How to make a small pond for wildlife

A tiny pond works well in a small garden or even on a balcony, and is safe for children to make and watch.

Girl and boy crouched on lawn with the equipment for building a small pond in a container and a wheelbarrow. © DK Images

Invertebrates in particular will thrive in a tiny pond. Birds can feed from the visiting insects and, if you provide a perch such as a large stone next to the pond, birds can also drink from it.

You can create small ponds by adapting items such as washing-up bowls, large plant pots or old sinks. Reuse an old fish tank to create an outdoor pond with an educational aspect as children (and adults) can see through the sides to watch what’s going on under the water.

Whirligig beetles swimming on the water surface. © SKHoward/Getty
Whirligig beetles swim on the surface of the water, and are fascinating to watch. © SKHoward/Getty

When designing even the smallest pond, try to include a range of habitats such as hiding spots under the water, and plants to create shelter and provide food. In a small pond it’s most practical if your bowl is half-filled with plants so you can see down through the surface to the bottom.

If you have space for a larger wildlife pond, follow our step-by-step guide. Discover more tips for caring for your wildlife pond, and how to identify pond invertebrates.


Step 1

Line the bowl

Begin by lining the bottom of your bowl with a mixture of soil and some small stones. Aim for a depth of 5cm (2in) so the soil is deep enough for plants.


Step 2

Create a way out

Add stones up the side that will offer a way in or out for wildlife. Place a half plant pot or a piece of bark to create shelter for shyer species such as newts, and invertebrates such as caddisfly larvae.


Step 3

Add water

If you have rainwater available from a water butt, this is best to use. Pour the water slowly from a jug or watering can so that your stones and soil are not dislodged. Fill to just below the lip of the bowl.


Step 4

Add plants

Plant some plugs or cuttings of aquatic plants such as yellow flag, waterlily, or frogbit into the soil or in mesh baskets lowered into the water. Two or three plants is enough, positioned in corners.


Step 5

Introduce wild creatures

If you can acquire a little pondwater from a friend or family member, pour it in – it is likely to contain larvae or small invertebrates. If not, wild creatures usually find a new pond quickly, starting with insects that fly in. Animals that thrive are often smaller ones such as water hog-lice, caddisfly larvae, pea mussels, and snails.


Dan Rouse is a passionate presenter, author, conservationist and ornithologist from Swansea, Wales.

Dan Rouse

This is an extract from How to Attract Birds to Your Garden by Dan Rouse, published by DK, £16.99.


Main image: Girl and boy crouched on lawn with the equipment for building a small pond in a container and a wheelbarrow. © DK Images