DIY Project: Contemporary Garden Water Feature Less than $30

water feature

Designing a DIY water feature can be a challenge if you are on a tight budget. It can be even more of a challenge if you are looking for a contemporary water feature to fit in with an updated garden space.

Here is a great solar powered water feature that combines the beauty of natural materials with a more modern design, and does it all for less that $30!

Supplies Needed:

Water tight container (Rubbermaid storage container was used here)

Fountain pump (we chose a solar powered pump)

Several flat concrete pavers, depending on the size of your container.

Rocks of different sizes

Plant tolerant of water, such as a water grass

Step one:

Decide where to place your water feature. If you don’t have power nearby, consider a solar powered fountain pump. Keep in mind, solar pumps ONLY work while the sun is shining! If the sun even goes behind a cloud, the pump will temporarily stop.

If you plan to add live plants, make sure to site your water feature in the sun.

Trace the shape of the container onto the dirt, then use a shovel to remove enough dirt to sink the container level with the ground.

water feature

water feature

water feature

Step Two:

Add large rocks to the bottom of the water feature, then use the rocks to anchor your pump in place.

Step Three:

Lay the pavers along the edge of the water feature to cover the container edge, and to help hide the power cord. You can dig a trench for the power cord to hide it, or simply wind it behind plants to camouflage it.

water feature

Step Four:

Use flat stones to fill in the corners where the pavers don’t meet. Use your creativity to put your own twist on your design.

Step Five:

If you are using a water plant, place the entire pot in the water feature so that the rim will sit just above the water line. A black pot will be nearly invisible in the water.

Use more rocks to fill your water feature, hide the container and hold the plant in place. Try to use a mix of different colors, shapes and sizes.

Step Six:

Fill with water, plug in the pump and adjust the spray until it makes the sound and effect you are looking for. You can choose a fountain spray, or a natural bubbling over stones.

Clean your water feature on a regular basis, and use an algae inhibitor available at your home improvement store where they sell pond supplies.

Easy DIY water feature project for a contemporary garden… that anyone can do, on even a tight budget!


  1. Where did you find a solar water pump for under $30. I have been searching and can’t come close to this price. Thanks for any help.

  2. I love this water feature idea. We have a mosquito problem where we live though. Is there something we can do to deter mosquitoes that won’t be a hazard to other wildlife or the environment?

    • Kathy Woodard says:

      I simply overfill the feature and let the old water be replaced by the new, every couple of days during mosquito season. That assures that no eggs can hatch. Anyone have more ideas for environmentally conscious mosquito control?

      • Simply moving the water with the pump will keep mosquitoes at bay – it breaks the surface tension and they can’t land to lay eggs…

      • Valerie says:

        Gambusia affinis aka mosquito fish eat up to a 100 larvae a day. They are hardy except in freezing temperatures. Check with a local mosquito control agency, pond supply stores, pet stores.

        • They are also smaller and cleaner than goldfish that might have a hard time living in a pond this small- the water will probably get pretty hot and have low oxygen levels in a pond this small. The pump will help will both of those problems.

      • Lynda Smith says:

        There is a fish you can buy that eats mosquito larvae check out garden supply stores that sell items for water peaches such as water lilies Exedra

      • Sandra Presley says:

        You can drop bleach tablets in and it should control mosquitoes

      • James Mcguire says:

        There’s a very hardy minnow that’s native to most, areas called gambusia? I think. They eat several times their weight in mosquito eggs.

    • You can also just pour a tad amount of olive oil on the water. It will coat the surface of the water and the larvae will not be able to breathe.

    • You can purchase the natural way for mosquitos . There should be fish a mosquito gambuzi they look like size of a guppy they eat mosquito larve .

    • Pat Taylor says:

      Mosquitoes need stagnant water for the eggs to hatch. The pump working even intermittently should be sufficient to keep the mosquitoes from breeding.

    • Sue Prewitt says:

      Mosquitoes won’t lay eggs in moving water. So, as long as your fountain is running, there is no problem.

    • Faith Huddleston says:

      There is a product that you can buy at Wal-Mart called Mosquito Dunks. It contains bacillus thurengiensis which is a bacteria that kills the mosquito larvae. it is safe for humans and pets.

      • Tyia Padilla says:

        I’ve been using the Mosquito Dunks (purchased from Lowe’s). They work great. I put them in my fish ponds and in the bottom of my plant containers. I live in Tulare County, California, where we have the perfect weather for Mosquitoes and West Niles is a huge problem and a concern. We spend most of our time outside during the summer and the Mosquito Dunks have been the only product that works, keeping us and our fur babies safe.

        Also, please note: If you have any over spray in your pond where water drips, splashes or sprays outside of your pond and the ground or area around your pond stays moist or wet, you will have a Mosquito problem.

    • Denise Hosner says:

      MOSQUITO DUNKS BIOLOGICAL MOSQUITO CONTROL. I have a friend who uses these in her pond.

    • Loretta says:

      The goldfish will eat the mosquito larvae! :))

    • If you do not have fish- a drop or two of oil in the water will prevent mosquitoes as well. There are also pellets and floating rings which kill mosquitoes too.

    • A drop of Dawn dish soap. Stays on top so eggs cannot hatch. Small amount doesn’t effect plants.

    • Marnita says:

      I read about tablets that kill mosquitoes for water features. Just bought some from a nursery along with my water plants. Cost $7.99

    • M. L. Laker says:

      If you have a pump that circulates the water it should not be a problem…if you put a fish or two or have a frog take up residency, they will also take care of the problem. I have built several small & med. ponds, plus many container water features all out doors with a inexpensive pumps circulating the water, never had Mosquitos. Regarding fish , they attract raccoons who will eat them, so put screen on the pond or make it deep enough (3’+) with straight sides so they won’t go in the water and the rocks for fish to hid under. For this lovely pond it is to shallow to put fish, without using a screen the raccoons can’t move.

    • ritareplyz says:

      The pump pumps water and mosquitos won’t lay eggs in moving water.

  3. I heard of people using gold fish or other small aquatic fish for bug control.

  4. Is the pump simply for water circulation?

    • Kathy Woodard says:

      Yes, it is to circulate the water through the spray head, to give the idea of moving water… Moving water also helps discourage mosquito breeding…

  5. Great post.

  6. I think I would go for a water pump with UV filter to avoid algeas if the pond is installed in a sunny place.

  7. This is really great! What’s the best way to clean it?

    • Kathy Woodard says:

      Twice a season, I take out all the rocks, pull up the liner and wash it out really well, then replace…

  8. Angie Murry says:

    Just a simple reminder that ANYTIME you dig, you should do a “dig one call”. It is free and your life might depend on it :)

  9. Where do you out the pump? The corner? And for the solar where do you put the solar mat

    • Kathy Woodard says:

      I put the pump right in the center, but where is totally up to you! I have the solar panel in sunny area 3-4 feet away from the water feature, i dig the cord an inch under the soil to hide it, and that works well…

  10. Theresa says:

    This is one of the prettiest and easier DIY pond ideas I have ever seen!! Thanks

  11. Leia Suliveres says:

    How big should the container be and how deep?

    • Kathy Woodard says:

      It’s up to you as to size and shape, mine is about 3 feet long and 12 inches deep… I simply used one of those Tupperware type containers you get that are made to slide under the bed!

  12. I am wondering if this would work on a patio, using planter boxes around the sides ?

    • Kathy Woodard says:

      It would, if your liner is a sturdy enough container to hold the weight of the water on its own, without the support of soil sides…

  13. Can you put fish in it?

    • Kathy Woodard says:

      I would not put fish in a water feature that has a pump in it like ours… you could if there is no pump or if has a protective cage!

    • M. L. Laker says:

      The small recirculating pumps work fine with fish. I have had this set up for years, and did not lose a fish to a pump, just raccoons.

  14. Hi Kathy

    What size are the long pavers you used? We’ve been looking but can’t find any thing similar. Also what sized container? We were looking at 52 qt tub


  15. Do NOT use gambuzi in any small pond or fountain. You will be very sorry! I had mosquito abetement put 2 in a very small pond in a bontanic garden. Very soon there were 100 then 500–they were eating eat other I think. They were attacking some small turtles. I had to drain the pond and kill them. It was awful. I even avoid killing a snail. I can not say en ough how you should avoid these fish without doing a lot of research. Mosquito dunks and just moving water.

  16. I love it. My son hesitated when I said I wanted a water feature. He can not deny me now!
    Already looked at Walmart website for container and saved it. Off to check Home Depot for pavers. I am so excited.

  17. BEST EVER. I have NO craft or outside projects experience (or inside, to think of it) and I’m a renter, and landlord lives beside me in an orig. craftsman high-water bungalo (very cute) the back yard, pretty big considereing I’m in midtown Sacramento) and every year I try to dream up something, ANYthing, with water. I miss the beach soooo much.

    The only thing I could ever come up with was: Purchase a large plastic kiddie pool, dig hole same size, lay pool in ground so top is even with ground. put smaller kiddie pool in middle, or edge?? needn’t be a particular shape, I guess):

    Fill the outer larger tub with sand, the smaller inner one with water. voila Instant beach. then go from there with decorating. But I figured it it hadn’t been done, there was prob. a good reason, so I haven’t done it yet.

    I think I could try this, and perhaps even he’ll like it so much he’ll do one in his yard. there is a water spigot on both properties (one is beneath a beautiful big fig tree that I gorge on when ripe). should they be near the spigots? I’m totally not getting/understanding the elec./pump part. I also want it for my cat and I to meditate, she’s getting old and she’s my soul mate, so I want to do something really special for the two of us…soothing, cooling, fun, for the hot hot dry summer ahead. I’m going to try this.

  18. Love this smaller scale contemporary water feature. :)

  19. Beryl Franklin says:

    We have a family of blue herons nearby that make it all but impossible to put goldfish in a pond of this sort. They have made it a seafood restaurant. To defeat them make a frame to fit (to lift off when cleaning) and staple chicken wire.

  20. Hi Kathy,
    Thanks for this great idea. Can you please post a picture where you placed the solar pump in the pond and also a picture of end do you have a fountain spray or bubling over stones.

    • Kathy Woodard says:

      Well since this was early in our blogging, I hate to say we didn’t take the best photos… The photo at the top is the finished project, and there is a bubbler set into the stones at the very middle. The slow shutter speed just didn’t catch it.

  21. Will this work on the east coast where we have brutal winters? Would the fish live?

  22. Debbie Mitchell says:

    WOW! I cannot wait to try this! I’ve been asking my husband for years for a water something. He’s on a business trip in CA and I may just do this before he gets home! Thanks for the inspiration!

  23. This is being stored away for my dream tiny home.

  24. Lynn Postma says:

    Will the plastic work where it gets to freezing temperatures, sometimes even to 20 below? We have a flowing well and I thought this would be a great catcher for it.

    • Kathy Woodard says:

      We live where it gets to around 20 degrees, and it did fine, but 20 below? I could see that being an issue. Have any of our readers who have done this project (thanks for all your emails and comments, BTW!) lived in an area with winters that cold? If so, how did it hold up?

      • Take fish inside when the weather gets cool ,into an aquarium until spring,or when it gets warm outside in I early summer.

        • Take fish inside when the weather gets cool ,into an aquarium until spring,or when it gets warm outside in I early summer.Using plastic containers or bins likely wouldn’t work in extreme cold winters,unless you would drain the water and take the pump out

      • Sandra Fisa says:

        I live in Wisconsin and I had a mini-pond like this in my backyard with koa fish, live plants, and a water pump in it. I brought the Koa fish in in the winter months and put them in an aquarium, then put them back out in the mini-pond in the spring. I used a heavy plastic black round tub that was about a 1 to 2 feet deep and about 3to 4 feet across, that I bought at Menards. The tub worked wonderfully was deep enough to protect the fish when really hot out. My Koa’s ended up living for around 12 yrs. this way. They got to be like a pound a piece. I had 5 Koas and 1 Gold fish in it. Never had any trouble with animals getting into it.

  25. Nancy DeLong says:

    This is such a great idea! I live in Michigan and I’m wondering what you do about the live plant and fish in the winter?

    • Kathy Woodard says:

      You need to talk to your local water garden expert (Ask at your plant nursery if you don’t know of one)… There are both fish and hardy live plants that can make it though some winter temps, but it is different for each area. Good luck!

  26. You could probably use two containers at different depths and create a small waterfall or mini stream.

  27. We did this just yesterday after seeing yours. Our daughter collects rocks from everywhere she goes. So now, instead of storing them in different containers, they’re displayed in this beautiful rock garden! It came out beautifully! Thank you so much for the amazing idea!

  28. sandra sutton says:

    Finally, what is that ground cover shown in the picture of the finished project. It is sandy and small yellow grainy… I love this and have seen it used for driveways… I guess I could go and ask somewhere but i thought Iwould ask here. I need to door driveway .

    • Kathy Woodard says:

      Its simply called crushed salmon stone here… any landscaping supply should be able to help you find one like it!

  29. to help with possible shifting of the container, I would put sandstone in the dug hole before putting the container in. Especially where the temps get very cold and cause frost heaves.
    Three – six inches should do it.

  30. Linda Baine says:

    Could this be made as a bird bath? This would be ideal for birds to drink and bath in..especially one so shallow…

    • Kathy Woodard says:

      We did have birds that would land on the stones and drink, and we loved that it attracted wildlife! Had a frog live there one season as well!

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