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Space-restricted natural pool/pond solution

 
Posts: 117
Location: Zone 7a, 42", Fairfax VA Piedmont (clay, acidic, shady)
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I’m looking into natural pool/pond solutions for a fairly limited space, about 30x30 ft max.  Give natural pond slopes of 1/3 depth/width, I would probably get more usable swimming space with a traditionally built concrete in-ground pool.  Above-ground pools would be a lot cheaper than in-ground, but provide less depth.  I could also get an above-ground pool buried a few feet down, for temperature control.

I’m still researching all the natural pool info out there, but I’m more restricted in space and funding than some of the examples I’ve seen.

My main goal for the pool is chlorine-free swimming, but food production and wildlife habitat would be nice-to-haves.  It’d be cool to raise fish… I wouldn’t mind sharing a space with tilapia.  I wonder if a geodeisic dome and earth sheltering could keep a pond above freezing for a winter…

Questions:

What’s the best way to build a natural pool when you don’t have the room for massive plant zones around the edge?  Could I just pump the water to a smaller tub-based water system for lettuce, other edibles?  
What’s the best fraction of pool/cleaning area ration available for me?  1/1, 2/1, 5/1?
What about zone 7 winters?  Could I raise fish in the pool and still keep it clean enough to swim in?

Thanks!
 
pollinator
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Location: San Diego, California
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Do you have room for something like this?



Even if you downsized it by 20-30%, I would think all the system design and "biome balancing" would still work.
 
Josh Garbo
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That system would work; I find his PDF, so am looking at that.  I was hoping to have a smaller regeneration zone, maybe by pumping the water through the system faster.
 
Dustin Rhodes
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Based on the above view, it seems you could cut at least 1.5 ft width from each side, and still maintain adequate planting space.
 
pollinator
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The regeneration zone also helps heat the water, with a smaller zone you'll get less filtering and colder temps.  You could compensate for the smaller regen zone by using addition, external, bio-filters, but then you have to use more energy to pump the water.

Totally different question.  The  pdf download from the youtube video link recommends NOT having fish.  How do you prevent/control mosquitoes without fish?
 
Dustin Rhodes
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From the FAQ on their site:

Will the pool be full of Mosquitoes?
No. The water hosts a diverse ecology, which includes fauna that predates on mosquitoes. Mosquito larvae have nowhere to hide. Dragonfly larvae, Water Boatmen, Diving Beetle larvae eat the submerged mosquito larvae, while Pond Skaters and Whirligig beetles scoot over the water surface to devour emerging mosquito larvae from above. (Interestingly, a study of a bio-diverse, naturally occurring pond on a Caribbean island showed it contained no mosquito larvae.) Also, mosquito larvae prefer still water. Water in a Natural Pool is gently circulated.




Maybe do tadpoles/frogs too, if it's hard to find a source for water bugs in your area?
 
gardener
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There are mosquito breeds that only require damp conditions (like mud or even damp deep grasses, or a cave, or under a deck) to reproduce.  Stagnant water is not a requirement for some species.  In the initial stages of your pool, your biodiverity of mosquito predators is likely to not be very high in species numbers, and thus you are more likely to have problems in the first year, but this should decrease as these species colonize your water.  I would recommend inoculating your pool with water, sediment, and possibly insects and tadpoles from local natural systems to kick it into gear.  Small amounts of these things go a long way.  Also, a few sacrificial small cheap aquarium fish (like guppies) the first summer (or maybe two) would go a long way to removing mosquito larvae before dying off because of winter without having a major impact with waste products since they are so small.
 
Josh Garbo
Posts: 117
Location: Zone 7a, 42", Fairfax VA Piedmont (clay, acidic, shady)
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Thanks for the responses.  I'm ok with cooler water in a lower regen zone, as it's humid and in the 80s/90s all summer here.  Of course, I want to keep the water moderately clean... I just have a feeling you don't need a 1/1 pool/regen zone ratio to keep it clean.  I could be completely wrong! :)

The PDF said it's hard to raise fish and keep the pool clean, because fish eat some of the cleaning organisms.  Along the sacrificial line that Roberto brought up... you might be able to raise fish conventionally in a koi pond and intermittently add them to the water to keep algae and mosquito down.  You'd be using them as chlorine treatments, basically.

While we're brainstorming... I was thinking of piping pool water into a bio filter, maybe made from IBC totes, with gravel and plants growing in it.  You could let Muscovy ducks into that to eat plants and keep bugs down, but then you'd be adding nitrogen to the system.  You could build your filter with a screen, such that it allows bug larvae and algae to move through it, but keeps fish out.

Either way, I like the idea of skimming the pool for algae and feeding animals with that.

 
pollinator
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Location: Toronto, Ontario
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Hi Josh.

I think you could do an out-of-pool living filter in an IBC tote filter bed. That would certainly take care of larger organic particulates.

You could do a distributed collection of shallow basins, each running into the other, maybe like a flow-form system, arranged in a helix or something largely vertical and compact. There'd be sedimentation and oxygenation going on as the top basin pours into the next one, and so on, and you could grow shallows-loving aquatic plants on the periphery of the basins. It would probably look like a piece of functional sculptural art.

I would look into White Cloud Mountain Minnows. They prey on mosquito larvae, and I have read that they might even survive being frozen solid.

-CK
 
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Location: Northern New Mexico, Latitude:35 degrees N, Elevation:6000'
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I purchased David Pagan Butler's dvd a few or so years ago, and I haven't reviewed the info for almost a year.  But here's what I recall on the biofilter sizing.  It is a 1:1 ratio, based on the surface area and not the total cubic volume.

The biofliter/regeneration zone isn't required to be attached to the pool itself.  You can pump the water to somewhere else.  Some of the pictures/videos of the natural pools I've seen have done this, especially the larger public pools.  They will have a biofilter detached from the swimming area, and pump the water between the two.

David Pagan Butler has a youtube account with some videos and a little bit of detail on the pool.  I also seem to recall that you can get some free info on the subject from his website...??

If you want clean water then no fish.  Fish will dirty the water too much with their urine/manure and the pool will fill with algae and become a pond.  Mosquito's are controlled by the insects that live in/around the pool, I think there is short video mentioning this on David Pagan Butler's youtube account.
 
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