This diy barrel pond was a little project I was able to complete one Saturday. It was a few more weeks before I added the fish as I waited for the pond to “cycle”. But the build itself (basically the bog filter component) only took a couple of hours.
The idea of this pond was to provide the sound of water, under our bedroom window and keep some more fish- as you know I’m pond crazy!!
- half wine barrel ( this we already had) can be picked up for between $50-$100
- Container for the bog filter. (I used a small 30L food safe container) cost around $20-
- Some old timbers salvaged from a wooden pallet. (These were used to clad the filter and support it on the barrel)
- Aquaponic clay balls. (Again this was some material I already had. If I needed to purchase some rocks for the filter I would have used scoria or lava rock as it’s light, cheap and provides plenty of surface area)
- A bulk head fitting. Cost $6-
- A small off cut of 90mm storm water pipe (had this lying around)
- 2 x 90mm storm water caps. $1 each
- A bag of gravel for inside the pond $14-
- Small 300L/ hr pond pump $16- on eBay.
- 1 x Eel grass plant $7-
- 1 x Pennywort $5-
- 2 x Impatient plants $2-
- 7 x White Cloud Mountain minnows caught by my daughter in our top pond.
- Drop saw ( cutting up the pallet timbers)
- Drill ( with hole saw & normal drill bit)
- Hammer & nails
- Tape measure
Sealing the barrel
At first I was worried that the barrel would no longer be water tight as it’s a half barrel. However on a trip to a local garden centre I saw their half barrels full of water. The friendly staff informed me that once the timber gets wet and expands it forms a water tight seal.
My barrel was totally dry, it hadn’t held any liquid for many years. I filled it up with water and it leaked everywhere!! So I decided to soak it in an old cattle trough we have. After a week I removed it and refilled with water.
This time it held water reasonably well but it still lost about an inch over a 24hr period. Over a two week period I continued to top up the water level. Slowly the leaks became less noticeable, more just a weeping and eventually stopped all together.
I think it took about 3 weeks till I was completely satisfied that there was no leaking at all.
Creating the bog filter
Now that I was satisfied the wine barrel could hold water it was time to construct a very simple bog filter. I decided the filter would sit on top of the barrel and the clean water would return to the pond via gravity.
It was easy enough to find a cheap food grade plastic tub at the local hardware store. The tub I selected was long enough to sit on the sides of the barrel, yet the width was short enough that 1/2 the barrel surface area was still visible (we want to see the fish!).
The storage container had a capacity of 30litres. Because the barrel holds around 100 litres this was perfect. Where possible it’s alway good to size a bog filter at 30% of the pond. For more info on bog and wetland pond construction and benefits click the link to read this article I wrote.
I used a bulk head fitting to create a waterproof hole in the container. Again I purchased this at the local hardware store. These are really easy to install, you just need a drill with a hole saw attachment capable of drilling a hole slightly larger than the bulkhead pipe.
I created a gravel guard around the bulkhead fitting using a small length of 90mm storm water pipe, glued to a 90mm storm water cap. This stops the guard from being easily removed. The bulkhead was used to secure the guard in place.
See the video below for a better explanation of the fitting and benefits of the gravel guard. Basically the guard keeps an area free from any gravel or other materials used in the filter.
To force the water to move completely through the bog I added a pipe to the bulkhead fitting called a “stand pipe” this also sets the water level height in the filter. To move water from the bottom to the top I drilled numerous holes in the bottom of the 90mm storm water pipe that forms the gravel guard.
Again this is quite difficult to describe in words.. so hopefully the short video below will fill in some of the gaps.
Once I was happy with the configuration I clad the box in some used timber from a wooden pallet. This is purely aesthetic but I’m really happy with how it looks.
Filling the bog filter
The media I choose to use was ceramic clay balls. These are used in aquaponic systems and I had some left over from an aquaponic build I did last year. They are really light weight, easy to work with and contain plenty of surface area.
Surface area is what is important when selecting a media for a bog or wetland filter. These filters are hot beds for beneficial bacteria’s. These bacteria’s require surfaces to attach themselves to.
The more surface area the more beneficial bacteria. The more beneficial bacteria the better the water quality! I love the whole nitrogen cycling process and if you’d like to learn more click the link here to read a beginner guide to the nitrogen cycle.
Anyway I digress.. so long as the media you select has plenty of surface area it should work great in a bog filter. Here in Australia scoria or lava rock is very cheap and makes an incredible media for bog filters.
I’ve also seen people use blue stone, river pebbles even milk bottle tops! Whatever you choose the main purpose is surface area and voids that allow the water to travel freely.
To get the water up into the bog filter I purchased a small 300L/hr pump on eBay. It only consumes 5W of power and does a fine job circulating the water from the pond up into the bog filter. From the filter it runs down the drainage pipe (stand pipe) back into the pond.
For the plants we can use any plant that thrives in water or boggy soil. Because this is quite a shallow bog filter I’ve used plants with a shallow root system.
In the bog filter I added 2 impatience and a penny wort. The impatience aren’t really a water plant but I’d seen other people grow them in shallow streams so I thought I’d give it a try. So far they are performing well.
The pennywort is a marginal plant which means it thrives in the shallow water around the edges of ponds. It’s supposed to be a vigorous grower and I like the thought of it cascading our over the filter. Pennywort is also supposed to be medicinal and used to treat arthritis- at least according to the label.
Your not limited to just planting the bog filter. I added some eel grass to the pond itself. This will hopefully provide shelter and protection for baby fish. Here you could add water plants that like deeper water.
I also added gravel to the bottom of the pond. I think it looks nicer and provides a more natural habitat for the fish. And of course it provides added surface area for beneficial bacteria.
For the fish I just wanted something small, active and cold water tolerant. I choose White Cloud Mountain minnows. These little guys are a really tough fish and survive in my climate throughout the winter (100km east of Melbourne, Australia).
I already had a large colony in my wildlife pond so I armed my daughter with a pond net and sent her to catch me some. She had a ball and I supervised with a glass of red.
Of course before we added the fish we tested the water using an api master test kit. It’s critical that a pond, aquarium or anything that will be used to keep fish has “cycled”. For more information on “cycling” a pond click the link to read my beginners guide to the nitrogen cycle article.
A pond this size could also safely hold 2-3 goldfish. I’m in the process of building another one that I would like to keep some rosy barbs in. These are another hardy fish that are supposed to survive outdoors in my climate. Either them or some southern Pygmy perch. I haven’t decided yet.
Anyway that’s about all there us to it. If you want to see this pond and others I build subscribe to my YouTube channel.
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