Building a pond or a lake is a great way to enhance your home’s property value or look. Even though the cost to dig a pond may be expensive, it’s really not. At home, lakes or ponds work to bring you closer to nature, and many people won’t even consider adding it because they think it’s too expensive. If you have enough area for a pond, you should consider it. Hanging out by the pond is a fun pastime to do in your spare time, and it allows you to sit and enjoy the scenery.
On average, the cost to dig a pond runs between $1,200 and $,5600, with the average being around $3,400. Specialty projects, like installing a natural swimming or koi pond tend to go up between $5,000 and $60,000 or more. Artificial lakes run between $4,000 and $15,000 per acre, and the cost to dig a pond goes up more if you add water features or fish. You can expect most small projects to end up between $2.50 and $7.15 for every square foot. The actual cost of the project is better to understand if you know all of the considerations you have to keep in mind.
There are many types of ponds you can add to your yard, and the cost to dig a pond will vary by size, type, and landscape.
Cost of Digging a Pond – Primary Considerations
The first thing you have to understand when it comes to estimating the cost to dig a pond is the primary considerations. These will vary, but the core ones are as follows:
Building a pond or lake can be expensive, but it’s not as straightforward as it first appears. Before starting construction, you have to work out several details. Make sure you have enough money to finish the project.
Build a Dam
If your pond has a bad design, you will need to work on some improvements before you figure out the total cost to dig a pond. The ground surrounding your pond will have to be dammed or banked to prevent water from leaking, or you’ll end up rebuilding your pond very quickly.
If you’re building a fishing pond, they can be highly expensive because the construction process to dig them is the same as a smaller one will be, but just on a larger scale. The greater the depth and size of the pond, the more expensive it’ll be. Size will only play a significant role when you get to a pond that is larger than a typical backyard. Once you start adding in lining, earth moving, landscaping, and pumps, the final cost to dig a pond will increase dramatically. Bigger projects not only cover more surface area, but they tend to be deeper. Since you’re digging deeper and taking out more dirt, you might want to get a price per cubic yard.
The cost to dig a pond on a smaller scale ranges between $2.50 and $7.15 per square foot. For a bigger pond, the excavation costs start at $1.50 and go up to $3.50 per cubic yard. Hourly rates go from $120 to $150 an hour, and most excavators include land grading in their rates. If they don’t, expect to add an average $2,000 to the cost.
Another important consideration that will influence the cost of digging your pond is the work quality. The better the quality of work you want, the higher the price climbs. There is a range of different quality materials available for pond creation on the market, and it’s up to you to decide which one is best.
You do want to do a cursory investigation of the site where you intend to dig or build your pond. This is one of the most significant aspects of your cost to dig a pond, and you can’t start this project without significant geographic knowledge of your yard. You want to pick out a flat area without a lot of vegetation, boulders, or other obstacles. If you have to clear the land, this will add to your cost to dig a pond. The actual cost will depend on how much vegetation you need to remove and what the best way to remove it is. You also want to make sure any heavy machinery can access your new pond area. Digging by hand takes much more time and expenses than using an earth-mover.
Your location will impact your total cost to dig a pond, no matter if you’re going with a large or small design. For example, the prices in commercial districts will be much higher than the prices in smaller towns where it’ll be more competitive.
Excavation is the initial step you take to stack a pond. The total cost of excavation will depend on your soil type, height of the pond, and soil breadth. Too few ponds are also very expensive since you have to use the same technique you’d use with a larger pond. If you dig a pond inside a clay-based soil, rocky terrain, or lots of trees, you can add between $200 and $1,200 or more to your pond project. If you put the pond in a clear area with loose soil, digging will be much easier and more budget-friendly.
This machine is one of the nicer things to add to your pond to help ensure that you always have clean water. Also, it can enhance the life of any aquatic animals or aquatic plants you choose to put in your pond. You’ll find them at different wattages and price points, and you have to buy according to your pond’s needs. A small pond requires a unit that will cost roughly $100, and a large pond would need a much bigger ultraviolet sterilizer that can run from $1,200 to $1,500.
This is a highly recommended option for your pond, especially if you decide to put in expensive fish. A powerful pond pump with a high GPH is needed to help maintain a proper pond environment. The price for your pond pump will fall between $200 to $800.
There are several considerations that will factor into your total cost to dig a pond, but a lot of them are optional and you can omit them if you’re on a tight budget.
Pond Installation Price by Size
The larger your pond is, the higher your cost to dig a pond will be. However, the lower per cubic foot you’ll spend. Small, backyard-sized ponds can range from $5,000 up to $55,000. Big faux lakes can easily go up to $70,000. Smaller ponds tend to need more features, like specially designed habitats or waterfalls, and this makes them ecosystem ponds.
Bigger ponds commonly get priced per acre when you have them for fishing or agricultural purposes. They are usually very plain, and they only require a hole with the correct type of synthetic lining or dirt. The average range for a pond that is less than 10 acres runs between $7,000 and $25,000 per acre. For ponds over 10 acres, you will pay between $4,000 and $10,000 per acre. When you start adding features and landscaping, you can easily double these prices. The following table will give you a rough outline of the cost to dig a pond and finish it:
|Size||Total Average Price|
|150 to 5,000 Square Feet||$3,000 to $15,000|
|¼ Acre to ½ Acre||$4,000 to $25,000|
|1 Acre||$5,000 to $35,000|
|10 Acres||$20,000 to $50,000|
|20 Acres||$10,000 to $100,000 +|
Cost to Dig a Pond by Size
Now, you’ll want to know how much it costs to dig a pond by size, and you can tailor your pond to fit your budget using the rough outlines below.
Excavating a quarter-acre pond will cost between $750 and $2,000, but it could go up to $4,500 and more. The cost will depend on the land. Big tree removal costs can add up to $1,000 per tree to the cost.
One-acre ponds will generally cost between $5,000 to $35,000 with a $15,000 average when you’re looking at the cost to dig a pond. Keep in mind that your costs will quickly climb if you want to add a natural stone liner or fish.
The cost to dig a pond that is actually a 20-acre lake ranges from $10,000 to $100,000 and up. You do end up paying less per acre the bigger your pond is, costs could easily increase, depending on your style and design. For example, if you want to install a dock, you have to factor this into your plant if you have a boat.
The price to have a pong professional installed ranges from $3,000 to $15,000 on average, but it can go up to $55,000. A simple DIY pond project in your backyard can be as little as $300, if you’re willing to put in the time and effort.
Additional Pond Feature Costs
Ponds that cost up to $55,000 in your backyard usually have this higher price tag due to the features you add. You can consider creating an ecologically friendly pond for any fish that need a specific climate. You’ll have to add specialized equipment for cleaning, monitoring, and maintaining your pond. Other than simply digging out your pond and filling it, there are several features you can add to the design, including:
|Pond Feature||Price Range||Notes|
|Landscaping||$350 to $10,000||Most ponds benefit from landscaping, especially if they’re meant for a specific need.|
|Liner||$100 to $1,000||Fiberglass, concrete, and rigid or flexible plastic are options|
|Patio||$2,000 to $5,500||Having a patio or walkway around your pond is a nice finishing touch|
|Surrounding Materials||$1.00 to $15.00/sq ft||Brick or concrete edging are the least expensive with stone being more|
|Waterfall||$900 to $4,500||Gives a soothing water sound but adds plumbing costs|
Cost to Dig a Pond by Type
Depending on the type of pond you get, you’ll pay anywhere from $50.00 to $5,000 as your total cost to dig a pond. Small DIY-type ponds cost between $50.00 to $1,5000, and koi ponds tend to run from $10,000 to $55,000. Farm lakes or ponds can run upwards of $70,000 or more.
|Pond Type||Average Cost||Cost Factors|
|Backyard||$50.00 to $15,200||Labor, liner, and size|
|Farm||$5,000 to $70,000||Labor, liner, size, and fish|
|Fishing||$3,500 to $50,000||Fish, depth, and size|
|Human-Made||$100 to $5,000||Labor, size, and liner|
|Koi||$5,000 to $50,000||Heating, depth, fish, and electrical|
|Lake||$5,000 to $25,000/acre||Depth and size|
|Natural Swimming||$50.00 to $300/sq ft||Liner, depth, and labor|
Backyard Pond Costs
A backyard pond can cost $500 for a very simple garden design or up to $25,000 for a larger, more complex body of water. Be sure that you check with your local HOA or neighborhood codes before you start this project, or call a pond installer by you for more details.
On average, farm ponds cost between $5,000 and $20,000 or more. They’re typically purely for farm animal use. You use them for livestock or as part of an irrigation system for the most part.
Farm ponds are common on larger farms as they provide a water source for livestock that you don’t have to refill.
A standard fish pond generally costs between $4,500 and $30,000. Fishing ponds that you make specifically to stock with fish are usually used for sport fishing. You’ll typically need a fairly deep pond with adequate room to help you get the correct ecology to maintain your fish population.
Artificial human-made ponds don’t usually have a set shape or size, so the cost to dig a pond can be anywhere from $500 to $50,000 and up. Cost factors typically include the size, type of liner, amount of labor, type of materials, and any additions you want to add.
The cost to build and install a koi pond ranges from $5,000 to $30,000 on average, but upgrades can easily make it upwards of $55,000. These are specialized bodies of water that require much more maintenance and setup. The fish need to live in an area that is a minimum of three feet deep. Depending on your climate, you may also need to install a heating system for the winter months. An electrical system like a filter, generator, and heater keeps the heat and water moving.
Because lakes vary in size very drastically, you could pay anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000 as your cost to dig a pond per acre. Interestingly enough, the difference between your pond and a lake is the depth of the water, not the total surface area. Lakes have something that is referred to as the aphotic zone, and this is an area where the sunlight can’t penetrate. When you build a lake, you can expect your excavation costs to go much higher as you have to dig much deeper.
A swimming pond, much like an inground swimming pool, costs between $30,000 to $80,000. This includes the cost to dig a pond and the total build. Natural swimming ponds recharge themselves, so you won’t need a filter system. They’re natural, and they tend to blend into your landscape. You won’t have to worry about additives or chemicals either.
Pond Size Per Budget
You most likely already have a budget in mind of what you’re willing to spend on the cost to dig a pond. For each price level, here is a rough idea of what you can expect to get:
If all you want is a small koi pond ranging between 150 and 200 square feet, you could reasonably expect to hit this price point to hire someone to do the job for you.
This is the low end of the typical range you can expect to pay for pond installation. For this, you’re getting something a lot larger than a small koi pond, but it usually won’t be more than 300 square feet.
This is roughly the average price you’ll pay for the cost to dig a pond and install it, and this includes the digging and the liner material for a 500 to 1,000 square foot pond.
This price point is common for a no-frills pond with no fish and a few aquatic plants, and it tends to range in size.
For projects that encompass bigger ponds or ponds in more difficult locations to excavate, this is the price range you’ll end up with.
$10,000 and up
There is almost no limit to how high your pond project can go if you want a very big pond or if you have to do a lot of excavation and leveling to make the space suitable for a pond. Some ponds can easily encompass several acres, and in this case, you can expect to pay between $1,000 and $5,000 for your cost to dig a pond per acre.
Pond Maintenance Costs
For maintenance for your pond, you’ll easily spend between $1,500 and $2,000. This price includes the chemical replacement costs too. You’ll want to keep the pond as clean as possible, chemicals at a good level, and any fish you have fed. You may also want to have your contractor inspect any moving parts on your pond, like pumps. You’ll also want to take a look at replacing any generators or heating units.
You’ll pay between $300 and $1,000 to get a professional-grade pond cleaning. They’ll clean the rocks, water, and pumps after they drain any water out of your pond.
Miscellaneous Costs to Consider
If you already cleared the land of obstacles, like trees, there are additional costs that can drive your cost to dig a pond into the thousands. The average acre can cost up to $6,000 just to clear it out, and this doesn’t even include the disposal fees. For the excavation costs by themselves, you’ll spend between $3,000 and $6,000 per acre.
If you have to remove soil from the property, you’ll have to pay additional disposal fees. Most pond diggers will recommend taking the excess soil and spreading it around the pond. Many people who create ponds tend to create a beach or spread the dirt elsewhere on the property. Trucking the soil can cost up to $2.00 a cubic yard.
A pond will also require maintenance on at least an annual basis. This can include mechanical management, weed control, or fish-related things. Ideally, you’ll set aside between $1,000 and $2,500 a year to help successfully maintain your pond.
If you want to add fish to your pond, you’ll budget in any fish, eggs, or whatever plants you want. The same thing applies to any tree. Stocking your pond with fish will depend heavily on the type of fish you want to stock. For example, catfish are very easy to care for and they usually cost around $1.00 per fish, while a koi fish can cost upwards of $50.00 a fish.
A fountain or other water feature is purely optional, but it could cost hundreds of dollars or as much as a few thousand if you want to install something more extravagant.
Landscaping, once you get your pond installed, is something else you consider. This is especially true if you want to liven up your space. The same can be said about outdoor lighting if you want to add lights around the pond or near a path leading up to the pond.
Just like stocking fish, some pond owners want to add plants. Cattails are very popular for shallow waters and they can help improve the water quality as they grow. Lilies, on the other hand, are easy to care for and they work well in tropical climates. Plants, depending on what you want to buy, can cost between $3.00 and $50.00 each.
DIY Pond Cost vs. Hiring a Professional
If it’s properly researched and executed, your backyard pond makes an excellent DIY project. Although it’s easy to install a pond incorrectly, it’s rarely a project-ending mistake. It’s common you’ll have to redo the pond, and this takes money and time. So, save the time and consider hiring a local contractor.
A DIY pond does cost less than hiring a professional, but it will take considerably longer with a much higher chance of your pond failing. For example, failing to install your liner correctly or to excavate the space can easily destroy your pond project.
If you decide to DIY your pond construction, this can save you in labor costs if you do it right.
Build & Dig a Pond in Seven Steps
When you figure out the cost to dig a pond, you have to know the steps you have to take to finish the project. They include:
1. Site Selection:
Pick a location for your pond. Also, this helps ensure that it’s safe to build a pond in the spot you picked out and double-check that there is no prohibition against building it.
2. Get Government Approval:
Before you even start worrying about the cost to dig a pond and build or stock it, you’ll need to get permission from the local government. Approval from the state or government to build your pond or lake will help you avoid hefty fines or roadblocks. Not getting the correct permits is illegal.
3. Find Excavator Operators
Unless you’re planning on operating this heavy machinery yourself, you’ll need to find and hire excavator operators. Keep in mind the depth and size of the pond because digging further in the ground can cost more money and force you to fill it in.
4. Damming or Banking
To prevent water from leaking out of your pond, you’ll have to bank or dam the ground around the pond after you excavate it. You’ll drastically extend the life of your fishing pond as you dam or bank around it.
5. Pick a Lining Material
Get a lining material and use it to build the pond’s bottom and sides. You can use any type of lining material you want. To make the pond look like it’s more natural, you can cover it with a layer of gravel or clay.
6. Set up Water Inlet and Outflow Sources
The next step you take is to install the water inlet and outflow sources. To avoid doing a lot of maintenance, you want to use high-quality pipes. The pond’s water line should be efficient and clean.
7. Set Up Your Equipment
Now you’ll fix the aerator, pump, and heater to make your ponds healthier and nicer. These items aren’t necessarily required, but they’re a good thing to add to get a nicer pond.
Cost to Dig a Pond – FAQs
Now that you know how to figure out the cost to dig a pond, you can go into a few frequently asked questions. This can be a large project, so having questions is common. We’ve picked out frequently asked questions below.
1. How do you dig a pond?
To dig a pond, you’ll need to measure the average depth, width, and length. It will help to talk to a professional contractor to get the perfect design. Once you get your plans set, the digging will begin. Excavators are common for large-scale projects, and you can use shovels on smaller ones.
2. How do you build a big pond?
Building a bigger pond starts by measuring and designing where you want it to go. You also have to consider what you want it to look like. Excavators will then come into your space with special machinery to dig out the area before you add the liner and fill it.
3. What is the average cost to stock a pond?
Stocking your pond will cost between $1.25 to $4.50 per fish. How much you end up paying to stock the pond varies based on the type of fish you want, how many will fit, and your pond. Koi will cost much more than sport fishing options.
4. How far should you put a pond from your home?
Generally, you want to place your pond 50 to 100 feet from your home. However, local building regulations and codes will tell you exactly how far you’ll need to set it from your home.
5. What is the best depth for your pond?
Your fishing pond should be deep enough to support aquatic life and a very diverse fish population. However, the depth will also rely on the soil type and where you want to build it. To ensure fish and plant growth, your pond should be a minimum of two feet deep.
After taking a look at this information and the cost to dig a pond, you can get a good idea of the budget you should have in mind. This price is never fixed, and it will change according to your preferences. You can do it by yourself, or you can hire people to build it for you. Whatever you choose, you’ll get a stunning pond that boosts your home’s value and curb appeal.