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How To Keep A Pond Clean Without A Filter

Note: This post may contain affiliate links. This means that at no cost to you, we may receive a small commission for made purchases.

A pond makes a great addition to any garden, and they can attract all sorts of wonderful species.

Many people build ponds for decoration, and some people will even fill them with goldfish or Koi to make them even more beautiful.

This brings an almost enchanting aspect to any garden, but be warned that ponds require regular maintenance. 

Since most ponds will be a stationary pool of water, they can quickly become stagnant if left unattended.

This will cause your water to become saturated with debris and invasive species that may kill any fish you have introduced.

Pond filters are an automatic solution to this problem that can regularly cycle your water to remove debris or other contaminants. These filters are a good option, but they aren’t the only way to keep your pond clean. 

If you don’t think you can afford to buy and run a pond filter (see also ‘ Best Pond Filter’ ), then don’t worry.

There are several other methods that you can use to remove accumulated grime and detritus from your pond. Some of these methods will work better than others, depending on the size of your pond and any wildlife inhabiting it. 

In this article, we will take you through 5 methods you can use to keep your pond clean, without using a filter. 

Is A Pond Filter Completely Necessary? 

Before we get into our solutions for cleaning your pond without a pond filter, we thought we would look into why these devices are so popular in the first place.

Pond filters are far from essential, but they are commonly bought because they make cleaning your pond quick and convenient. 

If you don’t have a lot of fish in your pond, and it doesn’t accumulate a lot of muck and grime, then you will be able to get by perfectly fine without a filter.

However, for ponds that contain more fish, excrement and other types of waste can build up fast.

You can still clean these larger, more heavily populated ponds using hands-on methods, but it will take considerably more time and effort to do so. 

As such, if you own a large pond with a lot of fish, you may want to consider buying a filter rather than trying to clean it without one.

That said, there are very few ponds that absolutely need a filter, so without further ado, let’s look at some methods for cleaning your pond without one. 

Method 1: Use Natural Filter Plants

If you want to keep things natural and avoid using chemicals, then why not consider populating your pond with filter plants.

Certain species of plants are great for cleaning your water by absorbing excess nutrients and removing waste products in the water. 

Species such as duck potato, American pondweed, hornwort and Hyacinths are all great at acting as natural pond filters.

These plants clean your pond in two different ways to ensure your water is free from excess detritus.

Firstly, many of them grow underwater, which means they can oxygenate (see also ‘How To Oxygenate A Pond Without Electrical Pumps‘) your pond water to make it better for your fish. 

Some species will rest on the top of the pond, providing shelter for fish and blocking sunlight from hitting your water.

This is very important as reducing the amount of sunlight that hits your pond will go a long way towards reducing algae and pond weeds. 

Secondly, these species can eat excess nutrients left behind by your fish. Some of them can also break down waste products left behind by fish as well, minimizing the amount of potential food for algae or other unwanted species. 

Hornwort Bunch – | Ceratophyllum Demersum

Hornwort is a popular filter plant that is great at oxygenating your water and removing excess nutrients from your pond water.

This product comes with a bunch of hornwort that you simply need to drop into your pond, so it can start doing its work.

You can leave it to float naturally or hold it on the bottom of the pond with the small leather strips provided. 

Not only will it help with cleaning your water and combating algae growth, but this plant also provides cover for your fish from predators.

Hornwort is a robust plant that can survive most temperature fluctuations, however it shouldn’t be planted in freezing conditions below 20 °F.

When buying live plants, there is always the risk of introducing snails to your pond. If you want to avoid this, then you may want to be cautious when buying this product. 


  • Comes with leather strips to tether your plants to the bottom of the pond. 
  • Grows fast. 
  • Provides cover for fish as well as oxygenating your pond and removing excess nutrients. 


  • Can’t be planted in extremely cold climates. 

This is just one of the many species of filter plants that you can buy online.

For the best results it will help to buy multiple species including ones that grow underwater as well as those that simplest rest on the surface of your pond (see lights)

Also, as a small sidenote, don’t worry too much about snails. While they may not look pretty, underwater snails are a great species for cleaning up excess waste left behind by your fish.

Obviously, if you are cultivating certain species of fish that don’t get along with snails, then you should avoid them. However, if this isn’t the case, having a few in your pond will definitely help to keep it clean. 

Method 2: Buy A Pond Aerator

An aerator is a special device attached to a compressor that pumps air through the water of your pond. They help to increase the amount of oxygen in your water, which will be very beneficial for any fish.

The extra oxygen will also promote the growth of beneficial bacteria, which can help to break down waste and other muck that has built up in your pond. 

Not only are they beneficial for aquatic lifeforms, but aerators can also vastly improve the quality of water in your pond (see also our guide on water wheels for ponds). These devices disturb the surface of the water, so it is regularly moving.

This prevents the build up of algae, which can only really thrive in stagnant bodies of water. 

Disturbing the pond’s surface will also prevent mosquitoes from breeding nearby. These creatures often lay their eggs on the surface of water.

Aerating your pond will prevent them from landing and being able to lay these eggs, which will prevent your pond becoming a haven for pests.  

HQUA PAS10 Pond & Lake Aerator System

The HQUA PAS10 is suitable for ponds and lakes up to 1 acre in size. As such, it should be perfectly suitable for your pond unless it is extremely large.

This model comes with a ½ horsepower compressor, which is more than enough for aerating the water in your pond.

It is easy to install as well and all you need to do is attach the rotating plate to the compressor with the hose provided. 

The motor only draws about 4.8 amps of power, which is less than many pond filters will require.

However, you will need to run it 24/7 to get the best results from using this device. Thankfully, the hose that comes with it is 100in long, so you may be able to keep the compressor in your garage where it is safe from the elements.

The motor is also reasonably quiet, so it won’t disturb the tranquility of your garden. 


  • The motor is efficient yet quiet. 
  • Disturbs the surface of the water to prevent algae blooms and mosquito infestations. 
  • Increase the oxygen content of your water for healthier fish and more beneficial bacteria. 


  • Needs to be run 24/7 for the best results. 

Method 3: Pond Vacuums And Nets

Another way to keep the water in your pond clean is to remove accumulated muck and debris by hand.

No, we don’t mean fishing it out with your bare hands, but rather by using a net or dedicated pond vacuum. This allows you to fish out specific objects that you don’t want to contaminate your pond. 

How To Keep A Pond Clean Without A Filter

Pond vacuums are easy to use and allow you to suck up any sludge that has built up on the bottom of your pond. A little sludge isn’t a bad thing, and can in fact be beneficial for the health of a pond.

However, when left to accumulate, sludge can become a big problem and as such it should be removed regularly. 

If you can’t afford a proper pond vacuum, then you choose to buy a net instead.

These are much cheaper, don’t require electricity to use, and allow you to be even more selective about what you remove. Pond rakes are also very useful tools, although not as good at scooping up sludge.

These implements can be used to remove species of plant that you don’t want growing on the bottom of your pond. Be careful, though, as the tines may puncture the lining of your pond. 

OASE 48080 32270 Pondovac 5-Dual Pump

This is a powerful and efficient pond vacuum that is a great choice if you want to manually clean your pond.

It comes with two hoses, both of which are extra long, and the discharge hose will allow you to regularly drain the water from your pond.

The OASE Pondovac has a suction power of 2100 gallons per hour (GPH) and as such is the perfect tool for sucking debris out of your pond. 

It comes with five different attachments, so you can reach and clean all the different areas of your water garden.

All of these attachments are made from plastic, which means they are unlikely to damage your pond lining. 


  • Comes with five different attachments for cleaning all the different areas in your pond. 
  • Extra large suction and discharge hoses. 
  • Can be used to drain the water from your pond when necessary. 


  • Expensive and very heavy to carry. 

Also available at: AZPonds

Aquascape 98560 Heavy-Duty Pond and Fish Net

If you think a pond net would be more your speed, then this product is definitely worth considering. The Aquascape heavy-duty pond net comes with a rubber sheath over the top of the metal frame.

This protects both the net and your pond liner from damage when scooping sludge off the bottom of your pond. 

The mesh used for the net itself is very fine and won’t damage the scales on even delicate fish when scooping them out of the water.

The handle is made from durable metal and plastic components that allow it to extend up to 69in long. 



  • Can’t be used to scoop heavy materials when at full extension. 

Also available at: EspenShades 

Method 4: Carry Out Regular Water Changes

If you have fish living in your pond, then it is important to regularly change the water. Doing so will help prevent the build up of toxic substances such as ammonia, which could kill your fish and any plants. 

The simplest way to do this is with a good pump that can be used to drain the water out of your pond, so you can clean the liner and refill it with fresh water.

If you are using tap water for the refill, then you will also need to buy a water conditioner or dechlorinator (see also ‘Dechlorinator For Fish Systems: What, Why And How?‘).

This product removes chlorine from your water to make it much more suitable for fish and other forms of aquatic life. 

Not only will regular water change improve the quality of your water, but they will also prevent algae blooms from growing out of control. 

King Innovation 48036 Siphon King

This hand pump is lightweight, effective and very simple to use. It comes with a steel shaft to provide great strength and suction power when draining the water out of your pond.

The 36in hose pipe that comes with it makes it easy to siphon the water you are draining somewhere else, so you don’t flood your garden. 

This is a great tool for small to medium-sized ponds, however for a larger one you may need something a little stronger. If your pond is over an acre in size, we would recommend buying an electric pump instead. 


  • Made from durable materials. 
  • Much cheaper than electric pumps or pond filters. 
  • Simple and easy to use. 


  • Won’t be suitable for larger ponds. 

Also available at: Lowes and HomeDepot

Seachem Pond Prime Water Conditioner

When you are refilling your pond, make sure to add a little bit of this pond conditioner. SeaChem Pond Prime will remove unwanted chlorine, as well as other chemicals that would affect the health of your fish or pond.

This is especially important if you are refilling your pond with water from the taps in your home. 

You can also use this product to remove excess nitrate or ammonia that has accumulated in your water.

This may allow you to avoid changing the water as regularly, and can be very helpful in any situation when you need to quickly reduce the nitrite concentration of your water. 


  • Can be used when setting up a new pond or changing the water in an existing one. 
  • 5x more concentrated than other brands. 
  • Detoxifies ammonia, nitrates and nitrites in your pond water. 


  • May require a double dose to remove 100% of the chlorine in your water. 

Also available at: PetMountain and Walmart

Method 5: Add Beneficial Bacteria

Not all bacteria are harmful to the health of your pond, and some are actually incredibly beneficial.

These cultures of bacteria are great at breaking down waste and detritus to prevent it from building up in your pond. 

They work by breaking down ammonia and toxic nitrites into nitrates that can be absorbed by the plants in your pond.

Buying bacterial cultures will work best if you combine them with the other methods in this article. Having plenty of filter plant species will help your bacteria to thrive.

Similarly, aerating your pond will provide the bacteria with enough oxygen to do their job as effectively as possible. 

Eco Labs 971047 10PLG4 Microbe Lift

This product contains all the necessary bacteria for cleaning the water in your pond. It is specially formulated for fishponds and water gardens, meaning it won’t harm the fish in your pond.

The bacteria in this culture will break down harmful waste products, remove foul odors coming from your water, and help to combat insect larva. 

After using it, you are sure to notice a difference in the quality and clarity of your water. If you want to avoid using a filter, then this is one of the best natural solutions for cleaning your pond. 


  • Improves the clarity of your water. 
  • Breaks down harmful waste products left behind by fish. 
  • Combats the growth of algae and insect larva


  • Won’t be very effective when used on its own. 

Also available at: Walmart


All of the above measures will help to keep the water in your pond crystal clean and clear without the need for a filter.

It bears remembering that all of these methods will work best when combined with other methods as well.

Having a pond aerator is great, but using it alongside a bacterial culture and a pond net will make it much more effective at its job. 

So why not try a combination of the above methods and see what kind of difference they can make for your pond or water garden (see also our article on the best pond spitters).

If they work, they may save you a fair bit of money that would otherwise have to be spent on buying and running a pond filter. 

author avatar
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


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