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How to Choose a Fountain, Aerator or Pump for your Pond


Classic 1.5 HP Pond Fountains during the day Eco Series with Arch floating fountain spray and blue lights Stainless Steel Pro Series Floating Lake Fountains Scott Aerator 3 HP Aerating Fountain in a mid sized pond in late winter

Classic Floating Pond Fountains /// Eco Series Pond Fountain /// Stainless Heavy Duty Fountains /// Aerating Lake Fountains


For Outdoor Fountains - When choosing a fountain pump size for your pond there are two terms that you will see when looking for your pump. GPH (gallons per hour) and horsepower. For a fountain the GPH is one metric that is a guide used for aerating ponds. The horsepower rating is what you will need to know. How large is your pond and how tall of a spray do you want from your fountain. Pond fountain pumps range from 1/3 HP and as high as 5 HP. Read more about fountain sizing and our complete guide and chart for choosing the correct size for your pond.

For a large pond or lake - For a larger pond ranging from 1/3 acre up to 2 acres or more, different rules apply when sizing a fountain or aerator. Normally we will recommend going with at least a 1/2 HP fountain for a 1/2 acre pond. You can always go larger, but smaller is not recommended. For a complete guide and chart on how to choose the right size fountain for your pond or sub-surface aerator.

For diffused air bottom pond aeration - The main goal of aeration is oxygenation of the water. Dissolved oxygen does a lot of things in a healthy pond ecosystem. Your fish need it to survive, but also the beneficial bacteria that break down and eliminate toxins, organic debris, and fish waste need oxygen to survive. Without adequate oxygen in the water, beneficial bacteria that are the primary healthy microorganisms of a pond, cannot work at a maximum level. What does that mean, a pond that is not clean and not healthy. It is recommended going with a diaphram air pump for shallow ponds. Much easier to work with and very quiet. Deeper ponds will require an air compresser pump to force the air through the tubes that are placed deeper in the pond. For a complete guide and chart on how to choose the right size diffused air system for your pond.

For a Waterfall or Pond Pump - For a waterfall, the decision to be made is how wide you want your flow of water. For every inch of stream width or waterfall "sheet you will need to pump 100 gallons per hour at the height you are pumping. For example, if the pond pump has to lift the water up 3 feet to the top of the waterfall, you need a pond pump that will move 100 gallons per hour at 3 feet.

For Ponds - It is best to circulate the water at least once an hour. If you have a 500 gallon pond you would need a pump that moves 500 gallons per hour at the height of the discharge.

For a Pond Rule of Thumb - The Length of tubing is also an important factor when choosing a pump. Every 10’ of tubing equals the same restrictions as 1’ of lift.


What size pump does a pond need?

Recommended size of a pond pump is determined by:

1) Turn Of Pond Water

 For a pond with a pressurized filter, turn the water approximately once every two   hours (example 1800 Gallon pond – minimum 900 GPH Pump)

For ponds with skimmers and falls and most other types of ponds, water should    be turned approximately once every hour (example 1800 Gallon Pond – minimum 1800 GPH Pump)

2) Height Water Must Be Pumped Above Pond Surface

The chart to the right shows how GPH decreases

Head height is the term for the vertical height the pump raises water above the surface of the pond

All pond pumps have a maximum head height (see head height demonstration below)

3) Selecting Correct Tubing Is Critical To Pump Performance Correct Size Tubing Is Very Important:

Too small tubing restricts water flow. The example below demonstrates the importance of tubing size. The image above shows three separate containers. Each collected the discharge from 700 GPH Pump for 10 seconds. The only difference is the tubing size. Too small tubing will restrict the flow of water dramatically.

Use the chart below as a guide to assist in selecting the suggested tubing for each fountain or pond pump size. It shows the maximum flow rate for each size of tubing.


Why Knowing a Pond’s Volume is Important

1) Gallons in a pond will tell you the following

a. Size of pump for you pond

b. Size of filter for you pond

c. Approximate Number of fish for your pond


2) How to calculate approximate number of gallons in an existing pond

a. Volume for rectangle ponds:

avg. WIDTH x avg. LENGTH x avg. DEPTH = Pond volume (cubic ft.)

EXAMPLE: 10ft x 12ft x 2ft = 240 (cubic ft.)

                        240 (cubic ft.) x 7.5 gal = 1800 Gallons

b. Volume for circular ponds:


c. Volume of a pond can be most accurately calculated by using a water meter that can be connected to a garden hose while initially filling pond.

What type of pond pump? ( Submersible or External )

Pond pumps are available in submersible and external models. In both, the mechanism is simply a set of whirling blades that pressurize the pond water and force it into motion. Submersible pond pumps are easier to use than external pond pumps. They sit directly on the water and are inexpensive, unlike external pumps that you must place outside the pond. Submersible pumps are easy to install and run without priming. They can be used to power all but the largest water features.

Pump Size:

The most important consideration when choosing which pond pump to buy is its size. Equipment manufacturers rate electrical power in amps or watts. However, the critical measure of a pump is the number of gallons of water it will pump per hour to a specific height, called the head. To determine the size pond pump you will need, first calculate the volume of water in the pond. Multiply the length x width x average depth x 7.5 and that gives you the volume in gallons. As a rule, choose a pond pump that can move half the total volume of water in an hour. For example, if your pond holds 500 gallons of water, buy a pump that delivers at least 250 gallons per hour (gph). If your pond will include a waterfall or stream, it will need a more powerful pump. Pumps have to work harder to move water up a slope or to the head of a stream. ( If you are installing a filter as well, you may need to install a separate pump for it. ) Figuring how much more power you'll need is somewhat more complicated. In general, the pond pump should be able to turn over the total volume of water in an hour. To learn more about measuring gph, read (Making the right choice). When in doubt, buy a more powerful pump. You can restrict the flow with a valve (either self-contained or by installing a ball valve in line (tubing or pvc pipe). When shopping for a pond pump for a stream or waterfall, make sure its head capacity, or lift, is well above the height you've planned for you falls.

Other Considerations:

Pumps have varying lengths of cord; check to make sure the cord is long enough to go through the pond and plug in well away from the water. The longer the cord the better, especially since some codes specify that the electrical outlet for a water feature has to be at least 6 feet away from water. Avoid extension cords if possible. If you have to use one, make sure it's made for outdoor use and is plugged into a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI), a device that shuts off an outlet immediately if there is an overload.

Materials and Products


Centrifugal: These pumps sit outside the pond. They must be hidden and are somewhat difficult to plumb. Also, most don’t come with power cords and need to be hard wired directly to the power source.

Submersible: Made for the do-it-yourselfer. It is very easy to hook them up to your waterfall or fountain plumbing. Submersible pumps are also easy to conceal. They sit inside the pond (under the water surface) usually at the bottom of the pond.

When choosing a pump there are a few things to consider. If you are using the pump to operate a biological filter, the pump you select should have the capacity to circulate the pond’s water volume as recommended. The filter is not the only factor involved in selecting a pump. Different volumes of water will have quite a varying effect aesthetically and as far as sound is concerned. Using a larger volume pump on a waterfall can give you a white water show. The beautiful sound the flowing water provides can drown out local traffic or other undesirable noises. Be sure the pump you purchase is rated for twenty-four hour a day usage.


Just the word plumbing strikes fear into the hearts of most do-it-yourselfers, however, plumbing your pond need not be difficult at all. Choosing the plumbing material you use is an important decision.

Pipe Comparison

Corrugated Flex Pipe: This product is superior in every way to all of its competition. It is designed specifically for ponds and is everything you could ask of a plumbing pipe and more. The pipe is corrugated on the outside and smooth bore on the inside. As you twist and shape it, it never kinks. Furthermore, it is UV protected and dark in color making it easy to conceal. It is very simple to install.

PVC Pipe: PVC pipe has one advantage over corrugated flex pipe. It’s about half the price, but the advantages stop there. You are limited by 45 degree and 90 degree angles. The pipe is very rigid which makes installation more difficult. PVC can be very challenging to hide and is not UV protected.

Clear Flex Tube: Similar only in name to the flex pipe. While the clear flex tube is easy to bend and shape it is not corrugated so, like garden hose, it kinks. It is not UV protected. This means the sun’s rays will not break it down and destroy it causing leaks.


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