How to Create a Backyard Pond With a Hard Shell Pond Tub

A hard shell pond liner tub fits into a hole in the ground and can be surrounded by rocks and plants to make it appear as a natural water feature in your garden.
Aquatic plants help keep water gardens clean.Aquatic plants help keep water gardens clean.
The hole must conform perfectly to the shape of the pond liner, which usually involves curved edges and a shelf with some deeper points at the center. The most important aspect of installation is ensuring the soil in the hole is packed well so it doesn't wash out, creating spaces for the water weight to crack the liner.

Step 1

Lay the pond liner on the ground, upside down, in the desired location for the garden pond. A pond works best on fairly level ground in an area that receives morning sunshine and afternoon shade. Keep the pond away from trees if you want to reduce your fall pond maintenance and spend less time cleaning out leaves from the pond.

Step 2

Spray the edges around the pond liner with landscaping spray paint about 2 inches out from the liner edges.

Step 3

Dig out a hole within the spray painted area to match the dimensions of the pond liner, making the hole about 2 inches wider and deeper than the pond liner. Use basic hand digging tools, such as a round-point shovel, spade and mattock to dig the hole. Dig out any rocks, roots or similar hard objects that could puncture the liner. Replace the void left from their removal with clean fill dirt.

Step 4

Line the hole with about 2 inches of wet, coarse sand. Pack the sides and bottom of the hole as tightly as possible, using your feet or a hand tamper. Instead of purchasing a hand tamper specifically for this project, try screwing a flat board to the bottom of a longer board. Spray the soil and sand lightly with water to make it easier to pack.

Step 5

Place the shell in the hole and check to ensure the lip is raised about 1 inch above soil grade. Additionally, lay a two-by-four across the pond and set a carpenter's level on the board to check for level. Add or remove soil as needed to make the pond level and ensure the lip sits 1 inch above grade. Place the shell back in the hole after making the adjustments.

Step 6

Fill the pond with water. Backfill the empty spaces between the pond liner and soil as you fill the pond. The extra space you left when digging the hole must be filled in with soil to prevent the liner from cracking. Push soil in around the edges and pack it with the handle of a shovel or a thin board. Only backfill up to the current water level because the pressure from the water inside the liner makes it easier to pack the soil.

Step 7

Add rocks, plants and other decorative elements around the filled pond, as desired. You can place rocks on the pond liner to conceal the 1-inch raised lip, but they should only overhand the pond lip by an inch or two. Do not add rocks inside the pond liner because they can puncture the hard plastic and create places for dirt, leaves and unwanted pond creatures to hide.

Things You Will Need

  • Landscaping spray paint
  • Measuring tape
  • Round-point shovel
  • Spade
  • Mattock
  • Fill dirt
  • Coarse sand
  • Hand tamper
  • Scrap lumber
  • Wood screws
  • Power drill


  • While not necessary, aquatic plants add color to garden ponds and help provide shade that reduces algae growth. Pond plants are usually left in containers that are submerged in the water so you can remove them easily for winter storage. Try Victoria water lily (Victoria amazonica, U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 10 and 11) if you want large lily pads with huge, showy white lily flowers. Keep the lilies contained, since they are invasive in some areas of the country.


  • Check for underground utilities before digging.

About the Author

A former cake decorator and competitive horticulturist, Amelia Allonsy is most at home in the kitchen or with her hands in the dirt. She received her Bachelor's degree from West Virginia University. Her work has been published in the San Francisco Chronicle and on other websites.