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Central America
Panamá's mild climate and skilled labor
offer opportunities for -

Building a Concrete Pond

by Carla Black, Volcán, Chiriquí, República de Panamá
Click images to enlarge

Concrete is a wonderful pond-building material. It is especially good where winters are mild and the soil does not freeze, and where there is a labor force skilled in concrete-working. Those conditions are met here in Panamá where we built our first pond three years ago. The following photos and captions show the building process using our first two ponds as illustration.

The first pond started with erecting a temporary roof over the construction site, since the rainy season was well underway. The second step was to lay a perfectly level row of concrete blocks. This is the only part of the project which demands careful measurements, since the water level will expose any and all flaws in the level of the rim of the pond.

The level blocks are nearly in place, with the bog outline taking shape. The best gardening decision we have ever made was to build this pond right outside the kitchen window. 

The second pond project, a year and a half later, began in the dry season. The exactly-leveled blocks are being laid out before the tree stumps and other plants are out of the way. Digging comes next.

With lots of hand labor the pond hole is finished. The depth of the blocks is determined only by the terrain - one was sufficient on higher ground, while three were necessary as the slope fell away. The blocks are tied together with short pieces of rebar and a dab of concrete. The hole was dug with a slant towards the floor to avoid undercutting the blocks. This second simpler pond is 2 feet deep with a single shelf for marginal plants.

 Plumbing couldn't be simpler in this pond: a water inlet (with valve just outside of photo), and an adjustable overflow outlet. We have never glued the upright tube into the elbow - always adjustable.

 Most, but not all, of the contours are finished in the first pond. Three Victoria holes go another foot down, for a total of 4 feet.

Talk about legs on a snake! We use three of these tubes, I remember what one more was intended for, and the remaining must have been just in case. Yes, I remember - filter and lights. This snake does fine without them!

The pond holes are dug, and the two-day coordinated effort of plastering begins. All elements are on site: plenty of labor, all materials, and good weather.

Day one: the goal was to lay the first layer of concrete on the floor and blocks, and press on the metal lath. We used 28 x 96" sheets of 3/8 inch high-rib lath. Look up "metal lath" on the internet for sources.

 The concrete does not have any additives, nor did we paint the finished pond. Concrete is porous, but not enough to cause a leakage problem. Our goldfish aren't fussy about pH.

The end of the first day of coordinated effort. The pond is completely lined with metal lath, with a layer of concrete behind it except on the dirt walls, where it doesn't stick.

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