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50 Gallon Indoor Pond

Last Updated: 4/29/15

The 50 gallon indoor Rubbermaid stock tank pond on 9/28/08.

Pond Setup

Pond Photos

Winter 2008/2009
Winter 2009/2010
Winter 2010/2011
Winter 2011/2012
Winter 2012/2013
Winter 2014/2015

For more on indoor ponds, see my indoor pond page.

My Pond Showcase page on the 50 gallon indoor Rubbermaid stock tank pond can be seen here.

Pond Setup

On 9/5/08, I bought a 50 gallon Rubbermaid stock tank from Southern States (a farm feed store). I wanted to be able to quarantine a few koi for the winter as well as bring in more tropical marginal pond plants than can fit in the 20 gallon indoor tub pond (see this page for more on that pond). This pond is 51 inches long and 31 inches wide but with curved edges (not rectangular). It is 12 inches deep but (to reduce jumping, splashing, etc. from both the water and fish and my cats) it is only filled about 10 inches deep which gives a water volume of about 40 gallons. Once I put in plants and plant pots, it may go down to 30 or even less water in there.


190 gph pump with PondMaster filter (ordered from here) and bell fountain. On top of it, I set a bag of new ceramic filter media (from my new aquarium), and later, on 9/18/08, I added a mesh bag of bioballs from the 1800 gallon pond filter because the ammonia level was going up.
Air pump with air stone (2008/2009 but not 2009/2010).
Net to keep the fish in and the cats out. I first secured it with electrical tape and lead diving weights but later used binder clips and ordered some clamps. The clamps ended up being useless so the net was held on with binder clips.

Before I bought the PondMaster system, I had pulled out my old Emperor 400 filter from my old 40 gallon aquarium. It fit over the straight end of the stock tank as predicted but the intake tube could not be attached because the tank side is not straight down; it curves in and has a humpy thing. I considered a few things and even rigged up some tubing from the pond bottom to where the filter sucks. But, when I turned it on, all I got was a lot of chugging. I had to order a pond filter instead.

On 9/20/08, I bailed four buckets of water (about 8 gallons) out of the basement pond. I took the filter apart and swished it in the last two buckets of water. The filter was a lot dirtier than I expected. If I change 8 gallons of about 40 to 45 gallons weekly, that is a weekly 20% water change. I would prefer to do more but, since the pond is in the basement, I have to bucket bail it which takes a lot of physical strength and time neither of which I have a lot of.

Pond Photos

50 Gallon Basement Pond on 9/13/08 after I put in the filter (no animals or plants at that point).

These photos are from 9/28/08. In case you are wondering, you can also see the cat fountain, cat litter pan, and the corner of my rabbit, Sweetie's cage in the second photo. In these photos, the pond has three plants in it so far.
50 Gallon Pond.
50 Gallon Pond, another view.

Barney in my empty 50 gallon Rubbermaid stock tank (indoor tub pond) on 8/11/09:
It's a catfish!

I set up the 50 gallon Rubbermaid tub basement pond on 10/20/09. Here are those photos:
Basement tub pond just set up with bluebells. My cats, Tinkie and Barney were anxious to "help."
Basement tub pond - view from the other direction
Basement tub pond shown from a distance in the basement. You can also see Sweetie, my rabbit, and her cage, my 20 gallon long tank (with six spotted roaches and a hermit crab), and the tons of house plants that I brought indoors for the winter.
Basement tub pond and all the house plants. Yes, that is a water fountain for the cats.
Basement tub pond - looking in to it past the jungle.

Winter 2008/2009

On 9/14/08, I added my two new koi, Mac and Kojak. Read about them on my koi page.

On 9/15/08, I put the one gallon pot of dwarf papyrus in the pond.

This year, I have the following tropical marginals to bring in: dwarf papyrus, dwarf umbrella palm, tropical water hibiscus, bluebells, tropical waterlily, and yellow water canna.

On 9/21/08, I brought the one gallon pot of dwarf umbrella palm in to the basement pond.

When I did the water change on 9/27/08, I hauled up 8 buckets of water instead of two which meant I changed out about 15 gallons. The water was getting a little murky, and the ammonia was not going down. To help, I also added a mesh bag of AmmoCarb (carbon and zeolite) which I set on top of the PondMaster filter. I had rinsed those filter pads off in the dirty pond water too.

On 9/28/08, I potted up the tropical water hibiscus in to a one gallon pot and topped it off with big aquarium gravel (out of pea gravel). I stuck it on the left side of the basement pond. There are now three tropical plants down and three to go (although two of those I will probably store out of the pond).

On 10/5/08, I pulled two growths of tropical bluebells out of the pond. They had been planted with the tropical canna and were still rooted there but also had roots along their stems. I kind of waded them up to be able to fit them in a one gallon pot. I used Aquatic Plant "soil" and aquarium gravel to fill the pot. Once I put it in the 50 gallon basement pond, it took up maybe a quarter of the surface area above the pond! It is big with a lot of leaves. The bluebells have flower buds but I was not going to wait for it to bloom in the pond since it has had buds for weeks already. It is not likely to bloom indoors. This bluebell plant is new this year but I had one before so I know what to expect.

The basement pond through September had registerable ammonia despite using bioballs from the main pond, Stress-Zyme, ceramic media, Ammo-Lock, Ammo-Carb, and weekly water changes via bailing. I kept reading 1 ppm or so of ammonia, not good for Mac and Kojak. Finally, on 10/4/08 when I tested the ammonia with a new test kit, it was zero!

On 10/21/08, I brought in the yellow tropical water canna. Since it was still huge and green, I put it in the basement pond instead of cutting it back and storing it in sphagnum moss. I took out the one gallon pot of dwarf papyrus which has been 100% dead for weeks. The canna's pot is two gallons and sat all the way on the bottom. It takes up a lot of room.

By 11/1/08, it seems obvious that the water hibiscus has died. It slowly dropped its leaves and shows no signs of new ones. I never even got to enjoy a single flower.

On 11/16/08, I put in a one gallon pot of what was left of my tropical waterlily. It is just the root base but it might survive until spring.

On 1/3/09, I found Mac dead. She had found a gap in the net and jumped out. On 4/18/09, I released Kojak in to the 1800 gallon pond.

On 5/6/09, I put up the 50 gallon basement pond for the season. The only two plants that survived were the bluebells and the tropical water canna (barely for that one). I bailed the water out and left the empty pond to sit until the next time.

Winter 2009/2010

I took off work on 10/20/09 to bring in all the tropical house plants for the winter. It took 7 hours. I also set up the basement pond and brought in the bluebells. There were something like eight huge pieces of it. One was about four feet long, and I broke it in to three pieces. All of the bluebells were growing bareroot or in other pots as the original plant had jumped the pot and run all over. The bluebells had buds on them. No other tropical pond plants have survived. I put in the PondMaster 190 pump this year but not the air stone. There are no pots in there except for a clay pot on its side for the fish to hide in. I also put in the little bridge/cave for the fish. I put in a little aquarium salt, Stress Zyme, and Stress Coat. I netted the pond and ordered four bitterlings and two small shubunkins to spend the winter in there. These are my first bitterlings.

On 10/24/09, I got the four bitterlings and two shubunkins. They are all around 1.5 inches long or less, very tiny! One bitterling might have a small fuzzy white patch of fungus but they otherwise seemed fine. They loved the basement pond. The bitterlings and shubunkins school together! I really cannot see the bitterlings until I see a goldfish, and then I have a place to look and see them.

I found one of the new shubunkins deceased on top of the net in the basement on 10/26/09! There are small gaps in the net where the fountain comes out and where all the bluebells stick out. I stitched them up more with about a dozen cable ties. Then, I cut a piece of net and put it around the fountain. That made a ton of noise so I figured out laying some pieces of busted brick on the net there would cause it to collapse in to the water and quiet the noise. If more fish still manage to find little crevices through which to end their lives, then I guess I will not be able to keep fish in this pond in future winters.

On 5/5/10, it was time to tear down the 50 gallon Rubbermaid stock tank basement pond. I pulled out the bricks, hiding places, and filter and was able to net the shubunkin goldfish and three of the four bitterlings. One in the glass bowl was a male bitterling since he had red striping which reminded me of a red shiner. I had to pull out all the bluebells before I could get the fourth bitterling, another male so I have two males and two females I think. I put those five fish out in the 1800 gallon pond where they zoomed off at top speed. I then potted up the bluebells in to two two gallon Lerio pots. I used Microbe-Lift potting "soil" which is like cat litter so that I can bring the plants in in the fall in the same containers without worry of clay dirt getting in the indoor pond. The bluebells tend to jump the pot but maybe they will not. I also potted up the tropical waterlily (Blue Beauty that I bought last year) in to a five gallon pot. This included the growing tip which was amazingly alive and doing well growing bareroot in the basement pond as well as the two nut tubers I had stored in damp sand all winter. Both of those also had little leaves on them! So, the overwintering of that waterlily was successful and hopefully they will stay alive now that they are in the pond.

Winter 2010/2011

It took about two hours on 10/21/10 to get the basement ready and set up the 50 gallon Rubbermaid indoor tub pond. I brought in the huge new tropical pink pickerel rush which was in a two gallon pot. It was overgrown. I cut off about two thirds of the leaves (I broke most of those just getting it out of the pond by brute force) and did not repot it. It was very tall and touches the light fixture. The pickerel had one flower bunch still in bloom and one not yet open. I also pulled about half the bluebells out of the pond and bunched them up and put them bareroot in the indoor pond. They were full of seed pods. They kind of flop over and almost immediately the cats start eating the leaves, and the leaves will mostly drop off in the next few months. In a few weeks, when I cut down the hardy marginals, I will also cut out any bluebells left in there. I have too many, and they grow all over. The indoor pond has a small fountain and no animals at this time. This year, I made a cover for the pond from PVC-coated hardware cloth and cut holes for the fountain and plants.

Photos of the pond from 10/21/10 when I set it up:
Pink tropical pickerel rush out of the pond to be brought in.
Basement pond set up with pink pickerel rush and bluebells
Basement pond set up with pink pickerel rush and bluebells - close-up
Basement pond area from a distance once I brought in all the house plants

The tropical pink pickerel rush kept flowering. Here are some flower close-ups from 11/4/10. I took some others earlier but these are the best.
Pink pickerel rush flowers
Pink pickerel rush flowers in my hand

On 11/14/10, I put a one gallon pot in the basement pond containing one main and two tiny growing tips from the tropical waterlily. There were two flower buds on the lily when I pulled it. I cut off most of the leaves which were still large. I also found a single nut tuber which I am overwintering in damp sand. If one way does not work, the other will!

On 3/13/11, I moved two wood frog egg masses in to the basement pond to protect them. I will move the tadpoles out before they morph. The pickerel rush seems all dead but I do have seeds I saved. The bluebells and waterlily are hanging on but not thriving.

These photos are from 3/19/11:
Wood frog tadpoles that hatched out in my 50 gallon Rubbermaid stock tank basement tub pond.
Wood frog tadpoles
Wood frog tadpoles - close-up of the last photo.

On 5/4/11, I dismantled the basement pond for the season. There were a few hundred wood frog tapdoles in there. They all went in to the 153 gallon pond along with some snails and about five mayfly larvae that I found in there. They must have come with the few pieces of anacharis that I brought in with the wood frog eggs a few months back. The anacharis also went to the 153 gallon pond. The pink pickerel weed was 100% dead. I found the seeds I saved. Hundreds of them were all fungused and no good. Amazingly, I found five seedlings in the pond though. I potted those up in a one gallon pot but I doubt they will stay in there with only a dinky root to hold them down. I potted the few surviving pieces of bluebells in to a two gallon pot with aquatic planting media and pea gravel. I left the tropical lily in the one gallon pot as it was since it was so tiny. I may move it later. I put the tropical lily tuber that was in the sand back in to the five gallon pot in the main pond. I did not put in fresh dirt, just stuck it in there.

Winter 2011/2012

On 9/18/11, I took the basement pond outside to squirt it off. It was heavy. I also squirted off the vinyl-coated hardware cloth cover. On 9/21/11, I filled it up, added some salt, Stress-Coat, and Stress-Zyme. I installed the filter and go it going. I put in bricks (for plants later), a clay pot on its side, and a black plastic pipe for the fish to hide in.

On 9/25/11, I added three baby koi to quarantine until spring. Go here to read about Nikita, Alex, and Riley. I checked the ammonia level on 9/27/11, and it was 0.5 ppm so I added Ammo-Lock and did a water change the next day. The ammonia was 4 ppm on 9/30/11! I remembered I could put some bio-materials from the big pond in there so I pulled some Cyprio biothings and put them in a mesh net in the basement pond. I added more Ammo-Lock and did another 10% water change on 10/1/11. All this bailing is hard! I continued with 10-20% water changes every two to three days.

I put the bluebells and some of the parrot feather from the 1800 gallon pond in the basement pond on 10/9/11. The koi enjoy the places to hide. The ammonia is still high but the water is now clear, and the biomaterials should be doing their job by now!

On 11/9/11, I put a one gallon pot of a tropical waterlily in the basement pond to overwinter.

The bluebells have died so I ordered some more.

On 4/4/12, I caught Nikita, Alex, and Riley and released them in to the 1800 gallon pond.

On 5/3/12, I removed the tropical waterlily, potted it up and put it in the 1800 gallon pond, bailed out the basement pond, and put everything up for the season. There was only one tiny piece of parrot feather still alive, and it fell apart when I was moving it. The parrot feather in the 1800 gallon pond never died due to lack of winter this year so it is fine but, if I had to depend on the indoor supply I overwintered, I would have been out of luck. I also put out the rest of the Cyprio biothings that were floating around in the basement pond.

Winter 2012/2013

I set up the basement pond on 10/9/12. I put in some snowball plant from the 1800 gallon pond and one sprig of parrot feather. That is it for now. There would be no fish this year as it is a lot of trouble, and I had no income.

On 10/18/12, I pulled the tropical aquatic variegated orange canna out of the pond. I managed to get it out of the pot and pull it apart. There were about a dozen parts to it! I repotted the best one in aquatic plant soil (looks like brown cat litter) topped with pea gravel and put that in the basement pond. The rest of the tubers I washed and have stored in wet spaghnum moss. I also pulled out huge wads of tropical snowball plant from the big pond and put those in the basement pond and one sprig of parrot feather. A few months ago, there was parrot feather everywhere and now most of it is gone. For the snowball plants, I kept the root systems more than the top leaves which easily snap off and/or drop their leaves. In order to overwinter it, I only need one of these plants to make it. I expect lots of die off.

It is a good thing that there are no fish in there this year as I have a new kitten of four months old who likes to climb on the basement pond's vinyl-coated hardware cloth lid.

Basement tub pond on 10/9/12. All that is in there at that time is some snowball plant.

On 5/10/13, I took the plants out of the basement pond but did not have time to bail it out. The water canna (both in the pond and in the spaghnum moss) was completely dead. I found one small piece of parrot feather and three small pieces of snowball plant. I do not have much hope for any of those.

I finally bailed out the basement pond on 5/11/13; it took an hour.

Winter 2014/2015

As you can see, I did not set this pond up over the 2013/2014 winter. My mother was dying, and it was just too much with which to deal. I set up the 20 gallon basement pond instead that year. I set the 50 gallon pond back up on 10/15/14. I put the two gallon pot of black magic taro (from the pool deck) in there as well as two bareroot bluebells. One was fairly large while the other was tiny. I set up the PondMaster 190 to filter the water. Later, I will add tropical waterlilies perhaps (depending on what's left of them and if they set nut tubers which I store in damp sand). I am not sure if I will add any animals or not.

On 11/9/14, I put in a two gallon pot of a new white tropical waterlily that I pulled out of my main pond.

On 4/29/15, I moved the house plants from the basement to the front porch. I then moved the two surviving plants in the basement pond. The taro in the two gallon pot went on the pool deck as a stand-alone "pond." The bluebells went in to the 1800 gallon pond bareroot. I did not have the time and strength to bail the pond on this day so that will be done sometime in the next few weeks. The waterlily has no sign of life.

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