Guide to Oxygenating a Garden Pond without Mains Pumps or Electricity (2020 updated guide)
There could be number of reasons you may need an aeration solution that doesn’t require mains electricity for operation. Your pond may be too far from an electrical socket, you may have run out of spare sockets, or you may just want to save money on your monthly bill. Whatever the reason, luckily there are quite a few ways to provide extra aeration and oxygenation to ponds without the need for a mains socket connection. Although they won’t be able to provide huge amounts of water flow to larger ponds, they would be ideal for smaller water gardens or to supplement a larger ponds main aeration system.
Aeration is important in all bodies of water which hold living organisms, and just because you don’t have any pond fish doesn’t mean you shouldn’t aerate. In wildlife ponds, natural beneficial bacteria which are essential to the nitrogen cycle still require oxygen and nutrients to break down harmful waste. Likewise, extra aeration will attract more animals to the pond, such as frogs, newts, and a variety of insects. It will also help keep away nuisance pests, such as mosquitoes, as a well aerated pond isn’t ideal for them to breed and lay their eggs.
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If you have fish in your pond, aeration is not just important, it is absolutely vital for their survival. Without aeration fish would not have sufficient oxygen to breath and beneficial bacteria would not be able to keep up with bio-filtration, so water quality would rapidly deteriorate.
Aeration Vs Oxygenation – What’s the difference?
Aeration and oxygenation are two pieces of the same puzzle, with oxygenation making up a natural part of overall the aeration process. Aeration comprises the movement of water, which helps nutrients and oxygen spread around the pond, whilst also encouraging gas exchange to take place on the surface water. Oxygenation will naturally be taking place when you aerate a pond, with water flow encouraging oxygen content to areas of water which may have been lower before aerating.
In terms of pond equipment, we generally categorize an aerator as something that provides both water movement and oxygenation, whilst an oxygenator is primarily designed to supply pure oxygen content and little water flow. For example, fountains and waterfalls are classic aerators, providing fantastic water flow for nutrients, gas exchange, and oxygenation to take place. Air pumps, on the other hand, create little in terms of water flow but are champions of supplying massive amounts of pure oxygen directly to pond water.
Will the Aeration be sufficient for pond fish?
If you have fish in your pond and want to aerate without electricity from a mains socket, you should be safe so long as you still have a mains powered pump and filter box running alongside. Goldfish, and especially koi, will be far happier in a well aerated pond, but they also require efficient water filtration so waste substances don’t slowly pollute their living environment. Designing a garden pond without pumps and filters is looking for trouble, and is not something we recommend due to the high risk of fish death. If you have fish in your pond you should also have a quality pond pump and filter box, with extra aeration being added as a means to supplement the system – not to replace it! If you already have the necessary equipment in place, adding aerators that don’t require electricity can help save you money as well as make your pond fish more comfortable throughout the year.
If you don’t have any fish in your pond, you don’t technically need a pump or filter box if your eco-system is in balance. This type of pond is usually called a “wildlife” pond, and is kept healthy with natural bacteria, plants, and a strong nitrogen cycle which will benefit from added aeration and oxygen. In this case, and since no fish are in the system increasing the bio-load (waste), you can safely add all non-mains powered equipment to help give the pond a boost in natural productivity. Extra oxygen will help power beneficial bacteria, attract animals, and water movement will allow nutrients to spread to plants more easily.
How to Aerate a Pond without Electricity from a Mains Socket
Method 1) Solar Power Fountain Pumps
Fountains are a great natural aerator, and you don’t need a mains socket if you go solar powered! Solar powered fountain pumps are a good choice if you get plenty of sunlight in your garden, and most even come with rechargeable batteries for overcast operation. Although they won’t be able to power huge water displays, quality solar pumps can still give you respectable water height and enough aeration for small to medium sized ponds. They can also be added to larger ponds as a means to provide extra oxygen alongside the main aeration system.
You won’t need a mains socket here, but you’ll need to make sure you choose a quality pump with reliable solar panel displays. A pump which provides higher GPH will give you both better fountain height and water flow, and you’ll likely be looking at pumps in the range of 50-400 GPH for solar models.
Batteries aren’t essential but are a great way to keep aeration going during overcast weather and during the night. Most battery packs will be able to give you a good 4-6 hours of constant operation when the sun is away, which is what you should aim for in a quality model. For a full list of our top solar fountain picks, check our dedicated article on this here!
Method 2) Solar Power Aerator Pumps
Similar to solar powered fountain pumps, but working instead to provide direct oxygen to the pond water! Solar aerators don’t require water to function, and instead need to be installed above the water on the sides of the pond. The pump usually comes with diffuser stones which are then placed below the water surface so the air pump can push oxygen directly into the pond.
Solar aerators are not the best way to create water movement, but are great as standalone oxygenators or to supplement a solar powered fountain pump. They also work well in fish ponds where you may want to provide extra oxygen content alongside your mains powered pump and filtration system. In terms of wildlife ponds without fish, the additional oxygen an air pump provides helps beneficial bacteria function more efficiently and also attracts wildlife to the water, such as frogs and newts.
Since these pumps are solar powered there is no need for mains electricity, so they can be installed anywhere around the pond. When purchasing you’ll want to look for a large solar panel, a battery pack if you want night time operation, and a large air stone diffuser for maximum oxygenation. You can pick up solar air pumps in both floating and ground standing varieties, and although both are suitable for oxygenating water, we find the larger panel capacity of ground-standing models provides much better oxygen compared to floating models. For more information on air pumps and aerators, check out our main air pump article here.
Method 3) Natural Pond Plants
A third method of providing oxygen to pond water is with the addition of natural pond plants! Although plants won’t be able to provide the same level of aeration as dedicated solar pumps, they can still increase oxygen content a fair amount in larger numbers. The best plants to choose when looking to oxygenate pond water are submerged species, such as hornwort, as these are capable of adding oxygen directly to the water. Plants which have foliage above water will simply release oxygen directly into the atmosphere, so they aren’t ideal for oxygenation purposes.
As well as providing oxygen, plants have the added benefit of improving water filtration by absorbing excess nutrients from waste, such as nitrates and phosphates. These nutrients are left behind as bacteria work to break down harmful substances into their inorganic compounds, and without pond plants, they act as natural fertilisers for nuisance algae and duckweed. Adding pond plants means they can compete with nuisance algae for the nutrients, controlling their numbers and improving water clarity. This indirectly helps to improve oxygen in the water as algae blooms can cause huge reductions in natural water content as they grow, die off, and spread.
Fish will also benefit from pond plants, as they provide a means to hide from predators and de-stress when needed. Goldfish also love to eat most submerged plant species, so the plants can’t become invasive and take over the pond. For more information on the best plants for ponds, check our main article here.
Method 4) Aeration Windmill Systems
A final method of providing aeration and oxygen to ponds is by installing a heavy duty windmill aeration system. These types of aerators are designed for massive ponds and lakes, being able to aerate water bodies as large as 2-3 acres in size. They operate completely from wind power, and have been optimized for high air output even in low wind conditions. The aeration takes place via a 1/2″ airline which is placed at the deepest point in the center of your pond, with a powerful compressor which can produce 4.0+ CFM of air at upwards of 30 PSI.
Although very expensive and obviously overkill for smaller garden ponds, they’re an ideal long-term solution for larger ponds and lakes, as they can operate without the need for mains AC power which isn’t always available at remote locations. Since most open bodies of water have plenty of natural air currents, however, these aerators can function all year round, with the only cost being the initial investment. They also are able to aerate from the bottom to the top, which means they can aerate even the deepest points of water so oxygen is spread evenly across all layers, reducing algae, and improving bacteria and fish health.
The biggest problem you’ll have with these system is the installation process, which will require more than one pair of hands. If you aren’t experienced with these type of systems it may be best to hire professional contractors to install to minimize the risk of damage, as there are a lot of different aspects to take into account during construction.
Once it’s up, however, it’s up for the long haul! Many manufacturers also provide lengthy warranties in case of problems, which is always nice to see for maximum peace of mind.