Should I install bottom drain in pond re-do?

Lewes, DE

I'm going to have my messy DIY pond redone by a pro this spring.

When he came by to take a look, he said he did not recommend a bottom drain (he said he is a certifed Aquascape installer; maybe they didn't train him to install them).

He was not too happy that I told him I wanted to purchase the equipment that he could recommend on line now while it is on sale off season and have him install it. He said those products are not as good as what he has. I want to SAVE money, not just buy his stuff at retail.

I get the feeling he is trying to sell me his product and what he is used to installing instead of what I want. By the way, he offers maintenance packages that are quite pricy. I suspect his objection to the bottom drain is that I would not need his clean out services as much, especially the big "drain, powerwash and refill" he recommends each spring.

Any thoughts on bottom drains and what I should look for in an installer?

Athens, PA

I know there are some that swear by bottom drains and then there are others that do not. You can get away without a bottom drain if you have enough filtration in your pond. Filtration is key to keeping your water and fish healthy.

Did your installer say what brand of equipment he was installing? I would definitely ask. I know right now, there are great deals going on. Typically DH and I hit the end of year and the close out sales - you can save a ton of money. The only thing we don't buy at the end of the season is our uv light bulbs - if we buy those now and there is a problem later, we cannot return them.

Does your installer have references you can call? I would ask and also I would call the references he provides.

Good luck.

Lewes, DE

Carolyn, Thanks so much for the reply. The installer said it is the Aquascape Signature Series. I don't think there's anything so special about it.
My plan is what you and DH do: take advantage of closeout sales, but I'm afraid he's going to resist.
The installer has offered references, including the pond he improved for one of my bosses and one at a local outdoor/pet store that houses large koi.
I like the boss's pond, but she certainly doesn't have the budget I have and I cannot afford a couple grand every season for his maintenance plan. That's one reason why a bottom drain would help me keep the pond clean. There is a large shubunkin load and lots of trees. I get the feeling his is more interested in the continuing income from maintenance than the installation itself. Great business plan for him. Not so much for me.
Since he said he doesn't do installs until April, I have time to research the project, get a backbone and get what I want at the price I want.

Ocoee (W. Orlando), FL(Zone 9b)

If your pond is already in place, and you don't want to do a complete overhaul, they do have retro-fit bottom drains, that sit on the bottom, attached to a pump. You don't have to cut through the liner. Look on ebay.

Athens, PA

Mary is right - retrofitting is always an option and truthfully, it would be easier to maintain...

Truthfully, I don't understand why the costs would be so high to maintain the pond either...... we do our own...

Lewes, DE

Thanks to everyone for their thoughts and advice. When I get ahold of one of his maintenance brochures, I'll let you know what he charges. It is expensive. In the meantime, I'm going to research on the internet and make up my mind about what to do. I've seen the drains that do not require cutting the liner. I'll let you know.

(Mary) Anchorage, AK(Zone 4b)

He sounds like a shyster to me. I ended up spending thousands of dollars on just such a person, licensed indeed. He also was against bottom filters and they also offer the annual spring and fall maintenance. I don't have a bottom drain, but we have done other things to offset that. It really makes me grumpy when you know what you want, are reasonably knowledgable, and they argue with you. Can't you find another installer to give you a different quote. I gave up on my original installer after round two, and found one that was prepared to do what I wanted, show me the products so we could discuss them in fact not just words and even had some great ideas that would enhance what I wanted. It was more of a collaboration, not a constant argument. Installer #1 said he would give me 6" of soil to plant my peonies in when I wanted to pull out a putting green and said I wanted it excavated down at least 18" to 2'. And no matter what I said, he kept it up. "You can grow anythying in 6" of dirt." that off my chest. Good luck and stick to your guns. Your ideas are good and are suitable to your budget. And maintenance should be maybe a couple of hundred a year farmed out. But as Carolyn says, you can do it yourself and learn a great deal more about your pond at the same time.

Athens, PA

Pondlove -

I am curious - what do they offer for 'maintenance' and how many times do they have to come to your house for said maintenance?

I have read where bottom drains can be retro fitted after a pond has been installed. It all goes to filtration.

I do not have a bottom drain and truthfully, I don't miss it. But that is me. I do know there are people that swear by them as well.

Thumbnail by Carolyn22
(Mary) Anchorage, AK(Zone 4b)

I read about one company that included in 'maintenance' not only do the fall and spring stuff, but would come each month and do you water change outs, clean your filters etc. Guess that could get spendy.

I have thought about doing a retro for a bottom drain but it would require moving a lot of rock. Maybe next year when they come and redo the shallow end where the rock in collapsing into the pond. yuk..... gotta love the low bidder.

Lewes, DE

Thanks to everyone who has responded to my posts. I finally got written estimates from the installer and also a brochure. Y'all had better sit down for this!
The lowest estimate is for $7,525.25 for 8x11 no stream.
Second is $8,407.25 for 8x11 no stream with lights.
Third is $9,517.25 8x11 with 6-foot stream and lights.

The estimates include everything from new liner (don't need), filter, pump, stone, labor, chemicals, gravel, stone, boulders, equipment rental @$195/day!!????!!!, etc, etc, etc.

The company is the national Aquascape out of the Chicago area which has trained local landscapers to install and maintain (at a hefty price) cookie-cutter ponds using only their equipment brand and their technique. The written estimates are printed up like a chinese menu: 1 from column A, etc. It's fast food version of pond building. Some articles on the internet even refer them to a cult and their founder as a pond Nazi.

Here's an overview of their maintenance. What really bugs me is that after all that expense, they expect to completely drain, powerwash and refill the pond EVERY YEAR with chemicals. If they build a proper pond, where is the need for a complete drain/clean every year? Not good for the fish or the ecological balance in the pond.

12-month maintenance under 1,000 gallons: $1,335
8x11 or under 2,000 gallons: $1.687
11x16 or under 3,000 gallons: $2.239
up to 20x25 or under 8.000 gallons: $4,105

Service includes annual clean out, maintenance visits, chemicals, etc.


All I want is to be able to get the extra gunk out of the bottom of the pond, maybe a bigger pump, a couple bells and whistles. I have another company coming by today to look at it and give recommendations and an estimate for a clean out which I DO need this spring. They deal mainly with large retention ponds for delopments but they will give me recommendations and reference.

Athens, PA

Pondlove -

Please send a dmail to Mothermole - I am pretty sure she used Aquascape in the Chicago area.

You don't have to spend that kind of money. DH and I built our own pond, do all of our maintenance, etc. We probably spent about $2,000 or less. Our pond is quite a bit bigger than the sizes you cited as well.

Let us know what the second group of pros have to say.


Lewes, DE

Thanks, Carolyn. I'm definitely not going to use the Aquascape guy, but thanks for the Mothermole suggestion. Besides I never sent dmail before. How does that work?

I'm a DIY ponder, too. I've had a pond for at least 10 years. The first one was a Sam's Club rigid form kit with an upper and lower pond. Then I had a friend dig a much bigger hole and place a pond liner that I bought off the internet. (45 mil good stuff). Over time I have purchased larger pumps and filters.

I do my own maintenance, too, but I just wanted something that would reduce the sludge in the bottom. When I talked to the second group of pros, he recommended just a sump pump but wanted to look at the pond first. I'll let you know his recommendation.

I want to get this all resolved before spring and all of the off-season pond equipment sales end.

(Mary) Anchorage, AK(Zone 4b)

The aquascape trained guys are indeed cookie cutter. They did our pond in alaska, local company, and i have learned ove the last years all they didn,t do or eve know. An $11,000 mistakefollowed the next year by a like amount. Really stupid on my part.

Athens, PA

Mary - that is a lot of money ! Good gracious.

Pondlove - yes, DH and I are do it yourselfers as well. We have learned alot through out the course of it. I would buy a pond vac for the bottom of your pond. DH and I vacuum our pond twice a year - once in the spring and then once in the fall....

Clermont, FL(Zone 9a)

I don't have $2,000. in 3 ponds all equipped with skimmers, uv clarifiers, preformed waterfall, large rocks for edges,
river rock for inside of ponds. Some items used from Craigs list. All mechanical items are new.
They are corporate thieves and to be avoided.
I've also learned that landscapers that claim to know how to install ponds are full of fish detritis. (Sounds better than what I'm thinking)
I do my own digging, lining, rocking up, and husb. does all plumbing, electrical and together we do whatever else is needed.
Doesn't take a rocket scientist to maintain a pond. Whatever water clarity problems occur can be handled. Sick fish can be treated. Luckily I've only had one that had an ulcer and I cured that.
Carolyn, I completely empty my first pond to clean it and its a heck of a job. What kind of vacuum do you have? Been thinking about one for a while. After I take everything out of mine including water I vacuum with shop vac to get all muck completely out and then refil. Just curious as to what type you use. Might make cleaning easier.

Ocoee (W. Orlando), FL(Zone 9b)

GOODNESS!! If I ever spent that kind of money on a pond, I'd kick myself....and HARD too!
There are things you agree to put money in to, and things you simply say NO WAY! Usually the liner is the biggy. Digging you can do by hand. Rocks you can limit by only putting around the edges (or not having a rock edge at all) There are a billion different types of pumps and filters, some filters can be made and not purchased.
I guess my largest expense comes in the fact that I can't help but buy another fish if I think it's really cute!

Athens, PA

I would guess I have about $2000 in the pond, perhaps a bit more - we spent just under $800 on the liner and I have 4 pumps, uv lights and a skimmer in my pond. Then - well we probably spent more on fish than we should have. DH and I would take a day in May and go to the koi farm and pick out fish. We did this several years in a row. I know the last time we spent close to $600 for koi - we probably wouldn't do that again, but would go with the cheaper koi. It was fun though.....

Bonnie - we don't typically empty our pond. I think the last time it was emptied was 3 years ago. I have seen were some empty their pond every year and start everything out with a scrubbed out pond. Instead of doing that, we use one of those leaf eater/pond vacs and vacuum in the Spring and again in the Fall for shut down.

Athens, PA


if you go into your tools, there are a whole host of things that you have access to - send a dmail should be in there. It is the email system between DG users. If you want to send one to me as a test to give it a try, I'll let you know if I receive it.

Clermont, FL(Zone 9a)

Thats the type I was thinking of but we don't have enough water pressure to operate one. There are others but they run around $400.
For this year guess I'll keep doing it the hard way. I'm going to see if I can recruit 2 of my grandsons to help.
Thanks for the info.
Today we are supposed to get some rain which we badly need. Our canal is VERY low and disappearing more each year.
Thats my irrigation source for garden. It was 18 feet deep at one time. During one drought it went completely dry. Now its full of cubensis siensis which is a tall grass that is choking everything out. Oh well nothing is forever.
Good ponding every one.

Lewes, DE

I finally got a response from the other guy who looked at the pond. He's with the company that deals mainly with large retention ponds. Here's what he said:

I have several observations:
1. The pond is fairly large to have only one filter assembly. With the pond volume, I would recommend either another filter canister or a larger waterfall with built in bio-filters.
2. A bottom drain is not feasible. The pond should be drained and all the organic debris and leaves removed at least once annually. This can be done with a separate pump or a valve line off of the waterfall assembly.
3. Ornamental pond builders recommend the pump filters, filters and bio-filters be cleaned weekly.

I agree with him that I need another filter and/or waterfall biofilter. I replied to him that now I need to find someone who can do the job.

My plan is to have the Aquascape guy clean out the pond this spring and have someone else install the equipment.

Clermont, FL(Zone 9a)

Wouldn't be surprised if the Aquascape guy didn't want to clean your pond. He's out for gold. Don't sweat it you can clean your pond yourself and save a bundle. I'm known for sweat equity. My husb. ran the PVC pipe to it and I dug hole and dropped waterfall down into it and then he hooked up large fitting for water to go into falls. Inside I use sheets of filtration material I cut to fit and also bags of cut up pieces of filter material or there are bioballs and lots of other filtration materials available. We did have a leak problem but corrected that by screwing liner to board, turning it over to the underside under the spillout of the waterfall form and screwed it to that. Never leaked again. Where there's the will there's a way.
Skimmer houses the large pump and recirculates water up to waterfalls.
Been in the window treatment bus. for 30 yrs. and have seen so many people get taken breaks my heart. I have done fine by just being upfront and honest with clients and giving exemplary service on whatever I fabricate. I deal retail only directly with purchaser. I don't need a middle man and thats usually where your ripoff comes in. Sorry I vented but I get tired up seeing ripoffs.
Take your time and find a reputable person that you can really work well with.

Athens, PA

To me it feels good every spring to get out there and get things cleaned up, waterlilies divided and fertilized and the new ponding season going. It is a whole day's work and both DH and I end up sore from the work, but we look forward to it every year.

Clermont, FL(Zone 9a)

I'm with you Carolyn. Results are works own reward.

Lewes, DE

Thanks for the feedback. I would love to tackle the whole pond thing without a pro, but I don't have a DH :( and I live alone. I pretty much do all the regular maintenance myself, but could use help with the upgrade work.

I was thinking of calling my nephew-in-law and luring him up here for a day of backbreaking work, but first I have to think of some enticement. (Hmm, he likes my cooking!)

I went ahead and purchased a new pump, an Alpine Cyclone 6650. That should be strong enough for the pond and the veggie filter/waterfall. It arrived yesterday from Webb's Water Gardens.

Since I'm not going to put in a bottom drain, I changed my plans and will do a veggie filter. I still have my old rigid pond form from my first pond and am going to use that. It will be placed behind and above the pond with a waterfall going back into the pond. The pump will pump water out of the pond and into the veggie filter.

I order plants last weekend from the Texas Water Lilly co-op and will use some of them in the filter. I've been reading everything I can on the web about bogs/veggie filters and think I can pull it off. Any advice would be appreciated.

I would also like to do a better landscaping job around the perimeter of the pond. Right now it looks pretty boring with flat stone and gravel. It screams: "here I am, a manmade pond!"

I'm still hoping the Aquascape guy will just clean the pond without the prospect of a big construction job. I'll let you all know once I get up the nerve to "break up" with him.

It feels like spring already here in southern Delaware. We've only had snow flurries twice so far this winter. Ponding season is on its way!

(Mary) Anchorage, AK(Zone 4b)

Your project sounds really great. The bog garden is just the thing as I hear it. I was on Mauii and went to the botanical garden there and they has a huge pond with bigger koi, and the little creek that ran into in down a slight but long incline was filled with all sorts of plants. Talk about natural filtration. the bottom of the pond was pretty mucky but I don't know that it was harmful. Seems like it would be a breeding place for bacteria and stuff harmful to the fish but they don't seem to clean ponds over there very regularly. There was a very small one at the condo we stayed at and the bottom was somewhat gunky also, but in both places the water was very clear. I have learned that clear water does not necessarily mean healthy water. Some of the fish had strange growths... hmmmm

Lewes, DE

Once I get the pond cleaned out and the veggie filter working, I think I can keep the bottom gunk under control with my pond vac.

Here's a photo of my pond.

Thumbnail by pondlove
Athens, PA

Pondlove -

you should be able to do it on your own. I hate to see you spend money unnecessarily..... ^_^ . I think those places get a lot of money for maintenance. I know my local pond guy, charges $200/hour for consulting fees.....

(Mary) Anchorage, AK(Zone 4b)

I like your pond. I had mine made bigger the second year but it is still smaller than yours. Course, you look like you have a lot more room than I do. I agree with Carolyn. You could clean the pond out yourself with a vacuum. I have one and it really keeps the bottom clean. Especially since I (we) removed a couple ton of gravel.

Clermont, FL(Zone 9a)

Love that fountain in the pond. Bet your fish just love that. My fish constantly hide under the waterfalls.
We took UV clarifier apart this morning and took out bulb and I ordered a new one. Yikes $62.95 without freight. Was going to drive to bus. but its 1 1/2 hrs. about from me so I said ship it. Should have it Monday. Doesn't take long for the pond to turn to crud without it. Gal on phone told me it helps to take them out and clean them every 3 mos. I certainly will do that now. I marked my calendar for a clean date. I washed glass tube it fits into and also black housing inside. Didn't get much gunk out. Bulb was definitely burned out.
Happy ponding all.

Athens, PA

Sounds like the prices are up on the uv light bulbs again - I need to get 2 bulbs.

Ocoee (W. Orlando), FL(Zone 9b)

Try ebay...that's where I find pretty good prices on bulbs.

Athens, PA


Can you please send me the info on your ebay seller? I did one year and ended up with bulbs that did not work.

(Mary) Anchorage, AK(Zone 4b)

I would also like the recommendation. I get mine from Foster and smith and with their UPS shipping it costs a small fortune. We can get USPS just fine assuming the bulbs are packaged reasonably well (which foster and smith does not always do.)

Ocoee (W. Orlando), FL(Zone 9b)

I've used several different ebay vendors. I just make sure that they accept returns and have great feedback. Every now and then, the delicate glass doesn't make it through my neanderthal UPS guys as long as they will send me a free replacement, I'm good.

(Mary) Anchorage, AK(Zone 4b)

Thanks Mary.

Lewes, DE

I received a written estimate in the mail yesterday for the pond clean out. I almost fainted! He wants $716.50 (he had to add that 50 cents... really??).

It's time to get my waders on and do it myself. I really wanted to start off the new pump and veggie filter with a sparkling clean pond, but there's no way I'm shelling out that much hard-earned money to get rid of fish poop.

On the upside of the project, a friend of mine who is mechanically skilled is going to help me install my equipment and build the veggie filter. Bless him. I'll be going to Lowe's on Friday to buy the PVC pipe and fittings, etc. for the filter. Hopefully he can accomplish most of it this weekend.

Oops! I intended to post another photo of the pond, but ended up with Spanky instead.

Thumbnail by pondlove
Clermont, FL(Zone 9a)

I pumped my pond down this morning as I had to divide fish as 3 are going to koi show in Orlando this weekend. It is loaded with leaves and dirt. I've decided to clean it all out and pressure wash everything including the waterfall as I did once before. I have a DH but he just does wiring & plumbing on ponds (no digging) which is a big help but cleaning out thats my domain. Thats ok I'm 74 and still in pretty good shape. Didn't even know there was such a thing as pond cleaners. Guess pond bldrs. would do that if you asked. Everything you can do yourself saves a lot.

Reason I don't buy off E-bay cause I don't have extra UV bulbs on hand and want them quick and if they don't work and they don't always I can drive them back to bus. and get right away. If I buy extra bulbs then E-bay would be ok for me. My ponds get black or brown in a day without UV.

Well all fish are in different ponds except small ones so better go out and talk to them and move them into pond as their resting in small tub. Little buggers were hard to net up even tho water was only about 4". I think they have overdrive in their butts.

Good luck with your pond. It will be beautiful cause it already is and your improving it more.


(Mary) Anchorage, AK(Zone 4b)

"Little buggers were hard to net up even tho water was only about 4". I think they have overdrive in their butts.:

ROTFLMAO That is so funny and sooooo agree. The big ones are no slouches in zipping away also

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