Valley Permaculture Alliance

My homeowner's insurance is canceling my policy as of March 25 if I don't either fill in (with dirt) or return to swimming pool status my currently empty pool that we have used for skateboarding and rainwater collection (not a human energy efficient method when it is time to empty it, LOL!).  I had hoped to turn it into a Koi pond or something similar at some point in the future but time and money never really allowed for that . . . I don't like the idea of filling it with dirt because that stinks for resale but I don't like the idea of filling it with chemicals and wasting water either.  Anyone have any suggestions?  I am on a very limited time scale as I cannot have my home uninsured and I have to either submit a signed contract with a completion date in the near future from a pool company or submit pictures of it filled with dirt (which I still don't know if the city of Glendale requires a permit for).  Thanks for your creative ideas!  Need cheap, quick and as green as possible . . .

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Is your pool in decent enough shape to be refilled with water? I have no idea what's involved money-wise to turn your pool into a tilapia pond. I'm not sure if it would fulfill your insurance company obligations either, but you could raise a whole lot of fish for eating in a swimming pool. Maybe you could just refill it with water to get the insurance people off your back and then figure out how to fish farm in it? It seems like a waste to fill it with dirt...
What about filling the pool with gravels around a slotted PVC pipe that goes to the deepest part of the pool, and continuing to use the pool as a rainwater storage area? You can pump the water out of the pipe as if it were a "well" by using a submersible fountain pump. The gravels will greatly reduce evaporation of your stored water. As a bonus, desert plants like well-drained soils and wouldn't compete much for your stored water if you planted them on top.
Most cities do require a permit for removing a pool, I don't know about Glendale. Normally they just want to make sure a hole is punched into the bottom so it doesn't become a bog. But turning a pool into a pond doesn't require any permit in most (I think all) cities because they consider them to be the same thing. They only care about the structure, not use.

About 10 years ago I turned my pool (in a previous home) into a pond. I did more than was needed, I didn't know any better. Like Rachel suggested, just fill it with water and add fish. I would suggest starting with feeder goldfish as they're easy to find and inexpensive. Many feeders die right off for lots of reasons, but in my experience 50% live. 20-50 will take care of all bugs. I think you can get Mosquito Fish from vector control (city government) for free. To me goldfish are more entertaining as they will come to be fed once trained.

When adding city water you do have wait for the water to turn green before adding fish. Green water tells you the chlorine is gone and reasonably safe for fish. There are test kits and chemicals for removing chlorine if you like. Chlorine in city water today is stabilized and will stay around longer than populist thinkers will tell you.

It is that simple to start.

People will tell you many, many things you "must" do. Pumps, filters, test kits, ammonia, pH, on and on and on, forever. The simple basic is the amount of fish for the amount of water. I won't bore you with the details as it is complex, but 20-50 goldfish in a 10,000 gal and larger pool doesn't require any of that other stuff. 50 full grown Koi or 1000 goldfish, yes, requires a lot of know how and equipment. For 20-50 goldfish you don't even have to feed them although it is fun once they're trained.

In a nutshell, for 20-50 goldfish, the pool surface provides all the surface area needed for good bacteria that convert fish waste (ammonia). Nature provides the bacteria for free and delivery is fast. No need to buy bacteria in a bottle.

Also, the surface of the water provides enough space for gas exchange (oxygen into and other gases leaving). Pumps and moving water can increase O2 by increasing surface area (each bubble as surface area) but that is only needed when you have so many fish the current surface doesn't provide enough.

Keep in mind that goldfish are grown in muddy, green mud bottom ponds with no filters or pumps. The finest Koi are grown in these types of ponds. Goldfish live in these pond up until the day they're dumped into a pet store tank. People will tell you they need clean clear water don't know the first thing about goldfish and Koi.

That takes care of of the most common myths you will hear.

However, no maintenance is only true for the first few years. At some point you will have to learn more about ponds and do some cleaning. Evaporation will over time make the water harder and harder so water changes are needed at some point. I'd suggest learning sooner rather than later, but you have some time. There is a fair amount to learn but be aware most of what you will hear is incorrect even from books, videos and experts. Ask why and make sure you can test for yourself. Otherwise it will be very expensive, time consuming.

Goldfish and Koi are long lived but many do die. There are many causes. In a perfect world every death would be tested and remedies taken. Few ponds live in a perfect world. In my experience it is very rare for a ponder to figure out the cause of a death, though guesses and treatments are plentiful. I think treatments do far more harm than help. For most causes there is no realistic cure. Do the best you can but don't expect all to live.

Almost 50% of the orange feeder goldfish (Comets) turn white after a few months. That normal. The others turn red but most people can't tell the difference. A few turn white with a bit of red. Brown feeders normally turn orange and then red or white, but some do stay brown. I like multicolor (shubunkin) too. Some Comets and Shubunkin will have longer fins, they do fine too. No multi-fin, bug eye, flat head fish please as they can barely swim.

You might also talk to another insurance company. Home insurance is a real money maker for them and they are happy for the business. Tell them the issue and maybe they would give you extra time. I like AAA insurance a lot. I've used State Farm, Allstate and Geico in the past few years and AAA was tops for me in price and service (I don't sell it).
Feeder goldfish are great, especially at .12 each. When I put in my pond I went down and bought 100 of the little guys.
We're down to eleven now but they're koi sized and have gotten VERY wise to the ways of Herons and raccoons. It's interesting to watch them scoot under rocks on either side of the pond. There's a look-out on both sides and they apparently communicate to each other that it's safe again to come out...
Denise
Kenny

I know you commented on my pool to pond conversion in May of 2009. Here we are almost a year later and my pond is still fairly problem-free and low maintenance. There are a few things I would do differently, but for the most part, my homework paid off pretty well on this. The fact that swimming pools are relatively large compared to most backyard ponds helps with the low maintenance status. The water volume is so great that it keeps toxins in check so long as you don't overdo your fish population. Non-toxic black water colorant gives a brilliant reflective quality and really keeps algae under control. You still may need to check with your insurance to see if a pond is an acceptable use of the pool.

Let me know if this is still an option you are considering. I am happy to talk to you in more detail. You can visit my page to see a couple of photos.

JoeB
very cool pond/pool! much better than blank water
Denise
Sorry I haven't got back on hear. Because of time constraints we had to make it a pool again. Our plan was a pond, but it wasn't in our time or budget then. Its funny when your insurance co is making you fix it or dump your policy you can seem to find money. Luckly for tax return. I am still upset that I had to make it a pool but my kids are happy. In the future or maybe our next house I really want a natural pool or pond. Thanks for all the ideas.

Kenny

Hi, does anyone have suggestions or resources sites for turning an average pool into a natural swimming pool? i don't think we are inrested in keeping fish unless we had too.

we have a large pool in the backyard, there is a pump, but no filter hooked up. it's been empty of water for a few years. we'd like to filter the water with plants...i hear it's popular in the UK, but have not much success finding resources here.

all help and suggestions are welcomed and appreciated. :)

My best suggestion is for you to attend the home tour (click on events in the bar above, then sustainable home tours) this Saturday.  The Holdeman's are the people who would know how to do what you want done and then some.

The other suggestion is to visit gardenpool.org.  They've turned their pool into a sustainable aquaponic/chicken coop/garden.

 

 

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