Swimming pond design ideas, inspiration & pictures

What is a swimming pond?

A swimming pond goes by various names depending on which country you’re in – organic swimming pools, chemical-free pools, green pools, mountain pools, freshwater pools, etc. In South Africa they are generally known as natural swimming pools or nature pools and even though a host of other names are also applicable, the concept remains the same.

The main aim of a natural swimming pool is to look as pristine and natural as a pond or mountain pool found in nature, with a firm dose of cleanliness added to make it safe for swimming without salt or chemicals, thereby differentiating it from a normal swimming pool.

Natural swimming pools have skimmers and pumps that circulate the water through the regeneration zone and back into the swimming area. With aquatic plants, contaminants are filtered out and use nutrients from the water as food, which helps combat algae. The rocks in the pool, such as granite river rock, act as biological filters, to which friendly bacteria attach.

Where conventional pools require more and more chemicals to keep them clean (as nutrients tend to build up over time to create ideal conditions for algae and bacteria), swimming ponds need less and less care as nutrients are stripped out of the water, leaving only fresh water behind that’s perfectly safe for swimming.

Tips for building your own swimming pond

Although there are numerous design ideas available for creating a pond-like swimming spot in your garden, certain tips need to be kept in mind.

·         Keep your design simple. Stone walls and water features look amazing, yet they add expenses and difficulty in constructing a DIY swimming pond.

·         Stick with a flat bottom. It means a simple dig and one level foundation for your walls, which is also easier to clean.

·         Don’t go too deep, as walls exceeding 2m require a lot of reinforcement.

·         Use a well or borehole if you have one, as it will make long-term fill and top-up more affordable.

·         Draw out a drainage plan so you can work out how to move surface/ground waters away from the pool. Choose a location that isn’t the lowest point in your garden. 

Costs of building a swimming pond

As construction costs of a natural swimming pool can differ considerably based on various factors (size, builder, decorations, etc.), the general rule of thumb is that a swimming pond costs more than a similar-sized chemical pool. This is due mainly to the extra cost of the aquatic garden and plumbing system. However, pool chemicals, shock treatments and other expensive services is where you save heaps of money with natural- or eco swimming pools, and electricity costs can be cut by 60%.

As there is no algae in a swimming pond’s water that needs to be filtered out by a pressure pump and sand filter, an eco pool can use a much smaller pump. Wind- and solar pumps are also options. 

The pros and cons of swimming ponds


·         Low maintenance. A swimming pond is designed to reach the stage where it operates as a completely balanced aquatic ecosystem. The only maintenance required from you is cutting away the occasional dead plant material or emptying the leaf collector now and again. ·         Higher water quality. As no chemicals or additives are part of a natural pool, factors like burning eyes, dry hair and itchy skin are not applicable – it’s just good, clean water!

·         Year-round enjoyment. Swimming season is extended, as a shallow swimming pond acts as a natural solar heater.

·         A visual delight. A natural swimming pond can be an eye-catching touch to a garden and even increase a property’s value.


·         Although maintenance costs are lower, a higher initial investment is required. And as they’re more difficult to build, it might be difficult to find a decent contractor.

·         A natural pool can put off swimmers who are used to clear, blue and chemically filtered water, as the organic water can take on a brownish tint depending on the presence of algae (even though it’s still perfectly safe for swimming).

·         A natural pool creates a natural habitat for animals, and even though the creatures are going to migrate towards the regeneration zone (in-between the rocks and plants) and avoid your swimming area, the thought of sharing a swimming spot with wildlife is off-putting to some people.

·         The sunlight promotes algae growth, which means a swimming pond with higher amounts of sunlight exposure will have more algae that will need to be managed. 

How homify can help

Whether your idea of a good time in your back yard is a crystal-clear swimming pool or a more natural-looking ecosystem splashing spot, homify is chock-a-block with ideas. Take a look at our ever-growing collection of pools (including infinity edges), as well as our list of professionals for all your pools and spa needs.