How To Drain A Garden Pond (Fast & Easy Methods)

How to Drain a Garden Pond (Fast & Easy Methods)s

Anthony Barnes

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Sometimes there are just those kinds of jobs that you’ll push back, again and again. The big ones, the fiddly ones, the ones that honestly just seem like too much hassle.

But you can’t put those jobs off forever, and all the while that you ignore them, they’re just going to get worse and can make your workload twice as hard when you do finally give in and begin. 

Deciding to drain the pond in your yard can feel like a real effort, but actually, it’s a really easy task that doesn’t need to take you all that long.

In fact, using some of the tips I’ll describe below, you could be done in less than an hour, but there are certain variables to take into account such as pond size and water type

But I promise you this, no matter what the size of your pond, I have a way for you to drain it that will be so easy that you never feel the need to push back this task again. 

So what are you waiting for? Continue reading to find out exactly how! 

Does Your Pond Actually Need Draining

Before you set yourself to the task, the first thing you should do is evaluate if the job actually needs to be done in the first place. 

Here’s the thing, if you have a fairly mature pond, it should be brimming with life. Garden ponds can actually be great, super complex ecosystems.

They’ll be full of plants, insects, and an array of even smaller critters classed as micro-organisms. 

If you drain the water away, you will lose all of this life. In fact, draining garden ponds can have a really negative impact on ecosystems. But once the waters back they’ll all just come straight back right?

Wrong. It’ll take quite a long time to recreate this ecosystem again, sure it was created once and it’ll repeat itself eventually, but it takes time to build up a complex ecosystem such as the one found in your pond. 

If you have fish in your pond, you really want to steer clear of draining your pond if you can as they need that healthy bacteria in the pond to be kept safe from substances like ammonia and nitrates that are really harmful to your fishies. 

However, with that being said, sometimes draining a pond is necessary. For example, if you need to repair a pond liner, unfortunately, the waters got to go.

This is the same for upgrading and redesigning your pond – you’re going to have to begin the process over with fresh water. 

Draining your pond is a job for when you have literally no other choice. Please try not to just drain your pond every time that it needs cleaning because you can get your hands on equipment that will do that without needing to fully drain your pond. 

Below I’ve listed what I believe to be reasonable causes to drain your pond: 

  • Pond liner replacement or repair 
  • Renovation or redesign. 
  • Relocating fish in other ponds
  • Heavy water changes. 
  • Checking for parasites or injuries of fish. 

Where Do You Drain The Water

Right, so you’ve established that you do need to drain your pond. You might now be wondering what do I do with all this excess water? Well please, whatever you do, do not simply pour it down the drain. 

As we talked about earlier, that water is chockablock with healthy bacteria, nutrients, and much more, so it works as a great plant fertilizer.

So I’ll repeat myself once more for all of you gardening fanatics out there – keep your pond water!

It can actually be bursting with so much gardening goodness (nitrates and phosphates) that it’s often much better than most fertilizers that you’ll find on the shelf in stores. 

So the answer to where do you drain your water? All over your garden!

Yes, that’s right, spread the water over your garden life, especially in areas with dense populations of plant life, and share it out with any veggies that you may be growing in your garden.

Basically, feel free to chuck that water over any type of plant at all, even just the grass if you prefer, place it anywhere. Anywhere but down a drain. 

If you’ve got a particularly small garden, or maybe a particularly large pond, you can always stock up buckets with your pond water and have yourself a little supply of fertilizer.

Keep in mind though, that there is a time limit; the nutritional integrity of the fertilizer will last for around 2-3 days, so you’ll need to use it all up by then. 

Improving Water Quality

This is my last tip before we learn how to actually drain the pond, but it’s an important one so take note. 

Bad water quality is going to negatively affect your ecosystems, and how well these ecosystems begin to develop again. This applies whether you’re fully or just partially draining your pond.

So if you’re going to replenish your pond using water from the mains you need to ensure that it’s been treated correctly. This is imperative if your pond has fish. 

The issue with mains water is that it is full of both chlorine and chloramine and this will kill the bacteria in your pond very quickly.

If you have fish, this water can burn them and I’m sure that you don’t want to cause any harm to your little fishies.

Always safely dechlorinate the water before you add it to any pond to keep all wildlife safe and ensure that the quality of the water stays stable. 

Since you’ve had to drain your pond water, you’ll have lost quite a lot of the healthy bacteria content.

You can buy beneficial bacteria products in stores which will give your pond that first pish it needs to kick-start regrowing your ecosystem. 

Once this is all done, you should always do a water quality test. Test the waters for ammonia content, nitrates, KH, and of course, pH, to ensure any fish’s safety and be sound in the knowledge that you are ready to start rebuilding your back garden ecosystem. 

How To Drain A Pond Quickly And Easily

How to Drain a Garden Pond (Fast & Easy Methods)s

Now that you know everything you need to, it’s time to get down to it. Let’s drain a pond.

There are a couple of different ways that you can go about this. So we’ll go through a few different methods and you can pick which one you think will suit you and your pond best. 

Method One: Submersible Pond Pump

Who’s It For? – Works for small to large ponds so is quite universal. 

Drainage Speed? – Fast. 

I’d say that if you’re looking for an effortless way to drain a pond, then if you don’t have one already, you’re going to want to try and acquire yourself a pond pump. Submersible models in particular will be your best friend. 

All you need to do with one of these handy little devices is position the out-take hose wherever you want the water to go (into plants and veggies.) Then place your pump into the deepest part of your pond as this will drain the most water in one go this way. 

If you have a  pond that is particularly large or deep, you’ll need to check the water lift height to be sure that it has enough power to do the job at hand.

Most pumps will arrive with a head height in their manual. Basically, the greater the number is, the deeper your pump can be placed, and thus, the further upwards it can force the water against gravity.

Alternatively, use an external pond pump if you wish, but these are more difficult to use.

Usually, you’ll need to additionally acquire some sort of hose extension to fit to the intake where you can place it at max depth to drain the water. The rest is similar to that of the submissive model, point the out-take hose where you’d like to drain (anywhere but down a drain.)

Method Two: Solar Powered Pond Pump

Who’s It For? – Small ponds only.

Drainage Speed – Slow.

If only have a small pond in your garden and are looking for a cheap alternative then I’d recommend the solar-powered pond pump (see also our guide to pond pump sizes).

Now, this does drain your pond quite slowly so if you’re looking for a super-fast fix then you may want to give one of the other methods a try.

And obviously, if you live somewhere with very little sun, you’re going to run into issues with a solar-powered pump quite quickly.  

However all that being said, this choice is a really great option for small ponds in the summer.

The constant sunshine during those hot months will keep your pump powered easily and most solar pumps are designed for fountains and thus have quite decent water lift heights in comparison to their lower flow ratings. 

To get the most out of this product, you’re going to want a pump where the solar panal capacity is fairly large.

When looking at the specification of your product, try to find a pump with a flow rating between 200-500 GHP and a head height of around a couple of meters.

Flow rating is more important than head height in this case though, so always favor the highest flow rated pump. 

Because you don’t need electricity for this pump, it’s a great option for remote locations where you have no power source.

It will obviously vary from product to product but most solar panels will come with the necessary hose piping to drain your pond, but if you’re wanting to drain the water further away from the pond you may need to additionally purchase extensions for your out-take hose.  

If you have a large pond, this method will not work for you, and even if you have a smaller pond, it is a much slower process than if you use an electric pump.

However, it is a greener way to drain your pond that doesn’t require electricity (see also ‘How To Heat A Pond In Winter (With And Without Electricity)‘) and is also a much cheaper option if you’re stuck for cash. 

Method Three: Pond Vaccum Cleaner

Who’s It For? – Works for both small and large ponds.

Drainage Speed? – Fast. 

Right, first let me say this. Do not purchase a pond vacuum solely for pond drainage. Or you’re going to be quite disappointed. So why is it even on my list, I hear you ask.

Well, all pond vacuums can perform cleaning tasks and for cleaning they are universally great.

However some models – and by some I mean those on the higher end of the budget scale, can come with a fast water draining feature. 

Oase’s Pondovac 4 is a brilliant version of a pond vacuum that drains ponds but as with all great things, it comes at a great price (and a fairly expensive one at that.)

So I’d only recommend this as an investment into your pool if you’re going to be cleaning and draining quite often, otherwise, it’s a very expensive option for something you’re only going to use a handful of times.

If your pool needs draining as simply a one-off, I would recommend one of the other methods. 

Although, if you are going to use this item often, it really is a fantastic purchase. It has a discharge system that’s fully automatic which means it is can operate constantly.

You see, most vacuums that come with a  discharge feature still need to breifly be turned off so that they can discharge water from a backflush port.

Now, this isn’t really an issue if you’re not in a rush, but if you’ve got a large deep pond, this would massively impact the time it takes to drain it. Thus making the Pondovac 4 a much superior choice. 

Oase’s vacuum has dual storage chambers, both of which are high capacity. This allows the vacuum to automatically switch to the empty container once one becomes full. Once it has switched over, it can discharge the stored water from an outlet hose on the back all the while never losing suction and still filling the empty chamber. 

Regular pumps will still work for the most part, and if you already have one on hand you can always give it a go. Although if you like a nice clean pond and are happy to spend a little extra cash, I would always advise going for one of the more premium models. 

Method Four: Siphon Hose/Pump

Who’s It For? – This is only suitable for small ponds. 

Drainage Speed – Considerably slower speed. 

Using a siphon hose or pump is my final option for draining your pond, and while this takes a little more effort and will not under any circumstances work for larger ponds, it can be a good option for those with fairly small ponds.  

If your pond is small and elevated then you can lower the hose into the deepest zone and slowly begin to siphon the water using your hose pipe.

You can do this with really any hose at all, but I would recommend trying to find yourself one with a manual pump feature, or you’re going to actually need to physically suck the water through which is not very hygienic.

While that water is perfect for your plants and fish, it’s not really something you’re going to want in your own mouth. 

If you have a pump, it also means that you’re not going to have to put the outlet hose lower than the pond. However, this is only true if you are manually working the pump as its draining.

If you go for this option, you won’t need filters as you can just discharge into your garden. You will however want to have a hand pump that’s got a hose with a decent length as this will make your life a lot easier when it comes to extraction. 

Here’s the only catch, most siphon hoses, even those with the manual pump are only going to shift about 2-10 gallons of water per minute. So it’s safe to say it is not exactly the quickest fix out there.

If you decide not to have a manual pump, you are also adding around 10 times the amount of time it would take to drain it. 

So, let’s say you have a pump that has about a 10-gallon flow rate, a pond with about 200 US gallons of water is going to take around 20 minutes to drain. Pumpless, this task is going to take a couple of hours to drain, which is quite excessive. 

But that being said, if you’re in no rush, or want greater control of how much you discharge in your small pond, this could be a favorable option for you. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How Often Should I Drain My Pond?

You want to drain your pond as little as possible really. You should not be draining your pond more than once a year. Preferably, you should drain your pond perhaps once every three to five years. 

Are Backyard Ponds Hard To Maintain?

No, not really. As with anything, they require some upkeep, but it is not anything strenuous. Most pond owners whose ponds are well placed and planned often report doing little to maintenance. 

What Fish Can You Keep In A Pond? 

Fish are great additions to your pond, and create a more diverse ecosystem. Some fish that I’d recommend Koi, Goldfish, Hi-Fin Sharks, and Catfish. 

Final Thoughts

Ponds are wonderful things. Not only are they pretty additions to any garden but they are brimming full of wonderful wildlife.

They are really essential ecosystems that can help many different types of wildlife thrive, so it’s not hard to see why you might have or want one. 

Where possible you really want to try and avoid disturbing this bountiful wildlife and so I’d always advise that if you can get away with not draining your pond – don’t.

You want to try and keep all those great micro-organisms, beneficial bacteria, creepy crawlies (or creepy swimmers, as the case may be), and plants in your pond if you can.

However, as we discussed that isn’t always possible.

If you’ve got fairly large or deep ponds, you’re going to want to think about investing in, or using a submersible pond pump or a pond vacuum cleaner as these will be able to drain higher quantities of water at a much faster rate.

The only drawback is that they are the more expensive options of the four methods.

However, if you were to opt for one of the cheaper options, with such a deep and large pond, honestly you’re going to be there for a long time. So I personally think it’s an investment that is worthwhile. 

If you have a smaller pond, then you have a little more leeway with the option that you pick as all four methods are suitable for you.

If you’re after ease and convenience then I would also recommend the submersible pump or vacuum cleaner as these will do most of the work for you.

However, if you’re in no rush and just enjoy being outside and working in your garden and by your pond then the solar pump (see also ‘Best Solar Powered Pond Pump‘) or siphon would also be a great choice as they do the job and are a lot cheaper in price. 

Whichever opinion you do end up choosing, I wish you the best of luck in all your gardening efforts and hope that in no time at all your pond will be once again flourishing. 

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By Anthony Barnes

Anthony Barnes is the founder of Water Heater Hub and a second-generation plumber by profession. Before developing Water Heater Hub, Anthony Barnes was a full-time plumber, and he has undertaken a wide variety of projects over the decades. As a second-generation plumber, it was easy for Anthony to get used to the technicalities of all from a tender age