Should a Garden Pond Be In The Sun or Shade?


Picture of a garden pond with lots of plants

Wondering how to make your home landscaping or garden look good all year round and thinking about adding a wildlife pond or garden pond to your outdoor landscape? You’re not the only one. Many landscapers, gardeners, and agriculturalists decide to add beauty and functionality to their outdoor living spaces by building a garden pond or wildlife pond.

It’s best to build a pond in a sunny area. A pond, on the other hand, can be sited in an area that is shaded for part of the day or rests in dappled shade. It’s not a good idea to build a pond in a heavily forested area because it will become stagnant – the plants that provide oxygen to the water will require some sunlight.

Following are important questions for pond builders to ask that can help determine if your outdoor garden pond should be built in direct sunlight with full access to the sun or if your wildlife pond should be tucked away in the shade of your favorite oak tree.

This guide is for: gardeners, landscapers, farmers, agriculturists, and other outdoor enthusiasts planning to build an outdoor garden pond or wildlife pond. This guide is also useful for people who are interested in learning about the process of building and maintaining their own ponds.

Build a Pond in the Sun or Shade

Picture of a garden pond in shade

Am I building my garden pond for functionality or for beauty?

When building a pond for functionality, as in sustainably growing flowering or other aquatic plants, it’s important to ensure that your pond has access to an adequate amount of water for filling, cleaning, and refilling your pond.

If you plan to build your pond in the shade, it’s important to make sure you’re building your pond in an area that receives adequate sunlight for the size and location of your pond.

Pond maintenance and nutrition are other critical factors that come into play when pond-building. People interested in building a wildlife pond have to monitor the feeding, nutrition, and maintenance of pond-based plants and animals while providing flowering and aquatic plants with access to rich soil that will help facilitate the health and growth of living ponds and plants and animals.

How much space do I have to build my wildlife pond?

Space is at the top of the list when deciding whether you will build your garden pond in the direct sun or shade. The amount of space you have for building your pond is going to make the difference between whether you should build your pond in direct sunlight, a medium amount of sunlight, or in the shade.

Large shady trees and other shaded outdoor areas are good examples of shaded areas where small garden ponds are built.

Ponds designed to house and sustain flowering plants, fish, or other animals will need access to more sunlight than smaller counterparts designed for outdoor living space improvement or landscaping decor. Once you’ve figured out how much space you have to build your new pond, you can move on to the next step in the pond-building process.

Want to learn more about how much sunlight your new garden pond needs? Keep reading! We answer the question, “how much sunlight does a pond need below.

How much sunlight does a pond need?

According to the garden pond and wildlife pond building experts, it’s not a good idea to build a large pond in a shady area. This is because aquatic plants that live in large sprawling ponds need a minimum of 6-hours of direct sunlight per day to thrive.

Building a large pond in a shaded area will eventually inhibit the growth of these sun-seeking aquatic plants and other animals living in the pond. Garden pond builders who don’t want to grow aquatic plants (or those with limited space to build their wildlife ponds) may benefit from building smaller ponds in the shade.

It’s important to note that a lack of direct sunlight can promote the growth of algae and bacteria, making it more difficult to maintain your outdoor garden pond or wildlife pond.

Pond builders who choose to build their ponds in the shade will need to add algae and bacteria maintenance to their pond-management routine. This means it can take more to manage a shaded pond than a pond with access to natural and direct sunlight.

If managing algae and other bacteria that can grow in shaded ponds isn’t your thing, you’ll want to consider building your pond in a different location that provides access to an adequate amount of direct sunlight.

Benefits of Building Garden Ponds and Wildlife Ponds in Shaded Areas vs. Direct Sun

Aside from the growth of algae and other biological materials that can happen in shaded ponds, there are actually many upsides to building your wildlife or garden pond in shaded areas.

Naturally, these shaded areas are cooler and can provide more comfort when relaxing near your pond during the warmer months. The good news is for pond builders, and landscapers who want to build a small garden pond without aquatic or flowering plants, building your pond in a shaded area can be beneficial.

The Benefits of Indirect Sunlight for Small Garden Ponds

The size of the pond being built is one of the most important factors to consider in constructing wildlife ponds and garden ponds. Smaller ponds require less sunlight and are easier to manage when maintained at the ideal outdoor temperature.

Gardening experts and professional pond builders have discovered that smaller ponds often benefit from less indirect sunlight. Direct sunlight on a garden pond or wildlife pond will cause the internal temperature of the pond to rise. Small ponds can easily overheat when exposed to direct sunlight for extended periods of time.

A smaller garden pond needs sunlight but not too much direct sunlight. Larger garden ponds can benefit from being exposed to direct sunlight. The temperature in a large pond is less likely to cause the overgrowth of algae and other unwanted bacteria or parasites.

Consider the size of the area of the pond before building. Garden pond builders will need to prepare an area larger than the pond liner.

It’s important to have level ground when installing your pond liner or other watertight containers. Professional garden pond and wildlife pond builders often use sand to balance unlevel pond liners during the building process.

Benefits of Building Garden Ponds and Wildlife Ponds in Direct Sunlight vs. Shaded Areas

When building a large garden pond or wildlife pond, agriculturalists and gardening experts recommend more direct sunlight. Ponds with built-in alignment with direct sunlight (receiving a minimum of 6 hours a day are likely to thrive.

This means that flowering plants can benefit from the vitamins and minerals provided by the sun to maintain healthy and noticeable growth. Having flowering plants around your pond is a great way to improve the aesthetics of your landscape and outdoor living areas.

Another important factor to consider when building larger ponds situated in direct sunlight vs. smaller ponds – making sure your pond is level. An unlevel pond can spell disaster in the areas of maintenance, filling, nutrition, and filtering.

New pond builders should ensure that their pond project is as level as possible for the landscape to prevent an unsuccessful build. Below, we discuss a few reasons why building a level garden pond or wildlife pond is critical for success.

Keep Reading to Find Out Why It’s Critically Important to Level Your Pond (Whether It’s Built-In Sun or Shade)

What Happens When Your Garden Pond Built In The Sun or Shade is Not Level?

Picture of a backyard garden pond

Making mistakes during the pond-building process happens to the best of us. Checking to make sure your pond container is completely level and using gardening materials like sand and similar organic leveling materials can mean the difference between an even and unlevel pond.

An unlevel pond can result in undesired runoff. An excess of dirty runoff draining from an unlevel garden pond can cause dirt and debris to contaminate the pond.

Other important factors that may affect your pond building project include garden pond pumps and wildlife pond water filtration systems that keep pond water circulating at the desired flow rate.

The use of both of these systems requires electricity. Be sure to build your pond within a reasonable distance of a GFCI supported outlet for easy access to power. Garden pond building experts recommend installing a pump and filter system in ponds that circulate the water in your pond at least once every hour. Learn how often your pump circulates pond water by reviewing the gallons-per-hour (GPH) rating provided by the pump or filter manufacturer.

What Materials Are Required to Build Your Own Pond?

Basic Materials Required to Build a Garden Pond or Wildlife Pond

  • Watertight container
  • Pond Liner
  • Gravel, rocks, and stone.
  • Access to water to fill and maintain your outdoor pond.

Direct Sunlight 

can add a larger variety of flowering plants that thrive in direct sunlight. Smaller ponds should be placed in indirect sunlight to maintain proper temperature. According to Lowes, ponds that reach higher water temperatures increase the rate of water evaporation and promote the excessive growth of algae and unwanted bacteria

Indirect Sunlight

It may be found around large trees. Building a pond near large trees can result in large amounts of debris falling into the pond. Leaves, needles, sticks, trash, and other unwanted debris can contaminate the pond. Having large amounts of unwanted debris in or near your pond can make it hard for gardeners and landscapers to maintain the pond.

Conclusion on Should a Garden Pond Be In The Sun or Shade

The gardening experts at Lowes recommend building your pond on level, well-drained ground. Build your outdoor pond near an electrical outlet If the pond requires electricity for a pump. Keep the ground clear of wires and cords for safety and aesthetics.

Be careful when digging your pond and look out for possible hazards, including power lines, water lines, sewer lines, and other underground infrastructure near the pond building site.

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Tony O'Neill

I am Tony O'Neill, A full-time firefighter, and professional gardener. I have spent most of my life gardening. From the age of 7 until the present day at 46. My goal is to use my love and knowledge of gardening to support you and to simplify the gardening process so you are more productive

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