Water gardens, also known as aquatic gardens, are a type of man­made water feature. They can be

defined as any interior or exterior landscape or architectural element whose primary purpose is to

house, display, or propagate a particular species or variety of aquatic plant. The primary focus is on

plants, but they will sometimes also house ornamental fish, in which case the feature will be a fish


Water gardening is gardening that is concerned with growing plants adapted to pools and ponds.

Although water gardens can be almost any size or depth, they are typically small and relatively

shallow, generally less than twenty inches in depth. This is because most aquatic plants are depth

sensitive and require a specific water depth in order to thrive. The particular species inhabiting each

water garden will ultimately determine the actual surface area and depth required.


When the aquatic flora and fauna are balanced, an aquatic ecosystem is created that will support

sustainable water quality and clarity. Elements such as fountains, statues, waterfalls, boulders,

underwater lighting, lining treatments, edging details, watercourses, and in­water and bankside

planting can add visual interest and help to integrate the water garden with the local landscape and



Water gardens, and water features in general, have been a part of public and private gardens since

ancient Persian gardens and Chinese gardens. Water features have been present and well

represented in every era and in every culture that has included gardens in their landscape and

architectural environments. Up until the rise of the industrial age, when the modern water pump was

introduced, water was not recirculated but was diverted from rivers and springs into the water garden,

from which it exited into agricultural fields or natural watercourses. Historically, water features were

used to enable plant and fish production both for food purposes and for ornamental aesthetics.

Though the term "water garden" is normally used to describe a particular type of natural or man­made

water feature that is used for a relatively specific purpose, there are many other types, styles and

designs of water feature.

Types of water features

Waterfall and pool in Bushy Park Water Gardens

Bosquet of the baths of Apollo, in Versailles

The Vanderbilt Mansion pond

Ulm–Friedrichsau gardens

Singapore Botanic Gardens

Natural Water Feature

Man­made Water Feature

Naturalistic Water Feature

Disappearing Water Feature

Live Water Feature

Sterile Water Feature

Bog Garden

Rain Garden/Bio Retention System/Rain Harvesting

Aquatic Container Garden

Pool/Shallow Pool/Tide Pool

Reflection Pool/Reflecting Pool

Formal Pool

Swimming Pool

Pond/Fish Pond/Backyard Pond/Garden Pond

Naturalistic pond

Wildlife Pond/Habitat Pond

Koi Pond

Swimming Pond

Water Courses







Weeping Wall

Water Wall

Fountain/Formal Fountain

Disappearing Fountain

Tabletop Fountain

Wall Fountain

Spitter Fountain

Bubbler Fountain

Floating Fountain

Water Falls


Lotus pool

Rice paddy

Riparian zone restoration

Wildlife garden ­ with water­source component.

Stream pool

Plunge pool

Plunge basin

Spring (hydrology)

Seep (hydrology)



Mangrove swamp habitat

Wild River


Halka lever

Water follies

A water foll. Tea­pavilion in Mannheim's Chinese garden Duojingyuan

The sixteenth century in Europe saw a renewed interest in Greek thought and philosophy, including

the works of Hero of Alexandria about hydraulics and pneumatics. His devices, such as temple doors

operated by invisible weights or flowing liquids, and mechanical singing birds powered by steam,

motivated several European palaces to create similar clever devices to enhance their public image.

In Italy several royal houses constructed large water gardens incorporating mechanical devices in

water settings. The best­known is the Villa d'Este at Tivoli, constructed in 1550 AD. A hill cascaded

with many fountains and grottoes, some with water­driven figures that moved or spouted water.

Popularity spread across Europe with the well­known water garden at Hellbrunn Palace built with

many water­powered human and animal performing figures and puppet theaters, and folly fountains

that erupted without notice to surprise visitors.

Stream gardens

On a constructed stream, placing rocks in the path of the water makes small patterns, rapids and

waterfalls. The rocks disrupt the waterflow, causing splashing and bubbles that can make pleasant

sounds and micro­habitats for plants, fish, and wildlife. Well­placed rocks can create splashing water

that adds oxygen to prevent hypoxia: the more bubbles, the more dissolved oxygen in the water.

Iveagh Gardens, Dublin

Stream Garden Trengwainton

Singapore Botanic Gardens

Scrape Burn, Dawyck Botanic Gardens

Stepping stones, Tollymore

Aquatic flora

Lotus, Nelumbo nucifera

Zilker Botanical Garden, waterlilies

Water garden plants are divided into three main categories: submerged, marginal, and floating.

Submerged plants are those that live almost completely under the water, sometimes with leaves or

flowers that grow to the surface such as with the water lily. These plants are placed in a pond or

container usually 1–2 ft (0.30–0.61 m) below the water surface. Some of these plants are called

oxygenators because they create oxygen for the fish that live in a pond. Examples of submerged

plants are:

Water lily (Hardy and Tropical)

Hornwort (Ceratophyllum demersum)

Marginal plants are those that live with their roots under the water but the rest of the plant above the

surface. These are usually placed so that the top of the pot is at or barely below the water level.

Examples of these are:

Iris or Flag (Iris spp.)

Water­crowfoot (Ranunculus fluitans)

Bulrush (Scirpus lacustris)

Cattail (Typha latifolia)

Taro (Colocasia esculenta)

Arrowhead (Sagittaria latifolia)

Lotus (Nelumbo spp.)

Pickerelweed (Pontederia cordata)

Floating plants are those that are not anchored to the soil at all, but are free­floating on the surface. In

water gardening, these are often used as a provider of shade to reduce algae growth in a pond. These

are often extremely fast growing/multiplying. Examples of these are:

Mosquito ferns (Azolla spp.)

Water­spangle (Salvinia spp.)

Water­clover (Marsilea vestita)

Water Lettuce (Pistia stratiotes)

Water Hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes)

Some areas of the United States do not allow certain of these plants to be sold or kept, as they have

become invasive species in warmer areas of the country, such as Florida and California.


Algae are found in almost all ponds. There are hundreds of species of algae that can grow in garden

ponds, but they are usually noticed only when they become abundant. Algae often grow in very high

densities in ponds because of the high nutrient levels that are typical of garden ponds. Generally,

algae attaches itself to the sides of the pond and remains innocuous. Some species of algae, such as

"blanket weed", can grow up to a foot a day under ideal conditions and can rapidly clog a garden pond.

On the other hand, free floating algae are microscopic and are what cause pond water to appear

green. Blanket weed, although unsightly, is actually a sign that the water is clean and well­balanced.

Green water (free floating algae) means there are too many nutrients in the water, usually from rotting

vegetation or too many fish for the space. Killing the free floating algae with chemicals will often cause

it to die, rot, and then make the problem even worse as more nutrients enter the water. Adding more

floating or submerged (unpotted) plants can help with the green water, as they can take the nutrients

out of the water. There are also filters that can be installed to remove the nutrients and all types of

algae from the water. Many ponds naturally go green early in the spring and then clear up.



Koi fish

Fishpond with stepping stones and stream

Hatchet Pond, New Forest, England

Fish in a pond in Yuyuan Garden, Shanghai

Often the reason for having a pond in a garden is to keep fish, often koi, though many people keep

goldfish. Both are hardy, colorful fish which require no special heating, provided the pond is located in

an area which does not have extremes of temperature that would affect the fish. If fish are kept, pumps

and filtration devices are usually needed in order to keep enough oxygen in the water to support them.

In winter, a small heater may need to be used in cold climates to keep the water from freezing solid.

Examples of common pond fish include:

Ricefish (Himedaka)


Rosy Red minnows

White Cloud Mountain minnows

Goldfish (Common, Comet, Shubunkin varieties, Wakin and the Fantail varieties. With the possible

exception of some of the fantail varieties, the fancy goldfish are not suited to pond life.)

Crucian carp

Koi (Nishikigoi, Butterfly Koi and Ghost Koi)

Mirror carp

Carp (In Australia, carp are considered an invasive fish and it is illegal to release them into


Weather loach

Golden Orfe

Golden Tench




Black bass



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