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Pond Pumps - An introduction and explanation of the main types

A pond pump is an essential piece of pond equipment. To a new pondkeeper the choice of different types may seem intimidating so here we try to explain the choice of pumps available

22 July 2011
Pond Pumps - An introduction and explanation of the main types

A pond pump is essential for most ponds. Consider that in nature most natural pools will be fed by a stream so the ideal of a flow of water is completely natural. Pond pumps are an integral part of a pond filtration system, as pond filter units and UVCs will not be able to circulate water without them: it powers fountains, waterfalls and streams; it keeps water moving to avoid stagnation, and it aids oxygenation by disturbing the surface with fountains and waterfalls.  As the water is disturbed, oxygen is absorbed at a faster rate. 

However, choosing the right option can seem daunting.  There are many different pond pump brands on the market today though most operate in a similar way. The majority of pond pumps are submersible – ie they operate below the surface of the water. Such submersible pond pumps are generally cheaper and quieter to run.  Many pumps claim to be able to power multiple features at the same time, but be careful; you don’t want to rely on one pump and it can be difficult to run a fountain and a flowing feature off the same unit.  For the pond novice, purchasing a pond pump can seem intimidating, but we’ll try to show you the basics so a considered buying decision can be made more easily.

Feature Pond Pumps – (Typically 5% of the pond pump market)

Feature pumps are pumps specially designed to service a water feature or pondside ornament (eg, spitter). Relatively inexpensive, lower power pumps. Here a quiet running pump with the ability to draw water up from a shallow reservoir should be looked for – the Neptun range from Oase are specially designed for this purpose. If on a budget then fountain pumps can be used (similarly take off the usual telescopic pieces and fountain heads – be careful to check to see if the fountain pump is supplied with an outlet (or even better a hosetail) so a hose can be used to turn the fountain pump into a feature pump.

Fountain Pond Pumps – Typically 25% of the pond pump market

Fountain pumps are pond pumps designed to create a decorative display. This is the pond pump design profile that most people are probably most familiar with (an oval body with tall pipe out of the top). Most fountain pumps of flow rates greater than 1000lph will come supplied with a ‘T piece’, this is a flow diverter that means the water can be divided up into two directions – ie, part of the flow to a waterfall the rest to the fountain. In years gone by these pond pumps were sold as an ‘all jobs for all men’ kind of device. The reasoning being that part of the flow could create a nice fountain – the rest could go to a filter or waterfall. This idea is not so prevalent because it is a fundamentally flawed concept. The filter cage or holes that surrounds the pump unit have to be small in a fountain pump (typically 2-3mm). If they were any larger then solids could pass into the pump’s impellor and be pushed into the fountainhead blocking the fountain. This means that fountain pumps can’t pass larger solids to a filter and also means that debris can build up on the pump cage quickly affecting its performance. It is best to run fountain pumps for ornamental and display purposes only. But they can be used to temporarily maintain water flow for a pond filtration system should your main (filter pump) breakdown.

Filter Pumps – Typically 60% of the pond pump market.

Solids-handling filter pumps should be thought of as your ‘Main’ pond pump. This is the engine of the pond that keeps the water flowing 24/7. Despite having to work for long hours recent developments in pond pump design mean they can now run efficiently year after year – this is evidenced by the long warranties supplied with even lower cost pumps. Most filter pond pumps can handle large solid particles of waste and matter (4mm-12mm) so they will simply deal with any such debris by pumping them out and up the attached pond hose. That is why they are often called filter pumps as this waste can be picked up by a pond filter where the solids can be restrained by mechanical filtration. The result being that solids are taken out of the pond water. Even where a pond filter system is not employed a filter pump is the most efficient way of creating water flow within a pond or for powering a waterfall. Look out for running costs for such a pump – most run continuously so electricity costs can add up. Many now feature ‘Eco’ motors which are far more efficient and cheaper to run. Some pumps will feature a second inlet meaning water can be drawn from a different area of the pond via a satellite strainer cage or even a skimmer.

High Pressure Pond Pumps – Typically 5% of the pond pump market

You certainly get a lot of bang for your bucks with these high pressure pond pumps. They can produce very high flow rates – and this flow rate drops off only slowly when pushing up to greater head heights. Not as reliable as filter pumps in that they are not really designed to run 24/7 for long periods. However, many of these pumps come complete with a float switch – a device that ensures that the pump switches itself off should the water drop to a shallow level. Therefore we find that they are ideally suited to the pondless waterfalls that we sell. Due to their lower cost they can be very useful as a reserve or back-up pump in case of emergency.

Dry Mounted Pond Pumps – Typically 5% of the pond pump market

Dry mounted pumps can be run ‘dry’ – ie, they are not submerged under the water surface. This means they are easier to maintain. It is also sometimes easier to position a dry pump – ie it’s easier to position a simple intake hose or pipe rather than create space for a submersible pump. These pumps and their workings will be familiar to many koikeepers. Many koi ponds use a ‘Gravity fed’ filtration system where water is drawn from the pond by a bottom-drain and then out to a filter via the power of gravity rather than pushed by a pump. In such cases the water needs to be pushed back into the pond after it has been through the gravity filter. This can be achieved by a submersible pump sitting in a chamber of water or a dry chamber holding the dry pump.

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