25 Small Koi Pond Designs

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A koi pond can easily become the focal point in small gardens, highlighting the compatibility of plants, animals, and strategically placed natural materials. Small ornamental ponds are graced with practically all of the major components of larger ponds, except they are much easier to maintain and require less in terms of financial and biological resources. If you’re just beginning to entertain your interests in fish-keeping, designing a small koi pond is a great way to explore what works for your space! A small pond can transform a plain backyard into a complex ecosystem for various forms of life.

Create a lively nook with a square-shaped koi pond. A deck of trailing vines and flowering herbs softens the sharp edges. Protective netting, useful during periods of heavy leaf fall, can be fashioned for ponds like this one.


Natural koi pond
Karen Blakeman / No copyright

Keep it natural. Small, domesticated koi would thrive in a well-planted garden pond, rife with emergent, floating, submerged, and edge plants. Just make sure there’s room for them to comfortably swim and grow! Use plants to camouflage unsightly pumps, aerators, and other artificial materials.


Koi pond with rounded edges
Wonderlane / No copyright

Define a rounded edge with a neat trim of stone slabs. This may consist of a single or multiple layers of polished or rough stones. The slabs may extend onto a platform or seating area around the pond.


Circular pond
Jan Helebrant / No copyright

For a neat yet eye-catching finish, leave the edges free of plants. A small pond’s hydrophytes may be situated in the center of the design instead. A few young lilies and tufts of ornamental grasses should be a source of comfort for a school of koi.


Pond with figure
Karen Blakeman / No copyright

Surprise your garden’s next visitor with a quirky yet alarmingly lifelike figure! This amusing “scarecrow” may help fend off wild animals. Its head of wildflowers, on the other hand, should draw pollinators to your pond.


Pond with clusters of water lilies
The Fun Chronicles / No copyright

For straightforward maintenance, clusters of lilies can also be placed close to the edges of a small pond. This eliminates the need to enter the pond whenever some light pruning is in order.


Pond with organic outline
Alex Thomson / No copyright

An organic outline, nestled within a hilly landscape, would be perfect for a small koi pond. Use a mix of boulders, smaller stones, bricks, and slabs for a diversity of textures and natural hues. Decorative elements like topiary shrubs and driftwood should enhance the pond’s edge.


Circle pond
quiddle. / CC BY-SA 2.0

Small ponds with a central location can be framed by potted plants, a concentric arrangement of wildflowers, and well-defined pathways. These make for an impeccably classy finish, one which may seem to increase the value of your koi.


Circular pond in garden
Julie anne Johnson / CC BY 2.0

Go for a symmetrical look to give your pond a more striking visual impact. Border plants with silvery, deep green, and bright hues, neatly arranged to follow a pattern, should give a fantastic aerial view. A design like this would be appreciated from the upper floors of nearby structures.


Pond with raised edge
Rosyth Estate House / CC BY 2.0

A raised edge for a pool-like effect is great for small koi ponds in well-manicured lawns. The outline may follow that of a basic shape or it may incorporate some nuanced curves. This pond makes room for a palm tree – perfectly rooted into one edge!


Pond by cottage
Mark / CC BY 2.0

A small koi pond can beautifully blend into a cottage-themed landscape. Thoroughly mask the pond’s edges with upright, moisture-tolerant plants. These should create a lively reflection wherever the water’s surface is exposed.


Pond with trailing succulents
Dyogi / CC BY 2.0

Trailing succulents, such as sedums or stonecrops, may be a wise choice for filling in the gaps around a small pond’s rocky edges. These are low-maintenance, can be propagated endlessly, and may help provide little critters with cover as they enter and exit the pond’s edge.


Sunken stream in garden
Karen Roe / CC BY 2.0

A small, seemingly sunken stream, lodged into a thriving section of a multi-leveled garden, would be a fantastic location for your koi! Add a fountain or waterfall to one edge to simulate the movements of a light yet constant current.


Small koi pond with multi-tiered fountain
msscacti / CC BY 2.0

A multi-tiered fountain, made of store-bought or recycled components, should be a visual and auditory treat in the garden. As this feature stirs up water, it should also help optimize dissolved oxygen levels.


Koi pond split into two

Divide a small pond into two asymmetrical parts. A bridge or a pathway may run in between both parts. These small “ponds” may double as the living edges of a porch or outdoor space. If they have an adequate depth and width, they may be stocked with a couple of domestic koi.


Koi pond with young lilies and lotuses
Rosyth Estate House / CC BY 2.0

Young or miniature varieties of lilies or lotuses should thrive in small koi ponds. For some vertical appeal, you may throw in a couple of tufts of slow-growing emergent plants. Situate these away from sources of strong water turbulence, such as a fountain.


Pond with functional decor
Karen Roe / CC BY 2.0

Elevate your small koi pond’s aesthetic appeal with functional ornaments, such as a fountain that doubles as a conversation piece, and pondside décor. Keep in mind that the areas directly above and around the water’s perimeter may be decorated to give the illusion of a larger pond area.


Small pond with simple waterfall
satanoid / CC BY 2.0

A simple waterfall should boost your koi’s spirits, encouraging them to explore more areas of the highly oxygenated pond. Use natural materials with varied shapes and sizes to create levels that blend in with their surroundings.


Pond with potted plants
Rosyth Estate House / CC BY 2.0

To keep your lilies and emergent plants in place, and to prevent them from competing with one another for space, situate their root systems in pots. Place a layer of aquatic gravel over the substrate in these pots to prevent them from being lifted into the water. You may either space your pots apart or place them in one area for a more crowded look.


Small pond with waterfall
julie corsi / CC BY 2.0

Play with the height and location of your waterfall’s cascades. These need not be too high or complex for small koi ponds. A higher tier followed by a split lower tier, seen here, should help reduce the water’s force as it re-enters the pond’s main pool.


Narrow pond with flowers
Ruth Hartnup / CC BY 2.0

A moderately planted, narrow pond should fit into the edges of a small garden. Adjust its orientation to best complement surrounding features. Hedges on both sides of the pond may consist of vibrant wildflowers. Apart from enhancing the colors of your koi, these should compel you to visit the pondside each day!


Small koi pond in garden
msscacti / CC BY 2.0

The borders of a small pond are often just as visually valuable as the pond itself. Here, both emergent and bordering irises act as dynamic focal points, softening both the structured waterfall and the jagged corners of stone stacks. A curved bench, also made of stone, accentuates the curved edge of the pond’s organic shape.


Hydrophytes in pond
Elliott Brown / CC BY-SA 2.0

Go festive with hydrophytes! Who says you have to restrict your lilies to one side or corner of a koi pond? If there are substantial gaps in the water’s surface – and, crucially, the pond’s dissolved oxygen levels are optimized – you may encourage your lilies to spread out. After the growth period, make sure to remove decaying or old foliage. Note that a sharply reduced density of koi may be stocked into densely planted ponds.


Pond with water-tolerant creeping plants
Dion Hinchcliffe / CC BY-SA 2.0

Maintain a plot of highly textured, water-tolerant creeping plants on one side of the small koi pond. The trailing stems should gradually make their way toward the water’s surface, where curious koi may interact with the foliage. Generously trim overgrown stems.


Koi pond with vines and other plants
Leonora (Ellie) Enking / CC BY-SA 2.0

A lush hideaway in a small garden? Surround your koi pond with vines, large-leaved ornamental plants, and smooth boulders. Dappled shade should keep a small pond cool through summer, aiding in the maintenance of your koi’s metabolic rates.

Final Thoughts

Small koi ponds come in all sorts of forms; they can be perfectly shaped centerpieces made to harmoniously balance a garden’s elements or they can invoke images that are reminiscent of a jungle’s watering holes! As the pond is limited in size, the smallest components count. The growth forms of plants, their location relative to the pond’s edge, and their compatibility with koi affect the overall theme. Moreover, non-living materials and décor also significantly alter the pond’s appearance. The possibilities are endless with small ponds!

Angeline L
About the author

Angeline L

I'm a passionate researcher and scuba diver with a keen interest in garden plants, marine life, and freshwater ecology. I think there’s nothing better than a day spent writing in nature. I have an academic and professional background in sustainable aquaculture, so I advocate for the responsible production of commercial fish, macroinvertebrates, and aquatic plants.

Read more about Pond Informer.

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