How long should i run my pond pump?

pond pump

Your pond pump should be running 24/7 that’s why it’s so important to select an energy efficient pond pump. Running an inefficient pond pump could cost you hundred of dollars extra each year.

Incorrectly sizing the pond pump can also lead to unnecessarily high power use. For most ponds the main aim should be to circulate the pond once every hour.

If you’re unsure how much water is in your pond, you can use our handy pond volume calculator.

While circulating it more can be helpful it may not be necessary. Providing great filtration to the water being circulated is key!

Your pond pump has a couple of main functions. 

How long should i run my pond pump?

Number 1 circulation.

Circulation in itself is not enough. The water needs to be circulated with purpose. Meaning the water should be filtered. Most importantly biologically.

The water needs contact with certain bacteria’s that will purify the water. To understand more about biological filtration read our article on the nitrogen cycle.

Number 2 oxygen.

Fish and the bacteria both need oxygen in the water to thrive. Without a pump you would need to rely solely on the surface of the pond in contact with the air and water plants.

While creating a functioning ecosystem without a pond pump it is much harder, it is possible. If you would like to read more about a pond with no pump read this article.

Having an efficient, correctly sized pond pump working in conjunction with a filter system will go a long way to providing an easy to care for pond. Which overtime will provide hours of enjoyment and not a lot of maintenance.

Finding an efficient pond pump

When looking at pond pumps there are plenty of numbers to look at. But here are the most important. 

  • Gallons or litres per hour
  • Head height
  • Watts

The first thing you’ll look at is how many gallons or litres the pump can move per hour. Remember we want to ensure the pond is circulated at least once every hour. 

Next check the head height. This will tell you the amount of water the pump can move at different heights. This is very important if you have waterfalls or a long stream. You’ll notice as the pump moves water higher the volume of water decreases.

You need to understand this. Using the graph on the box you’ll be able to see how much water is produced at your required “head”. You can learn more about head heights in our article selecting the right pond pump.

Lastly we want to look at the watts. This is the amount of energy the pump is consuming every hour. Basically telling you how much it will cost you. We have a handy calculator on our cost to run a pond pump article if you want to check that out.

Now with these 3 pieces of information you’ll be able to compare all the pumps that will suit your needs and select the model with the lowest energy consumption (watts).

Circulating the water with purpose


By circulating the water with purpose we can usually get away with the bare minimum, of circulating the pond every hour. This will save us money because we don’t need a supersized pump! and it will greatly lower the overall maintenance needed on the pond itself.

As I mentioned in the opening bringing the water into contact with beneficial bacteria is the number 1 factor for overall water health. To do this the best way in my opinion is to run the water through a constructed wetland or bog filter. These types of filters mimic the way nature purifies water, just in a smaller scale.

They are very low tech, easy to make and can be installed onto any size or shaped pond, formal or informal, old or new pond. You can read how to create a bog or wetland filter by reading our article on how to build one.

Circulating the water through a wetland/bog filter provides all the biological filtration your pond will need! It will also provide a certain amount of mechanical filtration. This is the removal of solids such as fish waste from the water.

Another form of mechanical filtration to definitely consider is adding a skimmer. A pond skimmer works by creating a current and pulling water into the skimmer box. The gives you an easy collection point to remove things that blow into the pond like leaves. 

If the leaves are allowed to sink to the bottom they begin to break down and this will release nutrients into the pond. Too many nutrients and algae will grow.

Incorporating a skimmer also provides a nice convenient location for the pond pump. In here it’s tucked away out of sight yet still very easy to access.

Having a skimmer and a wetland/ bog filter at opposite ends of your pond is the simplest and most cost effective way to move water with purpose.

Adding oxygen

Oxygen in a pond helps maintain healthy bacteria populations, fish need oxygen to survive and good oxygen levels help disperse the build up of harmful/ smelly gasses.

Creating waterfalls, rapids or cascades as a method for the water to re-enter the pond is a fantastic cost effective way to incorporate oxygen without the need of additional equipment. 

The use of specialised waterfall filters can help filter the water, add oxygen and create visual and audio appeal.

Even without a waterfall the current and ripple of a circulation pump creates oxygen exchange between the air and the ever changing surface water.

If your existing pond pump is undersized or you purposely choose a smaller pump for economic reasons adding aerators to the pond is very cheap and easy to install. They can deliver oxygen directly to the part of the pond that may otherwise be lacking in water movement (dead or stagnant zones).

Secondary pumps

In certain ponds it can be a good idea to have 2 or more pumps running different elements of the pond. For example a specialised waterfall filter and a bog filter, having these dual pumps in place can be particularly effective in swim ponds and heavily stocked fish or koi ponds.

Sometimes when we entertain people or when we are enjoying our ponds we desire a little more flow. Many ponds these days are incorporating streams and waterfalls. Who doesn’t like the sound of running water, right?

To create a decent 1 foot (30cm) wide waterfall requires 1,500 gallons (5678 litres) while this is adequate sometimes we want it louder and more breathtaking visually. 

If this is the case consider adding a secondary pump that is only turned on for these occasions. This will allow you to save money on energy yet still get the full magnificence waterfalls or stream.

In some situations it may be more cost effective to run 2 energy efficient models capable of moving the desired amount of water as opposed to a single pump. You should always weigh your options and look at the potential savings of this possibility.

Having or running multiple pumps can give you added piece of mind. Should one pump fail at least the other is still providing oxygen and hopefully some filtration.


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Hi, I'm Kev. My pond and water garden started with simple aquariums. I have created many ponds and water gardens around our home: Fish ponds, Aquaponic systems, grey-water wetlands and bog filters. My favourite topic is water filtration.

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