How to Choose a Pond Pump

To help you size a pond pump, measure how high the water needs to be lifted.

Sizing a pond pump

If you’re pumping water to reach the top of a fountain, the start of a little river or a waterfall, you have to know how high the water needs to be lifted before you go buy the pump. That’s far more important than the volume or power rating of the pump. When you’re at the store or shopping online, look for the maximum height the pump will lift water. It’ll be included in the specifications on the box. That distance, of course, is from where the pump actually sits—at the bottom, not the top of the pond—to the discharge point above the pond.

Measuring the height is easy if the top of the discharge is near the pond and you can use a tape measure, but what do you do if you’re pumping water up a hill far away from the pond? The answer is a 4-ft. level and a bit of easy math. Stand in the bottom of the pond and sight along the top of the level. It’s a little tricky if you’re on your own because you have to bob your head back and forth to center the bubble while you sight (much easier to have someone “level the level” while you sight). Your goal is to visually mark something on the ground—a rock, stick or something else—while you sight. The height to that point is the height from the bottom of the pond to your eye height. Then just move up to that spot and repeat the process until you reach the discharge point. Add up the numbers and you’ll have the water pumping height that you’ll need to match when you buy the pump. It’s a remarkably accurate but low-tech—and free—method.

— Travis Larson, Senior Editor

The water feature shown features a pond fed by a sluice made from split bamboo.

Click here for a lot more pond projects, ideas and tips.

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