Pumps and lighting change the whole mood and appearance of a pond, creating a powerful focal point in any garden. As even a short visit to the aquatic section of the average garden centre will quickly make you realise, the range of lights, pumps and fountains on offer today is enormous and ranges from small units designed for the tiniest of patios to those which wouldn’t look out of place in a municipal garden. With so much on offer, it’s important to pick the right equipment for the job, install it properly – and then stand back and enjoy the spectacle!
Why bother with a pump?
There are two main reasons for having a pump. Firstly, it adds a new dimension to your pond and few people can resist the sight and sound of running water whether that’s a fountain or waterfall – or both!
Secondly, pumps play an important role in maintaining water quality. Re-circulating water from the pond, via a filter and UV lamp unit and back again over a waterfall allows the water to be cleaned of nitrates, the algae to be killed off before they can multiply and cause green-water and the pond itself to be additionally aerated.
The ease of installation and high reliability of modern pond pumps make them simple to incorporate into your pond design and almost entirely trouble-free to run. Whichever way you look at it, pumps are definitely worth the bother.
How big a pump do I need for a fountain or waterfall?
Buying too small a pump probably causes more disappointment among new pond keepers than almost anything else – and few things look more sad than a magnificently constructed waterfall cascade with only a trickle of water flowing down it.
To make sure you get a big enough pump for your purpose, for every one centimetre of waterfall width, allow a flow-rate of 150 litres/hour or more and you should have the sort of feature you probably imagined. For fountains, look for a good height of spray – the higher the pump can push the water and the greater the flow-rate, the more impressive your feature will look.
What sort of pump should I buy?
This depends on what you’re trying to do. There are small pumps designed for patio water features and bubble fountains, while larger versions with pre-filter units to help prevent them from clogging are available for garden ponds and are particularly useful for fountains.
A third kind of pump – the ‘solids handling’ variety – are perfect for waterfalls. Originally designed to feed bio-filters, they allow small particles to pass through them without damaging their internal workings – hence the name. To get the best results from your bio-filter, the whole volume of your pond should pass through the filter roughly every hour-and-a-half, so make sure you get one of suitable throughput.
What sort of effects can I get with lighting?
Today’s pond lighting varies from plain white spotlights to coloured submerged ‘mood’ lighting and everything in between – with some sophisticated kinds offering a programmable feature which allows you to set up your own display of changing effects automatically. The effects available seem to only be limited by your own imagination and willingness to experiment!
What sort of lights are available?
Low voltage lights are probably the most popular, though recent advances in solar powered pond lighting has started to make these increasingly popular. Solar lights provide fairly low-key lighting, but their big advantage – apart from their ‘green’ credentials, of course – is that they are so very simple to install.
Low voltage systems obviously require wiring and a transformer unit which connects to the mains via a normal socket. The type of transformer that comes with the cheaper systems normally needs to be kept indoors, but some of the more expensive set-ups have weatherproof transformers which can be sited in the garden – and there are even some that can be located in the pond itself.
Water and electricity – what about safety?
It should go without saying that it’s essential to only use equipment that has been approved for the purpose. Lights and pumps from reputable manufacturers are designed with safety very much in mind, but like any electrical installation, it’s always a good idea to ask a qualified electrician for help – especially if you’re the slightest bit unsure about how to set things up.
Joints and junctions obviously need to be made using proper outdoor connectors and weather-proof junctions, any underground wiring must have appropriate reinforced protection – and the whole thing will need a Residual Current Device (RCD) to ensure everyone’s safety. Bear in mind that under current legislation, anything which doesn’t simply plug into a socket almost certainly needs to be done by a professional and approved.
Given the range and variety of lighting and pumps on offer, there’s bound to be something to suit everyone’s taste and budget – and there’s no doubting the benefits to the overall look and feel of the pond.