Money Saving Tips for Your Next Pond Project

Build, maintain, or repair ponds the way nature intended.

Money Saving Tips for Your Next Pond Project

Ponds don’t have to be expensive… but they don’t have to look cheap either.  Just as important as balancing your pond’s ecology is balancing your budget.  Here are some tips on how to save money during a pond build.  


Being smart about where you source your materials for your pond can save you significant amounts of money. 

Materials for ponds include liner or shell, underlayment, stones, and gravel.  

Liner or Preformed Ponds

Sourcing your liner is likely to be one of your biggest expenses.  However, there are tips to help you save money on your liner.

Used Liners/Shells

Many people get into the pond hobby only to find it’s too much work.  This usually occurs because people get discouraged with loss of fish from herons (read more), disease, algae blooms (read more), or broken pumps, etc.  

This however is a perfect opportunity to find a used liner cheap.  You can often get other pond supplies inexpensively at the same time.  

Just make sure the liner isn’t punctured!


I’ve heard of people building ponds out of various items including:

  • Bathtubs
  • Hot Tubs
  • Barrels
  • Pools

Just make sure that the materials are durable for long term use.  You would hate to spend the time and money building the pond, only to have it fail soon thereafter!


Underlayment is the material that goes under the liner as added protection from rips and tears attributed to rocks, roots, and rodents.  

I believe that it is easiest to save money on underlayment than any other material for the pond build.  You can find multiple materials that will serve as underlayment material for your pond build.  These include:

  • Previously ripped pond liners
  • Pool liners
  • Previously used billboards
  • Old tarps
  • Old carpeting
  • Old area rugs
  • Plastic feed bags (dog food, chicken food, etc)
  • Old polyester or fleece blankets, sheets, or comforters

I used old buildboards which are basically large tarps that have been printed on for my underlayment.  They were free from a billboard company who had numerous signs for the taking.  

One of the most important things to consider is the rate of decomposition.  Underlayment will be exposed to moisture for prolonged periods of time and must withstand it.  If the material is likely to break down quickly, it will not serve it’s intended purpose for very long.

Another thing to consider is the toxic nature of some materials (for instance carpeting) because of the chemicals contained within.  Be mindful of the long term consequences of chemicals leaching into the soil and perhaps your well-water?  


Another opportunity to save money on your pond is to source your stone free from nature.  I collected my rock from roadsides near my home.  It was time consuming but saved potentially hundreds of dollars hauling it myself.  

Another way to save on stones is to design your pond with stones strategically placed around the pond, leaving gaps for gravel and plants to grow.  It tends to look more natural than “ring around the pond.”  

Leave gaps between stones for plants to grow and to give the pond a more natural look

With my pond, I tucked the liner under the sod on the front side of the pond to provide an unobstructed view and walk area.  It requires less stone and can save you money.


Saving money on gravel really depends on the size of your pond project.  If you are on the smaller side, big box stores sell pea gravel and river stone for only $3 a bag.  

For larger ponds, you can buy gravel in bulk by the half ton or ton.  You can get good deals at your local landscape supply.  Make sure your gravel is rounded with minimal sharp edges.



Save money by buying fish from local hatcheries in bulk or for smaller ponds going to regular big box pet stores.  They often sell koi for $8-12 each which is a huge discount from many online retailers and koi specialty shops.  Of course, the more beautiful fish are harder to find in the pet shops and but look carefully and you can find them!  I did.  And I ended up with some brilliant fish.  Not Japanese quality perhaps, but I don’t mind.  For more information on Koi specifically, read here.


I save tons of money on plants by shopping around and getting the best deals. 

First research the types of perennials that grow in moist, boggy soil.  Many garden plants adapt well to growing along the edge of the water.

These include plants most people aren’t aware of:

  • Daylilies
  • Bee Balm/Monarda
  • Lobelias
  • Hardy Hibiscus (not rose of sharon)
  • Hostas
  • Mints (be careful they spread like crazy!)
  • Obedient Plant

    Daylily growing right into the water.

My best tried and true ways of getting plants include:

  • Checking out the clearance section of big box stores.  Many plants will perk up as soon as you put them next to a pond.  I’ve even gotten water lilies at the end of the season this way.
  • Trading plants with friends, family, and neighbors.
  • Dividing existing plants to get free ones.
  • Moving seedlings to new areas.


Without a doubt, one of the most expensive costs to any project is paying for labor.  You can save a considerable amount of money on your pond project by doing the work yourself. 

I built my large 35×25 foot pond by renting an excavator for $300 for a weekend and digging it myself.  In fact, all the work was completed by yours truly with added credit to the kids for helping… some.  

Building a pond is something that anyone can do, and should do IMO.  Water just compels us to relax and enjoy nature.  We should all have a little water escape.

In Conclusion

A naturalistic pond is to me the most aesthetically pleasing way to build a pond.  But the most amazing thing is, it is often the most cost effective way as well.  Consider using these tips to make your pond project a more relaxing and less stressful way to beautify your property.  

Have any money-saving tips to add… please comment below.






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