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Pond Veggie, Bog, & Plant Bio Filters (AKA Wetlands filter)
POND VEGGIE (AKA AS PLANT/BOG & WETLAND FILTERS); The FIVE basic types of Veggie Filters and how to install them.
By Carl Strohmeyer-PAMR 40+ years experience
- Suggested Bog Plants
- Additional Tips
- Veggie/Bog Filter Methods of Construction
Bog Plant or “Veggie Filters” are very popular with many pond keepers. I have been using this method for pond filtration for a few decades, long before the term veggie filter became popular or a fad.
I should also point out that many Veggie/Bog filters are not set-up/constructed for optimal filtration & efficiency!
Veggie (plant) filters are excellent for removal of many nutrients that cause green or cloudy water, including nitrates, phosphates, etc., this allows a Veggie Filter to be a compliment to a good UV Sterilizer/Clarifier such as the Premium AAP/TMC Advantage High Dwell Time UVs.
In fact when used together, not only is algae control better (including non suspended algae), but over-all pond and fish health is markedly improved as per my years of experience. This is why over time I would no longer accept maintenance contracts for ponds that did not have both a Bog/Veggie Filter AND a quality level one capable UV Sterilizer
A well constructed Pond Veggie/Bog filter can also help control hair/string algae as well by robbing many of the nutrients from this algae. In fact I have witnessed many times over the years that even with good filtration and a good true UV sterilizer, it was only after the addition of a healthy Veggie/Bog filter did string algae issues improve considerably.
TMC Premium Pond Advantage UV Sterilizers
There are two basic methods the in-pond and separate; with the more popular method nowadays is a separate pond filter.
While the separate method may be more popular due to the faddish nature of so many article and blogs on this subject of late, this is NOT my preferred method.
However both work very well when properly constructed, although any are not based on incomplete information for set up from what I hear and read whereby certain key aspects are ignored (I will discuss each later with the in-pond broken down into sub methods).
Any plant with a good root structure that grows fast and has the majority of their leaves above water (basically a bog plant) is a good candidate to start with. I recommend water iris for their strong root structure, fast growth, great nutrient absorption, and a great place for baby fish (fry) to hide feed and grow (when used in one of the in-pond methods).
I prefer my Bog-plant filters within the pond as these look more attractive in my opinion and give the fish fry a place to hide, except in the case of the waterfall or cascade plant filter.
The area of the veggie filter should be relatively shallow as well to force water movement over and through the roots.
There are many other excellent plants as well such as Sweet Flag, Parrots feather, Bluebells, Umbrella palm, Papyrus, & bull rush. Make sure these types of plants (plants with roots in water and leaves above) are planted in an area of good, but not strong water movement. This ensures that they will do their job as plant filters.
Here is a video showing how the proper construction of an "in-pond" Bog/Veggie Filter coupled with a TRUE UV Sterilizer can make a big difference in just a couple of days. In this pond, the AAP/TMC Pond Advantage, do not use an economy UV commonly sold via Home Depot, Lowes, and especially Amazon or eBay, you will NOT get the same results!!
Pond Tips- Veggie Bog Plant Filter; YouTube
Please note that having a few Water Iris, Umbrella Palms, etc in a pond does NOT constitute a Veggie (Plant) Filter. For these plants to work as a filter you must have a small current of water around the roots or tubers, as well the use of substrate such as Volcanic Rock further increases filtration by allowing for the propagation of nitrifying and de-nitrifying bacteria as well as some mechanical filtration as well (trapping of debris). The mechanical aspect can be further increased by the addition of coarse polyester filter pads in the water column entering the Veggie Filter.
Often person will consider many floating Lilies a Veggie Filter, however they do not constitute a Veggie Filter, as although they certainly help block sunlight and remove some nutrients form the water column (which in turn can help control green algae), Lilies or other floating plants due not have the substrate roots, effectively remove nutrients and work with the substrate around them the way a true Veggie Filter can that uses Bog Plants.
A FEW SUGGESTED VEGGIE FILTER/BOG PLANTS (& Online Sources to purchase them)
This website here in Oregon ships beautiful Water Iris that can be used in your Water Garden, Pond; in particular your Veggie/Plant Filter.
The Water Iris is my personal Favorite, and grows in most climates from mild winters to more harsh winters (check individual specimen). Several varieties of Iris thrive in water gardens. I enjoy their graceful upright leaves and elegant blossoms. Iris flowers are several inches across and appear in early to late spring (depending upon climate) and dead blossoms should be clipped so as keep plants looking good and healthy.
The plants will spread and form large tubers if given enough room. The yellow water Iris requires full sun, but the other varieties will bloom if they receive a minimum of three hours of direct sunlight, although they may become spindly.
This is tropical bog plant, but can be grown in some cooler climates (such as high deserts of California if a freeze is not too hard).
Stems are 3-4 feet tall with the classic “umbrella (similar to the Dwarf Papyrus except the foliage is broader and the stems are taller). Best grown in full sun, partial shade, or filtered light. Plant Umbrella Palms in wet soil or in water up to 6 inches deep. For cooler climates it can be over-wintered as a houseplant if kept wet and given enough light.
The Umbrella Palm can take over a pond if not contained, so either use pots or keeping them strictly in sectioned off Veggie Filter.
Another popular bog plant for pond veggie/plant filters.
Arrow head pond plants grow 2-3 feet tall in full sun and have large leaves and small white cupped flowers. These are best planted in 2" inches of gravel/fine volcanic rock in your Veggie Filter, with no more than 6" inches of water over the base of the plant or in pots with good top soil covered with gravel. Best in full sun or in partial shade.
Cattails are a popular plant for large lake ponds as well as a pond Bog Filter Plant. Cattails are generally easy to obtain (often growing wild in many areas) and will fill in a bog filter within a month or two (with even faster growth than a water iris).
Cattails prefer shallow, flooded conditions of 1.5 feet or less in depth and easily get established along the edge of the pond. When unimpeded however, the cattail beds will expand and can extend their rhizomes (a stem of a plant that is usually found underground or in a bog) well out into pond surface, actually floating above much deeper waters. Cattails have a tendency to grow in thick, nearly impenetrable stands, blocking the view of open water with the potential to take over and cover a pond.
These are also useful in a Veggie/Bog Plant Filter!
*Blue Bells Bog Pond Plant
*Water Papyrus (Cyperus papyrus)
A FEW TIPS
I recommend starting your veggie filter plants in pots (I prefer ceramic or even the bio degradable type) as these will contain the plant roots in the beginning, yet allow growth of the roots out of the pots. I highly recommend using Volcanic Rock in the area around the pots to fill in the gaps and allow for additional filtration.
The advantage of volcanic rock is that its porous structure allows formation of aerobic bacteria for nitrification and anaerobic bacteria for de-nitrification. This further enhances your veggie filters ability to keep a clear pond by removing the nutrients necessary for green water/algae.
The volcanic rock is also an excellent growth substrate for the plant roots as your veggie filter grows.
Where to find: Volcanic Rock for ponds and Aquariums
The picture to the left demonstrates a potted bog plant (Bluebell) where the use of volcanic rock is employed in the pot. The owner of this pond brings his Bluebell pot in for the winter since it is not tolerant of freezing temperatures.
If water movement is poor in the area of your Veggie Filter (plant roots), I would recommend a submersible pump placed near the veggie filter with its outflow aimed at the veggie filter. Make sure this current is not too strong, so angling the outflow if the current is causing too much disturbance of the roots, volcanic rock, etc.
Another way to circulate water in the area of an in pond Veggie Filter is to add a fountain to your submersible pump so as to have a more gentle spray in the area of the plant/veggie filter.
With many "In Pond" Veggie/Bog Filter, a good design that allows for an embedded water pump to pull water into the rock around the Veggie filter can also act a "Skimmer", thus replacing the need for a skimmer, which I personally do not recommend anyway based on issues of "skimming" Hyacinth and other desirable surface plants.
Leaves, pine needles, etc. are often pulled to the outer surface of a well constructed "in Pond" Veggie Filter where it is then easily scooped out.
More bluntly, the use of pond skimmers which are really nothing more than a pool device with the word "pond" slapped on it, is a device that any long term pond professional knows is nothing more than a piece of equipment that is meant to separate you from your money by retailers with little practical knowledge (or worse). A well designed Veggie Filter will cost less and in the vast majority of ponds.
In fact it may also save on pumps, as the strain on the intake side of submersible pumps can often cause premature failure.
The FACTS are submersible pumps were NOT designed to run skimmers, especially in a pond environment (as compared to a sterile swimming pool). As well the FACTS are Skimmers are designed for sterile pool use and to be run by direct drive pool pumps, not the commonly used submersible pond pumps!! It is noteworthy that even swimming pools with high bio loads of debris sucked into skimmer will eat even the best of direct drive heavy duty pumps (I have witnessed this just with my parents swimming pool that is under a forest of pine trees).
The bottom line, do not fall for the misinformed/uneducated or dishonest seller of skimmers for a pond and purchase such a device.
Sadly in recent years, marketing and social media has taken over the hobby/industry, with mentoring taking a back seat. So if someone gives you the sales pitch that a pond skimmer is "revolutionary", they clearly have no knowledge of history and how these were long ago professionally dismissed. So run for the closest exit!!
I generally use a pump with a flow around 500 -1000 gph around veggie filters in a pond of approximately 300- 1200 gallons (this may be increased or decreased depending on the pond size). The Rio HF Pump is an excellent pump for use here with a flow of 1200 gph & higher (depending upon the model).
Other suggestions include the Rio HF Line of Pumps, JAP Amphibious, and AAP/SunSun JTP-12000 High Output/Efficiency Pond Pump for larger water flows or multiple applications.
The AAP/JAP 18000 submersible pump pictured here is an excellent choice for high flow applications! This is a typical value submersible amphibious water pump
Be patient with a veggie filter as unlike many other forms of pond filtration, a veggie filter takes a while to become effective (often a FULL growing season!). This is why it is a good idea to have additional filtration as well such as a Pressurized Pond Filter and a UV Sterilizer.
SOME MISTAKES TO AVOID:
- Failure to utilize volcanic rock or similar bio material; This a major key to success, especially early success as this bio rock becomes both an aerobic and anaerobic filter medium, usually within 6 weeks, which is far faster than the plant roots/tubers generally start removing nutrients effectively.
As well this rock becomes an effective mechanic filter too, trapping debris and allowing better and more reliable function of a pump that is being used to pull water through the Bog/Veggie filter or True UV Sterilizer that is connected after the pump
- Failure to have some flow through the Veggie/Bog Filter; While a stagnant Veggie filter does work, it is not nearly as efficient as one that has a water flow through the rock and plant roots/tubers.
This is Unfortunately a common mistake to not have water flow, let me give this analogy; In an aquarium, say you had a sponge filter and decided to just sit this in the tank without connecting to a water or air pump for flow, will this work well or even at all? The answer is water movement near the sponge filter will allow some bio filtration, but very little resulting in less than optimum results from you bio veggie/bog filter.
Simply put, a water pump directing flow through the Veggie/Bog filter is a must for an efficient/effective filter.
- Failure to utilize a true UV Sterilizer; As noted earlier in this article, the use of a true UV Sterilizer, not a UV Clarifier which are more commonly sold, works "hand in hand" with a pond Bog/Veggie filter
Besides running this device off from a separate filter, a simple and very effective method is to run a PVC pipe with slits or holes cut into its length, then attached to the inlet of the submersible water pump placed in the far side of the Veggie/Bog filter buried in the Volcanic Rock from where the water first enters.
This works as both an excellent mechanical filter removing debris and water and improving water turbidity prior to entering the UV Sterilizer, which is key to effective use of level one capable UV Sterilizers.
UV Sterilization; Water Turbidity
The picture/diagram to the left displays this optimal method ("Built-In") that is often missed in other articles/videos/instructions to set up a Veggie filter to include this mechanical and aerobic/anaerobic filtration along with a true level one capable pond UV Sterilizer.
VEGGIE FILTER METHODS & CONSTRUCTION:
Before the common methods are discussed, let me point out some basics in construction that is common to all.
First is sizing, generally I have found a Veggie filter that consists of not only the plants/roots, but also has 6-12 inches of volcanic rock in the root/substrate area will work vastly better than several potted or otherwise randomly placed bog plants (due to added filtration by bacteria and the trapping of debris for plants to also more easily utilize).
Assuming this combination of plant roots and tubers I have found that a mature Veggie (plant/bog) Filter of about 10% in surface volume as compared to the surface volume of the pond works well.
I have found that surface area works fine as compared to other calculation methods (which work too), as it is often the surface area that determines gas exchange & sunlight exposure. I will admit that this method of calculation does not take into consideration fish numbers, but considering average depths of 2-4 feet and healthy stocking numbers this has rarely failed me in calculations.
Some sub-methods of these basic designs include pulling water through the Veggie Filter bottom or pushing it upwards using slotted PVC. This idea certainly has the advantage of increasing flow to the roots and aerobic bacteria for ammonia/nitrite removal, however the downside can sometimes adversely affect some plant roots/tubers and often does not allow for de-nitrifying anaerobic to propagate for important nitrate removal (which is important for green water control). For this reason I do not promote this method of construction.
For me a better advanced addition to these methods (listed below) is to add an egg crate (or similar) before water enters the Veggie filter to support a pre-filter of coarse filter media and sometimes micron filter media as well. For corner Veggie Filters (or others) the use of a spray bar where the pump irrigates the water over this pre-filter works well too.
Place your plants in a shallow corner of the pond with ½” -2” rock under the plants to allow the roots to better establish themselves, do not use sand or soil. The water depth is best if the roots are barely covered by water. Add a slow to moderate (200- 600 gph) separate water supply (a diversion from your main water pump or a separate pump) to these plants make sure the water passes through the plant roots, not just over them.
An air pump such as a Fusion 700 or Million Air 600 can also be used and placed in the middle to draw water in via the rising air column.
Similar to above, place your plants in a shallow corner or between pond segments with ½” -2” rock under the plants to allow the roots to better establish themselves, do not use sand or soil. The water depth is best if the roots are barely covered by water. In this case, allow the water to move from one pond to the other thru this constriction area in a manner that maximizes root exposure to the water flow (again, not high a flow).
While this method takes more time to be effective than one that is plumbed with intakes and layered rock, it is very simple and rarely if ever clogs with organic mulm. About you need to do is trim roots/tubers to keep them from spreading outside the designated Veggie/Bog filter area.
In this method the plants are in the waterfall or cascade or separate waterfall/cascade area of the pond (or just prior to this area). Again place your plants in a shallow corner of the pond with ½” -2” rock under the plants to allow the roots to better establish themselves, do not use sand or soil. The water depth is best if the roots are barely covered by water. This method can be combined with other methods.
The picture at the top of the article displays two "separate waterfall/cascade" type Veggie Filters.
With this method I recommend the use of some loose fitting bricks or slightly more tight fitting rocks to contain this filter (plant roots/tubers and volcanic rock).
These rocks/bricks can be used to contain this filter on both sides(upper falls/pond side and cascade/waterfalls side). The use of rocks or bricks is also useful for constriction or corner Veggie Filters.
The downside to this method if used by itself is it does not give the fry a place to hide and often water flows and water depths are harder to control for maximum efficiency, however this method still works especially when used in combination. The upside is the simplicity of design since the natural water movement will pull water through this filter.
 Gravity Fed Separate Veggie Filter;
This is a more popular method lately, although my least favorite, not because these cannot work if done correctly with irrigation of water over lava rock and plant roots, but because these take more maintenance and cannot be hooked inline with a good true UV Sterilizer such as the AAP/TMC Pond Advantage.
If a recommended UV is used, it would have to be on a separate line with its own pre-filtration for optimal UV effectiveness. This is done in variation "B' of the flower pot Veggie filter which is NOT gravity fed (see a couple paragraphs later).
In this method you would make a separate small pond or use a container such as a tub or small pool and pump or better "irrigate" water into these “Plant Filers”, then water flows back via gravity into the main pond.
I have seen nicely set up separate veggie filters where they are actually constructed into the ground or into a terrace, these do look better than the tub methods (these are more similar to the waterfall method).
My problem with this method is similar to the waterfall method in that flow around the roots and water level (just above the roots) is hard to control to maximize benefits of the plant root structure. You also loose the benefit of a place for fry or breeding adults to hide as in some of the other methods.
Powered Flower Pot Veggie Filter (not gravity fed).
One variation of the "Separate Veggie/Bog Filter" that is often a good fit for small ponds (under 750 gallons) utilizes pump such as the SunSun HQB-3500, HQB-2500 Pump or Rio HF Pump placed in a plastic large container or flower pot with multiple holes cut into the container/pot. It is possible to stack these too for more filtration and possible ease in servicing too.
The pump is inserted inside this pot followed by volcanic rock and a bog plant such an Iris.
This allows for the pump to draw water to the Veggie Filter where large debris can be easily removed and the water is directed to a waterfall, fountain, or both (with a diverter valve).
While a rather small Veggie filter, this "Flower Pot" method does allow for reasonable bio filtration, including nitrate removal as well as mechanical filtration (even similar results to a skimmer that would normally be employed, if at all in much larger ponds).
 Built In (Under-rock/gravel);
This is the more advanced Veggie Pond Filter often now with very elaborate stages and sometimes re-named "wetlands pond filters" (although I think this name is incorrect since a true wetlands filter would be more like the simple constriction or similar filters).
This is the type I allude to throughout this article and is much faster at working (often within a day or two when coupled to a true UV Sterilizer).
This includes a network of PVC pipe with slit/holes cut into them to pull water through layers of rock and plant roots.
These are even more effective when rock (or even man made materials) are layers in such a way that the water passes from coarse to more fine rock or man-made media (with the higher flows of ponds, I would not go much smaller 15 mm in diameter so as to prevent clogging)
While the most effective/efficient, this design can clog with organic mulm over time that may need a major clean out, but by utilizing as much plant roots and layered rock/media, this possibility can be minimized considerably.
The pond below displays a pond with a built-in Veggie/Bog filter as well as one as part of the main pond (Courtesy Danville Aquarium Club).
A Veggie or Plant Filter is an excellent compliment or even stand alone pond filter depending on the volume and filter (root) area and exposure of the plant filter.
A good compliment in a small pond would be a Hydro Pond Filter . The Hydro Pond IV can be connected to your Pump as a pre filter (these are rated up to a 1500 gallon pond).
A UV Sterilizer can be added "in line" would further compliment this system & is highly recommended (best if used at slower flow rate and it is important to change the UV Bulb every 6 months in warm climates; 12 months in cool climates).
Another complimentary filter for a smaller pond (under 500 gallons) would be the SunSun CHJ-1503 Pond Filter combination.
For larger ponds complimentary filters could include DIY water fall filters utilizing volcanic rock, plastic mesh, and poly pads or multiples of filters such as Pressurized filters (which are among the most efficient in design in my experience).
A good pump for medium to larger ponds that can run multiple features (including your Veggie/Bog Filter) would be the AAP JAP Series Pump, which is a hard pump to beat when one considers performance, reliability, design, and price.
As for the pump, I recommend the Rio HF Line of Pumps or SunSun Heavy Duty Pond Pumps as they are a good combination of state of the art impellers coupled with proven electromagnet motors and value.
FOR MY FULL POND ARTICLE, please visit this link:
“A CLEAR POND, PROPER POND FILTRATION, CLEANING & MORE (even pond scarecrows for predatory birds)”
For Replacement UV-C Bulbs/Lamps to keep your Pond Sterilizer/Clarifier at peak performance:
UV Bulbs; For Ponds & more
I recommend changing your UV-C Bulb every six months for warmer climates (So. Calif., etc.) and once per year in cooler climates.
This link takes you to true high output low pressure UVC replacement lamps, UNLIKE the majority now sold that are often lower output medium pressure UV lamps (which cost less to produce)!!! Beware that if you use Google, their now extremely spam ridden search engine mostly takes users to sellers of mostly junk UV Sterilizers and replacement bulbs
Not Sure Which Pump to Purchase? Please follow link below:
• Pump Specifications, Recommendations Page
Other Recommended Reference/ Product Resources
API Pond Care Barley Clear
"The natural properties of peat contained in Barley Clear buffer the pH for a more stable pond environment."
Aqua Master Ultra Premium Fish Foods
There is no better fish food for your pond koi, goldfish, etc. Recognized as the best by leading Koi breeders/showers in Asia!!
Other Websites from Supporters of this Information: