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Hello all, I bought a home that came with a large pond (100'X125' X about 35-40' deep) in Michigan. Looks like the previous owner dug it and used the dirt from the pond to bring up the yard around. Because of this, the pond doesn't fill all the way. I'm in the beginning process of having it dug out better, maybe getting a liner to fix this issue unless there's a cheaper fix. I would like to make this a swimming pond with fish and need any advise to make this possible (ex. filter, regenerating filter, creating a deck, where to place filters and pumps design idea with any DIY idea to help with cost or must haves when creating). What are some ideas or things to think about in this process? Thanks in advance

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If you want to make it strictly a swimming pond, look at natural swimming ponds. Basically you have to have the same area as the swimming area in natural plants so they can filter the water. https://www.hgtv.com/outdoors/outdoor-spaces/pools-and-water-features/natural-swimming-pools-101

Other than doing that, if you want to have fish in there, don't put Bluegill or Hybrid Bluegill in there, they will nit at swimmers. If you don't mind the nipping, then anything goes.


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Thanks, I've looked at some of these ideas and just don't think I can create a wall inside the pond (100'x100'x 30 ' tall). Was wondering if there are any other ideas to make this happen or something that can do something similar. If I'm putting some money into this, I would really like to swim in it

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Our family and friends swam in our ponds for many years. No special planning except a floating dock with a fold-up ladder so it would not get algae covered. Many good memories made there. Plugging the leaks is a tougher issue that takes some investigation and probably some trial and error.

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If there are no valuable fish in it now, then pumping it down and getting it dry for examination and repairs would probably be the first step.

If the previous owner was just digging a hole for a dirt supply, then the bottom and sides of your pond probably have little to zero compaction. You might have the proper clay content for an excellent pond if you could just scarify and then compact the bottom and sides correctly.

If the pond did not leak, would you have enough water shed to keep it full? Much easier to have a nice swimming area or pond with a "normal" water level that is fairly stable where you want it.

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esshup's link to "natural swimming ponds" is a very good idea in many circumstances.

You do not need to build a 30' tall dividing wall. You could use an excavator to create some long, narrow trenches outside of your current pond boundaries for your plant filter system. I think the longer the flow path of your recirculated water, the better the filtering efficiency. However, a 100'x125' swimming pond is a lot of surface area to filter. That would require a lot of surface area for your adjacent "filter system". Don't know if your property has the room for that, or if your family would like that visual frame.

However, if you have a larger budget, you could build your plant filter system as a series of terraces with cascading water falls if you have a hillside near the pond. That would give it a unique style to create your required large filtering system.

Good luck on your improvements to your new pond and property!

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Yes, last year I did drain it with a couple pumps. The bottom is clay, but about half way up, the sides I believe is where he added all around the yard from the dirt he dug out of the pond. Also around the edge that goes into the woods, you can see a difference with layered dirt. Since then the pond has filled half way up again. Wondering if I got an excavator and make a tapered out around the whole pond and then maybe pulled some of that clay out and covered the tapered dirt if it would hold or if I have to get a liner. I did see a post about digging around the pond and added a trench to help with filtration. I think if I did that, then I would for sure need a liner. I really don't want to go spend a crazy amount. Also worried about keeping water in there. He did run a tube from the house that goes directly to my well at the house

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I am having a little trouble following your description of the pond setting, so please correct all of my wrong assumptions.

Is the pond basically a bowl in clay soil up to the pre-existing ground level, and then there is a build up of dirt that is above grade to make the final shore location and also even more dirt above grade for the site of the house?

When you say the pond filled back up about half way, is that water level about the same elevation as the original ground level? If so, then that makes pretty good sense that your "leak" is located where the previous owner built dirt above grade without performing the compaction necessary to make a pond.

Another test would be if you get a big rain and the water level in the pond rises several feet. It then would probably subside fairly quickly over the next few days, until it gets to roughly the current level, and the rate of water loss slows substantially. That would indicate the lowest level of your leak. (Can you affordably pump well water into your pond to perform a test of the leak rate and determine if there is a bottom to the leak?)

You can seal the sides of the pond by a method called creating a clay blanket. Even on a small pond, it would be fairly expensive because you would require proper compaction equipment. A pond liner will also be expensive.

I hope that helps a little as you continue evaluating your problem.

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Yes, you are correct with your assumption, and I like the idea of testing with heavy rain (not sure that's going to happen anytime soon) or filling with well water. Also concerned if I do try and maintain the water line with our well water if it might dry up if that's a possibility. I've had a company give me a rough quote to redig, get liner and install for around $17,500. So, I'm trying to figure everything out before pulling that trigger cause I don't want to redo anything after. I do like the idea of trenching around the whole pond as well for more filtration to help with swimming. especially b/c they would have to do that to hold the liner in place. Maybe adding rock or something instead of dirt. But then I need to think about pumps and the filtering. Adding PVC down on top of liner to pull water through to filter. If so, wondering how big of an area that would take up and what kind of system I could make with a DIY hillbilly system. I really want to get things better pictured in my head and to see if it will work when spending this type of money. I can send some pics later. Thanks for the help!

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I thought a little more about your filtering problem to make the equivalent of eshhup's "natural swimming pools".

While those types of pools are typically larger than a family-size hot tub, they are not great VOLUMES of water in total. If your pond is going to be 30 feet+ deep when full, then you have a very large volume of water to filter.

Your desire to add rock into the trench (instead of dirt) seems to imply that your are designing a filter for physical debris. The biggest water quality issue for "natural" or "living" pools is actually photosynthesizing organisms GROWING in the pond.

That is not a problem for swimming pools in the city, because chlorinating the water kills all of the living organisms. If somebody didn't add chemicals to a swimming pool for a week, it would be full of bright green water laden with algae.

The "filter" half of the types of pools in esshup's link are full of plants with their roots in the water. These plants pull all (or most) of the nutrients out of the water and it is converted to additional plant growth, and those nutrients are not available to algae.

I think it would be difficult to pull off the natural swimming pool concept in a pond your size. Your required "filter" area would be huge.

However, there are lots of people at Pond Boss that utilize their ponds as family swimming areas. Not as clean as a pool, but they have ways to keep their pond water pretty darn clean. (You might search some of those old threads.)

Sometimes fish are actually part of the cleaning process in those ponds. Fathead minnows eat zooplankton and plant matter. They will definitely clean up some of the detritus in your pond. However, they can breed out of control, so you do need a predator. You could have a few hybrid striped bass that will not reproduce, or some single-sex LMB.

Those "predators" would tend to stay far away from any swimmers.

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As regards sealing your pond, the liner option from a reliable company should serve your purpose.

A pond that is 100'x125' is about 0.29 surface acres. Your evaporation losses in Michigan would not be that great over the course of a year. If you already have a water well on the property, you could grade the land around the pond to exclude all surface ground water from entering the pond. That would keep the pond cleaner, regardless of whether you installed the pond liner or tried to compact clay blankets around your pond leak levels. Your pond would then have to operate on well water, plus the very small amount of direct rain or snow that fell into the pond.

If that is going to be too expensive from either electrical costs or water usage restrictions, then you could do some re-grading (while you have equipment on site for the other work) to direct water into the pond through a wide, evenly-graded area that has good ground cover vegetation in place to "filter" the incoming rain/snow water.

Finally, if you (or one of your neighbor's) knows a good pond builder in the area, you might also get a bid to disc or rip your existing leaky banks and then build a compacted clay blanket over those pond banks in several 6" lifts. You might be able to do that for less than the liner bid, but the liner would probably be closer to a "sure thing". (There are no 100% sure things when building a pond.)


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