Ian WintleHow to make a water feature

Water features are always an interesting and attractive addition to your garden. They are easy to set up once you have chosen the pot that suits you and your garden. Don’t worry if the pot has holes in it as they can easily be filled with waterproof filler. Obviously you must have a large enough clay pot that will keep the water cool enough during the hot summer so the fish do not boil. My smallest pot contains about 150 litres of water.

Thalia geniculata, or red water canna

Thalia geniculata, or red water canna

1. First job is to prepare the base for the pot to sit on; it must be firm as you do not want your pot to lean to one side. I usually use a crusher dust base with dry cement mixed through it.

2. Then you must hose out the inside of the pot to get rid of any loose particles.

3. Now it’s very important that the pot be sealed; my preference is for water based bitumen paint. Make sure the pot is dry inside then give the interior two coats within two days, then leave to dry for a minimum of 10 to 14 days. There are a number of sealers you can use, just visit your local hardware store for a selection.



5. Fill with water – I use tap water not rain water as tap water contains more mineral content, then use a chlorine neutralizer and a pond conditioner. I use a product from a pet store called ‘blackwater’- basically it ages water.

Checking out the fish

Checking out the fish

6. I then place a concrete besser block on the bottom of the pot with the holes free for fish to shelter and place the water plant pot on top of this.

7. Do not use organic soil, use soil with NO organic material added.

9. Cover the dirt in the pot plant with loose gravel as this will stop the dirt from making the water cloudy.

Bright red stems on Thalia geniculata

Bright red stems on Thalia geniculata

10. Put your fish in and a bit of waterweed and you have a beautiful feature in your garden. I find that platys, black mollies and swordtails do very well. Fish do not need feeding as they have waterweed and insects. I collect some of my fish from a local creek and they are very hardy and learn to live on mosquito larvae and any other insects that fall into the pot.

You will probably need to clean out the pot every couple of years so there’s not a lot of maintenance. If you are in Queensland depending on height of pot you may need to make it cane toad proof.

Like this post? Why not share it with a friend?

Ian Wintle

About Ian Wintle

I retired to the garden in 2010 after 20 years in the RAAF and 22 years with the Queensland Probation and Parole Service. Judy and I have been married for almost 45 years and we have 2 sons, 3 granddaughters and a grandson, plus 2 grand-dogs. We're passionate about our subtropical garden and open it through Open Gardens Australia and for special charities. It's a great weekend and you get to meet and talk to some wonderful people. We were proud to receive a Golden Trowel in ABC Gardening Australia's 2009 'Gardener of the Year' competition and have 2 blogs - SubTropical Queensland Open Garden and Garden Product Reviews.

3 thoughts on “How to make a water feature

  1. Eugene on said:

    Great article. I should have read it a couple of years ago.
    7. Do not use organic soil, use soil with NO organic material added.
    Can I just reiterate the soundness of that point. I stuffed up big time by ignoring it.
    Got to love those colocasias though!

  2. Thanks for the information, Ian. You name the plants in the pots pictured, but what is the water cover vegetation? Does that just grow and develop, like algae?
    Toads are a problem here in Queensland and I am always fishing them out of our water feature or even just buckets with cuttings temporarily soaking. I am guessing chicken wire laid across top of the pots would be a deterrent?

  3. Thanks Ian. We are currently creating a new front entrance at our house and I have had it in mind to include a ‘water feature container’. You give some good tips – and make it sound easy! I am inspired to give it a go.

Feel free to comment (no need to register)
For help to identify a plant or find a gardening product, please use the Gardening HELP page.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *