Installing a Pondless Fountain for the Birds

Tammy Brown

Pondless Fountain

Burbling water in a rocky stream, light bouncing off  drops and splashes–we are all attracted to flowing water.  In addition to the pleasure of sight and sound, fresh water attracts birds and wildlife.  Fountains and bird baths provide a water source any where you want to have one but most require frequent cleaning and filling.  Pondless fountains are a lower maintenance option.

What is a pondless fountain?   The reservoir for water lies below a stone covered grate.  This keeps the water clean, reduces issues with algae. and reduces evaporation.  I saw a beautiful pondless fountain built by Bastrop birder and photographer, Brian Burgoyne,  in his backyard, and began longing to have one of my own.

Installing the Fountain

The first step was a visit to Hill Country Water Gardens,  in Cedar Park, Texas, near Austin.  The friendly staff know the in’s and out’s of fountain building.  They led us to a pile of limestone rocks sorted by size.  Patiently stacking and rearranging the rocks, they worked with us until we found our three favorites  .The idea is to create the illusion of water flowing from one rock to another, even though in reality each rock has its own water source.

Pondless Fountain
Hollowed Limestone Rocks

The rocks were  hauled to a work station where they drilled a hole in the center bottom of each rock for a hose to fit through.  They gathered the rest of the materials and explained each step of the fountain assembly.  Installation and delivery are available, but we decided we could do it on our own.  Caveat:  It takes a very strong person to lift these rocks.


We purchased the three limestone rocks, a 4′ x 4′ rigid pond liner with a grate, concrete blocks to support the grate, a pump, hose and fittings, and river rock.

Choose a Location

Back home the next step was easy–choose a location for maximum visibility from the house and the future screened portch. The screened porch took some imagination.

Right Here!


Dig the Hole

Pondless Fountain
Digging the Hole


Wash the River Rock

The river rocks have to be rinsed to prevent silt from ending up in the fountain. A giant colander would have worked well, but we settled for washing the rocks on the driveway then transporting by wheel barrel.

The Tricky Parts

The next steps are best understood by watching this video created by Hill Country Water Gardens and  Central Texas Gardener.  I have to admit that I was so involved in the process of installing the poodles fountain, I forgot to take photos.  Basically, the liner is placed in the hole and leveled.  The cement blocks are put in place to support the grate.  The pump  is placed in the bottom of the pond.  The hoses are inserted into the large rocks.  After the rocks are placed, the hoses go through the grate and attach to a fitting that is attached to the pump.  (Thanks to Brian Burgoyne for help with the pump and heavy lifting.)  The pump cord cord comes up though the grate.  River rock covers the grate.  That’s it!  Then you can have fun adding the finishing touches like special rocks and landscaping.

Pondless Fountain


The Fun Part– Get Creative!

Installing a Pondless Fountain
Special Rocks are Added From My Collection
Green Opal on the Right and Zebra Rocks in Front
Covering the Edge with Larger Rocks Including Some Given to Me by A Geologist Friend


Installing a poodles fountain
Added Large Rocks and Grasses

Wildlife Enjoying the Fountain

Pondless Fountain
Migrating Yellow Warblers
Pondless Fountain
A Gulf Coast Toad, Bastrop TX
Pine Warbler, Bastrop, TX


One Thing Leads to Another

The new fountain is the center of an ambitious landscaping project.  The sandy soil, encroaching bermuda grass, and prolific grass burs are a challenge but one step  at a time I plan to create an oasis for birds and butterflies.  Once we finally get that screened porch built ,the fountain and butterfly garden will be ready to enjoy.

An Update

Updated Fountain Spring 2020

This spring we added more rocks, a shallow area for bathing, and a bed of native plants. A Ruby-throated Hummingbird regularly enjoys the nectar.

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