How Long Should a Water Garden Pump Run and Why?


A water garden pump can be an essential item to have in helping your water garden stay clean and looking clear. They also play an important role in the health of fish and plants living in the water.

How long should a water garden pump run and why? If you want your water garden to be well-balanced in nutrients and clear of algae, then you should keep the pump running all the time. Turning the pump on and off can increase the chance of mechanical failure.

To help you fully understand why you should keep the pump running 24/7, it will help to know what pumps do and are meant for. Having this knowledge will certainly help you make the most of your pump.

The Different Types of Pumps

There are two main types of pumps you can use for water gardens. These pumps can be submersible or external, each having their specific advantages that depend on their application and usage.

Submersible Pumps

This type of pump, as the name suggests, are designed to be placed or stored in the water, typically at the bottom or the deepest part of the waterbed. You could place them directly in the water by itself or you could put them inside some sort of box or vault.

Their size can vary according to the amount of water they can pump referred to as Gallons Per Hour or GPH, of which they are capable of pumping from anywhere between 50-5000 gallons per hour.

Submersible pumps are easier to install and are more appropriate for small water garden features. They are also much quieter and depending on the model, can drain water as well.

If you do have fish or other aquatic creatures, it would be wise to avoid getting a model that uses oil as this can pose the risk of leakage if a seal or crack ever occurs in the pump.

External Pumps

Eternal pumps are also known as centrifugal pumps. These are placed outside the water in a dry spot, usually a safe distance from the water feature to stay dry. This type is the better choice for larger sized water gardens.

Unlike the submersible pumps, these pumps are not as quiet and are a little more complicated to install. However, they are much more reliable and energy-efficient. Additionally, due to their ease of access being outside the water, they are easier to maintain.

Important to note

When selecting a pump, always remember that different models of pumps may have different cord lengths. You need to make sure that the cord is long enough to go through the water garden feature and can be plugged away from the water.

You want the outlet to be at least 6 feet (1.8 meters) away from the feature for a safe distance. You also want to avoid using an extension cord if possible. If you need to use one, find an extension cord that is suitable for outdoor use and can be plugged into a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) so that if an overload happens, it will shut off immediately.

How to Know What Size Pump to Get

Now that you’ve learned about the types of pump you can get for your water garden, the next step is to know what to get for your feature. As mentioned earlier, pumps are sized by their GPH. The much larger pumps are rated by horsepower (HP), but for a simple water garden for your yard, you can stick to the GPH kind.

Before purchasing a pump, there are some factors to think about. Here is a list to help you with your search.

  • Decide the water flow rate – Ideally, you want the pump to circulate the water at least once per hour. For example, if your pond is about 600 gallons, then you want a pump that can run 600 gallons per hour. If you plan to just have an ornamental feature without any fish or many plants, then you can make do with a pump that can run half of the volume of water.
  • Measure the height of water travel (pump or water height) – This measurement is the vertical distance from the pump to the water’s surface. This is especially the case for fountains. It is recommended you measure the total height the water will travel and ensure the pump is rated to pump the volume of water needed at the height of your water feature.
  • Determine the water volume – To know the water volume of your feature, there is a general formula to follow. You multiply the length, by the width by the average depth, by 7.5. This will equal how many gallons your water garden contains, thus your water volume.

The Advantage of a Full-time Running Pump

Water pumps are designed and meant to last all day. Despite the benefits of running the pump all the time, some people prefer to have scheduled times to turn them on and off. This could be due to electricity cost, but it could also be an option if your feature doesn’t contain any fish or plants.

Choosing a scheduled plan

If you want to follow a scheduled plan, then there is a recommended time to have your pump on. The best time for your pump to run is early in the morning and late in the evening. You want to have it running for a few hours in the morning because it is in the daylight that algae start to form. Having your water cleared and circulated at first light can make it so that by the end of the day, the algae build-up would not be as bad.

You also want to run it for a few hours in the evening because if you have plants, your water’s oxygen levels will lower significantly during the night as plants only produce oxygen in the day. As a bonus, mosquitoes tend to come out during these times of the day, so keeping the water from being stagnant will certainly keep them from laying their eggs in your pond or fountain.

Benefits of the pump

The main purpose of running a pump 24/7 is so that your water stays oxygenated and fresh for your aquatic friends. Of course, it also helps it to look beautiful by being clean and clear. If you want to have a healthy pond or fountain, then you should allow your pump to run constantly.

Having the pump on full-time is certainly not required, but leaving it on does reduce the stress it goes through each time it is turned on. There are some cases where it is fine to follow a schedule, such as if you have a small water fountain feature or a small pond in a container just filled with ornaments and no plants or fish.

Awareness to Keep Your Pump in Good Shape

Knowing how to take care of your pump can definitely make a difference in it lasting a long time. Here are a couple of things you could keep an eye out for.

Weird noises

There should really be only two reasons why your pump might be making some unusual noises. One might be that it is sucking in too much air. If this is the case, then the water level is too low. If you have a pump that requires priming, it will automatically stop if it starts to take it in too much air.

Another reason might be because the pump’s intense vibrations are banging against the box or vault wall. To resolve this, you can place foam or some sort padding around the pump. In order for you to avoid this in the future, you can make the basin a little wider to compensate for the vibrations.

Slowing down or reduced effectiveness

If you notice any consistent negative changes to your water’s quality even with the pump running full-time, then it might be time to check the pump for maintenance or even for replacement. Just like other tools, pumps can wear and tear. One thing to avoid is running the pump dry if you can help it, especially with submersible pumps.

Related Questions

Understanding how pumps work and their benefits to your water garden habitat are important to becoming a good water gardener. Expanding your knowledge towards the mechanical side of water gardening will certainly help you increase your chance of having a successful water garden park. If you seek to find more information, here are a few questions that may help you get started in your search.

“How much would it cost to run a pond pump?” – All pumps require electricity to power them unless you have a solar-powered pump. Each pump should have the number of watts they use on them, so always read the packaging before purchasing the product to know exactly how much power it’ll use.

“How long can pond pumps last if they run 24/7?” – Even though all pumps are designed to last and run full-time, you still should be aware of product quality and its manufacturers. It’d be worth the investment to purchase a quality machine to save you maintenance effort in the future

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