How to Build a Do-It-Yourself Pond Filter

Do-it-yourself pond filter

Building a DIY pond filter can save money while providing a healthy ecosystem for Koi and other pond fish.

In today’s tough economic times, many pond and water garden enthusiasts are anxious to save money any way they can.  To help accomplish this goal, many pond owners ultimately decide to build their own pond filter rather than purchase a commercially available pond filtration system.  When it comes to building a do-it-yourself (DIY) filter, there are several possible designs to choose from.  Based on their low cost and easy availability, many DIY pond filters are constructed using 55-gallon barrels.

The most common of these DIY filter designs is known as the “Joe’s Pond Filter,” named after Joe’s Koi, the popular website which first published this filter design back in 2005.   These economical up-flow pond filters have been proven to exceptional water quality for Koi ponds up to 2,500 gallons and are simple to maintain.  You have several options when it comes to filter media, including lava rock, PVC strappings, old pot scrubbers, and more.  In order to minimize maintenance workload while ensuring optimal quality possible; however, we highly recommend using Roll Matala Filter Media when constructing one of these DIY filters.   You will not regret it.

The 22” diameter R-Matala rolls perfectly in a 55-gallon barrel.  These rolls are each 6” thick, so four rolls will stack perfectly in one of these barrels.  Because these DIY filters are not pressurized, a lid is not required and they can also be used with today’s energy efficient pumps.  For added biological filtration, you can actually place assorted pond plants in the top of the barrel as well.  This can also help to achieve a natural balance in your pond, while reducing nitrates in your pond.  Based on our extensive experience building and using these filters ourselves, for maximum performance we highly recommend using an Elite 800 Series Pump and Sequence 750 Series Pump with a Joe’s Pond Filter.

Below is a complete listing of items required to build your own Joe’s Pond Filter:

These blue barrels are commonly used at car washes to hold soap, but are subsequently given to various companies who professionally clean these units for resale.  You can often find these barrels advertised locally by these companies and opportunistic private parties on Craigslist or under $20, making them an amazing value.  If you have a local car wash nearby, chances are excellent they will even give their used barrels to you free of charge.  It never hurts to ask, so give it a try.

Once you have acquired a barrel, the hard part is over.  Now it is time to install your bulk head fittings.  For those unfamiliar, a bulkhead fitting allows you to connect PVC pipe to the barrel itself.  Since this will be an up-flow filter, you will be installing two bulkhead fittings.  One bulkhead fitting will be installed approximately 6” above the bottom of barrel, while a second bulkhead should be installed approximately 6” from the top.  This will allow you to effectively utilize the entire body of the filter for maximum biological and mechanical filtration.  You will be truly surprised when you see the water clarity provided by these easy-to-build DIY filters.

It is generally recommended to cycle all pond water though your filter at least once per hour.  The Joe’s Pond Filter can accommodate a maximum flow rate of 2,500 gallons when equipped with 2” bulkheads.  If you require a higher flow rate, you can simply update the design to use 3” bulkhead fittings instead.  This will allow you to accommodate a flow rate of approximately 5,000 gallons per hour.  You can also easily daisy-chain multiple Joe’s Pond Filters together to accommodate larger ponds.

Cal Ponds offers guaranteed lowest prices and fast shipping shipping on bulkhead fittings, Matala Filter Media and other components required to build your own Joe’s Pond Filter.  If you require assistance building your own Joe’s Pond Filter, please contact the Koi pond filtration specialists today at

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