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The ultimate water feature for tiny spaces.
Have a really tiny space but you really want a water feature? The tub garden may be the way to go. From small ceramic bowls to whisky barrels to this elaborate and humorous 'man bathing, two barrel fountain and ornament set up.

Build A Tub Garden
Or Container Water Garden

The difference between the two tub gardens (or container water gardens) below is that the one on the left has a pump, recirculating the water, while the one on the right does not.

tub gardens illustration

tub gardens 2

So long as the container or tub is properly stocked, a pump is not necessary. A properly stocked container water garden will have a variety of flora and fauna, explained in detail below.

Container/tub gardens are the easiest water features to create and even small tub gardens will support fish. Fifteen gallons or so is enough for a couple of fish, allowing about one inch of fish to every five gallons of water.

Kits, including the tub and the liner, a pump, if desired, hose, plants and animal life can be purchased complete or the various items can be bought separately for the creation of a custom tub. Here we discuss the basic components of the typical container water garden with fountain.

A tub garden, properly planted with a variety of oxygenating plants and stocked with a fish or two and a snail will maintain a fresh-water condition free of mosquitoes and unwanted algae. The pump is not necessary in this respect but is often used for its ornamental value. If the flow of water into the tub sufficiently disturbs the water, fish will not be necessary to prevent mosquitoes.

Most tubs or containers sold for water garden use require a liner, also sold separately for use in tubs, or the container may come lined. There are, however, many old whisky and wine barrel tubs available which are already water tight in which case all that is needed is a sealant to keep out toxins and insure water retention over time.

Once a water-tight condition is established it is simply a matter of stocking the tub with appropriate flora and fauna for a functional, attractive tub garden. If, however, a pump is desired, a little more work is required.

To create your own container water garden with a pump you will need:

Water-proof Silicon
Two rubber grommets

A small stream of water flowing into the tub from an ornamental fountain brings another dimension and is fairly easily installed. To hide the water and electric lines, it will be necessary to drill two holes into the tub for the water hose and the power cord from the pump. These should be only as large as necessary to take the tube and cord and fitted with a water-tight seal, or grommet, available at plumbing supply houses and siliconed on the inside and the outside. Run the tube to the fountain and the electric to an outlet and the job is done.

The tub should be placed before it is filled and stocked. (If put on wheels, it is easily moved around) If it is to be buried in the ground it should be fitted with liner and pump, if there is to be one, and treated on the outside with a sealant to retard decay, before sinking into the soil. Once sunk it can be planted and filled.

Planting The Tub Garden

A properly planted tub garden does not need to have the water re-circulated so long as fish or some other mosquito deterrent is employed. The water will remain fresh if a balanced ecosystem is created and fish (by far the preferable of the mosquito deterrents) will prevent any mosquitoes from breeding. An average sized tub - about two feet across - will sustain and be sustained by several bunches of submersibles, one miniature Water Lily, a couple of margin plants or one margin plant and one floater, though floating plants often become over-crowded.

Tai-Zen for tub gardens
Water Lily, Tai Zen

miniature cattails are excellent for tub gardens
Miniature Cattails

One excellent combination is a single vertical accent of perhaps a Papyrus, a grass or miniature Cattail or an Iris, one miniature Lily and one creeping or floating leaved margin plant such as Floating Heart or Pennywort and several bunches of any of the oxygenating, purifying submersibles. Peruse the plants listed above. Any of the margin plants, the submersibles and many of the smaller Lilies will serve well in the tub garden.

 planting tub gardens  parrotts feather for tub gardens

 Lily MCarnea

  Parrot's Feather

Be sure though that if there is a pump, it does not cause continual splash on the water lily as these plants do not do well in those conditions.


 Submerged plants, such as Anacharis, are essential to good water quality.

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