Pool Conversion

Converting a Swimming Pool to a Living Pond

Just when I was feeling pretty proud and congratulating myself on the pool conversion of our toxic old swimming pool into a rather interesting lily pond, the water leaked out. And, of course, it happened at night when I couldn't do a thing about it.

Oh! That always happens to you too, does it? Well I certainly know how You feel when it does.

Fortunately I was able to stop the leak with temporary repairs before all the water ran out, or I would have been in big trouble. As it was I managed to save about 18 inches at the deep end, and since the lilies are all in pots, I was able to keep them in a bit of water. They look a bit forlorn though, with their long stemmed leaves lying stretched out and higgledy-piggledy in shallow water, rather than reaching for the sun from the deep.

Empty Pool

Disaster Strikes! - We lose almost all the water from our pool.

I had thought I would never have to set foot in the world's most expensive and friendly Pool Shop after I embarked on my pool conversion, but that's where I had to go to get what I needed to make permanent repairs. They were really pleased to see me again and added 20% to the bill for old times sake. Where else would you pay $18.95 for a little rubber plug?

Anyway, it did the job, and I didn't have to call in the Pool Repairmen (should that be Pool Repairpeople?) which would really have cost an arm and a leg.

So, now we have a shallow pool with five Pink Water lilies and three Blue ones plus a number of little White Snowflakes and a few other things that I don't know the names of. We also have some lovely Blue, Water Irises that we brought around from the small frog pool in our front yard, some Red Cannas that came from a neighbour's yard and some Bulrushes and Papyrus that we dug up beside a creek not far from our place.

The fish don't seem to mind their reduced circumstances so much, and rather seem to be treating it all as a new adventure,swimming around in little schools of twenty or thirty and darting about and chasing each other. We bought eight little fish a couple of months ago, two black, two red, one grey and three yellowish ones. Now I wouldn't be surprised if there were eighty of them. Over thirty black ones, ten or so greys and countless yellow to pink ones. They are the hardest ones to see in the water as they are so well camouflaged.

In all the years of pouring buckets of chlorine and other chemicals into the pool, vacuuming, skimming and generally wasting time trying to keep it looking clean, We never spent any time actually sitting and looking at the pool - nor in fact did we swim! Since replacing the pool, our new pond has become a great focal point. We take our morning tea or lunch, and sit at the little table beside our pond and marvel at all that is going on in this living environment.

Apart from the antics of the fish and the beautiful water lilies to admire, there are several brightly coloured dragonflies that have taken up residence - bright red, orange, sky blue, and grey ones, hover and swoop over the pool. Butterflies and black and orange hornets visit from time to time, and several skinks turn up to take a dip and catch whatever they can around the pond.

I can't help thinking pool conversion was the right decision. Now it's interesting and attractive and a place that's full of life. I'm just hoping we will get some good rain in the next few days to bring the water-level up again, so we can enjoy our water feature at it's best.

If you are wondering how to replace a pool or how much it might cost to do a pool conversion to a pond or water feature, you might like to read on.

pool before conversion

This is how it looked after rain before we decided on the conversion.

How to Replace Your Pool with a Living Water Lily Pond.

If you are tired of the work and the cost of maintaining a little used swimming pool, you might like to consider a pool conversion, that is, replacing your pool with a lily pond or some other water feature. It is surprisingly easy and inexpensive if you do it yourself, and the interest and enjoyment you will get out of a lily pond is surprising also.

We were forced into it in a way. Our old fibreglass pool was in need of some major maintenance. It is about thirty years old and the original blue has faded to just off white, so expensive repainting or resurfacing was necessary. Also, there appeared to be a leak in the plumbing, under concrete, so not an easy job.

Add to this the severe drought that reduced our city's water storage to less than 20% of capacity, necessitating drastic water restrictions and severe fines on wrong-doers, so the decision was made to empty the pool. My first intention was to resurface the pool and fix the plumbing, but the cost was prohibitive. We toyed with a number of ideas, everything from filling the swimming pool in and making a garden area of it, to turning it into a pond to breed edible fish or crustaceans.

It sat in the too hard basket for several months, until we visited one of our daughters who lives in North Queensland. She had two big, old fashioned bath tubs sunk into her yard, with a variety of fish, and water lilies and lotus flowers providing a most delightful display of colour. So easy to do. The fish ate the algae and any mosquito larvae. The plants absorbed nitrogen and kept the water clean.

There was good rain at home while we were away and when we returned our pool was holding quite a bit of water. The level was up to the bottom of the pool steps. So the decision was made for us. Either we had to empty out the water, as I had done previously, by bucket, or get some plants and fish and see what happened. There was no time to waste as we did not want to start breeding mosquitoes.

Conversion on the way

We've added a few plants and it's starting to evolve.

First I bought a cubic meter of coarse sand and spread about half of that in the shallow end to create a beach for the fish to swim on and for shallow water plants to take root. The rest was retained to use as filling or for covering the surface of pots and containers. We bought five large plastic rubbish bins to use as pots or stands for plants growing in the deep end of the pool.

It's a good idea to keep your lilies and water plants in pots so that you can reposition them if necessary and it makes it easier to divide and re-pot them as they grow.

Although Kate didn't have any filtration in her bathtub ponds, I had the idea that our larger pool pond would need some filtration.

Obviously the existing pool filtration system was unsuitable as the water level was not high enough, and the pump pressure was far too great for pond plants.

I thought a simple sand filter would do the job, but I needed a waterproof container, large enough to do the job. Then I remembered the burnt out clothes dryer that was waiting for the bulk rubbish pick-up. It had a stainless steel drum that just might do the trick.

Sure enough it was just the thing I needed.

I cut a hole in a plastic bucket and glued a short length of plastic pipe through the hole, then I put the bucket in the pool skimmer box, with the plastic pipe just reaching over the edge of the wall. Next, I placed some insect gauze over the air holes in the stainless steel drum, and filled the drum with washed course sand and small pebbles to act as a filter, and sat it over the bucket in the skimmer box. The sand settled to about 3/4 of the drum. Then I connected the drum sand filter by means of a clear plastic hose to a small submersible pump at the bottom of the pool. The pump switches on at the power point for the old pool motor, and the water runs back into the pond with a pleasing soft waterfall effect.

We also bought two blue tropical water lilies in pots and some rushes at the hardware shop where we bought the pump and the plastic rubbish bins. Everything was working well, our pool conversion was taking shape, but the pool was looking pretty sparse at this stage.

Next we checked out a creek not far from our place and sure enough, dug up some bulrushes and papyrus plants that love water.

These grow pretty tall, so we planted them in four of the rubbish bins. We transplanted some water iris plants from the little frog pond in our front yard, and one of our neighbours gave us some lovely red cannas. Another plant that loves boggy conditions. Water Lilies in our pond

Pink Night Flowering Water Lily

All the preparation so far took from the week before Christmas to the third of January, about two weeks in all.

On the Saturday, January 3rd, I saw an advertisement from someone who wanted to sell some water lily bulbs, so, over we went and bought one pink hardy water lily and four pink 'night flowering' lilies, a few other water plants and eight little fish.

This lot cost us the princely sum of $50.00, a bargain when you consider that the two water lilies we bought earlier cost $28.00 each, and to top it off, next morning we discovered that our eight fish had increased to twenty-eight!

I should point out that a pool conversion will still need to meet health and safety requirements as far as pool gates and fencing and water quality is concerned. If in doubt, you should check with your local authority to see what requirements there are. The water quality of a properly balanced pond is evidenced by the healthy fish life and fresh, odourless water. Fish rid the pond of mosquito larvae, while plants help to oxygenate the pond, as does a filtration system and waterfall.

Fish and plants will not survive in chlorinated water, so it is important to wash out the pool with fresh water before commencing your pool conversion. I found a garden hose with a hard jet was sufficient, but a pressure spray would probably be better.

It's now just over two months down the track and all the lilies and plants have survived and are doing well. We usually have two or three lilies flowering at a time, and our fish population has increased to well over sixty. The whole exercise has been interesting and enjoyable. The total cost, including lilies, plants, fish, sand, bins, submersible pump and plastic pipe cost less than $330.

Add the worlds most expensive plug and it's still cost less than $350.00. Well worth it for the all fun we've had!

Following the loss of water, the pool is looking a bit bedraggled at the moment, but prior to that our pool conversion was working very well. Everything is surviving and a few good showers will soon bring the water back up to a reasonable level and greatly improve the pool's appearance.

One good thing that has come about is that we have been better able to plan our 'beach area' and will also add 'an island' to the deep end before it gets too deep again. After lots of rain the pool is now full of water, the plants have all grown and the fish have multiplied.

Take a moment to enjoy this tour of our garden and pool.



Click Pool Conversion for an update and to find out how the pond is looking now.

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