Click 'Read more' down at the right to learn what makes an ideal duck pond...
Easily the biggest challenge with designing and owning a duck pond is achieving adequate filtration. A standard ecosystem pond designed for koi will quickly become overloaded with waste when ducks are introduced. To effectively handle a load of ducks, you'll definitely want to have a wetland or bog filter. This uses plants and bacteria to naturally utilize the excess nitrates in the duck detritus as nutrients for growth. Deciding how large to make your wetland depends on the number of ducks and the size of the pond. A typical fish pond will have a wetland averaging about 10% of the pond's surface area. For ducks, you'll want it sized between 30-50% of the pond's surface area. That may sound like a lot, but consider how the typical environment where ducks thrive is full of reeds and cattails. That doesn't happen by accident, those reeds grow so well because the ducks provide them plenty of fertilizer. It's been discovered that the best plants for using in the wetlands of a duck pond are reeds and cattails. Due to their density and vertical growth, they use the greatest amount of nitrates relative to the area they occupy.
Skimming is another essential component to a duck pond. You'll want to do everything you can to minimize the amount of organic debris that enters the water. A skimmer will capture fallen leaves before they can sink and sludge up your pond. For the minimal required maintenance, we suggest using an intake cove instead of a skimmer box. This is an area of the pond with a narrow inlet and a drain that will collect any leaves and debris that fall in the pond, to be scooped or raked out periodically, usually about once a week in the spring/summer, increasing in frequency as needed in the autumn. An added benefit of a skimming system is it will help aerate and remove toxic gasses from the water. This brings us to our next topic: Oxygenation.
When designing a professional-quality duck pond, achieving excellent aeration is essential to maintaining water quality and reducing maintenance. We recommend a multi-faceted approach to aeration utilizing a stream/waterfall, multiple high-powered aerators, and even underwater jets, like those in a hot tub, to move stagnant water and break the sediment into smaller particles that can be more easily handled by your pump. When designing the waterfall, the goal is to maximize the agitation of the water. Use plenty of rocks and drops to break the surface tension of the water and create bubbles, this does a fantastic job of aerating the water. A waterfall and stream, however perfectly executed, will still require supplemental aeration to achieve a proper duck pond. There should also be several aerators around the pond in areas that are away from the waterfall and have more turbid water. These aerators will introduce bubbles at the bottom of your pond, which helps aerate the bottom of the pond and moves stagnant water from the bottom of the pond up to the surface where it can come into contact with the air. Aerators work great in a vertical water column, but to really maximize their benefit, you'll want some underwater jets to supplement them by pushing water across the bottom of the pond into the streams of bubbles the aerators create.
- Chewing up your aquatic plants and shredding your lilies. Ducks enjoy plants as a food source; this includes your carefully selected and tended aquatic plants. Their feet may be webbed, but they still have little talons on their toes, and those can make quick work of lily pads and other floating plants. They also might uproot submerged plants, trample marginal plants, and knock over potted plants. You'll either have to live with the risk of losing some plants, or choose only hardy varieties or plants you can easily replace.
- Making a mess. Ducks will leave their droppings in places that may be inconvenient for you; particularly, in your pond water. You will want to have much more effective filtration than would be typical in a similarly-sized pond designed for koi. The filtration needs of a duck pond can be difficult to estimate. You'll need to consider the amount of ducks you'll be keeping, because even a single pair of ducks can increase the filtration needs considerably. To read a scientific study of how ducks affect the bacteria in a pond, click here.
- Territorial disputes. Ducks can become quite aggressive during nesting season. Like geese, they will defend their nest from anything or anyone in it's proximity by hissing, snapping, and chasing down any perceived threats. With that in mind, you'll want to build your duck pond at least 15' away from commonly used walkways or sitting areas.
- Less fish/frogs/insects. Ducks are predators, and even hand-fed pet ducks will forage for about 75% of their diet. The upside of this means you'll have less pesky insects in your garden. This is especially nice if you have vegetables, as the ducks will find and eat the slugs, caterpillars, locusts and beetles that have been eating your crops. The downside is that they will also eat some of the frogs, tadpoles, and small fish that inhabit your pond; although this is not necessarily a problem if your priority is ducks. In fact, if you have a pair of large breeding koi in your pond, the ducks will help manage the explosion of your fish population in the spring after the thousands of koi eggs hatch.
• Success with your duck pond depends on selecting the correct pump. We recommend using a solids-handling pump to assist with the enormous amounts of duck muck. To select the right size pump, follow the manufacturers suggestions based on pond size, and err on the larger side.
• Plant selection is important. The best choices will be plants native to your area that will extract duck excrement from the water and thrive on it: reeds, iris, cattails. Aside from your filter plants, it's good to include some edible plants such as duckweed, pickerel, wild celery and arrowhead.
• Vary the edges. You never see a perfectly circular pond ringed by identically-sized rocks in nature, so don't build your pond that way and expect it to perform as a natural pond. You may want to include a sandy beach-area so the ducks can casually walk in and out of the pond. This area can be set up with a nice lounge chair and umbrella where you can relax and be near your ducks.
• Include an island or some larger rocks in the center of the pond that will give the ducks a safe place to go when they feel threatened. This will help keep them safe should a fox or coyote get in your yard.