Pond Star Greg Shares the Secrets of Building a Low-Maintenance Water Garden

The Pond Stars have had a busy season, and tonight their skills are challenged by wolves. If the team can build a pond that withstands a pack of water-loving wolves at the Lincoln Park Zoo, then surely they can build just about anywhere. Wondering if you should have a water feature at your home? Greg Wittstock, the Pond Stars’ boss, offers some tips.

What is the best reason to put in a water feature?

The number one reason by far and away is that it changes the space. There is nothing that you can do to a yard that will impact it more. When you put a pond in someone’s yard you change the space. You can literally change a house into a home. Most people have been hypnotized to put in grass. Grass is about the most boring thing. People will not look at grass or even tulips for hours on end, but they will spend hours watching their pond and fish.

They offer something for everyone. Kids love it for the fish and frogs. Parents love it for the relaxation. The number one benefit for me is that it creates a vacation place at home.

Why not just put in a swimming pool?

An average swimming pool holds 20,000 gallons of water. A pond only takes on average 400 to 600 hundred gallons. Unlike a swimming pool, wildlife will benefit from a pond and use it. We often put in rainwater harvesting system. We built a pond in Atlanta in March and went back in August to check on it. It hadn’t needed one drop of water because of the rain harvesting system. Part of our company mission statement is sustainability. You can’t do this with a swimming pool.

Do you have any tips for keeping the cost down?

The number one thing is to build it right the first time. People try to cut corners, end up doing it wrong, and then have to spend money to fix it. We always say, if you want to save money then hire a professional. We can do in one day what will take someone months. The average amount of rocks for a pond is 6 to 8 tons. It’s a serious project for a homeowner.

If you are hiring a professional, a landscaper with no pond experience may not be the best choice. If a contractor doesn’t own a pond himself, don’t have him build a pond for you. Look at his portfolio.

If you are a hobbyist, enjoy the process. If you want to do it yourself, then it doesn’t matter if it takes you all summer to do it. We will even sell kits to people who want to do the work themselves and de-stress while doing it.  

What are the challenges of water feature maintenance?

There are five parts to beautiful pond recipe:

  1.       Rocks and gravel throughout the whole the pond
  2.       Fish
  3.      Plants
  4.      Mechanical and biological filters
  5.      Re-circulatory system (the pump and the plumbing) 

If you have those five parts in proper balance, you will have a low-maintenance ecosystem pond that requires less maintenance than grass planted in the same area. It will require draining the water and starting fresh every spring. Then the skimmer filter needs to be emptied either weekly or monthly depending on the amount of debris falling in the water. Then you just have to feed the fish and add bacteria.

The challenge is that you can have all five of those parts, but if they are out of balance (too many fish, not enough plants, the wrong sized pipes, etc.), then you have issues. This is where beginners and hobbyists get into so many problems. If you do it wrong, then the whole thing becomes a maintenance nightmare. The majority of ponds that I see are not properly balanced and are a lot of work.

Watch the Pond Stars transform ordinary spaces into extraordinary ones and Greg is sure to make a believer out of you! Tune and watch Pond Stars: Big Bad Wolf tonight at 10PM on Nat Geo Wild!


  1. Patrick Fueta
    October 28, 2014, 8:57 am

    Grateful for the knowledge impacted

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    Shelton, CT USA
    November 17, 2016, 7:15 am

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