Back in the day, you would find water wheels being used as a source of power generation.
We no longer need to rely on this and instead use water wheels as a fabulous item for decoration, especially in our backyard ponds.
Not only do they make incredible decorations they are also beneficial for fish ponds.
Today, we are going to explore the various types of water wheels as well reviewing existing water wheels.
Water Wheel Functions Outside of Decoration
Water wheels have been around as far back as ancient times and have been used as a way to generate power from flowing water. They were often used as watermills.
These giant wooden wheels are made up of steps, buckets, or blades that collect the water and generate power through the rotation of the wheel.
More often than not, water wheels are set up vertically, but they can also be made to function on a horizontal axis as well. The power is generated via flowing water.
The water is sent through a gear or axle that is found at the wheel’s center. This is then turned into electricity through the generator.
For centuries, these contraptions were used as power generators, but now they have been substituted with much more fuel-efficient water turbines.
Because of this, most water wheels, mostly in ponds, are now made to be used as decor.
Now, these wonderful devices help to add movement and life to your garden. However, as well as functioning as decoration, water wheels are in fact beneficial in other ways.
These benefits include increasing oxygenation and aeration. While the wheel moves continually through the water it makes more flow and produces additional oxygen and nutrients within the pond.
There are still scenarios where water wheels can be used to generate power such as powering pumps with low wattage.
However, there are downsides to this. For example, they rely on the constant flow of water which means that some wheels may need to be maintained as well as certain parts needing replacement such as the bearings.
If you’re looking for a sustainable and eco-friendly power source, consider wind power or solar power. These are far more reliable and can also provide more power for higher wattage items.
On the other hand, water wheels are still excellent for pond decoration and the extra benefits are fantastic for those who have fish ponds.
Pond Water Wheel Benefits
Oxygenation And Aeration
When the water wheels move they help to spread additional oxygen and nutrients throughout the pond. This is great for people who have goldfish, koi, or other types of living fish within their ponds.
As well as this, the extra aeration can also help to make filtration better. The good bacteria within pond water systems have lots of dissipated oxygen that aids in breaking down any dangerous contaminants within the pond.
Prevents Algae And Pests
Lots of insects that rely on biting as their method of consumption (eg. mosquitoes) prefer to lay their eggs in stagnant water.
Adding a water wheel to your pond will deter these insects as water wheels disturb the stillness of the water.
On top of this, algae also prosper in slow-moving and still water conditions.
When water wheels provide aeration to the pond, this will slow the growth of algae, especially in summer. Make sure to maintain the water well in order to further prevent these occurrences.
Lastly, because water wheels hold such a distinct place in history, they look amazing as decorative items in your garden and ponds.
These contraptions are fading out of the modern world and having a water wheel as part of your garden decoration plays a tribute to the mechanism that changed the industrial world.
How Do They Work And Which Are Best For Your Pond?
There are plenty of various types of water wheels, the ones most commonly found in America and western Europe are the vertical water wheels.
As discussed earlier, water wheels are all powered by the flow of water. The only difference between different types of water wheels is how the water actually passes through them in order to make them move.
When looking specifically at pond water wheels, you will find undershot and overshot water wheels are the two most common distinctions.
However, other sub-types are available, but overshot and undershot water wheels are designed more specifically with garden ponds in mind.
This is because they are easily powered by slower water flows and are also easier to construct.
Undershot Water Wheels
These water wheels are designs that have been used for a long time. The blades sit flat in comparison to the overshot water wheels that use buckets.
Undershot water wheels rely on the natural current within your pond. The blades move through the water underneath them.
Undershot water wheels work best if they are placed in the part of your pond that has the strongest current. This is usually in front of a waterfall or in front of your pond water pump.
This option is great as a decorative item. However, due to the process of installation combined with the fact that they don’t rely on overhead water flow, they are actually quite an inefficient design.
So, this may not be the best choice if you’re looking for a water wheel that has a lot of movement.
Overshot Water Wheels
These water wheels are another common option to consider. Its design is a little more efficient than that of its undershot counterpart.
However, they are a little more complicated to install and do require a little more effort to get moving. Overshot water wheels can actually have an efficiency of up to 80% depending on the design that you choose.
Typically with overshot water wheels, the diameter and height of the water wheel will dictate the movement of water. So, the larger the wheel you buy, the more efficient it will be for power generation.
But, if you’re looking at an overshot water wheel purely as a source of decoration, then this is a great option.
Overshot water wheels will provide you with a decent amount of movement, especially when installed with a water pump of high quality and a good flow rate.
You will find that the majority of water wheels are overshot due to the fact that they are easier to move once installed.
Which Pond Pump Is Best For A Water Wheel?
When it comes to undershot water wheels, you will find that a submersible pond pump (see also ‘Best Pond Air Pump & Aerator‘) is the best option. This is because they can be put exactly in line with the blades of the wheel.
This also means that you have a lot of choices when it comes to placing your water wheel as the pump can go wherever you need it to. This pump doesn’t require large head heights as the water wheel functions because of water flow.
So, all the pump will need is enough GPH (gallons per hour) to keep the wheel rotating. If the water wheel you wish to get is much smaller, then you could actually use a solar-powered water pump.
These are good enough to power an undershot water wheel in summer and spring. Solar-powered pumps are also a great money saver as it relies on renewable energy to power them.
If you’re considering an overshot water wheel or other large water wheels, then solar-powered water pumps may not do the job.
For overshot water wheels, the water flow will need to come from the top of the wheel. These types of water wheels are best accompanied by a top-quality submersible water pump or an external water pump.
These will help to ensure that higher head heights are accounted for. In order to find out what pump size you require will depend on the water wheel height and the water flow that is required in order to move the blades.
So, for a wheel that is 1 foot in height, you would need 200 GPH for water flow.
Therefore, you would need a pond water pump that provided the correct amount of gallons per hour of water pressure in order to move the water wheel.
In this case, an external water pump may actually provide too high of a GPH and therefore a submersible pump would be the best option here.
But, if you’re looking to purchase a water wheel that is 5 feet tall, this would need 500 GPH and potentially even more. Here, an external pump would be your best bet in order to provide enough water pressure.
Generally, within this article, small submersible water pumps and various solar-powered pond pumps will suffice enough to get the water wheels moving.
For those water wheels that are up to around 25” in diameter, garden hoses will actually be sufficient enough to get the wheel moving.
Water Wheels – Frequently Asked Questions
Should I Purchase A Water Wheel Kit Or DIY Iit?
For those of you that are confident in your DIY knowledge and abilities for this project, then making your own water wheel to your own specifications may actually be a rewarding and fun experience.
Water wheel designs have expanded and changed over the years, but the basic concept of construction hasn’t changed too much.
These basic fundamentals include the wooden wheel itself, the blades and support, and the axis with the correct bearings.
Though, if you have never built a wheel before then there are several step-by-step instruction books that go into detail about the DIY process.
You will often find that the steps covered in these books can also be translated into the creation of smaller or larger water wheels as well.
There are some disadvantages to making your own water wheel. One of these is the time it takes to build them.
On top of this, building your own water wheel usually means that the end product isn’t as efficient as one that you could buy.
By getting a wheel or water wheel kit from a seller that specializes in them you can be sure that your wheel will be efficient and optimized enough to suit your needs.
Most of the time you will find that pre-made wheels come with a warranty that covers any accidental damage for that time period.
If you still like the idea of creating your own water wheel, you could buy the parts needed from separate suppliers and then put them together yourself rather than constructing your own pieces.
However, if you’re not set on creating your own wheel and are just looking for something that functions well, then you can pick up your own water wheel or water wheel kit.
Can you run a water wheel without a water pump?
If your pond already has a pump that provides a waterfall or filtering system and it is giving enough water flow, then an undershot water wheel can be placed in line with the pump that already exists.
However, we do recommend purchasing a pump dedicated purely to running a larger wheel.
But, if the water wheel you’ve purchased is small in design, then you can place this where the strongest current is and see if this works.
The majority of suppliers who make wooden water wheels try to ensure that their designs are optimized for lower water flows instead of generating power.
So, you may find that your water wheel will rotate even in areas with small water flows.
If you have a water wheel that is a lot larger or an overshot water wheel, then you will probably need to get a water pump that is dedicated purely to that wheel.
This is so you can make sure that you get enough water flow to get it moving. For this, you can purchase or design the wooden framework and then install the water spout onto it.
Can I Use A Water Wheel If My Pond Has Fish In It?
Typically, water wheels can be safe for ponds with fish in them, they can actually be quite useful due to the fact that they give extra aeration and oxygenation to the water.
There can be an issue with water wheels, usually undershot water wheels, depending on how deep you place it into the water.
Placing the water wheel too deep into the pond may result in fish getting stuck as the blades pass the bottom.
Fish, especially koi and goldfish, are quite curious creatures and you will probably notice that they will check out the bottom of the wheel that is in the water.
So, you will need to ensure you install the water wheel at an appropriate height within the water. As well as this, you need to make sure that the water wheel is made from safe materials.
The wheel will need to be coated with a coating that is non-toxic in order to stop it from bleeding into the pond water.
You will be able to fully control what materials and coatings you use on your water wheel if you choose to make it yourself.
Make sure to find a wood coating that is natural, such as soybean oil. You must also ensure that the bearings you use don’y have any oil that are harmful or can damage the life within your pond.
It important that you make sure that the bearings on your water wheel contain absolutely no oils whatsoever.
If you’re bearings contain this oil then it can cause harm to your fish and other pondlife.
If you have purchased a water wheel that has bearing with toxic coatings, then you can contact the manufacturer and ask if they can send you replacement bearings without this coating.
Bearings without any oil coating will probably need to be replaced every so often due to rusting, but it is worth it to keep your fish and pondlife healthy.
Best Pond Water Wheels
Here, we have covered some of the best water wheels on the market. All of these have been gathered together because of high build quality, materials, and affordability.
Within this list you will be able to find water wheels as well as basic wheel kits. All of these are great choices for decorative usage as well as making great water features.
Best Small Water Wheel
This water wheel is 12” in diameter and is a fantastic choice for people who are trying out water wheels for the first time. It is handmade from pinewood.
This is a standard overshot water wheel, because of this, it will require a steady water flow from above the wheel in order for it to rotate correctly.
The water that hits the wheel will then flow through the blades which will activate the axle causing it to spin.
In order to gain a decent flow rate so that the wheel turns at a good rate then it is recommended that you get a water pump with around 50-100GPH to accompany this product.
Due to this water wheel being quite small in size it will not need a lot of water flow in order for it to turn.
If you have too much water flowing into it then it may actually cause the water to overflow meaning that it will not achieve efficient rotation.
You will find that this small wheel will turn fine even using small solar-powered pumps. Even your garden hose would do the trick!
The water wheel also comes with a support frame so that you won’t need to create your own. This support frame will help keep the wheel in place.
This wheel is best suited for decorative purposes so you can keep it still or use a pump so that it rotates, the choice is yours. However, you can’t use it for producing energy.
Lastly, this wheel is great for ponds with fish and other pondlife in them due to the bearings which are free from any oil coatings.
All in all, this water wheel is fabulous for those looking for an adorable pond decorative item.
Best Large Water Wheel
Grabbing yourself a much larger pond water wheel than the one above will add a lot of flair to your garden which is bound to impress your friends and family.
This amish-made wooden water wheel is an incredible addition to any garden. This wheel comes in three different sizes, small (14.25” diameter), medium (22” diameter), and large (29.5” diameter).
These water wheels are hand crafted and can also come in different colors and patterns too! You can also rest easy knowing that all of these water wheels are naturally made and are non-toxic.
The wood material is coated with soy bean extract with is a natural and safe oil. This extract helps to prevent moisture from soaking in and damaging the wood, so this water wheel should last you a long time.
Because of the natural manufacturing of this handmade water wheel, it will be entirely safe to use in ponds with fish.
This wheel is made using the overshot design and that means it will need a flow of water coming from the top of the wheel in order for it to rotate correctly.
If you are purchasing the smaller sized wheel then you can use a simple garden hose or a solar-powered pump, you can even use a submersible pump if you’d like.
All of these options are valid for the smaller wheel. The largest wheel size will need you to use a stranger water pump in order for the higher water pressures that are needed to be maintained.
Approximately, you will need a pump that has a range of 400-600 GPH. This will ensure a smooth rotation of the wheel.
The water wheel does come with bearings included. These bearings have a zinc plated seal which ensures maximum durability and will not need to be greased or oiled.
Remember, greasing and oiling your bearings can prove hazardous to your pondlife.
Even though the bearings do have a durable and long lasting life span, you will need to replace them every few years just to make sure you are maintaining the functionality of the water wheel as best you can.
This pond water wheel doesn’t come with its own mounting frame, so the choice is yours where and how you would like to mount it.
All in all, this water wheel is a fantastic choice especially due to the many options of aesthetic and sizes available to you. There are options for those of you with small or large gardens.
It is a fabulous choice for anyone who is looking for a pond water wheel that will last them many years.
Best Decorative Water Wheel
This water wheel is hand-craften by a local Amish carpenter in Pennsylvania. The wooden water wheel comes complete with a cold-rolled steel axle and sealed wheel bearings.
All bearings, screws, and fasteners are yellow zinc coated. This coating is completely non-toxic and does not run the risk of harming your fish or other pondlife within your pond eco-system.
You will be entirely overwhelmed by yesteryear when this water wheel is installed into your stream. It is entirely reminiscent of the water wheels used in ancient times and will give your garden a timeless feel.
Each water wheel that is purchased from this seller is completely individual due to the wood that is used and the fact that they are handmade.
Each piece of wood that is used as its own knots and natural blemishes that make it individual to the buyer. These natural variations ensure that no two water wheels are the same.
This water wheel is best used as decoration and will not be able to be used as a source for generating power.
The water wheel moves freely around its stationary axle and can be powered using a solar-powered or submersible water pump with a reasonal water flow.
This water wheel in particular is an overshot water wheel that will require a water flow source from above.
This Amish crafted water wheel comes in three different sizes, small (15” diameter), medium (30” diameter), and large (36” diameter).
The larger the diameter of the water wheel, the more water flow it will need so make sure you consider this when purchasing a water pump. There is also the option to personalize your water wheel.
You can choose which stain color you would prefer. There are nine options to choose from: unfinished, natural, cedar, redwood, oak, mushroom, walnut, gray, and linden leaf.
So, you are always guaranteed to find a stain that matches the decoration choices you have already made within your garden.
If you do choose to have your water wheel unstained, you need to ensure that you stain it on your own.
This means that you can choose whatever color stain that you like, freeing up even more possibilities. Wooden products that are left unsealed are very susceptible to water and humidity damage.
Unless you are able to stain or find the proper weather-safe storage for your water wheel, then it is best not to buy and unstained version.
All in all, this water wheel is an excellent choice for those who want a traditional option for their pond. It is extremely beautiful and will leave your visitors in awe.
The addition of a water wheel to your garden pond is bound to liven up the area without a problem.
There are many things to consider when it comes to choosing the best water wheel for you as well as the correct water pump to keep the water wheel rotating.
Always be aware of the type of water wheel you are purchasing, make sure you know whether it is overshot or undershot so you can determine where the water flow will need to come from.
As well as this, make sure that if you are purchasing a water wheel that is over 12” in diameter, that you have a strong enough water pump to keep it rotating.
As well as this, you need to make sure that there are no toxic coatings on the wheel, especially if you have pond life.
We hope that this guide has helped you discover what the best water wheel is for you and your garden pond (see also ‘The Best Garden Pond Spitters‘). Enjoy!