-check the included pump meets these requirements as a minimum.
The filtration provided depends on the kit, and sometimes it can very confusing to see no classic filter boxes included, especially in pond kits with waterfalls. The reason for this is usually because the waterfall/skimmer equipment includes it’s own filtration systems; essentially doubling as a water feature and filtration unit. Although this can seem like a negative, most modern high-end skimmers and spillways now include very efficient filtration, and can basically replace a dedicated filter box in all but the heaviest stocked pond environments.
3) Skimmers & Waterfalls
Although certainly not essential, having a waterfall is one of the most desired features when it comes to pond design. Waterfalls not only look fantastic, they also provide a huge range of benefits to a ponds eco-system, including increased water flow, aeration, and oxygenation – all essential for healthy fish and wildlife. Due to the demand for waterfalls, many kit supplies now make sure to try to include them within their packages in the form of either a basic spillway or a filtered spillway system. This is great news for buyers, as it means you’ll already be receiving a pond pump that works with the included waterfall system, and you won’t need to perform any additional research to make sure everything functions together. In-fact, choosing a pump to match a waterfall display is one of the more difficult areas of pond design, as you don’t just need to know about head height (water lift), but also how it changes depending on the width of the waterfalls spillway. Having a pump which works out-of-the-box to match your waterfall specifications is a massive convenience!
As well as waterfall spillways, some pond kits will also include a skimmer box which works to clear floating debris from the waters surface. If you’re wanting to keep fish in your pond, we feel a skimmer is one of the best long-term investments you can make in terms of cleaning and maintenance. Fallen debris, such as leaves, are one of the main contributors to pond muck, and a skimmer is the best solution to prevent this and keep water quality and water clarity in good order.
4) UV Clarifiers & Pond Lights
Another common piece of equipment to find in pond kits are a set of LED or halogen pond lights. You can expect to find at least a single light in most kits, as it’s intended to help illuminate the waterfall display and enhance the ponds backdrop. Most common lights are now LED, which means they’re brighter, more efficient, and will last much longer without the need to change the bulbs (such as with halogen).
Alongside lights, some kits may also feature a UV clarifier which works to remove algae particles that cause green pond water. You likely won’t find UV clarifiers included in all pond packages, but we still consider them an essential part of a healthy eco-system. The UV light emitted is not only super effective against algae, but it will also kill free-swimming pathogens, viruses, and bacteria that can cause fish to become sick. If your pond kit doesn’t have a UV clarifier, we recommend picking one up separately to ensure you don’t run into algae problems further down the road.
5) Beneficial Bacteria, Water Conditioners, & Supplements
Finally, to complete most pond bundles, manufacturers often try to include water treatments to help kick start the ponds eco-system. The two most common are beneficial bacteria supplements and de-chlorination treatments. Beneficial bacteria products contain millions of active aerobic bacteria strains (the good bacteria), which work within biological filter media to break down harmful waste substances, such as ammonia and nitrites. When it comes to new ponds, it can take weeks for the natural bacteria population to start developing, so adding concentrated bacteria helps kick-start the process and reduces the waiting time. However, even with beneficial bacteria supplements, you should still make sure to cycle a pond before adding fish. “Cycling” is basically the process of letting everything run while your biological filtration becomes established. For more info, check here for our full guide on pond cycling, which includes natural cycling and cycling with beneficial bacteria products.
What’s Missing From Most Pond Kits? (Further Considerations)
All ponds require some form of aeration, and if you plan to have fish, the more the better! Aeration is essentially the process of providing flow and oxygen to the eco-system, which helps prevent stagnation and keeps dissolved oxygen content within healthy parameters. Fish, wildlife, and even beneficial bacteria all require dissolved oxygen in the water to survive, and so it’s always better to provide a little too much, than too little. In low oxygen conditions, fish will begin to suffocate, wildlife (frogs, newts, insects) will suffer, and the beneficial bacteria which is at the heart of your filtration will become less efficient – which means more harmful waste substances will remain!
In pond kits, aeration will be provided through a combination of the water movement created through your pump and the surface disturbance from the waterfall or spillway. If you don’t plan to have fish, or just very light stocks (1-2 fish), this combination should be more than enough to keep things ticking over healthy. However, if you want to keep more fish in your pond, adding a dedicated aerator is recommended to help keep fish healthy, water quality good, and filtration efficient. The easiest and best way to do this is with an electric air pump which uses a compressor to pump air directly under the pond water. Air pumps can provide huge amounts of oxygen to ponds, and work especially great in both summer and winter where oxygen tends to drop to lower levels (surface ice/heat). For a list of air pumps we recommend, check our air pump guide here.
2) Bottom Drainage (“koi Toilets”)
Another aspect of pond design which is very often overlooked, is the installation of a bottom drainage system. A bottom drain is something installed at the very bottom of the pond which works using gravity to transfer waste from the pond liner into a settlement environment. Bottom drains basically work as underwater skimmers, automatically cleaning all sludge and debris from the pond floor which helps reduce manual cleaning requirements and improve overall water quality. Bottom drains can function efficiently in any type of pond, but you’ll get the best results in a heavy fish stocked pond where waste is a constant issue.
A downside of bottom drainage systems, which may be a big turn-off if you like the convenience a pond kit provides, is that they’ll require some extra work and costs to install correctly. They may also be a bit overkill for smaller ponds or ponds with light fish stocks, where simply cleaning with a net, rake or vacuum would be both cheaper and easier. In any case, bottom drains certainly have their place in the hobby, and we’d still consider one if you’re building a large pond and want to keep a lot of bigger fish. For more information on bottom drain installation and what you may be getting yourself into, check our article on the top bottom drains here.
3) On-going Cleaning & Maintenance
A final point to consider, which may be the most important point here, is the on-going maintenance and care needed to keep your new pond healthy and thriving. Unless you intend to have a natural wildlife pond (and even then, some maintenance is required), you’re going to need a solid maintenance routine which involves removing waste, cleaning equipment, testing water quality, and performing water changes. If you intend to keep fish in your pond, keeping up with cleaning and maintenance is even more important, as fish produce a huge amount of waste and have specific requirements for optimal health. In other words, correctly maintaining your pond is JUST as important as correctly building it!
For more information on this, please refer to our in-depth articles below which should help with all areas of cleaning and maintenance:-
- Cleaning Filter Media (The Right Way)
- Spring Maintenance Guide
- Winter Maintenance Guide
- Guide to Water Vacuums (Cleaning the Easy Way)
- Guide to Water Quality Testing
The Best Pond Kit Reviews 2018 (Top All-in-one Packages)
A budget-friendly pond kit that contains everything you need for a small pond without fish, with some additional extras. The 1200 gallon pond kit from Algreen is a nice entry-level bundle, containing a PVC liner, submersible pump (with fountain attachments), a UV clarifier and LED lights.
The pump is a small submersible model rated at 850 GPH, and comes with a range of fountain attachments for an out-of-the-box water display. It’s not the most powerful pump in the world, and as it’s designed primarily as a fountain pump, we’d only use it for a small pond up to a maximum of 800 gallons without fish. If you intend to have fish, we would half this to approximately 400-500 gallons to ensure you get sufficient water flow. If you’re only looking to create a small water garden, it’s a decent pump as it’s quiet, easy to install and quite efficient to run.
Alongside the pump, you also have a decently sized PVC pond liner measured up at 14 x 14 feet of length and width. Although this may sound like it will provide a 14 x 14 feet pond, you need to take into account the depth, as well as an extra 1-2 feet for overhang. So if you want a pond with 1.5 foot (0.5 meters) of depth, and taking into account 1 foot extra for overhang, you’d be looking at an actual pond size of 10 x 10 ft at 1.5 ft of depth. Since there is only a single size of liner provided, you won’t be creating huge ponds with his kit, but it’s still perfectly suitable for smaller water gardens or natural wildlife ponds.
To combat green pond water, a 13 watt UV clarifier is included which works with the pump to destroy algae particles that pass through the main chamber. It’s a very good wattage for the pond size (we usually advise 8-11w per 3000 gallons), so should be very efficient at keeping green pond water and algae at bay! Included also are a nice set of 3 LED pond lights with colored filter caps, and some synthetic floating lilly-pads for shade and extra aesthetic.
Sadly, the pond kit has a couple of drawbacks, and may not be suitable depending on the type of pond you’re looking to create. Firstly, there is no dedicated water filtration included, as the advertised “filtration” is said to be carried out by the pump via its pre-filter. Due to this, we cannot recommend this kit if you want to keep fish unless you’re planning on adding a small filter box separately, as you’ll just run into water quality issues in the long run. Secondly, no tubing is provided and so this needs to be purchased separately. Not a huge problem, but still a negative as you’ll need to do some extra work to source the correct tubing, which would be 0.5-1″ ID flexible hose in this instance.
Overall, a very cheap pond kit with a decent fountain pump, quality liner, and some nice extras to create a very pretty water garden. It’s intended mostly small ponds (400-800 gallons), and as it lacks dedicated filtration, we wouldn’t advise it for keeping fish. However, a good choice if you’re on a budget or if you’re not interested in fish keeping and just want a nice looking wildlife pond!
What’s Included in this Pond Kit:-
- Liner: 14ft x 14ft PVC Liner
- Pump: 850 GPH Submersible Pump
- Waterfall: Not inlcuded
- Skimmer: Not included
- Filter: Not included
- UV Clarifier: 13 Watt Clarifier
- Lights: 3x LED Lights + transformer
- Extras: 3x synthetic lilypads, fountain attachments
Our mid-range choice of pond kit for building larger, more complex ponds is the bundles provided by Patriot. These kits are more pricey than the some entry-level bundles, but they come with more flexible options for different pond sizes and have far more equipment, including a waterfalls and skimmers, for a more “complete” pond build.
Taking a closer look at these pond kits, you have a fairly standard PVC liner material which you see in most bundles due to it’s ease of use and flexibility. Patriot offers a range of sizes for the liner, allowing you more options for both size and maximum depth. The standard sizes are 10×10 feet, 10×15 feet, 10×20 feet, 15×15 feet, and 15×20 feet in total width and length. Taking into account the sizes, and using an example depth of around 1.5 foot, the smallest liner (10×10) will provide a pond around 500 gallons and the largest (15×20) around 2000 gallons. The kit also includes a high quality underlay material to protect the liner from damage, which was a nice addition to see!
In terms of the pump, the bundles all come with a Anjon Commando 3,000 GPH submersible pump with variable speed control panel. The pump is a fairly standard submersible model, and comes with a pre-filter to prevent clogging, a 3 feet power cord, and runs at an efficient 110 watts. Assuming an electricity charge of $0.10 per kWh (national average), the cost to run this pump 24 hours a day for 30 days would be approximately $8 per month – which is pretty good efficiency for a submersible model! The variable speed control panel also allows you to reduce the flow of the pump which is great if you want to get the perfect water display from the spillway, or if you just want to save some extra money.
The included skimmer box is a medium sized 10″ weir skimmer model, and comes with a generously sized debris basket and a self-adjusting door opening to protect smaller fish from entering the skimmer. Sadly, this skimmer does not contain any additional filter media, and the actual water filtration will be carried out solely inside the waterfall spillway box. In terms of the spillway, it’s a nice 16″ waterfall box and comes with 2 layers of biological media for beneficial bacteria to colonize. Coupled with the pump, you should get ample flow and a very nice water display with some decent filtration due to the heavy aeration inside the box. As for extras, Patriot has included all the necessary tubing to get things connected, a single LED warm-glow light, beneficial bacteria supplements, and non-toxic sealant for skimmer and spillway installation.
Although this is a very nice pond kit for small to medium sized builds, it does have some drawbacks. The biggest is the lack of dedicated filtration, as the only filtration you have here are some small biological balls inside the waterfall spillway, as well as the skimmer for debris collection – which acts as the primary mechanical filtration in this case. So long as you keep on top of maintenance and cleaning, this kit would be great for goldfish ponds or lighter stocked koi ponds (2-3 fish), however, it may struggle to keep water quality in good parameters without further filtration in heavier stocked ponds.
Overall, a very good choice of kit for goldfish ponds, lighter stocked koi ponds, or large natural water gardens. The kit comes with everything you need for a fantastic looking pond, including an efficient pump, skimmer, and waterfall display all at a very reasonable price point. Highly recommended!
What’s Included in this Pond Kit:-
- Liner: PVC + Underlay (Various sizes)
- Pump: 3000 GPH Submersible Pump
- Waterfall: 16″ Spillway
- Skimmer: 10″ Skimmer
- Filter: Spillway media (No dedicated box)
- UV Clarifier: Not included
- Lights: 1x LED Underwater Light + transformer
- Extras: Hose, attachments, beneficial bacteria, and sealant
Our final pond kit choice is one designed for much larger water gardens or heavy stocked ponds, allowing the construction of ponds between 2000 gallons, up to a maximum of 6500 gallons. The kit is offered by the company Half Off Ponds who actually specialize in offering a huge range of different pond kits for complete pond builds at very reasonable prices. Their high-end kits, such as the one reviewed here, are designed for fish ponds and come with everything you need to create a healthy eco-system for goldfish, koi or other pond fish without breaking the bank.
In terms of the pond liner, a highly durable EPDM (rubber) liner is included in various sizes, ranging from the smallest of 15 x 20 feet to a maximum of 20 x 30 feet. The smallest liner size will allow for a pond around 2000 gallons in volume, whereas the largest will provide a 6500 gallon pond – both at 3 ft of depth (ideal for larger fish, such as koi carp!). Since the material for the liner is rubber, you can expect much higher durability in comparison to PVC, but it will also be far heavier and more difficult to manage, so be sure to take this into account if you’re working solo! Rubber is our personal material of choice for large koi ponds as it provides extra peace of mind against leaks, damage, and future problems.
As for the pump, it’s a submersible model rated at 5,500 GPH with a 32′ maximum head height, which makes it ideal for powering water features. It’s oil-free, has an anti-clog cage design, and has an option for variable speed control with the purchase of a separate panel (not included). Since it’s a fairly powerful pump, it’s sadly not the most efficient around, running at 540w, but that’s generally to be expected with high-end submersible models. In terms of monthly electricity costs, and assuming you’re running the pump 24 hours a day, for 30 days a month, you’ll be looking at paying around $38 per month on average. This is calculated using the national average of $0.10 per kWh, so your actual bill may differ depending on your electricity costs.
Similar to other kits, no dedicated filter box is provided, but this kit makes up for that with very high quality filtration inside both the waterfall AND skimmer box. The very wide 22″ spillway contains two layers of mechanical media and 2 layers of bio-balls for beneficial bacteria to colonize. On top of that, the skimmer contains a large sheet of mechanical media for additional debris collection. Combined together, they can provide a similar level of filtration to a high-end filter box, so you should have very little issues with water quality. When it comes to extras, you have a nice underwater LED pond light, all essential tubing, plenty of connectors, some beneficial bacteria, and non-toxic sealant for the waterfall and skimmer.
The only real downside of this kit is the efficiency of the submersible pump, but unless you switched to an external model (more hassle), you won’t get much better performance at such as high flow rate. Otherwise, this is a very good choice of pond kit for large koi ponds, heavy stocked ponds, or bigger water gardens. The large waterfall will create a very striking display, and the efficient filtration and high-flows rate will provide a healthy environment for fish!
What’s Included in this Pond Kit:-
- Liner: EPDM Rubber + Underlay (Various sizes)
- Pump: 5500 GPH Submersible Pump
- Waterfall: 22″ Spilway
- Skimmer: 6″ Skimmer
- Filter: Spillway + Skimmer Media (no dedicated box)
- UV Clarifier: Not included
- Lights: 1x LED Underwater Light + transformer
- Extras:Hose, attachments, beneficial bacteria, and sealant