A small wildlife pond

Cost: $500+

Time: 1-2 days

Level: Advanced

Are you looking to spruce up your outdoor living space with a water feature? Do you also want it to attract animals so you can see them and give them a safe place?

In this article, we will guide you through the 8-step process of building a wildlife pond in your backyard. By the time you finish reading, you will know whether installing a small wildlife pond is a DIY task or if hiring a pro works better.

Check out our guide to water features to discover more about these unique features.


  • Shovel
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Level
  • Garden hose
  • Utility knife
  • Drills
  • Drillbits


  • Sand or spraypaint
  • Underlayment
  • EPDM pond liner
  • Rocks
  • Gravel
  • Aquatic plants
  • Pond pump
  • Filters

How To Build A Small Wildlife Pond In 8 Steps

Wildlife pond

1. Choosing The Right Location

When choosing the location for your small wildlife pond, there are a few key things to consider:

  • It should be in a spot that receives at least 5 to 6 hours of sunlight each day. This will help the plants in the pond to thrive and provide a source of food and shelter for wildlife
  • The pond should be placed in a spot that is relatively level and not prone to flooding
  • You’ll want to install your pond to be where people can see it from multiple places, including inside

2. Prepare The Site

Once you have chosen the location, it’s time to start digging your pond. The first step is to outline the shape of your pond’s edges using spray paint or a garden hose. The size and shape of your pond can vary depending on the space you have available, how much work you want to do, and if you have the time it takes to build a pond. You’ll want to aim for the deepest part to be at least 2 feet down to prevent full freezing during winter.

3. Digging The Pond

Digging a backyard pond

Using a shovel or a garden digger, start digging out the pond from the center and work your way toward the pond edge. As you dig, make sure to create shelves around the edges of the pond that will allow for different levels of planting. Use a level to ensure the shelves are flat.

Once you have finished digging, remove any rocks, roots, or other debris from the bottom of the wildlife pond. Ponds need a clean bottom layer to prevent anything from damaging the underlayment and liner.

You’ll want to make sure your pond edges aren’t too steep, as this will make it challenging for animals to get in and out of your pond.

It’s during this step that you will dig out the area for your filters and pumps, should you choose to install them. You’ll also install them (using the drill and drill bits to create holes in the filters for certain parts to go) before adding the liner in the next step.

4. Installing A Pond Liner

To prevent water from seeping into the soil, you will need to install a pond liner and an underlayment to protect it. There are several types of pond liners available, but PVC and EPDM are the most commonly used materials.

Before installing the liner, make sure to measure the dimensions of your pond and add an extra foot of liner to each side to ensure a proper fit. This also gives you more material to roll up and helps prevent leaks.

Install the underlayment. Then, lay the liner over the pond and adjust it until it is centered and smooth. To hold the liner in place, add rocks or bricks around the edges of the pond.

*You can also use preformed ponds if you want to spend less time, energy, and money on this project.

5. Adding Rocks And Gravel

Adding rocks and gravel

Adding rocks and gravel to the bottom of your pond will help to create a natural look and provide hiding spots for wildlife. Choose rocks and gravel that are smooth and rounded to avoid any sharp edges that could harm animals.

Rocks and gravel are also where beneficial bacteria (the kind that cleanses the water) colonize.

Place the rocks and gravel on the bottom of the pond and around the shelves you created earlier. Make sure to create different levels of depth and texture to provide a range of habitats for different types of wildlife.

6. Filling The Pond

Filling a pond with a garden hose

Before filling your pond with water, make sure to rinse the rocks and gravel to remove any dirt or debris. Once you have done this, you can start filling the pond with water.

It’s important to use a hose or a bucket to fill the pond slowly, as this will prevent the liner from shifting or tearing. Add a dechlorinator or other pond detoxifier to make it more suitable for wildlife.

7. Adding Plants

Pond with aquatic plants

Adding plants to your pond is essential for creating a healthy and thriving ecosystem. There are a few main types of aquatic plants to consider.

Marginal Plants

Marginal plants are those that are planted around the edge of the pond, where the water is the shallowest. Marginal plants can provide food and shelter for pond creatures like fish, frogs, and dragonflies. They can also help improve water quality by filtering out excess nutrients and providing shade for the pond.

Some of the most popular marginal plants include water irises, water lilies, cattails, sedges, rushes, and reeds.

Floating Plants

Floating pond plants, such as water lilies and duckweed, provide cover and shade for wildlife and help to reduce algae growth. They also absorb excess nutrients from the water, helping to prevent algae blooms.

Some common floating plants include water hyacinth, water lettuce, and frogbit.

Emergent Plants

Emergent pond plants, such as cattails and rushes, grow out of the water and provide cover and nesting sites for birds and insects. They also help to filter the water and stabilize the pond edges.

When adding plants to your pond, make sure to choose native species that are well-suited to your climate and water conditions. Plant them in the shelves around the edges of the pond, making sure to provide different depths and textures.

Some common emergent plants include arrowhead, pickerelweed, and irises.

Submerged Plants

Submerged pond plants are essential for keeping the water in your pond clean and oxygenated. They also provide a habitat for small fish and insects.

Some common submerged plants include hornwort, waterweed, and water milfoil.

8. Wait And See What Wildlife Appears

Close up of dragonfly by wildlife pond

Once you have completed all the steps, it’s time to sit back and wait to see what wildlife appears in your pond. It may take a few weeks or even months for the pond to establish a healthy ecosystem, but with patience, you will soon start to see a range of fascinating creatures calling your pond home.

Benefits Of A Small Wildlife Pond

It’s important to understand the benefits of having a small wildlife pond in your garden. Not only does it provide a natural habitat for local wildlife, but it can also act as a natural water source for birds and insects during hot and dry weather.

You will love the relaxing sight and sound of water in your backyard. It’s proven that a water feature is good for improving mental health, and it makes for a beautiful and unique focal point.

Additionally, it can be a great educational tool for children and a relaxing feature in your outdoor space.

Wildlife Pond FAQs

Do I need a pump or filter for my wildlife pond?

It’s not essential to have a pump or filter for a small wildlife pond, but it can help to keep the water clean and oxygenated. If you do choose to use a pump or filter, make sure to choose one that is appropriate for the size of your pond.

How often should I clean my wildlife pond?

A small wildlife pond should be cleaned once a year in the fall or early spring. During this time, remove any excess debris and trim back any overgrown plants.

Can I add fish to my wildlife pond?

It’s best to avoid adding fish to small wildlife ponds, as they can disrupt the natural balance and eat other wildlife in the pond. You may be able to add some native fish from your area, just make sure they aren’t going to prey on other aquatic life.

Can I use tap water to fill my pond?

Yes, tap water is fine to use to fill your pond, but make sure to dechlorinate it before adding any plants or wildlife.

How long does it take for a wildlife pond to establish a healthy ecosystem?

It can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months for a wildlife pond to establish a healthy ecosystem, depending on the conditions and the aquatic plants you buy.

Build The Best Backyard Pond With Amen Corner Ponds

From the beauty of dragonflies skimming above the surface to creating an inviting atmosphere, a small wildlife pond is a wonderful addition to any outdoor living space. You can enjoy nature as it visits your own wildlife pond for years to come with the right advice and materials.

Take advantage of all the benefits that come with installing a wildlife pond, garden pond, or other water features today, and reach out to Amen Corner Ponds to get started. From selecting the perfect spot to installing wildlife-friendly plants, our team can handle all the aspects of installing a pond in your backyard.

Fill out our contact form today or give us a call – we look forward to helping make your dreams come true!