How to build a pond that attracts wildlife to your garden


Frog - Credit: Archant

Ponds encourage many exciting new visitors to your garden and are a great way to take a peek at even more species! Nick Brown, Derbyshire Wildlife Trust’s Wildlife Enquiries Officer, tells us more about his own pond and how to build your own.

There is nothing more exciting than peeking in a pond and seeing what you can spot! From tadpoles and newts to dragonflies and water beetles, there is always something new to discover.

I dug a new pond in my own garden in spring 2017 using a butyl liner. Adding marginal plants from a previous pond, it soon began to look as if it had been there for years. I begged and borrowed more aquatic plants from friends and some 'sludge' too, which encourages some of the tiny creatures that wouldn't otherwise be able to establish in a brand new pond.

Many pond insects, such as water beetles, water boatmen, pond skaters and dragonflies, will find even small ponds, flying in during the night or by day. Frogs and newts will also arrive in time - there's rarely any need to import any and there are several reasons why that is not necessarily a good thing to do.

If you are going to add any creature, pond snails will need a helping hand. In return, they are excellent helpers with the upkeep of your pond - giving you less work to do. There are several species, including Ramshorn snails, that do an excellent job of eating up algae.

It is best to fill your pond with rainwater, and a water butt is a great addition to a garden if you haven't one already. Tap water has a burden of nutrients that can set off an 'algal bloom' in the early stages of a pond's development.

One rule is paramount to a successful wild pond: never introduce any fish. There is a possibility they will eat tadpoles and other creatures, while they continually stir up the mud and the water will never be clear.

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Getting a good range of oxygenating (underwater) plants is vital since these have the ability to suppress 'green soup' syndrome and blanket weed, too. But beware! Some aquatic plants are very invasive and can take over your pond given a spell of hot weather, which allows them to grow rapidly. Spiked water-milfoil and Hornwort are a good place to start, but there is plenty of advice online about other great additions and what to avoid.

The bigger and deeper your pond, the more stable it will be and the less likely to require regular filling - although if you need a refill the water butt will come in handy again. However, as long as ponds are a metre deep at one point they should be reasonably sustainable and hold a wide range of invertebrates.

Do ensure that your pond has sloping edges so that hedgehogs and other creatures can get a drink or even a wash without being unable to get out. If your pond does have steep sides then leave a sloping plank in it.

I've enjoyed many happy hours beside my pond, which is roughly three metres wide. I was excited to see what found its way there first, and a group of egg-laying dragonflies called it their home in its first summer. I watched the females carefully inserting their eggs into a damp log which I had placed at the edge of the water specifically for that purpose. Frogs are supposed to leave ponds after spawning but in mine up to four can be seen quietly lurking under large marsh marigold leaves on hot summer days. u

To read more about creating a wildlife garden pond, and for tips on making your garden more wild, visit For details of this month's events with lectures - including Gardening for Wildlife on 11th March - and family activities, go to