Tips for Creating a Stunning Above Ground Koi Pond

Tips for Creating a Stunning Above Ground Koi Pond

Not all koi ponds have to be in-ground. Learn how to create an amazing above ground pond for your friendly koi!

While in-ground koi ponds are a beautiful addition to any backyard, they often require extensive excavation and landscaping – which may not be possible depending on your property, location, or budget. 

An above ground koi pond offers a simpler path to bringing these colorful, hardy fish home. Constructed with pond walls rising partially or fully above the soil level, above ground ponds make an eye-catching architectural statement while being more affordable and easier to install. 

Let’s take a look – and see just how easy it is to create a stunning above ground koi pond!

Why Build an Above Ground Koi Pond?

One of the biggest advantages of an above ground koi pond is the cost and installation ease compared to in-ground options. With less excavation required, you'll save considerably on labor and materials. 


Above ground ponds also offer flexibility in sizing to perfectly fit your available yard space, from a compact 8x6 foot rectangle to a sprawling, freeform design built to your creative heart’s desire. They can even be installed on gently sloped properties or areas with poor drainage that wouldn't support an in-ground pond.


Another perk is accessibility - above ground pond walls put the entire water feature at viewing and cleaning level with no need to strain over edges. Many designs also allow for the option to fully disassemble and move the pond if needed, protecting your investment long-term. Typically, an above ground koi pond combines low-maintenance with stunning visuals.

Planning Your Above Ground Koi Pond 

Before getting started, there are some steps you’ll want to take before building your above ground pond.

Where Will Your Above Ground Koi Pond Be?

First is choosing the optimal outdoor location based on sun exposure, wind patterns, and line of sight from common viewing areas like a patio or kitchen window. You'll want to ensure there's access to electrical outlets for running pumps, filters, lighting and other accessories.

What’s The Size and Shape?

Next is determining the appropriate pond size to fit your available space and stocking needs. A minimum 1,000 gallon volume is recommended for housing a handful of mature koi who can grow over 2 feet long. This could translate to an 8x8 foot circular pond around 2-3 feet deep or a 6x12 foot oval configuration.

You'll also need to map out the desired shape - tidy rectangles or kidneys, freeform designs with curves, or even a raised corner infinity tank to get creative. Outlining dimensions on the ground with a rope or garden hose can help visualize your plan.

Consider The Space

Another important aspect is selecting a solid, level foundation for your above ground pond walls. Some opt for semi-in-ground installation by partially burying rigid pond bases made from wood or resin frames below soil level. Others choose to build fully above ground by constructing a level platform, patio, or deck to support their pond liner and walls.

Budget, Budget, Budget

The final planning step is budgeting for all pond components [link to future koi pond cost blog], including the liner, skimmer(s), pump(s), filtration system, and accessories like LED lighting, waterfalls, and autofill valves. This upfront calculation ensures that your dream above ground koi pond can become a reality with the proper financial resources.

Above Ground Koi Pond Construction Tips

With planning out of the way, it's time to start building your above ground koi pond! The first task is establishing a solid, level foundation to support the weight of the pond while preventing future sinking or shifting issues. This could mean excavating a few inches of soil and creating a compact gravel base or pouring a small concrete pad.

For the actual pond walls or container, you have several options:

Wood Framing - Sturdy cedar or plastic lumber boards can be stacked and secured with brackets to create a rustic wood-framed look. This option allows for any custom size or curved shape.

Resin Components - There are several kit options using molded resin frames, walls, and braces designed specifically for above ground ponds. These are durable and easy to assemble.

Metal Pond Walls - Galvanized or powder-coated steel walls offer a sleek, modern aesthetic. Corrugated styles can be curved into circles or ovals.

Once your walls are built, carefully install an EPDM rubber pond liner by draping it over the top and allowing it to naturally shape to the contours. It's best to include a protective underlay fabric beneath the liner.

From there, incorporate any desired design features like shelves for marginal plants, raised spillways for waterfalls, steps down into shallow areas, simulated rockwork along the sides, or even integrated structural windows for fish viewing! The framed walls give you flexibility.

Setting up the proper mechanical and biological filtration is key to maintaining clean, healthy water for your koi. At a minimum, you'll need a high-quality pump sized appropriately for your pond volume, a skimmer device to remove surface debris, and a biological filter utilizing benefitting nitrifying bacteria. Many also add UV clarifiers.

Don't forget to disguise any exposed pond walls by stacking stone, adding a wooden or resin trim cover, or even creating an artificial rockwork facade. With the right accents and decorative touches, you can make an above ground pond blend beautifully into the surrounding landscape.

Filling & Stocking the Koi Pond

With your pond constructed, careful preparation is needed before introducing any fish. 

Start by giving your pump and filtration system 4-6 weeks to cycle and establish the vital nitrogen cycle to facilitate biological filtration. Throughout this process, be sure to test water levels and potentially add ammonia to cultivate those beneficial bacteria colonies.

Once the nitrogen cycle is complete and water parameters are tested appropriately, it's time to stock your koi! However, don't just throw them all in right away. Follow proper procedures by "quarantining" and acclimating new fish slowly over a period of days to the new environment. Only add 2-3 koi initially, then increase numbers gradually over several weeks.

When planning your koi stocking level, it's also wise to account for future growth. While only a few inches when first added, these fish can rapidly grow to over two feet long at maturity! Starting with a larger-than-needed pond provides ample space.

Don’t forget to install protective mesh covers or netting to safeguard your investment from potential predators like raccoons and herons. With a little prevention, you'll be enjoying your above ground koi pond for years to come.

Maintenance & Enjoying Your Pond 

Congratulations, you're now the proud owner of a beautiful backyard koi pond oasis! However, maintaining that serenity does require routine care and upkeep:

  • Weekly or bi-weekly: skim off any floaters or debris, check pump flow rates, monitor fish behavior
  • Monthly: clean out skimmer and filter components, test water quality levels
  • Seasonally: drain and deep clean the pond fully before refilling twice per year

Don't neglect regular fractional water changes of 10-20% monthly along with supplemental dechlorinator treatments to keep things fresh.

With proper care and maintenance, your above ground koi pond will be a stunning outdoor retreat for decades to come. Install some landscape lighting or accent lights to illuminate the water at night. 

Add lush surrounding plants and vegetation to enhance the natural look. And most importantly, take time to truly savor your handiwork by listening to the soothing waterfalls and watching the mesmerizing dance of your colorful koi!

Living Water Aeration - Your Partner In Koi Pond Success

An above ground koi pond combines the beauty of an outdoor water garden with lower costs and easier installation compared to in-ground alternatives. With some diligent planning for size, location, stocking, and accessories, you can construct a gorgeous pond oasis that seamlessly blends into your landscaping. Living Water Aeration offers all the supplies from pumps and filters to netting and decorative elements to make your above ground koi dream a reality. Shop online and stay up to date with latest tips and insights from our outdoor water feature experts.


Can a koi pond really be built above ground?

Yes, above ground koi ponds are an excellent option! They can be constructed with rigid walls rising partially or fully above the soil level.

How deep should an above ground koi pond be?

Most above ground ponds are 2-3 feet deep, which provides enough water volume for several koi while still allowing for easy viewing and maintenance.

Do above ground ponds need a bottom drain?

While not absolutely required, a bottom drain does make cleaning out debris much easier over time. Plan to include one if possible.

What's the best base for an above ground koi pond?

A level, solid foundation is critical. Options include a gravel bed, poured concrete pad or decking/patio constructed to support the weight.

How many koi can I stock in an above ground pond?

The general rule is around 1 inch of fish per 10 gallons of water. So a 1,000 gallon pond could house 8-10 koi at their full adult size.

Can koi survive in an above ground pond during winter? 

Yes, koi are cold-hardy and can remain in above ground ponds year-round as long as there is an area that doesn't ice over completely.

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