elaborate ecosystem pond with basins bowl and waterfall

At Amen Corner Ponds, we get calls all the time from people who want a koi pond, but they are still determining what kind of koi pond they want. There are various options, but we prefer the ecosystem koi pond. Ecosystem ponds have a number of advantages over conventional pond systems, and they look fantastic. In this article, we will break down the features of benefits of an ecosystem pond and how they differ from other pond systems.

What is an Ecosystem Pond?

The Ecosystem Pond is a unique pond system that includes a biological filter and skimmer to form your filtration solution. Other necessary components include a pond liner, underlayment as well as a pump for re-circulating water through your filtration system. You’ll also need rocks or gravel and fish to maintain the health of your ecosystem pond.

Greg Wittstock and Ed Beaulieu developed the ecosystem pond structure; their work has transformed how Koi Ponds are built. This article would not be complete without mentioning their names and thanking them for their years of research and testing.

What are the Alternatives to the Ecosystem Pond?

Concrete Ponds

Concrete koi ponds are the oldest way to build a koi pond.

Yup, that’s right; back in the day, concrete basins were the only way koi ponds were made.

When ponds were first being installed, there was no specialized equipment for koi pond construction. No skimmers, bottom drains, wetland filters, liners, or anything else. Concrete ponds have many issues, and we are glad to no longer build them.

Having a concrete pond meant lots of maintenance issues and a ton of work just to keep the water clear. Concrete ponds are hard to keep clean, they are very expensive, and they are prone to leaks that are difficult to fix. When pond liners began to be used in pond construction, they changed the industry forever.

Bare Liner Ponds

Next up, we have Bare Liner Ponds.

When building a bare liner pond, you replace the concrete basin with a flexible rubber liner. Liners are easier to install and work into the landscape and are less prone to leaks because they don’t crack. What bare liner ponds don’t fix is the problem of green water. Bare liner ponds still require a ton of maintenance to keep the water clear and the fish healthy.

Both of these pond systems had major issues with the most obvious being their lack of effective filtration systems.

Types of Pond Filtration System

One style of pond filtration is designed like a pool. These filtration systems circulate water through a system of large bead filters, pool pumps, and bottom drains.

A pool pump running a bead filter pulling from a skimmer and bottom drain works excellently in pools. In theory, it should work with koi ponds as well. However, this system fails to take into account the key difference between a pool and a koi pond. Pools don’t have fish, plants, and gravel.

As a result, these filtration systems must be washed weekly, backflushed yearly, and replaced every few years.

The other type of pond filtration system seeks to mimic nature. This is the system deployed by Ecosystem Pond installers. Ecosystem ponds are designed to sustainably self-regulate by simulating a natural aquatic ecosystem.

One of the arguments you hear against ecosystem ponds is that they are hard to clean out, which can be true if the pond is poorly designed.

If the installer knows how to properly set up an ecosystem, then a yearly cleanout is easy. On the plus side, an ecosystem pond is low on maintenance. A properly installed ecosystem koi pond can be maintained in as little as five minutes a week.

Now that you know a bit about the history of ecosystem ponds let’s break down their design and functionality.

Elements of an Ecosystem Koi Pond

Filtration System

An ecosystem pond filtration system is comprised of several elements that work together to ensure that the water is oxygenated, that pond debris (including leaves, mosquito larvae, floating algae, and anything else that’s blown in) will be swept from the pond’s surface, and that the water is enriched by beneficial bacteria. The three primary elements of an ecosystem pond filter are a bilogical filter, a pond skimmer, and a re-circulating Pond Pump.

  • Pond Skimmer: A pond skimmer removes debris from the surface of the water before it sinks to the bottom of the pond.
  • Biological Filter: A biological filter provides an environment for beneficial bacteria to grow. These bacterica break down ammonia and nitrites making the pond water healthier for fish.
  • Re-circulating Pond Pump: A pond pump adds oxygen to the pond water and circulates it through the skimmer and the biological filter.


Algae are plants, and all aquatic plants feed off of the same nutrients in the water. The more plants you add to your pond, the more the algae will be starved as the other plants consume its food source. Algae growth will be minimized naturally and effortlessly.

A wide variety of aquatic plants are available for your pond. From waterlilies and lotus to marginal plants such as marsh marigold and horsetail. You’ll never tire of the options available to you.


Fish fulfill their role in the ecosystem by eating algae. Presuming they’re not overfed, koi over 10″ in length will graze on the algae, effectively reducing its growth. Like plants, a variety of pond fish are available for you to introduce to your pond. Large, colorful koi to rosy reds and beyond! Fish are a delightful addition to any size water garden.

Rocks and Gravel

Like aquatic plants, the beneficial bacteria that live on the rocks and gravel in the pond feed on excess nutrients in the water, reducing the algae by starving it even further. The rocks and gravel not only hide the liner and create a natural-looking setting, but also provide a home for beneficial bacteria. Plant debris, fish waste, decaying organic matter, excess nutrients or anything else that falls to the bottom of the pond will rest on top of the rocks and gravel. The bacteria living on the rocks and gravel will then go to work, breaking down the waste and debris, cleaning and clearing the water.

Finally … Patience!

It takes between two and six weeks for the bacteria to colonize and actually begin to do their job. Creating a balanced ecosystem doesn’t happen overnight! Like fine wine, ponds mature with age, so don’t be surprised or concerned if a new pond begins to grow some algae. Once the plants, fish and bacteria are established, the algae will decrease, as will the amount of maintenance on the pond.

We hope this article has helped you learn more about a true ecosystem pond. We at Amen Corner Ponds are passionate about showing people what a paradise an ecosystem pond can be. Thanks for reading. Got another question about ecosystem koi ponds? Contact us!