Sick of looking after your unused swimming pool? Become a pool to pond convert and turn your pool into a thriving backyard billabong, full of beautiful water plants and all manner of wildlife.
What are the benefits of turning a pool into a pond?
It’ll save you hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars. Aside from the initial setup costs that come with buying water plants and fish, converting your pool into a pond will cut your long-term running costs. When you convert your pool to a pond, you can completely switch off your filter and you’ll never need to buy pool chemicals again.
It doesn’t have to be forever. Converting your pool to a pond is way more creative than having it filled in, and the good news is, it’s reversible.
It'll save you time. Maintaining a pond takes less time than a pool. In fact, as a self-sustainable eco-system, you can stop cleaning altogether and simply let nature do its thing.
It gives you access to thousands of litres of water. A pond in your garden is essentially a big rainwater tank, that gives you thousands of litres of clean water to use in your garden.
It’s eco-friendly. A pond will attract a parade of wildlife, from birds and dragonflies to lizards and frogs, thereby promoting biodiversity in your garden.
Converting your pool to a pond - as easy as 1, 2, 3!
Turn off your pool pump and filter. If you have a chlorinated pool, stop using chlorine. Within a few days, the chlorine will have evaporated. You can drain the pool halfway, but step two is much easier if you completely drain the pool. If you have a salt water pool, you must completely drain the pool.
Create various islands and platforms for your aquatic plants to sit on. These can be floating or stationery and made with used materials like bricks or blocks, pieces of foam or a plastic table. Also add ropes, logs and tree branches so animals and insects can escape if they fall into the water.
Last but not least (and the fun bit), add aquatic plants and fish. Aquatic plants are key to clean water, as they act as filters. For crystal clear water, Sydney’s Ku-ring-gai Council (which has implemented a pool to pond program and encourages its residents to convert their unused pools to ponds) recommends about 25% plant coverage. It’s recommended that you add the plants first, then the fish.
The best time to add fish is when you discover mosquito wrigglers in your pond. If your pond water can support wrigglers, it can also support fish. Stick to native fish, as some foreign species can threaten native fish and aquatic wildlife.
Our top water plant picks
1. Ranunculus inundatus (river buttercup), 2. Pink waterlily, 3. Yellow waterlily, 4. Saururus cernuus (lizard's tail), 5. Marsilea drummondii (nardoo), 6. Cyperus prolifer (dwarf/miniature papyrus).
I’ve started my conversion and now my pool water is green. Will it stay that way?
No. When you stop applying chemicals, the water is colonised by a type of algae that turns the water green. This algae will eventually be replaced by different algae that doesn’t colour the water.
Will the pond smell?
If you’re worried your pool conversion will be more pong than pond, don’t worry. The water will be naturally cleaned by the plant and animal life in it. Plus, frogs and fish will not live in polluted water.
Are there any safety considerations?
Your pond must be fenced to meet regulations for backyard swimming pools. The water is not suitable for drinking.
What about mozzies?
There are just a handful of mosquito species that like to bite us humans and they don’t like breeding in water deeper than 30 centimetres anyway.
How long will the pond take to establish?
It will take about two summers for your new pond environment to become established.
Meet a real-life pool to pond converter
Rose Andrews converted her large in-ground, concrete and pebble-stone pool and has never looked back.
What inspired you to convert your pool into a pond?
After reading a Sydney Morning Herald article on how to convert a pool into a pond, I thought I’d give it a go. I had no idea what I was doing but it was easier than I thought. We live on acreage, the kids had left home and I wanted to minimise labour intensive work around the house. My husband and I are really happy with it. Every year the pond gets better. It’s the best thing we ever did. It’s easy, fun and well worth doing.
What did you do first?
We turned off the pool filter and drained half the pool. We had a lot of rain after that and so after a while, the pool was full again. We waited a little while before taking a sample of the water for testing, to make sure it was okay for aquatic plants.
Using bricks, a plastic baker tray and an old metal water tank, we set up various platforms and areas for the aquatic plants to sit on. We chose aquatic plants that help clean the water, and planted about an eighth of the area. Now the plants have taken over most of the pond. After researching fish that would work well, I sourced native perch and other small fish.
Although it’s not necessary, we also installed a fountain and did a bit of extra landscaping around the outside of the pond.
What are your top tips for pool to pond converts?
Carefully choose fish that provide good water filtration. Carp, for example can produce a lot of waste. Also do your homework on what plants will work in your local area. Lotus didn’t do well because it’s too cold where we live. Plants that have taken off however include water lilies, papyrus and elephant’s ear.
Before adding plants and fish, make sure the water quality is right, by getting a sample tested. I would also recommend adding plants first and letting them establish, before checking the water again and then adding fish.
What have been some of the added benefits?
Switching off the pool pump and filter has saved us $1000 a year in electricity. We also get more wildlife visiting than ever before. We get frogs, tadpoles, ducks, lizards and plenty of birdlife.
Do you have to do much cleaning?
We never touch the pond. Between the aquatic plants and the fish keeping the water clean, it’s completely self-sustainable. Many people fear a pond will be sludgy, smelly and full of mosquitoes. But that’s just not the case. Our pond is very clean. It doesn’t smell and mosquitoes aren't a problem. While I wouldn’t swim in it personally, the water in our pond is clean enough to swim in.
A word on weeds
Some pond plants have been declared as weeds in NSW and must be controlled. These include:
- Alligator weed (Alternanthera philoxeroides)
- Cabomba (Cabomba caroliniana)
- Hygrophila (Hygrophila costata)
- Hymenachne (Hymenachne amplexicaulis)
- Leafy elodea (Egeria densa)
- Sagittaria (Sagittaria platyphylla)
- Salvinia (Salvinia molesta)
- Water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes)
- Water lettuce (Pistia stratiotes)