Natural Pools Or Swimming Ponds

Vassilis / Flickr (Creative Commons)
Vassilis / Flickr (Creative Commons)

Let nature clean the water…
natural pool
Chemical-free water garden and swimming pool. The plant portion, or regeneration zone, is separated from the swimming area by the wall seen a few inches below the water’s surface.

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The pools have skimmers and pumps that circulate the water through the regeneration zone and back into the swimming area. The aquatic plants filter out contaminants and use nutrients from the water as food, which helps prevent algae. Then rocks, such as granite river rock or haydite, to which friendly bacteria attach, act as biological filters. More questions answered here: &

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There are many design options. Beneficial bacteria (micro-organisms and microbes) colonize the rock and help cleanse the water. (

This video from natural pool expert David Pagan Butler is an introduction to what he calls “wild swimming at home.” His pool or pond costs a fraction of traditional construction. It requires no special contractor to do any of the work. And no chemicals are needed to keep it clean. In the video he shows his homemade innovations: insulating the swimming zone to keep it warm, building a noiseless pool filter from scratch, and the solar-powered circulation system. The wall of the pool is made of sandbags and wood. Beyond is the “planting zone,” which is an equal area to the “swimming zone.” Animals and plants in this zone act as natural filtration to keep the water clean.

natural pools
A gradual slope contains the plants, gravel and loamy sand, a wall keeps them separate from the swimming area.

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Vacuum but twice a year and tend to the plants as needed. The plants will need to be cut back in the fall so they do not die in the pool. (

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The regeneration zone can be along the perimeter of a natural pool or a pond unto itself, as long as it’s connected to the swimming area. (

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For a true natural pool with no help from ultraviolet light or other such technology, the requirement is half-swimming area, half-regeneration area. (

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Plants steal the nutrients away from invasive algae. (

This time-lapse video shows the construction of a natural pool on Nantucket Island, off of Cape Cod. Once the barriers of the pool are staked out, a machine digs out all the dirt. Then the liner is laid around a temporary wood frame. A barrier is built to separate the swimming area from the natural plants area, and forms laid out for the pouring of concrete. The sides and bottom of the pool are concrete. Once the concrete is poured, the forms are removed. The filtration and water pumps are arranged. The earth is filled in around the pool, and stones are placed along the exterior for a more natural look. A lining is applied to the bottom and sides of the pool. Then, it is slowly filled with water. At the end of the video the final product is shown with the landscaping. Beautiful.

21 Amazing Natural Pools

There are so many different ways to incorporate a natural pool into your yard, whether it is a clean cut modern style, or an aesthetic natural design.

1) Hidden Oasis

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Half regeneration area, half swimming pool (

2) Woodhouse Demonstration Pool

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Natural predators such as water striders and dragonflies will come to live in the enrichment area and feast on mosquitoes. If you chose to have a skimmer installed this will keep mosquitoes in check as well. Woodhouse demo pool from

3) Oxfordshire Natural Pool

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Use your pool as an ice rink in winter, as there is no need for a cover. (

4) Clear Water Revival Pool

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A first year pool will need at least 60 days to self-adjust, but installing an ultraviolet sterilizer in the pump area will have you swimming almost immediately. (

Andy Marsh of Georgia shows off the natural pool he built. He says he did all his research online. His pool is lined with gravel, the water circulates through the gravel, and microbes in the gravel help filter it. It looks really clean! He shows the divide between his swimming area and planting area. As he’s in Georgia, with a warm climate, his planting area is the same size as his swimming area (in colder places you might get away with a smaller planting area). Under everything is a rubber membrane. Most of the stone lining the pond is a gray granite he was able to get 10 tons of for $300! He used 18 tons of gravel for the pool.

5) French Natural Pool

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Note the plant pond to the right in the natural pool in France. (

6) Les Vans Pool

A great example of how a natural pool can be a fun addition to family gatherings.

7) Natural Swimming Pool Ecological

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The pools are most popular in Austria, where a company called Biotop has been designing them for residential and public use since 1986. (

8) Two-Tiered Pool

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The two-tiered waterfall helps oxygenate the pool. (

9) Cottage At Home Pool

Though this project was difficult for the builders, the end result is truly breathtaking! Combining the aesthetic of a pond with the functionality of a natural swimming pool.

10) Hybrid Natural Pool

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A hybrid natural pool usually has two circulation pumps. One where water is circulated through the plant and rock filters before being discharged back to the bottom of the pond. The second surface circulation system pulls water through one or two skimmers filtering out floating debris. Water drawn through the skimmers passes through a filter system, such as a UV filter and/or a biofilter—essentially a box filled with bacteria-laden bio-media—before returning to the pool. A waterfall helps with oxygenation. (

This natural swimming pond was built in Central Illinois, along with 400 meters of hugelkultur beds—in just 10 days! The walls of the pool are giant cinder blocks, with tamped sandbags adding extra height. Gravel was poured along the sides of the pool for future landscaping. The designer, Zach Weiss, explains that adding oxygen is very important for natural pools, so he built in a waterfall, fed by a water circulation device. The stones blocking the water also help release oxygen. The material Zach excavated to form the pool, he used in the hugelkultur bed. No waste! The property is going to be a bed and breakfast.

11) A Sustainable Homestead Natural Pool

This homestead pulled out all the stops, including a natural pool to their sustainable property.

12) A Gesamtkunstwerk Natural Pool

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Love the deck amongst the water plants. An original Biotop pool (

13) A Large Natural Pool

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Access through an enrichment area. (

14) Natural Pool For Demonstration

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Love the diving boards. (

15) English Natural Pool

So Quintessentially English! #englishcountrygarden #englishgarden #quintessentiallybritish #quintessential #gardenlife #ecopool #outdoorliving #pool #naturalpool #natureporn #homestyle #homestyle #house #myfriendshouse #england #trees #greentrees

A post shared by Joanne Paddon Design (@joannepaddondesign) on

In this English backyard, the modern design of the natural pool steals the show.

16) A Long Natural Pool

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Natural pool in the UK. (

17) Pierce Lanucha Swimming Pool

These designers used a large regeneration zone to create a beautiful waterscape.

18) Castle Rock Natural Pool

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Convert a pond into a swimming pond. Mother Earth News says there are a few options for liners—bentonite clay to seal the soil or a synthetic liner. If you choose synthetic, they recommend ethylene propylene diene monomer rather than PVC. (

19) Growing Plants For Regeneration Zone

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Close up of a pond built by Biofermenta.

20) Building Up The Natural Wall

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Western Massachusetts Water House Pools (waterhousepools)

21) Construction Of A Natural Pool

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New free-form construction. (

How To Convert A Traditional Pool To A Natural Pool

See pics of a conversion process here:

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Conversion with added beach.

Here is a conversion in Australia from a 1980s style brick-pool to a natural pond. The conversion was done by the homeowner, but with help from the company that produced the video. He explains that the “power-hungry” pumps of traditional pools are replaced by low-power pond pumps. They used the existing skimmer box to run lines for circulation and to add oxygen. Even in the offseason the water quality stays good. They don’t have to pump chemicals in to keep it clean in winter. The pond has biofilters that are incredibly clean even after 18 months of use. The equipment is small and practically noiseless. Low-maintenance and self-sufficiency = inexpensive and simple life.

Plants For Your Natural Pool

Every pool needs to be cleaned. A natural pool is cleaned with plants instead of chemicals—have you ever thought about how many pounds of chemicals go into a typical swimming pool?

A range of aquatic plants are used—submerged (oxygenators), floating, shallow marginals, deep marginals, bog/marsh and waterside species. Whenever possible, use indigenous plants. Some examples of typical water plants: cattails, bulrushes, sedges, duckweed and water lilies.

How To Build A Natural Swimming Pool

  • Mother Earth News: The author goes into depth about the specifics of building a natural pool.
  • Schwimmteich-Selbstbau: this article has many links embedded within, giving you even more resources then the article itself. The site is in German, but there is an option to translate the information.
  • Woodhouse Natural Pools: If you don’t know where to start, this site has a lot of pictures for inspiration.

The Best Natural Swimming Pool Books

Natural Pool Builders

If you don’t have the time to make your own natural pond, you can hire one of these companies to help!

Natural Pool Builders in Europe

  • Biotop has been in business since 1984 with more than 3,500 satisfied customers. Their partner network covers 17 countries. (Austria)
  • BioNova is a global network of partners on 6 continents who work synergistically to push the state-of-the-art of natural swimming pool design, construction, aesthetics and maintenance. (Germany)
  • Bioteich Baignades Naturelles (France)
  • GartenArt has naturalistic options, making swimming ponds for your enjoyment. (United Kingdom)
  • Woodhouse Natural Pools with BIOTOP have been developing and building naturally filtered swimming pools in the UK since 2000. (United Kingdom)
  • Clear Water Revival are builders who also sell kits to the more daring. (United Kingdom)

Natural Pool Builders In The US

  • Total Habitat works with all kinds of clientele, including contractors, individuals, and zoos. (Kansas)
  • Expanding Horizons not only constructs pools, but can remodel your pool as well. (California)
  • Water House Pools will help you design your natural pool, even managing the construction. (Massachusetts)
  • Rin Robyn Pools can build a relaxing natural pool, building for both individuals and spas. (New Jersey & MA)
  • Kane Brothers, make beautiful swimming ponds, they can also be hired for maintenance. (Illinois)

Natural Pool Builders In Canada

Natural Pool Builders In Oceania

Natural Pool Builders In Africa

  • EcoPools have many great designs, ranging from modern to urban styles. (South Africa)

Written by Keiren

Keiren is an artist who lives in New York City. A lover of animals, nature, science & green building. Keiren originally founded Inspiration Green in 2007, which merged with Insteading in 2016.


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  1. These look so much better than a regular pool. Why would anyone want a sterile, caustic, artificial blue pool when you could have one of these lush, green natural swimming holes.

  2. I love having fish in my pond but I don’t know if I want to swim with them. I have frogs and salamanders too. The pictures are amazing. So beautiful. Can I get my head around swimming with critters.

  3. These are truly amazing as a landscape architect I would love to incorporate these into my work! I knew that aquariums around the world use technology like this on a much larger scale, but i never thought about it for freshwater private owners!

  4. this is awesome i have never seen anything like it but it has been my dream to do something like this for years. where i was raised and now live 30 miles from but both always surrounded but water, I’ve learned water is water and you are used to swimming in beaches and rivers and pools (natural) springs, creeks, craters that filled when it rained excessively. so why not make your own and be creative about it and make its multifunctional. bravo, these are beautiful!

  5. How well would a natural pool, such as the ones shown, do with a Utah winter? Also, would it be possible to incorporate fish (such as Koi) into a design or would they pose a health risk ? And, I thank you all for bringing such a wonderful idea to my attention !!! Sincerely, Anita


  6. Hi Anita,

    Thanks for writing. Natural swimming pools are already very popular throughout Europe, including northern Germany and in the Swiss Alps. A public pool opened near Stockholm, Sweden in 2010. I would guess the only place they might not work is in extreme latitudes where a short growing season would prevent proper filtration, that sounds really far north though.

    As to fish, bacteria counts in a natural pool will be much lower than in a natural lake, so I do not see why not. You would need to feed them though, as much of their natural food is being filtered away. I personally would wait until after the food is consumed before going in! I would also consider not doing any real swimming or splashing in the pool as I am sure this would scare or possibly harm the fish, unless the pool is large enough and they have time to go and hide. Best, K

  7. @Anita Jean! Let your natural pool/pond freeze over in the winter, but make sure if you build it’s large enough so that you can ICE SKATE on it :). In our system, you just literally turn off the pump and that’s it.

  8. Oh, and no fish – they’ have too much impact on water quality! 🙂 Have a separate pond next to your swim pond for your fish.

  9. Mosquitoes are eaten by their natural enemies, such as water striders, damselflies, larvae, etc.? Mosquitoes breed in still and stagnant water, as opposed to the living and flowing water which is present in a natural pool.

  10. Rare to find a plant that likes 90 degree water in the summer and freezing temps in the winter. Depends on your climate. If in a cold clime, you would have to overwinter all the plants indoors!

  11. @fernando. The natural pool is designed in such a way that it warms itself. The shallow regeneration and plant filter areas warm quickly in the sun and the free flow of water into the swimming area can raise the natural temperature of the whole pond to 28

  12. @Keiren, you don’t have to over-winter! We are in Central Eastern Europe where we have hot summers and cold winters, the plants are just thinned out in the fall and bounce back to life in the spring 🙂

  13. We are a Social Foundation in Valle de Bravo, Mexico, I wish you could tell me if you can help us to make an ecological pool in our place,or if there is a distribuitor here in Mexico. Please send me the address. Our website

  14. We have a koi pond that is now 6 years old and mature enought to have a successful biosystem with a bog that works much like the plant/filter area. I can definately see how this would work and I want one! I am hoping I can talk hubby into it. Frogs and snakes may show up but hey don’t like the splashing a person makes in the water and they clear out. It’s all part of the fun in knowing it is healthy and clean! Thank you for the inspiration! I’m in Indiana – any help near us?

  15. Ojalá y pudieran poner traducción a esta página, a mi me pareció muy buena, lastima que no puedo leerla….solo verla…

  16. Wow!

    I want one!!!!!!!

    All I need now is a garden big enough to install one in.

    And the money to pay for it to be done.

  17. Thanks at lot for your site. Would send me more information about natural recovers or sintetyc recovers but adecuate for my spool?

    Thanks again

  18. Hi:

    I just wanted to comment on a few things:

    (1) Water is a chemical, so saying it’s free of ‘chemicals’ is kind of silly.

    (2) Sunlight is comprised of UV rays, so saying that you would get a ‘true natural pool with no help from ultraviolet light’ is silly, unless you plan to erect a natural shield of jungle plants over your pond that completely blocks out all sunlight, of course.

    (3) Putting the word ‘natural’ in front of everything is a bit like trying to paint bat guano gold and passing it off as the next christmas-tree ornament craze. A bit silly no?

    (4) It sounds like there is a lot of maintenance to be done with these Natural Swimming Pools, or NSPs (because everything needs an acronym to sound more official). Is there any way I can just let some water fester in my backyard and do without the expensive gizmos that filter the water to make it safe and healthy like most modern non-NSP pools do? You see, I’m going all natural: duck feces, insects, and all. I’m just wondering how I could write a book and make a few bucks trying to sell this to anyone who has money to burn. Any ideas?

    • Water is not classified as a “chemical” it is classified as a “molecular compound.” The term “chemical” in general usage is generally intended to mean something manufactured vs. something occurring in nature. Yes I realize that’s not technically true – but it is from the ‘Chicago Manual of Style’

  19. @marian 1) Pointing out the fact that water is a chemical is just being a smartass. I’m thinking the company was hoping people weren’t that ignorant to take things so literally.

    2) Again, over-analyzing a comment which was referring to UV light that h

  20. These pools are great! Does anyone know any buider in Spain? We are a group and we want to create an ecologic village, it would be nice if we could have something like that.

  21. I live in Tampa Florida and have a 10,000 gallon pool in the backyard. It has been raining pretty much every evening for the past month, so I stopped putting chemicals in it. We now have tadpoles in the pool. My wife jokingly said that she always wanted a pond in the backyard. I started researching pools being converted into ponds and stumbled upon this website. I would love as much information as possible. Thanks

  22. Thanks Inspiration Green,

    Hope the other topics are as interesting.

    Marian (reply#44 below), your post looks somewhat cynical but I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume your query is serious.

    Ducks are not recommended they carry human gastro. pathogens especially if there are sources such as sewage ponds nearby(30km). I have exeperience of mountain lakes 3 days walk from the roadend that are unfit for drinking from because of this.

    If you let the water fester it is likely to do nasty things to your skin as well as stink, but it should be possible to achieve swimming quality water without electric pumps by using gravity (slop over a bund) to force filtering and convection (by heating and cooling) to force circulation. Having said that a 12 volt bilge pump is dirt cheap and moves surprisingly large amounts of water.

  23. it should be possible to achieve swimming quality water without electric pumps by using gravity (slop over a bund) to force filtering and convection (by heating and cooling) to force circulation.’ – Graeme

    Where can I find this? I am most interested in passive design, which doesn’t rely on electrical intervention to work. Are there other potential methods to accomplish this too?

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