Budget pond ideas: 14 ways to create a stunning feature with water for less

Get creative with our budget pond ideas and you can introduce water into your backyard without having to splash the cash

budget pond ideas
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There are budget pond ideas for every plot whatever the size and space. Creating one yourself doesn't have to be tricky and there are lots of easy ways to add a pond. It's a great weekend project to get stuck into, too. 

The cost of building even a small garden pond can quickly mount up. It depends of course on a range of factors including the size, shape and style of your garden pond ideas, but it can end up costing more than you might think.

How much better to do it yourself and get creative with one of our budget-friendly ways to add a pond to your garden? Whether it's upcycling and repurposing what you already have or can easily source without spending significant amounts of money, or simply choosing a compact, cost-effective design that still has lots of impact, there are plenty of inexpensive ways to bring water into your plot. 

14 clever budget pond ideas to help you save when adding a pond

To get you inspired to add a garden pond to your space for less, we've put together some of our favorite solutions. These budget pond ideas will instantly boost your backyard, and you're likely to save cash, too. 

1. Enhance a rock garden with a small pond

small pond in rock garden

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If you like our small rock garden ideas, think about adding a mini pond to your scheme to give it the standout factor. Clear a small area for your rock garden and dig a hole for the pond. Position a weed proof membrane or pond liner over the exposed space, then add rocks around the edges to hold everything in place. 

Add more rocks to landscape the area around your pond. Use medium-sized rocks and smaller plants like succulents with different shapes, textures and colors. Finally fill your pond with water and enjoy.

2. Construct a pond surround from pallets

pond with surround made of palettes

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Our love for clever pallet furniture ideas knows no end. But have you considered using pallets for your budget pond ideas too? Take a simple container such as a plastic storage box or sink and clad it with strips of wood from a deconstructed pallet to create a pretty pond surround.

After you've taken the pallet apart, removed nails, made your boards a uniform width by sawing them and sanding if you want a smooth look, you're good to go with assembling your pond cladding. Then comes the best part – choosing the best exterior wood paint in your favorite color for the perfect finishing touch.

3. Build a simple deck over a pond

pond with small deck leading to shed

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This is the garden pond of our dreams. There's something magical about combining decking ideas with a natural pond where you can sit and dangle your toes on a hot day. 

This one has an area for relaxing and enjoying a contemplative moment next to the water too. Just perfect for sunny days watching dragonflies or pond fish lazing just beneath the surface.

To keep down costs, learn how to build decking yourself and recreate this simple pond deck from old scaffold boards or reclaimed timber such as railway sleepers. 

4. Make a mini pond for a small space

small pond in a metal basin

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Small garden pond ideas don't come much more compact that this! It just goes to show that it doesn't matter how small your space is there's always room for a mini pond. This is one of the best budget pond ideas for balcony gardens and terraces, bit it could also be used in bigger gardens. It's a great opportunity for growing pond plants and enjoying them up close.

Galvanized metal basins look great for a vintage look but you can even use an old washing up bowl for this idea if you landscape it into the garden with bricks and plants. Cover the bottom with a layer of gravel, then add two or three aquatic plants that won't grow too big, fill with rainwater and position where you can best enjoy it. 

5. Repurpose unusual architectural salvage 

pond in an iron cauldron

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Think creatively when it comes to sourcing interesting objects for your budget pond ideas. It's amazing what objects you can find at junkyards and architectural salvage specialists that have the potential to be turned into a garden pond. 

Aged and rusted metal always looks good, such as this old cauldron, but you'll also find old water tanks, baths and sinks, as well as stone troughs if you're lucky. All of them can easily be transformed into unique water feature ideas once you've got them home.

6. Limit materials to keep down costs 

small pond in country garden

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Perhaps you have a pile of slabs or bricks left over from a landscaping project that are laying forgotten behind the garden shed. Or maybe a neighbor is offering some leftover materials from their own garden project for free on WhatsApp. Either way, a small pond doesn't need much to give it a distinctive edging that notches up the design a level.

Alternatively if you're planning a garden makeover be sure to factor in enough materials to finish your garden pond in style, ensuring it adds some continuity to your landscaping ideas too. 

7. Turn an old barrel into a pond

pond in a barrel

(Image credit: Future)

Old barrels turned into ponds always look good whatever the design style of your garden. They are available for free if you ask at drink (especially whisky) and bottling factories, Craigslist and liquid processing plants. You can also buy more pristine ones online at Amazon as well as from garden centers.

Remember to fill them with rainwater only and top up regularly from water butts in hot weather. You will need to use aquatic compost for your plants. And include some sort of ramp for wildlife to get in and out easily.

8. Create a feature with sleepers

pond with decking walkway

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Turn your garden pond into a destination with a walkway over it to a seating area. Although this one looks professional it's such a simple idea that's easily done with old railway sleepers, which are widely available and make an affordable option if you're looking for budget pond ideas. 

They add a beautiful rustic look to your landscape design and are very easy to install and maintain. They are hard wearing too, being strong and sturdy as well as unlikely to rot so make a good choice for a pond area.

Opt for used and reclaimed sleepers that are beautifully weathered to add character to your garden as well as being a practical choice. If you have any left over you can use them to create some raised garden beds too.

9. Make an easy natural pond 

small natural pond

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You can build a small natural pond in your garden in a couple of hours and it's one of the best budget pond ideas. First choose your spot. It's better for wildlife if you put the pond in a warm, sunny area as tadpoles and dragonflies thrive in these conditions. 

When it comes to how to build a garden pond that will attract plenty of wildlife to your plot, it's easier than you might think. Simply mark out your pond then get digging. Ensure that the sides are level as you dig by placing a plank across the pond’s hole with a spirit level on top. Remember to include some shallow areas in your pond.

Remove any sharp stones from the bottom, then add a thick layer of sand. Dig a trench around the edge of the pond for overhanging pond liner. Place the liner carefully in the hole and tuck the edge into the trench; weigh it down with large rocks. Snip off any excess liner with scissors. Add a layer of sand to the bottom.

Fill the pond up, with rainwater if possible. Then add aquatic plants after 1-2 weeks. Some of the best wildlife pond edging ideas include a mix of stones, logs and plants placed around the sides of the pond to create habitats for pond-visiting creatures. Consider adding a plank of wood to help any wildlife that might fall in to enable them to climb out with ease.

10. Slot in a sink

pond in a Belfast sink

(Image credit: Future)

Belfast and butler sinks can easily be turned into stylish mini ponds. First put your sink into position as they are heavy to move anyway let alone when filled with water and plants. It will look best landscaped in with plants around it.

You need to make sure your sink is watertight. If you don't have the original plug use a little freshly made concrete to fill the plughole. Add a layer of gravel to the bottom, then fill the pond from a water butt. Otherwise fill with the garden hose and let the water stand for a few days before adding your choice of aquatic plants, making sure you choose a range including oxygenators.

Add a ramp such as a few staggered bricks for wildlife to get in and out of your pond, plus something for birds to perch on.

11. Use pebbles to add interest

small natural pond with pebbles

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Ornamental pebbles are one of the cheapest landscaping materials around and will really enhance your pond. They are good for edging and also for layering into the bottom of the pond for a seamless look.

Not only do pond pebbles keep your water clean, they create a natural looking bottom layer and help to provide a safe habitat for fish. Pebbles also provide a surface where friendly bacteria can grow, and this bacteria helps to break down dirt in the pond, keeping the water fresher for longer.

If your pond does start looking dirty, we've got plenty of tips on how to clean a pond in our guide. 

12. Upcycle an old bath

pond in an old enamel bath

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Using an old enamel bathtub as a pond is a brilliant option if you're searching for cheap garden ideas. If you find a rolltop design with claw feet let it stand proud as an architectural feature, but otherwise insert the bath into the ground so wildlife can access it easily via ramps.

Decide whether you want to close up the bottom drain hole and overflow holes temporarily or permanently. Ask at a plumbing shop what they recommend for this purpose to make sure you choose the right product. 

Hardy water plants will survive as long as the water doesn't freeze. You won’t need a lot of plants as they multiply quite readily each growing season. Or ask a friend or neighbor with a pond if they have any plants ready for dividing.

13. Multiply your pond plants for free

pond with lots of plants

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Divide and repot your best pond plants regularly to keep the supply coming and fill your pond with a good range of healthy specimens. It's one of the easiest budget pond ideas but often gets overlooked. Avoid re-potting with soil that's full of organic matter. Most aquatic plants grow well in sand and don’t require fertilizer.

'The exception to this is water lilies, as they do require fertilizer for a healthy growth,' says the team at Gardening Express. 'If you have a fish pond, make sure that up to half of the surface of the pond is covered with floating plants as they give fish a place to hide from predators and keep them cool in the heat of the summer.'

While you're dividing your pond plants, take the time to remove pond algae, such as blanket weed, as well. This spreads quickly and can choke a pond. 

14. Keep it simple to reduce costs

small garden pond with plants

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Small but perfectly formed – make this your mantra when it comes to budget pond ideas to get the very best results. As this pretty creation shows, a pond doesn't have to be a hugely elaborate and expensive design to be a stunning feature in your plot. Even a simple small area of water will add a soothing touch to any space. 

What's more, with a small pond you won't need to spend as much money on buying plants to fill the space, plus it will be easier to maintain and keep clean. 

How do I make a simple pond?

'Ponds are a fantastic addition to a garden, as they are an attractive focal point and a haven for wildlife,' says Sarah Dixon, Marketing Manager at Hozelock

'When creating a pond there are several important factors to consider, with the first one being the positioning in the garden. To ensure your aquatic plants are heathy, they will need a balance of sunshine and shade, due to sunlight speeding up the growth of pond algae. Choose an open area for your pond, ideally with half of the pond in a shaded area, as this will provide the ideal environment for floating and deep water plants such as water lilies. 

'A pond is a complete, mini eco-system and it’s important the balance is correct, otherwise problems can occur. This is why it’s key to invest in a modern filtration system, including a pond filter, ultra violet clarifier and pond pump. These components will create a healthy balance so that fish, wildlife and plants can thrive. 

'For those who want to enjoy the benefits of a pond without having to change the existing landscape of their garden, the Hozelock outdoor Aquarium is an ideal solution. The above ground pond is perfect for decking areas, patios or smaller outdoor spaces and takes just thirty minutes to assemble, with no need for digging, tools or construction, meaning you can enjoy your new pond in no time at all.'   

small natural garden pond

(Image credit: Alamy)

How do I make a cheap outdoor fish pond?

There's no reason why you can't include fish in your budget pond ideas, but do bear in mind that buying fish will instantly increase the overall cost of your pond project. 

If you've gone for a smaller pond to keep down costs, make sure you choose smaller species and don't overstock the water. Ask the experts for advice when you buy about what type of fish will be suitable for the size pond you have. 

Fish in a small budget pond will be easy prey for cats and birds, so you may have to consider some form of protection to keep your fish safe. If you're building your own pond to save on costs, think about creating steeper banks at the side of your pond to make it more difficult for cats and any other predators to get access to your fish. 

If the pond freezes in winter, fish will not survive. If you experience cold winters and want to prepare your garden pond for winter then pond heating should be considered, which will increase your costs. At the other extreme, think also about installing an air pump to increase oxygenation in case of temperature rises in hot summer weather.

fish in garden pond

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Sarah Wilson
Content Editor

Lifestyle journalist Sarah Wilson has been writing about gardens since 2015. She's written for Gardeningetc.com, Livingetc, Homes & Gardens, Easy Gardens and Modern Gardens magazines. Having studied introductory garden and landscape design, she is currently putting the skills learned to good use in her own space where the dream is establishing a cutting garden.