How To Create A Natural Swimming Pond

You can safely swim in a garden pond as long as the pond is deep enough and the water is clean.

Typical backyard ponds are usually too shallow to swim in, but natural swimming ponds are specifically made for swimming.

In this article I’ll tell you about the benefits of natural swimming ponds and how to create a swim pond in your backyard.

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Clear pond water

What is a natural swimming pond?

Swim ponds are usually divided into two sections: the primary swimming pool and a shallow water garden.

The primary pool is usually 6 to 8 feet (1.8 to 2.4 metres) deep and can be made using concrete or a pond liner.

If you want to use a liner, select a heavy duty one that is resistant to weathering and UV light.

The bottom of the pond should be on an even surface to avoid sediment accumulation in areas with different inclinations.

The water garden section of the swim pond is usually about 12 inches (30 cm) deep and it’s where many different types of pond plants including water lilies, azolla, rushes, water irises and lotuses are planted.

These plants use up nitrogen in the water, helping to reduce algae growth.

When these plants are included in the design of your swim pond, you get a natural swimming pond which is both clean and healthy.

The water garden also provides habitat for frogs and beneficial insects like dragonflies that help to reduce mosquitoes.

natural swimming pond

What are the benefits of natural swim ponds?

Easy maintenance

The main benefit of swim ponds is they require very little ongoing maintenance.

Swimming ponds don’t require pumps or chlorination to function properly.

Planting a variety of plants in and around the pond will use up the excess nutrients in the pond water which reduces algae growth and keeps the water clean.

No harmful chemicals

There’s no need for chlorine or other chemicals and no chemical taste or smell when swimming so it’s much better and safer for your health.

The water is also healthier for wildlife like frogs and insects.

Environmentally friendly

Water quality testing from swim ponds have found the water to be cleaner than natural lakes and waterways.

This is because the plants filter out harmful nitrates, phosphates, and bacteria as well as providing habitat for beneficial insects.

Cool pond in summer

How to build a swimming pond

1. Prepare the site

After you have decided on the location for your swimming pond, you’ll need to start the process of digging.

The size of the pond will depend on how much space you have available and how deep you want it to be.

Before digging, check with your local government authority for any restrictions or permits you may need.

2. Install the pond liner

Install a strong liner in the bottom of the hole.

You’ll find that a heavy-duty pond liner will hold up better to ground movement and general wear and tear than other types of liners.

3. Edge the pond with rocks

Once you’ve installed the pond liner, pack it down and add a layer of rocks around the edge to hold everything in place.

Remember that stones should be natural so they blend in with the rest of your backyard.

This is also where you’ll install your waterfall if you’re planning one.

A waterfall is a source of natural beauty that can also improve the health of your swimming pond.

Waterfalls oxygenate the water which helps to reduce algae growth.

Pond waterfall

4. Plant aquatic plants in the water garden area

This is where many different types of pond plants such as azolla, water lilies, lotuses, rushes and irises are planted.

Plant the plants in shallow areas where they can get enough sunlight and nutrients to grow.

You can also use some floating pond baskets to keep the plants from spreading out too much.

5. Install a pond filter

If you want to really set yourself apart from others with your natural swimming pond, add a pond filter.

A pond filter will keep the water looking clean and also prevent any odors from developing in your pond.

This way, you won’t have to do any additional cleaning for your swim pond.

6. Fill the pond with water

Now you’re ready to fill your swimming pond with water.

You can use tap water or tank water for this.

You’ll also want to put some decorative figurines or other items in your swimming pond and perhaps some stepping stones leading into the water.

swimming pond

Swim pond safety

If your pond is in a low lying area of the backyard you’ll need to be mindful of chemical runoff.

It’s best to avoid using herbicides and chemical sprays near the pond because they can run off into the water and contaminate it.

Also, take care to ensure that your dog doesn’t urinate in or around the pond because it can contaminate the water with leptospirosis. [1]

Swim ponds should be fenced off from the rest of the backyard to keep children and pets from falling in.

As with all swimming pools, never allow anyone to swim alone or under the influence of alcohol.

Personal safety devices like life jackets should also be available for kids and non swimmers.

Testing the water

It’s a good idea to test the pond water regularly using a pond water testing kit.

This will ensure that the water is clean and safe for swimming.

Definitely avoid swimming in the pond if the water smells bad or if the water is foamy or murky in color.

pond sludge

So there are my tips for creating a natural swim pond in your backyard.

Natural swimming ponds are a great way to beautify your backyard and enjoy nature while also providing a natural habitat for wildlife.


Have you swam in a natural swim pond before? How did it compare to a regular pool? Let me know in the comments below.

Are you on Pinterest? I have boards dedicated to Pond Design and Backyard Ponds that you may find interesting.

a natural backyard swimming pond
building a swim pond

Kelly Martin

Hi, I'm Kelly Martin, a landscape gardener with a special interest in ponds and water gardens. For over a decade, I've been designing and creating beautiful gardens that feature stunning water features, from small garden ponds to large water gardens. Read more

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