We've just purchased a house which has been neglected for a little while and are renovating it. There is a pond in the back yard which looks like it has not had any attention for multiple years. There is no filter or pump on the pond and it stinks.

I'm wondering what the best approach is to cleaning it.

Current thoughts are to do one of the following:

  1. Buy a pump and filter and just run that against the pond to clean it out. My concern is that it is so dirty that it'll wreck the pump and/or filter.
  2. Completely empty the pond by using a bucket, remove any sludge in the bottom and then refill it. Finally install a filter and pump to keep it clean.
  3. combination of the two, syphon some of the water out with a bucket and refill with fresh water and then run the pump and filter, hopefully reducing the effort the pump and filter will need to go through.

The pond has frogs in it - well, not sure if they are in the pond but I've seen them around the garden (I'm in the UK and it's coming into winter here). No fish at the moment but once it is all cleaned up I plan on putting fish in.

Photo of the pond:

Photo of the pond

Photo of my dog after he jumped in the pond so you can see how dirty it is as well as how stupid my dog is:

Photo of my dog after falling in the pond so you can see how dirty it is

  • Thanks @kevinsky. I had to do a "walk of shame" down the high street with him to get back to the house we're living in so I could actually wash him - it took three washes and he still had a brown tinge.
    – grahamrb
    Commented Nov 3, 2015 at 5:07

2 Answers 2


You could get a long way towards clean by simply running a bubbler (air) into the bottom of the pond - that will drive the bacteria population from anaerobic (stinky) to aerobic (nicer smelling) and burn off some of the excess nutrient. If nothing else, it will make further emptying and cleaning far more pleasant to deal with, and should be useful in the longer run for keeping things happy for fish.

As for pumping it out, if you can rent a "mudsucker" or diaphragm pump they deal with mud & debris better than other types of pumps - but you would need to be careful not to suck onto the liner, if the pond is of plastic liner construction. A bucket (and stocking feet when you reach the point of needing to climb in) are probably safer with a liner. If the dogs are going to help you may have problems keeping a liner intact.


Empty it and clean it out. But don't use a shovel, because you could tear the lining if it's still good.

The stink is from organic material rotting on the bottom.

Buy a good book on DIY water features.

  • Thanks Escoce. Can I use a pump to empty the majority of the water out of it or is it likely that the pump will clog up and get wrecked from the sludge in the water?
    – grahamrb
    Commented Nov 3, 2015 at 5:05
  • @grahamrb I think if the water is clear it will be fine, just make sure the pump isn't lowered into the sludge. And stand there and watch it to ensure it doesn't get clogged. By the way, if you compost, you want to keep that sludge. It'll be really good for your garden if you compost it thoroughly. The stink might be off putting, but once it's been composted it won't stink any more and will be rich in carbon and nutrients.
    – Escoce
    Commented Nov 3, 2015 at 14:15

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