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DIY Pond Filter Tutorial

Your “janitor fish” can't handle the job of cleaning your entire pond? Then here's something to help it out: a DIY pond filter tutorial.

There's something so relaxing about ponds: listening to the water gently churning and watching fish swim lazily by. That's why many people choose to have a backyard pond – no matter what the size is. Garden ponds provide a place to grow aquatic plants and raise decorative fish. If not properly cared for, however, they may become overrun with algae and pond scum. Adding a filter to your pond removes algae and other unwanted organic materials, keeping the water clear. While a variety of commercial filters are available, you can make a DIY pond filter at home.

DIY Pond Filter | Tutorial

What you'll need:

  • Filter Container (Suggestion: 30 gallon, plastic food grade drum)
  • 1 – length of 1 1/2 inch PVC pipe
  • 1 – length of 2″ PVC pipe
  • 1 – 1 1/2″ PVC slip T
  • 1 – 1 1/2″ PVC threated T (the threads are on the perpendicular opening)
  • 2 – 1 1/2″ PVC elbows
  • 1 – 1 1/2 inch to 1 1/4 inch threaded nipple reducer (or a threaded hose adapter from the pond shop)
  • 1 – 3″-4″ closet flange (its a toilet part)
  • 4 – 1/4 inch by 1 1/2 inch bolt, nut and washer combinations
  • 1 bottle silicone sealant
  • 1 – 2″ PVC ball valve
  • 1 – 2″ shower drain
  • 1 – 3″-2″ ABS bushing
  • 1 – length of hose (1″ hose)
  • 2 – hose clamps (You'll only need one but there's no harm in adding extra, just in case)
  • Filter Media or plastic fencing
  • 1 – length 1/2″ PVC pipe
  • 4 – 1/2″ PVC elbows
  • 1 – 1/2″ PVC cross (the X shaped one) these are for building a stand to hold the egg crate off the bottom of the filter
  • 1 – plastic egg crate style overhead 2×4 light grate (or something similar) you get these in the lighting section of hardware stores.

For a more detailed materials, click here.

Let's get started!

Tip: Clean your barrel so it is safe for fish. Let it soak for a couple of days in clean water.

The Drain

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Cut a hole so that your shower drain fits tightly at the bottom of the gallon (the grate part goes on the inside of the barrel). Take each part that needs to go through the barrel and trace them onto the side. Drill some big holes around the opening so you can insert the jigsaw. Then play connect the dots with the holes. Trim the holes bit by bit until they fit perfectly.

This drain must be sealed onto the bucket with the silicone sealant or it will leak. Sealant must be applied along the inside edge. Whenever you seal something like this, make sure to wipe down all the surfaces to be sealed with rubbing alcohol. Don't be stingy with the sealant — you want it to smoosh all over the place.

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Next, insert a cut piece of 2″ PVC pipe into the 2″ shower drain. The 2″ ball valve goes onto that cut piece of pipe. It all must be glued together.

Attach it to the barrel.

Pond Return

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Cut the hole for the pond return spout the same way the drain one was cut.

While holding the flange in place on the barrel, drill the holes for the 4 bolts. The bolts will make sure that the flange stays pressed against the barrel.

Wipe all the surfaces down with rubbing alcohol. Goop on the sealant and smoosh it into place.

Wipe down all the washers that will be on the front of the barrel with rubbing alcohol. Goop some sealant into the holes and insert the bolts.

Now insert the bushing.  The bushing allows you to attach a 2″ pipe to the flange. Put sealant on the inner part of the opening of the flange and insert the bushing.

The Inside

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Cut one piece of 1 1/2″ PVC pipe the height of the barrel and attach the tee without threading to the bottom. From that tee you will need 2 smaller pieces of 1 1/2″ PVC pipe that will extend to edge of the barrel. When the elbows are attached, angle them to face opposite directions.

So this is how it should look inside the barrel. It goes in the barrel, underneath your egg-crate or soda holder grate. Punch a hole in the grate so that it slides down the pipe.

The tee with threading slips onto the top of the pipe; the hose adapter threads into the tee and is held in place with the clamp. The opening that is facing straight up is left open to allow a bit of air to get sucked into the filter.


Check out this useful video to help you with your DIY Pond Filter:

And you're done! Your fish will be happy and you'll be happy!

Did you enjoy our DIY Pond Filter Tutorial? Let us know in the comments section below!

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  1. AvatarSteve Barquist says

    July 26, 2017 at 8:46 pm

    WTH? Were do you filter? How do you get the water in? Who writes this stuff? A person who can’t communicate with others?

    • AvatarGordon James says

      September 5, 2017 at 7:50 pm

      it seemed pretty self explanatory.

      pump water in through smaller hose.

      water flows out through larger hose.

      The sponges and plastic scrubbie things give surface area for good bacteria to live on.

      the problem with the design is that it will be difficult to clean.

      You could make it easy to clean by having the water in line go down the inside wall of the container, and then have a mesh bag hold all the media which could all be taken out simply.

      when I made similar things I used gravity feed (water in the top lid of the bucket) which then flowed down through the a basket to catch coarse waste, and then flowed over polyester pillow stuffing material (see here

      I had my outflow about 2 inches above the bottom of the bucket so there would always be some moisture in the filter even if pump failed.

      it made a very easy to clean filter


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