5 ideas to make your water garden great

5 ideas to make your water garden great

Great and amazing ideas for your water garden | Morris County NJ

What is it that makes one water garden really great and another just…ordinary? Well there are a lot of things, but we’ve chosen a few to inspire you to personalize your water garden. We visit water gardens everyday and the ones that stand out all have one thing in common: their people spend time enjoying them! Whether you enjoy a beverage by the pond, yoga, frog catching, or a family gathering we hope these ideas will inspire you to spend more time relaxing in your outdoor space.

patio bowls - an ornamental look for a water garden


Sometimes its the little things that make all the difference. Patio bowls add an architectural element to your pond or waterfall. Striking ribbon falls fall elegantly from the bowls edge spilling into one another and back into the pond. The bowls themselves provide the perfect environment for aquatic plants. Plant marginal varieties that you want people to take notice of. Add just one, a pair or a trio to your pond.

Click play below to watch us add spillway bowls and an new stream to a 14 year old pond

beautiful koi pond

Stepping Stones

Stepping stones make a great way to interact with your pond.  Stepping stones bring you into the middle of your pond allowing you to stroll through your water garden, feed your fish, practice yoga,  or… the possibilities are endless.  If your pond is small consider a threshold stone.  A threshold stone is simply a large flat stepping stone that sits on the edge of the pond–like the threshold in a doorway it is the divider between two worlds– the terrestrial and aquatic and invites you to step closer to the pond.


Fountains add a focal point to your water garden, whether you choose a simple spitter or a more elaborate setup like the stacked slate spheres.  Fountains can be added an existing pond or waterfall or can be installed on their own basin.  Spitters work well on their own, larger fountains work best in odd numbers (1,3,5) of varying sizes.  Fountains can also be added directly in the pond.  Fountains in the pondscape have the added benefit providing more aeration for your pond.



Lighting changes everything!!!  If you work a 9-5 you may not get to enjoy your water feature for many hours before the evening darkness settles in.  Adding energy efficient LED lighting to your yard creates a candlelit ambiance and extends the hours you can enjoy your outdoor space.


Seating invites you into the water garden to stay and relax a while… does it really get any better than that??? 

relaxing by the backyard pond

So what does a water feature cost? Good question. Check out all our water features and their prices on our Project Planner. Yeah, What Does A Water Feature Cost?

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pond plants that survive the winter

5 ideas to make your water garden great

Great and amazing ideas for your water garden | Morris County NJ

What Pond Plants Will Survive the Winter Months?

When the weather turns cold, you have two choices for handling delicate and tropical pond plants – you can either bring them inside for the winter or treat them like annuals and replace them each spring. However, what many pond owners prefer to do is plant cold-hardy perennials that go dormant beneath the snow and come back to life in the spring.

If this is the sort of setup you want, consider including the following pond plant species in and around your backyard water feature:

pond plants that survive the winter

Hardy Water Lilies: Most hardy water lilies should be planted in 12”-24” of water to make it through the winter. Shallower plantings may freeze and deeper ones take a lot of the plant’s energy just to reach the surface of the water, decreasing the number of blooms that you see each year. Hardy Water Lilies come in nearly every color imaginable, white, pink, yellow or red and now even purple.

American lotus: You’ll find this dazzling beauty in natural lakes as far north as Ontario and as far south as Florida. Hybrids like the “Empress” and dwarf “Momo Batan” are some of the most eye-catching varieties. Flowers come single or double in a wide array of colors: white, yellow, pink, “red”, “blue” and bi-colors. We recommend growing lotus in pots for easy maintenance. They require regular feeding through the growing season to support their large leaves.

American Lotus - pond plants that survive the winter in northern jersey
corkscrew rush - pond plants that survive the winter in northern climates

Arrowhead plant: Named for its arrowhead-shaped leaves, the tall, graceful stems of this perennial will add great interest to your hardy water garden. If you have a small pond, contain this vigorous grower in a pot.
Corkscrew rush: Plant this robust, upright grower in one section of your pond to mimic the quality of old-world reeds. These are great for creating a beautiful natural setting.
Purple Pitcher plants: A native plant and one of our favorites. Choose this low-growing perennial if you have a pond in full-sun. It takes a couple years to really take off, but when it does it is a remarkable specimen. We recommend planting marginal plants like pitcher plants in groups of 3-5.
Pickerelweed: The carefree growth habit and bold, upright foliage of this pond plant make it a popular choice for pond owners. Beautiful lavender blooms in summer will return year after year.

Lizard’s tail: This is a breathtaking addition to the edge of a natural pond. Characteristics include compact, upright growth and spiky, slender flowers that resemble a lizard’s tail.
Cardinal Flowers: A biannual (grows foliage one year and flowers the next) is a fantastic tropical looking native plant that adds color to your pond side. It blooms late summer into the early fall at a time when many other perennial aquatic plants have retired for the season. The cardinal red blossoms are also attractive to hummingbirds.
Acorus: Plant this hardy perennial in the boggy areas around your pond. The sharp clean cut leaves resemble that of an iris and come in a number of attractive varigations.
Marsh marigold: This brief bloomer from the buttercup family will delight you in spring. One of the earliest flowers with lovely yellow blossoms. Plant it in marshy areas around your pond.

small backyard waterfall with natural moss

Whatever hardy perennials you choose for your water garden, they still need a little care every fall. Remember to trim off yellow or brown foliage. Lotus pots should be moved to a deeper section of the pond for winter.

For more advice when selecting pond plants, or for help caring for your perennials, please contact Atlantis Water Gardens at 973.627.0515. We provide full-service pond design, pond maintenance and cleaning in Northern New Jersey.

Atlantis Water Gardens – Denville, NJ / Northern New Jersey (Morris County and surrounding areas)


Recognized as an industry leader (Certified Contractor of the Year 2010, Artist of the year 2014 and Businessman of the Year 2018 and #1 Aquascape Retailer 2016 and 2018) With projects on three continents and across the country Atlantis Water Gardens has the passion, experience and expertise to help your bring your water garden dreams to life


Give us a call! 973.627.0515

Come on out to our Pond Store and pick out some plants for your own water feature! Get Directions

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Do I need a pond aerator this winter

5 ideas to make your water garden great

Great and amazing ideas for your water garden | Morris County NJ

If you have fish that you wish to winter over in your pond it’s necessary to use a pond aerator. A pond aerator or small recirculating pump that agitates the water’s surface will oxygenate the water. Why do you need to oxygenate your pond in winter? When people drown, their bodies are deprived of oxygen because their lungs fill with water rather than air. Fish obtain their oxygen from air that is dissolved in the water in which they swim. … Oxygen diffuses into the fish through their gills, without aeration your fish will drown! (Well…technically speaking suffocate may be a better term.)

do i need a pond aerator this winter
fish bones

If you don’t have fish in your pond a pond aerator can still be beneficial as it will help to continue to break down nutrients from leaves and debris in your pond and keep the water from becoming stagnant and foul smelling, but is not necessary.

Other options for winter aeration: a small recirculating pump may be used instead of an aerator. It will pump water up to the surface of the pond an agitate the surface (which adds oxygen to the water.)

Click the play button on the YouTube link to see what went wrong in my pond when I went out of town for a few weeks last winter….

recirculating pump for pond

A recirculating pump such as the one pictured above can be used to provide necessary oxygen to your pond in winter in place of an aerator.

pond aerator

Pond Aerators provide oxygen to your pond in winter and are necessary for keeping fish alive through the winter

Will a pond aerator alone keep my fish alive in winter?
No.  An aerator adds oxygen to the water.   If the temperatures drop you still need to be able to maintain a hole in the surface of the ice for gas exchange.   What is gas exchange?  Your pond slows down over the winter months, but it never completely shuts down. Leaves and debris continue to break down  too,  just at a slower pace than during warmer months.  The process of the plants and debris breaking down creates methane gas.  When the ice is allowed to completely cover the surface of the pond methane gas builds up and harms the aquatic life in your pond -including your fish.  To prevent this use a simple deicer.  The better ones are thermostatically controlled so that they consume electricity only when the temperatures drop.  The deicer keeps just a small ring around the unit melted in the ice and allows the harmful gasses to escape.  When installing a deicer for the winter be certain that it is placed a good distance from the aerator as the movement of water by the aerator may make it run more often than necessary.

Aquascape pond heater de-icer for fish

De-icers keep a small hole in the ice allowing for gas exchange in Winter.

pond de-icer and pond aerator

If you have questions about how to properly winterize your pond please don’t hesitate to call our pond shop (973)627-0515. We have the knowledge and supplies you need for proper pond winterization. Still feeling uncertain about how to winterize your pond? Just ask and we’ll winterize your pond for you!

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Do I need to clean my fish pond or fountain?

5 ideas to make your water garden great

Great and amazing ideas for your water garden | Morris County NJ

At Atlantis Water Gardens, we are often asked by our clients, “Do I need to clean my water feature this year?” (Water Feature can mean a pond, waterfall or fountain) There are certainly many factors that could bring about a yes or no answer to this question.

Typically, many of the concerns people have before purchasing and having a water feature installed revolve around the topic of how much maintenance will be involved. To be completely candid, from years of trade shows, garden tours and other events, when I am face to face with potential clients the first reaction when they see a water feature of any kind is, “That looks like way too much maintenance for me.” The good news is they are usually less maintenance than the lawn or garden they replaced. Better yet, manufacturers like Aquascape, Inc., have developed and tested many revolutionary tools to reduce the already low maintenance.

The topic of this article often creates a level of confusion because two terms are often used to describe the maintenance performed in the Spring months. One term is cleaning and the other term is opening, so lets dive into this a little deeper.

tranquility series koi pond by atlantis water gardens

Picture of the Tranquility Elite Pond Package offered by Atlantis Water Gardens in Morris County (Denville), NJ. Shown with backyard fish pond, meandering, natural stream and boulder style waterfalls.

We define the cleaning of a water feature as the process by which we restore the overall functionality similar to when it was originally installed.  The cleaning of your pond, waterfall or fountain may include the following:

-Drain the feature completely, remove the wildlife (Fish, Frogs, etc.) and safely place them into a holding tank.
-Wash the feature with a heavy spray of water (sometimes a power washer is required)
-Vacuum loose debris from the feature and trim back aquatic plants
-Move gravel, check lighting and install original supplied equipment
-Begin refilling the pond
-Safely acclimate and release wildlife
-Leave a detailed Water Feature Assessment for the customer.

For More Details On The Cleaning Process Click Here!

Water Feature Service & Maintenance, Denville NJ

What does a pond, waterfall, or fountain opening entail?

The opening of a water feature is usually a much simpler process than a full cleaning. Technically, the opening process is included in the cleaning process. The opening of your pond, waterfall or fountain may include the following:

(Pond debris being removed by hand during a pond drain & clean by Atlantis Water Gardens)

-remove debris from skimmer, pump chamber, or waterfall vault by skimming with a net
-install equipment and check lighting
-turn system back on and check the overall performance
-trim back aquatic plants if requested

There is less involved with the pond & waterfall opening as compared to a full pond cleaning. The water is not drained and any wildlife are not handled during the pond opening service. Usually customers choose the full cleaning unless the water feature was just recently installed or there was no debris in the bottom.


There are a multitude of reasons that customers request to have their water feature cleaned. Usually, the number 1 reason is that they’d like it to look as good as it did the year before and having it cleaned is normally something done at the beginning of each water gardening season. Here are some other reasons that you would want to clean your water feature.
(Picture of filamentous string algae)

holding string algae in hand

-The water color is brown from the breakdown of leaves or other organic debris (Looks like a giant cup of tea)
-The water color is green throughout from excess nutrients causing an algae bloom (Looks like pea soup)
-The water color is almost black with very little visibility, possibly from the death of wildlife (Looks almost like cola)
-When standing by the pond you smell a noxious odor similar to ammonia
-It was a very harsh winter and all wildlife, including your fish have died
-The size of the water feature has seemed to have shrunk from either excess plant growth or too much debris build up on the bottom of the pond
-You are constantly having to remove debris from your pump or filter media
-The flow of water in you fountain, waterfall or stream seems weak.
-You prefer to have an annual cleaning to keep the maintenance of the feature during the season as low as possible.
-It makes you feel much more comfortable to have a professional clean the pond, waterfall or fountain each year to make sure the equipment is functioning properly, the feature is in good condition and to fix an issues before they become much worse.
-You would like a new look, maybe redoing a waterfall or changing out some rocks
-And as stated above you really like when the pond, waterfall or fountain looks like it was just recently installed.


holding string algae in hand

(Small backyard fish pond with waterfall covered by green moss.)
There are many good reasons to have your pond or water feature cleaned each Spring, but admittedly there are also a few reasons why you might want to forgo a cleaning this year. Let’s take a look at a few scenarios that might deem it unneccessary to have your water feature cleaned this season:

-The pond or waterfall was installed late in the season the previous year and it just isn’t very dirty.
-The weather is too warm (Usually July & August) and it would not be worth the risk of handling your fish. Potential loss is possible in this scenario if special steps aren’t taken.
-You have a very old liner pond and stepping on the liner may potentially cause damage due to it being brittle.
-The cost of the cleaning is too much

Some of our clients choose to have the cleaning done biannually instead of annually.  We offer our best recommendations for the water feature and then the rest is up to you.  We keep detailed records of all our water features and the factors that may change the ability to keep the maintenance low.


Each and every year we are contacted by homeowners that have owned a home or just purchased a home with a pond, waterfall or fountain and seek us out for guidance. The typical inquiry that we get is, “Help! we have this water feature and have no idea what to do.” So here are some helpful tips to get you started with our consultation services.

1. Take pictures of the pond, waterfall or fountain for us to see and fill out our ONLINE CONTACT FORM where you can upload your pics and tell us a little about your water feature or space. (Typically we like a couple wide view pictures from different angles, shots of equipment, the closest electrical outlet or water faucet. Take as many as you think will be helpful for us to see.)
2. Try to take some measurements of the feature or be able to relate the size to something familiar. (i.e. It’s about the size of a mini van)
3. Try to have some measurements of the distance between the water feature and the power source and or water source.
4. Let us know what the access to the pond, waterfall or fountain is like so we know how easy it is to get to your water feature. (Do we have to pass through a gate? If so, how wide is it? Are there stairs to go up to access the area?)
5. The more information you can provide to us the better we will be able to advise you whether or not we would be a fit for your situation.

Owning a pond, waterfall or fountain certainly doesn’t need to be difficult, so be sure to contact us to see what we can do to educate you and set your mind at ease. For more educational information be sure to check out more of our Learning Hub or for more inspiration visit our Facebook page and start following us!

At Your Service,
Jaak & JoAnn Harju
Atlantis Water Gardens

Thanks for visiting our learning hub. As always, we hope you found this helpful. Please feel free to comment below.

gorgeous pondless waterfall by atlantis water gardens

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Backyard fish pond planning meetings & the key to a successful project

5 ideas to make your water garden great

Great and amazing ideas for your water garden | Morris County NJ

The Transfer of Trust

Often when a contractor comes to your home and gives a presentation about a backyard fish pond service/installation they are offering it elicits feelings of excitement and anticipation of what this water feature enhancement that is being added to your home will provide to you and your family. Beautiful pictures or videos of completed projects can have you dreaming of spending time out by the water, enjoying your new aquatic paradise. Typically, the sales process is a pleasant experience for the homeowner and when the water feature project is completed the customer is usually not disappointed, but issues would continually arise during construction that would require last minute adjustments and this can be frustrating for the homeowner, construction team, neighbors or any one else involved.

designing a backyard pond

Common Problem
This issue is not unique to water feature companies, or for that matter any firm that attempts to sell and install anything. One of the most difficult challenges to overcome with any construction project is creating a system that allows for a smooth transition between the sale of the commodity and its construction. When this breakdown occurs on a Water Feature project the problem manifests itself in several of the following ways:

From the Client’s perspective:
-Last-minute surprise expenses like retaining walls, hauling dirt in/out, etc.
-Loss of confidence in the builder
-Unnecessary Delays

From the Contractor’s Perspective:
-Unforeseen material/labor cost
-Last minute layout changes
-Double work
-Last minute rush orders that result in extra shipping charges
-Strained relationship between construction and office staff
-Strained relationship with subcontractors
-Concessions to the client resulting from embarrassment

Typically, if I have a friend in the industry that is dealing with a scenario like mentioned above, I’ll ask

“Are you having a construction planning meeting with the client?”

“Well, kind of” they’ll say, “one of the guys goes out to the job the morning we start.”

I immediately identified the problem and explained the system we employ at Atlantis Water Gardens and how well it has worked for us.

I cannot overemphasize the importance of a thorough planning meeting between whoever is ultimately responsible for the construction of the project and the client. Sounds like common sense right? Well, we all know that common sense is not always common practice.

This is not a difficult thing to do! In fact it’s a lot easier and less stressful than the alternative. When conducted properly, the construction planning meeting will eliminate most, if not all of the stressors mentioned above.

I understand that last minute changes occur on any project. Buried stumps, large rocks, utility lines and other underground obstacles inherently pop up when excavating and are not usually able to be anticipated beforehand (unless the homeowner has detailed knowledge of the site). These things always pop up and this won’t change regardless of how many meetings you have. But this isn’t about change orders, it’s about preparation.

So whether you are a potential pond buyer or pond contractor here are several tips to ensure this critical planning meeting is effective:

Tips for scheduling the Planning Meeting:
-Have it as soon after the sale as possible
-Never rush the meeting. My average meetings last 1-2 hours
-Make sure there’s good weather. Uncomfortable conditions will lead to a rushed meeting and/or lack of focus
-Make sure all decision makers are present

Ok, now we’re there on site…..builder and client. What do we need to discuss to insure this project runs smoothly? Basically, we need to discuss two things. First we need to set expectations: what exactly is going to happen in your yard over the course of the project; the good, the bad, and the ugly. Second, we need to discuss what I call the nuts and bolts of the project; more of the technical/logistical side of things. Let’s break each of these down into some specifics.

Setting expectations:
-The impact the project will have on the yard/landscaping
-The impact the project will have on any neighbors
-Thorough discussion of the construction process including rough timelines
-Review payment process
-Review potential unforeseen expenses (groundwater, rock, etc.)
-Overview of materials used
-Communication process employed by builder

Nuts and Bolts:
-Site access (how we’re getting in/out)
-Dirt hauled away/staying, put where?
-Where any trucks & equipment will be parked during construction
-Review water feature layout and paint on ground for final review
-Location of utilities, septic system, well, irrigation, etc.
-Determine who will be fixing any lawn/landscape/driveway areas upon project completion
-Discuss elevation of pond and patio (if applicable)

This is certainly not a comprehensive list, but it gives you a concept of what we do. At Atlantis Water Gardens we have 100’s of clients on our reference list. A lot of good things have to happen on a regular basis to consistently provide that level of top notch service. It takes the best people, systems, and frankly the best customers. But I’m here to tell you that without an effective construction planning meeting none of that would be possible. So builders, please consider doing this if you’re not already; and potential water feature customers, make sure your water feature contractor does this. It will save you both a lot of stress, time, and possibly money.

Thanks for visiting our learning hub. As always, we hope you found this helpful. Please feel free to comment below.

The atlantis water gardens story, denville nj

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Backyard water features is what we do but delighting customers is why we do it

5 ideas to make your water garden great

Great and amazing ideas for your water garden | Morris County NJ

Atlantis Water Gardens originated from a love of creativity. Building water features, and becoming a nationally recognized design-installer of natural looking ponds and water features.

The Atlantis Water Gardens Story

“We’re not a water feature company, we’re a customer experience company.”

amazing pondless waterfall by atlantis water gardens

Taking raw materials like boulders and rubber liner and turning them into living works of art in people’s backyards is a special feeling, especially once the pumps are plugged in and the cascading water comes to life. That feeling pales in comparison to the elation felt when a new pond owner comes outside to see how their new water feature has added a tremendous sense of tranquility to their backyard environment.

Landscaping with water and stone presents a wealth of design opportunities. A tranquil pond, a cascading disappearing waterfall, a meandering stream, or a bubbling fountain – each of these possibilities offers aesthetic and environmental rewards. The concept of the garden as a peaceful, private sanctuary has inspired new interest in water gardens, although the pleasing accents have been incorporated into home landscapes for centuries.

Our design approach is to incorporate the relaxing properties of water into a new or existing landscape so that it becomes a seamless component of the landscape surround, complementing the desired lifestyle, the Water Garden Lifestyle. Honing our craft over the past 2 decades as water feature artists has given us the opportunity to work on some truly unique, custom projects.

Until now, we haven’t offered a wide variety of smaller, more affordable water feature options. Seeing that we have been neglecting this important segment of our industry for some time, we concentrated on creating several, affordable water garden packages to include ponds, disappearing waterfalls and fountainscapes along with the ability to offer financing to go with them. Making a professionally installed water feature available to anyone who wanted one in their landscape was our focus over the last few years and now it is finally a reality.

Simply utilize our Package Pricing page on our website to find the type and size water feature that will best fit your lifestyle. Being able to see how much a pond, disappearing waterfall or fountainscape might cost at the beginning of the buying process has been a great tool to help people realize their dream of owning a professionally installed water feature of their own.

After you’ve done your homework on our website, the next step would be to visit our Water Feature Garden Walk in Denville, NJ to try one of our water feature packages on for size. Seeing the variety of installed ponds, disappearing waterfalls and fountainscapes for yourself can help you visualize what each might look like in your backyard environment.

At Atlantis Water Gardens, we live the water feature lifestyle ourselves, so we know what a difference having the magic of water at your home can mean for a family that wants to re-connect and relax in their own backyard.

Come Home To Paradise

The atlantis water gardens story, denville nj

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The single best way to choose a pond contractor without getting hosed

5 ideas to make your water garden great

Great and amazing ideas for your water garden | Morris County NJ

It seems we never have a shortage of emails from people with stories about bad experiences with contractors they hired to install their backyard fish pond, disappearing waterfall, fountainscape or water feature.

Whether it’s a concrete pond, a liner pond with rock and gravel, or even a plastic tub pond– having only one chance to pick the right contractor to install your water feature should be well thought out and researched

Yet, sometimes we still make the wrong decision.

Previously, I wrote some pieces about how to properly choose your pond contractor, but this article is geared toward one particular recommendation that will make all the difference for pond shoppers if followed.​

beautiful pondless waterfall


I know, it seems simple but many of us still fail to ask for references or simply don’t know how to go about asking for them. Want to know the easy way to do this?

How to Properly Ask Your Pond Contractor for References of Previous Work
Say you have a pond contractor in your home who is giving you a quote on your water feature project. Instead of asking for a reference list, ask this simple question first

How many ponds did you install last year?
It’s really an easy question, but you will probably be met with a very quick answer from the pond contractor, possibly even embellishing the number of ponds installed to seem more qualified.
Once the answer is given, your next question is going to be

May I see your reference list from last year then?
If you were given a statement saying there were 25 ponds installed last year and you only receive 12 references, that probably means one thing

Only half of their clients were satisfied?
Do you feel good that only half of the customers that had their pond installed by the contractor were willing to endorse them or give honest feedback on their experience?
Speaking with customers about their experience with pond shopping, it surprises me how many times I’ve heard people say, “The contractor said they’re not allowed to share the referrels because of privacy issues.”

Sounds like Shenanigans…
Atlantis Water Gardens has been building ponds & water features for almost 2 decades and over that time we’ve only had a handful of people ask us not to share their names because of privacy. That’s literally only a couple out of hundreds and hundreds of clients

Trust your instincts and go with your gut.
Please, if you will be choosing someone to build your backyard oasis that may include a fish pond, disappearing waterfall, fountainscape or some other form of water feature, use the suggestions I have provided here to make sure you are picking the pond contractor that is right for you. If it doesn’t smell right and they are unwilling to provide you with the references you’ve requested, don’t ignore the red flags because you know what you have to do – WALK AWAY

Do your research, follow these steps, and choose that pond contractor that is right for you and your home. Surely there is someone in your area that is willing to be honest and transparent with their business.

This should be an enjoyable experience and it’s up to you to protect your investment and make the right buying decisions.

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Pond Builder Vetting Checklist for finding a pond contractor in northern NJ

5 ideas to make your water garden great

Great and amazing ideas for your water garden | Morris County NJ

If you are seriously considering a backyard fish pond, you’ve probably discovered there are a lot of decisions to make!

At the top of this list stands one glaring question:


This question is so important because the expertise and integrity of your pond builder will play a huge role in determining the final outcome of your project.
To assist you in this process, we at Atlantis Water Gardens have put together a checklist to help you do your homework on potential pond builders. This checklist is based on our experience of not only working with over 1,000 pond and water feature customers throughout New Jersey, but also from helping hundreds of folks who found us through the internet find reputable pond builders in their area.

So, regardless of where you live or whether you are looking for a rubber liner, concrete or plastic tub pond this checklist will help you identify various criteria to look for when selecting your pond builder.

Let’s do this!

beautiful pondless waterfall


Contractor Name: ___________________________________

1. Business Information and Experience
– The company is licensed (if applicable in your state) and insured.
Note: ask if the name on the license is the same as the company name. If not, find out why.
– Find out how many years the company has been in business
– Years in business: _______
Note: 43% of contractors fail within the first three years after start-up

2. Customer References
Ask the following questions of the pond builder:
-How many ponds have you installed since in business? _________
-How many were installed last year? ________
-Of those installations, how many references can you provide? ________
Note: if the pond builder provides less than half of their customers as references we consider this to be a red flag. Our experience has been that the vast majority of people when asked are willing to go on a reference list. In our opinion, providing less than half of the customers as references equates to less than a 50% chance of being happy in the end.

Call at least 5 references

3. When Calling References Be Sure To Ask The Following:
-If you could do it over, would you use the pond builder again?
-What did you enjoy about the experience?
-What was least enjoyable?
-What pond/water feature, options, and accessories did you choose?
-What would you do differently?
-How did the pond builder handle challenges and problems when they arose?

Read the article below for more guidance regarding obtaining and calling references:
The Single Best Way To Choose a Pond Contractor Without Getting Hosed

4. Reviews and Ratings
-Collectively, the pond builder has at least a 5:1 good review to bad review ratio
-They responded reasonably to negative reviews when possible

5. Products Used By Pond Builder
-The products the pond builder uses have good reviews in the marketplace
-The customer references you called gave the products used by the builder positive ratings
-The products are backed by competitive warranties

6. Workmanship Warranty
Note: a workmanship warranty would cover issues that could arise such as pond movement, plumbing leaks, structural problems, etc. The minimum workmanship warranty by law in most states is one year.

-What is the duration of the pond builder’s workmanship warranty?_______________________________
-What specifically does the pond builder’s workmanship warranty cover?__________________________
-What happens in the event that a repair is needed? (who pays to replace water, repair yard, etc)?_____________________________________________

7. Installation Practices
-Does the pond builder have any installation or construction practices that distinguish them from the competition?_________________________________________________
-Are these practices relevant and in accordance with manufacturer’s specs? ____________________________________

8. Design and Project Planning
The Pond Builder will convey a plan to you before the project begins showing the following:
-exact pond location outlined in spray paint in your yard
-location of pump and filter system
-the elevation (or height) of the pond in relation to your existing yard
-access lane for construction
-retaining walls if applicable
-yard drainage if applicable

For a more detailed explanation check out:
Backyard Fish Pond Planning Meetings: The Key To A Successful Project

8. Pricing & Contract
-Whenever possible, the price for all work is included in the contract or at the very least as a formal quote.
-Estimated completion date is listed on the contract
-All “throw-ins” are listed on the contract

9. Things That Are NOT All That Important
-The size of the company: great pond builders come in all sizes 🙂
-In-house construction vs sub-contracted work: at the end of the day, great pond builders get it done either way and make sure you are happy in the end.
-Website and Marketing: Shiny brochures and updated Facebook posts are nice, but not necessarily an indication of integrity or expertise.

We hope you will find this helpful on your quest to finding the perfect pond builder. If you have any questions or comments feel free, as always, to leave them below.

If you live in Northern New Jersey and would like to RECEIVE A QUOTE for one of our backyard fish ponds, disappearing waterfalls or fountainscapes, click here.

To learn more about the cost of a professionally installed water feature:
How Much Do Backyard Fish Ponds Cost?

Take The Plunge!

Schedule a phone call and get to pick the brain of one of our experienced designers about your project Schedule My Call Now

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We got em. 🙂 Here’s some pretty photos you can look at to destress.

Who are the best pond builders in northern New Jersey

5 ideas to make your water garden great

Great and amazing ideas for your water garden | Morris County NJ

Each year, we at Atlantis Water Gardens, meet with well over 100 households in the Northern New Jersey (NJ) / Morris County area with respect to their backyard fish pond or water feature installation. And because so many folks know our thoughts and feelings (from this website) on all things “pond construction,” they often ask us who are some of the other builders and competitors we have in the area.

We’re never ones to shy away from being blatantly honest with respect to competition, and we want our customers to be as informed as possible. Here is a list of some of the companies that have a pond building history in the Northern New Jersey (NJ) / Morris County area.

1. A Frog’s Dream
A Frog’s Dream Aquatic Services is located in the Long Valley area, and is a full service Pond contractor & Pond Maintenance landscape company specializing in naturalistic water features. A Frog’s Dream was founded to fill a need for a full service water feature company that truly cares about the details of every project and service.

2. Auburn Sky Landscaping
Located in Augusta, Auburn Sky Landscaping, LLC. is a complete property maintenance company that has been creating beautiful, affordable, and easy to maintain landscapes across Sussex County and Northern New Jersey since 2000. They also build ecosystem water features and fountainscapes.

3. Full Service Aquatics
FSA designs, installs, maintains, and consults on koi ponds, water gardens, natural ponds, waterfalls, and all types of water features. FSA is recognized in the pond industry as a leading designer of unique water features that will compliment and add value to your real estate and your lifestyle.

4. Premium Aquascapes
Premium Aquascapes, located in Bergenfield NJ, provides Pond & Water Feature Installation, Maintenance & Repair services to Northern New Jersey and surrounding areas.
They specialize in the Design and Construction & maintenance of Eco System Ponds, Pondless Waterfalls and Streams, Fountain Scapes and RainXchange Systems.

5. Mountain Landscape Contractors
Since 1989 Mountain Landscape Contractors, Inc. has been servicing northern New Jersey with all encompassing commercial and residential landscape services. Mountain Landscape Contractors, Inc. offers a full complement of landscape services, including water features, providing everything you need to improve and maintain your property with one professional relationship.

So, there are 5 companies to consider if you’re getting quotes for your Northern New Jersey (NJ) / Morris County backyard fish pond installation project.

You may like to take a look at some of these great resources:

How to find a fish pond leak
Our Pond Packages
Our Water Feature Learning Center
Our Water Feature Youtube Channel

Also, here are some resources to help you select a reputable contractor:
The Ultimate Pond Builder Vetting Checklist
The Single Best Way To Prevent Getting Hosed By A Pond Contractor


Finally, we thought you’d like to know about our Water Feature Experience Park located at 3017 Route 10 – Morris Plains, NJ… A place where you can actually see several finished ponds and water features, experiencing it for yourself instead of basing this huge decision on a piece of paper or computer screen.

It’s only a little over a 15 minute drive from the Morristown area and most everyone finds it worth the trip

Or check out our Project Planner below to find pricing from the comfort of your couch.

Take The Plunge!

Schedule a phone call and get to pick the brain of one of our experienced designers about your project Schedule My Call Now

Lovin’ It? Want more pics?

We got em. 🙂 Here’s some pretty photos you can look at to destress.

How to do a spring pond cleaning and opening

5 ideas to make your water garden great

Great and amazing ideas for your water garden | Morris County NJ

Winter is at last starting to gasp it’s waning breaths and releasing us from it’s icy grip, which means Spring is not far off! Finally, we’ll be able to free ourselves from our heated abode’s and enjoy all that a new Spring season has to offer!

how to do a spring cleaning and opening in denville nj
cranky sleepy bear


Just like a bear coming out of hibernation, your pond is tired of the cold weather and SOMEBODY wants to EAT! That somebody is ALGAE and its’ food source is nutrients that have found their way to the bottom of your pond since the Autumn months.

Your filtration is completely ineffective in cold weather months so dead leaves, sticks, fish waste and other wind blown debris have had lots of time to decompose and transform into sweet, sweet pond sludge while you haven’t been paying much attention to your frozen backyard paradise (It was too freakin’ cold to go out there in my slippers and Superman pajamas!). A majority of water feature owners are coming out to their favorite aquatic sanctuary to find that they now have wall to wall carpets of algae in their fish’s underwater living room and they’re realizing that this won’t be a simple “Plug In The Pump and it’s Waterfall Time!” type of deal.

Don’t sweat it! Everybody’s got to do some sort of Spring Cleaning and that includes Mother Nature. Melting Winter snow flushes out natural bodies of water, sweeping away a lot of the “Yucky Stuff” that accumulates over the Winter in natural ponds. Backyard pond owners don’t have that luxury with our closed ecosystems, so it’s on us to get in there and kick a little pond scum butt!​

string algae in stream


You’ve got 2 choices in this deal:

1. Kiss that new manicure goodbye, ’cause “Algae is a color that really goes with your eyes” and you’re going to give it a go on your own.


2. Give the Pros at Atlantis Water Gardens a shout and we’ll gladly do battle with the “Green Beast” in your backyard escape, ’cause we eat algae for breakfast! (well, sometimes it does get in your mouth when pressure washing….)

If you’re feeling froggy and don’t mind gettin’ “Down & Dirty”, here’s what you’ll need to know:

– It’s best to do your Spring Pond Cleaning when the outside temperature is still cool. It will be less stressful on your fish due to a lower temperature differential between your pond water and tap water.

– You’ll need a cleanout pump, pressure washer, waders, shop vac, nets, holding tank(s), aeration, fish net, gloves, detoxifier, plant fertilizer tabs, scissors and possibly replacement filter pads/media.

It sounds like a lot of stuff…..because it is! Most of it can be rented if you don’t have it and you could use a cheap, blow-up pool for your holding tank if you’re in a pinch.

cleaning a pond in morris county nj

Start by setting up the holding tank with aeration for your fish and pumping it full of pond water (raise the pump off the bottom of the pond to avoid pumping debris into the holding tank.

Pump the water down to approx 6-8″ from the bottom to catch and transfer your fish to the holding tank. Trying to catch the fish with the pond full of water will surely stress them and possibly cause damage.

Fish Can Jump! Make sure to put a net securely over the top of your holding tank so that your fish don’t end up doing “The Bacon” on your patio. Find a nice, shady spot for your temporary fish condo and place bottom aeration in the tank to keep your fish happy for the next few hours while you get pond scum in your eyes, hair and teeth (and possibly some other hard-to-reach places….)

Listen, this doesn’t mean that you need to go all “Willy Nilly” with your pressure washer and strip the fossil layer off the rocks in your pond. A light pressure washing to knock off the heavy algae and pond scum is all you need to do. You actually want to leave a thin layer of bio-film on the rocks to help jump start the ecosystem in your newly cleaned pond.

Follow this up with manually removing any of the heavy debris in the pond and then using just the garden hose to rinse the pond down to the bottom where you can place your cleanout pump to remove the “Pond Scum Stew”. Once you have rinsed the pond down to the point where the water is now running clear by the cleanout pump, pull the pump and start filling your pond. You can add Pond Detoxifier at this point to neutralize any chloramines in the tap water.

pressure washing a pond in northern nj
cleaning an aquascape skimmer in nj

Take all of the filter material out of your waterfall filter and skimmer and inspect it. If it’s falling apart or looking kind-of worn out, now would be the time to replace it. If it’s still in good shape, use the hose from your cleanout pump to wash everything down pretty good, so that water is flowing freely through the filter material. Now you can use the vacuum to clean out the bottom of the skimmer and waterfall filter box, then re-install your filter material.

Make sure you give your pump the once-over and check the intake for any blockage or impeller problems. Your check valve should be inspected as well to see if the flapper may have been broken, if so you will need to replace it. Once you’re happy, re-install your pump assembly into the skimmer and get ready to fill your pond back up!

If you have “Other Stuff” in your pond like an Ion Gen System, Auto-Dosing System, Underwater Lighting, etc.., spend the time to make sure it’s all in working order before you refill the pond. Draining the pond again to replace a few bad light fixtures is super fun, I know, but if you can avoid it you’ll have more time to listen to the sweet sounds of your waterfall instead of stomping your feet and cursing around the backyard while you kick over your fake, plastic heron because you forgot to see if the dang lights were working!

cleaning a pond in denville nj, atlantis water gardens

At this point the pond is clean, filters are back in place and you’ve started to fill the pond with your hose. Now you can start pumping the water from the holding tank back into the pond and re-introduce your fish. Check the temp in the holding tank and in the pond, as long as the difference is less than 5 or 8 degrees, you can net your fish and carefully place them back into the pond. Once everyone is back home and accounted for, go ahead and finish filling the pond, plug in the pump and watch that beautiful water start cascading again for another enjoyable water gardening season!

Pond by Atlantis Water Gardens - Mendham NJ-24

If you’d had enough, and don’t even feel like reading or searching for more info, just give us a call. We’ll help you out.

Thinking there’s no way I’m using my weekend to follow these instructions?

No prob, get in touch with us.

This is an article from our Learning Hub. Want to learn more tips and tricks about water gardens?

Learning make you tired?

Don’t worry. Here’s some pretty photos you can look at to destress.