Pebbles and rocks are a great addition to a pond. They make it appear more natural, provide habitat, give plants a substrate to root into and most importantly provide surface area for beneficial bacteria.
However adding pebbles, gravel or rocks to your pond isn’t for everyone. Many specialised koi pond owners will never use rocks and gravel within their ponds. They prefer a more sterile controlled and easy to clean environment.
For those of us who simply want a natural looking fish, wildlife or water garden I believe having rocks, pebbles and gravel not only enhances the beauty of the pond, but also makes maintaining it much easier.
Let’s take a look at both arguments for and against pebbles, rocks and gravel in a pond.
When you wouldn’t add pebbles to your pond
As I mentioned the majority of pond owners who don’t want pebbles in their pond are serious koi keepers. Koi fish can be incredibly expensive and serious collectors will spend a pretty penny on the right fish.
When you are spending so much money on fish their health is paramount. Keeping the area in which the fish live as clean as possible is seen as the optimal way to keep them safe from parasites and diseases.
These kinds of ponds are often designed with bottom drains and large external mechanical and biological filtration units. Even better the use of large bog or wetland filters.
The bottom drains allow for any solids like fish waste, uneaten food and sunken plant materials to be easily drained from the pond. These organic materials will affect the water quality if allowed to build up.
Meanwhile the filtration units (seperate from the pond) wether large drum filters or a bog/ wetland filter are providing a home for billions of beneficial bacteria and microorganisms. These are keeping the nitrogen cycle running smooth and water quality pristine.
If your unsure about what the nitrogen cycle is you should read our article a quick guide to the nitrogen cycle. Every pond or fish keeper needs to understand how the cycle works so they can keep it running.
When you should add pebbles to your pond
As you now know the biggest benefit of having pebbles, rocks and gravel in your pond is that these surfaces provide the perfect home for beneficial bacteria and micro-organisms. By allowing the bacteria and micro-organisms habitat within the pond it reduces the area or requirement for large external filters.
Having the bacteria and micro-organisms living in large numbers within the pond itself can greatly help you in keeping the water crystal clear and healthy.
The rocks and pebbles gives you areas where you can plant water loving plants. Water plants will consume excess nutrients within the water. Removing these will greatly help keep algae to a minimum.
Also rocks can provide plenty of nooks and crannies where fish can hide from predatory birds and animals. The rocks coupled with the plants provide excellent habitats for the fish to spawn and the baby fry to thrive.
In a specialised koi pond without pebbles the organic solids needed to be removed. In a more natural pond the organic material is consumed by the bacteria and organisms living on the pebbles and gravel.
Of course it’s still incredibly wise to add a pond skimmer to any pond to remove leaf debris and uneaten food. Then a simple waterfall filter or bog filter can process the fish waste that the pump sucks up.
These types of ponds can look incredibly natural and are very low maintenance.
There is no right or wrong answer. Both pond types will provide a safe and healthy environment for your pond fish or other pond creatures. They both are using beneficial bacteria and organisms to help process waste and keep the water healthy.
The pebble free pond requires slightly more maintenance, but it’s also quite likely going to be stocked with more fish. The pebble and rock pond is more attuned with nature and less work, but from time to time may need a large scale clean out.
The choice is yours.
In my option if your going for a more formal straight line pond that’s purely for fish going pebble free is a fine choice. Incorporating a bog or wetland filter will allow you to still have some beautiful plants and provide ample room for beneficial bacteria.
If this type of pond appeals to you check out sizing a bog filter so you provide adequate filtration.
For those after a more natural look and lower weekly maintenance create a pond that’s a more well rounded ecosystem and incorporates pebbles, rocks and gravel.
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