A pond pump is usually the first piece of equipment you add to a garden pond, it allows water to be moved to a filter and helps keep the pond healthy and fresh. 

There are different variants of pond pumps including fountain pumps and solids handling pumps which have different purposes.

Fountain Pumps are ideal for aerating a pond which is especially important when we have hot weather and the water is starved of oxygen. Also known as dirty water pumps, they aren't designed to handle solids but, depending on the brand, may have an internal sponge or mesh filter, to protect the pump from damage or blockage. 

All fountain pumps will have several attachments and can be used to run filters, waterfalls and pond side ornaments. If you are running a filter, bear in mind it will not be as efficient as a standalone Filter Pump, and a pond vac may be required to remove sludge build up over a period of time.

Also in larger ponds, with fish and in full light, fountain pumps can be hard work to maintain, therefore a Filter Pump is recommended if you want low maintenance.

Do I Need A Pond Pump?

Ideally yes, if it's a fish pond then you should always have one, whether it's to circulate the water or to feed a filter, it's going to be beneficial. If it's a wildlife pond then you do not need a pump as wildlife such as frogs prefer a bog type habitat.

A solid handling pump

What Is A Solids Handling Pump?

A solids handling pump is also known as a filter pump or waterfall pump, this is because it can feed either of those usually without a problem. 

They are able to handle solids because they are much more robust than a standard pond pump, and you'll find that this type of pump will accept a larger hose size diameter so that it can handle larger volumes of water. 


A fountain pump

What Is A Fountain Pump?

fountain pump is a pump which will give you a decorative spray of water, normally a 3 tier, 2 tier and bell type fountain jet. Sometimes fountain pumps will come with a secondary outlet which allows you to pump water through a pipe as well as running your fountain spray.

These are great for small ponds with common goldfish but, if you have koi or a large pond, the silt and sludge can clog these fountain pumps up quickly requiring frequent maintenance.

Will A Fountain Pump Run A Waterfall Or Feed A Filter?

You can, however they will have a strainer cage which has very small holes, this is to protect the pump because the fountain head will block if the holes are larger but can cause problems with the pump cage clogging in larger, dirtier ponds which is why you should keep it off the very bottom of the pond to protect it and prevent frequent maintenance.

Will A Fountain Pump Keep My Pond Clean?

A fountain pump alone will not keep your pond clean but it will help to a certain degree. The increased oxygen in the pond water due to surface movement, whether that's from a spray, ripples or a waterfall will increase good bacteria, this bacteria will in turn eat away pond silt. We always suggest a pond filter with a UV clarifier to keep a pond crystal clear.

Should I Have Two Pumps?

In an ideal pond set up yes. However, if cost is a big factor, the  best option would be to purchase a solids handling pump to feed your filter, or buy a filter kit which includes a solids handling pump. If you want to, you can always add the fountain pump at a later date.

This means you've got a healthy pond set up and the decoration element can be added when you feel like it. Another benefit of having two pumps is that you have the flexibility to turn off your fountain wihtout detrimental effects to your filter and the bacteria which is housed in it.

What Size Pump Do You Need?

It is important to calculate the capacity of your pond, however, as a guide, for small ponds solely to run a fountain, a 700 - 1000 litre per hour pump is recommended. Although most fountain pumps can be controlled so you can always adjust the power, refer to the product packaging or instruction manual to see what fountain height the pump will deliver (the 'head' is the maximum height above water level that the pump will lift water). 

For a medium to large pond to run a fountain and small waterfall, a 1500 litre per hour pump is required as a minimum. Refer to the product instructions to see what head the pump can handle, and bear in mind that the greater the lift to a filter or waterfall, the slower the flow rate, and a bigger pump will be required.

As a guide to maintain a good flow rate, for every 0.5m lift, a 500 litre pump would be required (1m lift will require a 1500 litre pump), you are always better to go bigger though. For larger ponds to run a fountain and a large waterfall, a 4000 litre per hour pump is required as a minimum.

A black Stepped Hosetail

My Instructions Mention A 'Hosetail' What Is This?

The hosetail is a fitting which is connected to the pump that a hose pushes on to, the water is then pumped through the hose. Many pumps come with stepped hosetails, these hosetails allow for different sizes of pipe to be added, when using a larger hose the smaller parts can be cut off using a hacksaw.

Where Should My Pump Be In The Pond?

With a solids handling pump I'd suggest locating it the furthest distance away from the filter or waterfall, this allows for maximum circulation. Fountain pumps are slightly different because they can't be near the edge or your water will not drop back into the pond. Just remember to allow for easy maintenance access and never pull the electrical cable to get the pump out of the pond.

Natural Waterfall

How Much Water Flow Do I Need For A Waterfall?

The trickiest part for most people is how much water flow is required. It’s actually very simple to calculate as I will explain.

First you need to measure the head height or head measurement, this is the height of the waterfall from the surface of the water, and then next measure the width of the waterfall.

If you want to achieve the type of effect that you see in most people's gardens, then the easiest way to calculate the flow is to measure the width in cm and multiply that number by 1.5, this will then give you the required flow rate in litres per minute (multiplying this amount by 60 will give you litres per hour).  

It's important to have the correct flow rate as too little will just give you an unimpressive slow trickle of water, while too much will create an inappropriate torrent.

Waterfall Calculation Example

Here is an example of how to work out the flow required in litres per hour:

If your waterfall is 65cm wide: 65 x 1.5 = 97.5 litres per minute x 60 = 5850 litres per hour flow required.

If you wanted something slightly stronger then just double that number, but then we would advise higher walls to your waterfall to prevent water loss.

Of course, if you plan to have a tallish waterfall you will still require the same litres per hour but may need a larger pump that can achieve that height at the required rate. This is because as you increase the pumping height the output of the pump in litres per hour decreases.

What Type Of Pump For A Waterfall Or Water Course?

When possible, always use a solids handling pump as these can pump through a much larger pipe giving you less loss of pressure and a more consistent waterfall. Try to limit the joints and fittings you use as this can also cause a loss of flow.

If you are planning to have a massive waterfall or something with a very big drop it is advisable to speak with a pond specialist as they will be able to calculate an exact specification for you.


There's no doubt that many people find the calculations and considerations confusing. That's why GardenSite has a dedicated aquatics helpline so that you can speak to one of our experts. See our range of fountain pumps at www.gardensite.co.uk or call now on 0121 355 7701.