What are family-friendly water features?

|December 19, 2022
What are family-friendly water features

It seems to be a universal fact that kids and pets are magnetically attracted to just about any body of water. With pets, most often this is not much more than a messy problem. With their strong, natural desire to explore and discover it may however be an issue with smaller, unsupervised children. 

Ponds and water features can be amazing learning spaces for our kids so we certainly don’t want to discourage their fun and development but we do want to keep them safe. And preferably avoid a trail of wet hand and footprints through the house. 

There is an easy way to do this and it’s with the ultimate family-friendly water feature – a pondless waterfall.


What is a pondless waterfall?


Every water feature, small or large, has a ‘pond’, a reservoir of water. Without this reservoir you can’t have a pump turning water over to create the look you are after. A pondless waterfall still has a reservoir however, through clever design, this is not visible or readily accessible. The only water you see is running through the waterfall, cascade or fountain outlet and then it disappears, as if by magic. Kids will in-fact find these type of water features absolutely fascinating – Where is the water going? Where is it coming from?


How does a pondless waterfall work?


Put simply, your pump is positioned in the reservoir, such as a pre-formed poly pond liner, with its output hose running up through a screen that covers the top of the reservoir. Generally, a cover screen is cut to size from galvanised or stainless steel mesh screen. 

Some kits come with a purpose-designed poly reservoir cover. You connect your output hose to your waterfall or fountain and then add a good layer of material that provides excellent drainage, river pebbles are a popular choice, on top of the screen. When switched on water will flow from the outlet, onto the pebbles and disappear back into the reservoir to be recirculated.


Are there different types of pondless waterfalls?


The design of your feature is limited only to your imagination. As long as you use an outlet capable of providing the type of effect you want, a pump that moves enough water to feed the outlet and a reservoir with suitable capacity that is all you need. 

There are three main types of pondless features.

1. Below ground


Here your reservoir is in the ground, just as an inground pond would be. All that will be visible above ground is the layer of pebbles and your waterfall or fountain outlet.


2. Above ground


Often called a ‘pond in a pot’ this type of pondless feature uses a suitably sealed pot, or any other receptacle, as the reservoir. This gives you enormous opportunities from a design perspective. Then the technique is basically the same as for its in-ground cousin – pump in the reservoir, outlet pipe feeds out the top, add a screen, pebbles and an outlet and you’re off!


3. The vanishing creek


This type of pondless waterfall is a larger scale project suitable for installation across a more expansive area in the garden where there is an existing slope or a slope can be created through landscaping. It can have a breathtaking impact. It will generally require a larger reservoir owing to the amount of water that will be running through the system at any given time.


At what will be the end of the creek the reservoir is installed at a suitable depth in-ground. A creek bed is then created with enough fall to give you quality water movement towards the reservoir. This bed is lined with flexible pond liner. Then you create your waterfall, cascade or other outlet at the head of the creek. The pump is dropped into the reservoir with a pipe run to the outlet and the reservoir is covered with mesh. Dress the creek and mesh screen with gravel, plant along its edges and you’ll have a bush-look feature that has just a touch of magic to it.


Is there much maintenance with these type of features?


These types of water features are probably the lowest maintenance of all of the possible types of water features and pond combinations. There are a few reasons for this;

  • As the reservoir isn’t exposed to sunlight algae growth is much lower than a typical pond or water feature.
  • The reservoir isn’t likely to collect any leaf litter or other debris.
  • As you won’t have any fish there won’t be any issues with their food and waste.


The only regular thing you’ll need to do is top the water up. You can easily tell when this needs to be done as the sound of water running into the reservoir will become more obvious. As a rule, a maintenance flap is left in the mesh screen so that the pump can be easily accessed when the bio-sponge pre-filter requires cleaning or the impeller needs to be replaced.


Can I have plants in these type of features?


Yes, you absolutely can! Obviously any plants you use would need to be in scale with your feature but it’s quite simple. The best plants to use are what pond professionals call the marginals. They are the plants that grow just on a pond edge with their toes in the water. Put them in a suitably sized pot and then cut a hole through the mesh screen large enough for them to be slipped in without slipping all the way through and then just drop them in place. Cover the top of their pots with the same pebbles used to cover the screen.


Family-friendly water features in Australia


One of the many great things about pondless waterfalls, especially the self-contained pond-in-a-pot variety, is they are ideal for smaller spaces and are perfect if you are renting. You can just drain your feature and move it to your next home.


These type of water features are without doubt one of the simplest and most practical pond or water feature options. All of the beauty of a feature in a self-contained set-up and the peace of mind knowing that it’s safe for the kids and the worst your pets are likely to do is use it as a drinking fountain!


Build Your Pond has many more inspiring pond ideas to spark creativity and show you how to liven your small or large space.

Send me more inspiration

Simply enter your name, email address & size of space for more inspiration.

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Let's Get Started

Enter your postcode & size of space to find a suitable brand near you.