Easy DIY Solar Fountain in 1 Hour {with Pond Water Plants}

I can’t believe how easy this DIY solar fountain is to create! With all the beautiful pond and water plants, and the sweet bubbling sound of water, it makes us feel that we are sitting by a little creek in the mountains.

Everyone loves garden fountains and patio ponds. But they usually require lots of work to set up plumbing pipes, electrical power cord, etc.

Made from an old galvanized tub and a simple solar fountain pump, this outdoor solar fountain ( birds love it too like a birdbath! ) is so easy to build and maintain. Enjoy it all year round, or in colder climates, move it easily to a protected location when the temperature drops below freezing.

So excited to share with you today how to create a simple DIY fountain easily even without using a fountain kit. You can even skip the solar pump and use this method to make a water fountain without a pump!

Don’t miss the Helpful Tips section at the end on choosing vessels, solar pumps, adding aquatic plants or fish, and how to keep your solar fountain water clean and free of mosquitoes. πŸ™‚

*Some resources in article are affiliate links. Full disclosure here.

Video tutorial below: Easy DIY outdoor solar fountain!

Materials needed to make a simple outdoor solar fountain or bird bath:

( Some of the helpful resources are affiliate links. Full disclosure here. )

  • a vessel: we used a Behrens 15 Gallon Round Steel Tub, which measures 25″ diameter by 12″ tall. You can also use a bucket, half a whiskey barrel, a flower pot, etc
  • solar fountain pump: we used this 1.5w solar pump on Amazon. Here’s another one that is similar. They both have a 10 feet cord from the water pump to the solar panel so you can have the DIY water fountain or birdbath in sun or shade as long as the panel is in the sun.

Step 1: start with water and plants

After selecting the location for your DIY water fountain or bird bath, it’s time to add water and aquatic plants. Pond and water plants are optional, but we added them because they are so beautiful. Plant roots also help keeping the water clean and free from algae growth.

Fill the tub or large pot halfway with water. You can add more water after all the plants are placed inside the basin.

In the Helpful Tips section at the end, I will share more about what type of soil or pots to use for pond and water plants. In short, use plastic nursery pots, and avoid rich potting soil. We also topped the pots with some pea gravel and small river rocks which look pretty and prevents any soil or dirt from floating up.

There are many beautiful and easy to find water garden plants. Here we used Cyperus involucratus “Baby Tut”, Taro, Canna Lily, Siberian Iris, and Loriope. These are emergent type water plants.

We also added water lettuce, which is a floating type water garden plant. Its massive root can clean the water in the basin really effectively. We can stop at this point with our lovely mini patio pond! However, the sound of water is just too irresistible…

You may also love: 30+ colorful shade plant pots with designer planting list for each!

How to create beautiful shade garden pots using easy to grow plants with showy foliage and flowers. And plant lists for all 16 container planting designs! - A Piece Of Rainbow

30+ colorful shade plant pots with planting list for each!

Step 2: Add solar fountain pump.

How do you make a simple water fountain? Use a solar pump and a free standing basin, you will save 80% of the work!

This 1.5w solar pump  (here is another one that is similar ) has a 10 feet cord from the pump to the solar panel so you can place the panel in the sun but out of sight!

The solar pump comes with several nozzles, some are bubblers, some are sprayers. This fountain pump does not store solar energy, which means the fountain will be off when the sun is not shinning on the solar panel.

Now you have a DIY bubble fountain for your garden, patio, porch, and deck!

Helpful Tips and FAQs

Solar fountain pump choices and considerations.

When creating an outdoor solar fountain, pay attention to water splash radius, which will affect where you place the fountain and other furniture and decor items.

IMPORTANT: always keep the pump submerged in water when its running. When making adjustments, face the panel away from the sun until you can keep the pump submerged in water. Otherwise the pump could burn out.This applies to both the solar pump we are using and  the floating type solar pumps like these.

Solar fountain vessel choices and considerations.

In addition to  galvanized steel tubs, you can also use a half wine barrel , a large bowl, or any containers without drainage holes, that can hold at least 3″ deep (see solar pump) water and are designed for outdoor use. This basin depth will accommodate most small pumps.

How to keep your solar fountain water clean and free of mosquitoes.

Algae grows where there’s lots of sun or nutrients in water. Place the fountain in shade, or use plants to shade the water. Plant roots will also use up nutrients. I will write more about water and aquatic plants in another post to give you all the details and variations!

Mosquito larvae can only survive in stagnant water. If the fountain is running often, it will deter mosquitoes. You can also introduce small fish, such as mosquito fish, into your fountain to feed on any new mosquito larvae and remove algae as it forms. 

Thanks to our reader Beth for the following great tips on small fish: “goldfish are not really appropriate for a very small tub style fountain/pond. They are small at the pet store but can grow to 8-10β€³ long. They really need 20+ gallons each to thrive, a whiskey gallon sized vessel is about 16 gallons and teh plants etc displace some of that. I have some in my small (150 gallon) pond that were 1β€³ at the pet store and 8 years later are 10β€³ long. Mosquitofish, mollies or guppies for warm water, fathead minnows or whitecloud minnows for cool water are a better choice for smaller set ups.”

Thanks to our reader Sue who wrote me a really thoughtful note about how galvanized tanks can harm fish because the zinc in the coating can leash into the water. Zinc is good for plants, but can hurt fish. Here are a couple of solutions:

Fish often do better in old or aged galvanized tanks. Fill a new tank full of water, feel free to add plants, and let it sit for 6 month to a year before adding fish. Start with tiny fish like goldfish or mosquito fish, which are much tougher than Koi. Another way is to line the galvanized tub with pond liner if you want to have fish right away.

If you choose to have plants, here are some soil choices for pond and water garden plants: clay soil is best. Garden soil is fine too. Potting soil contains wood chips and perlite which may float on the water. Avoid rich soil with manure content, as they could cause the water to smell, or become too acidic.

Love backyard ponds and fountains? Here’ are 10+ more easy DIY pond and water feature ideas for you!

By the way, those lovely planter boxes you see in the background are so easy to make! Here’s the DIY planter boxes tutorial!

Make beautiful wood planter boxes easily for $10, using simple tools. Lightweight, portable, and long lasting, these large planter pots look amazing on a patio or deck. Free planter box plans included! - A Piece of Rainbow

DIY planter boxes tutorial.

If you want to get started but are not ready yet for a large fountain, here’s a super fun and simple tutorial on growing plants in water indoors:

The easiest and most foolproof way to grow indoor plants in glass bottles and water. 10 beautiful plants for an easy-care indoor garden and clean air! - A Piece Of Rainbow

How to grow plants easily in water indoors! 

Happy creating! See you next week!


  1. We have an aquarium indoors with a community of fish. I would sooo love to try making this one for the outdoors, without the hassle of setting up plumbing or electrical connections. This would be so perfect for our backyard with lots of umbrella trees!

  2. Lovely project. Just fyi, goldfish are not really appropriate for a very small tub style fountain/pond. They are small at the pet store but can grow to 8-10″ long. They really need 20+ gallons each to thrive, a whiskey gallon sized vessel is about 16 gallons and teh plants etc displace some of that. I have some in my small (150 gallon) pond that were 1″ at the pet store and 8 years later are 10″ long. Mosquitofish, mollies or guppies for warm water, fathead minnows or whitecloud minnows for cool water are a better choice for smaller set ups.

  3. I love this idea and my pot is pretty old with some rusty stuff.. should i scrub that up before starting.. i would love to put both little gold fish and water plants in the fountain?

    • hi Christy! yes i would clean off some of the rust, doesn’t have to be perfect. i would also let the plants establish for a few weeks then add the fish! πŸ™‚

  4. One more question for now! 😬my sister has a massive 4 tiered setup and I was wondering how to keep frogs away! I’m deathly scared of them! I also can wanted to use food coloring. I was thinking the algae eater fish might help with algae mosquitoes and frogs but I didn’t know if the food coloring would hurt them and the plants. I’m using an old tub and lots of dolor lights! Is there any so hestions? Also I wanted a water fall trail but our Texas heat dries it up fast! I thought you might have a trick that could help. Also I thought about the allgae tadpoles and misquotes! One more thing how do you keep snazckes away!!

  5. I really didn’t want fish and am deathly scared of frogs. Also I wanted it to be sunken..will the tub rot? Is there something I need to put down first? I was more wanting lights in the water with glow rocks for color. They have submerge left light but not sure it would work. Any suggestions? Also can you put dye in the water? Sorry for all the questions but my sister has a massive 4 tiered system so she makes things way more complicated! Any help is greatly appreciated!

    • hi Amy! i don’t think the sunken tub would rot. an alternative would be a plastic tub or pond liner, which can also help with your waterfall idea, we have an article here you can check out- https://www.apieceofrainbow.com/diy-pond-garden-patio/ . keeping everything in shade will slow down evaporation. if you want fish, i would not put dye in the water. light are ok! πŸ™‚ there are non-toxic sprays that repel frogs and snakes which you can make or purchase on amazon. good luck! πŸ™‚

  6. I love my washtub pond, but I got mosquito larvae quickly. Somebody suggested buying some feeder goldfish. My galvanized tub is brand new, but, on a suggestion, I added ten feeder goldfish ($.25 each) about six weeks ago and they seem to be flourishing. They are quite hardy. No mosquito larvae anymore. Also, there is a non-toxic product called Mosquito Dunks that doesn’t harm fish, pets or plants, but kills larvae. It’s made from a harmless bacterium not unlike that found in yogurt. Google it.

    I have a question; does the water ever need to be changed out?

    • Hi Bill! Sounds like your pond is a healthy mini ecosystem! πŸ™‚ in that case, you don’t need to change water. However, in a man-made small water garden, sometimes fluctuations in temperature, vegetation or sun etc can tip the balance, and that’s when something doesn’t look right, and time for us to change water.

  7. I love this idea . However, I have an old cast iron pot (!witches pot). Thinking that would be nice on the front porch. Would fish be ok in that kind of pot?

    • hi terry! it is possible that the iron could build up in water and become harmful to fish. may have to skip the fish or use liner. πŸ™‚

  8. Amazing! wonderfully piece of Paradise, it’s sure you’re a fairy landscape gardener

    Thanks a lot regarding yours green comp!

  9. The iris planted isn’t a Dutch iris it is a bearded iris which definately won’t like bring submerged in water, in maybe you got a mislabeled one.

    • hi Freya! thank you for pointing that out! πŸ™‚ this iris did quite well in the water but i did take switch it with another plant after it finished blooming, and it’s possible that it was mislabled! πŸ™‚

  10. I would love to do this project! My concern is that there are feral cats in the area. They would probably drink out of the fountain, and if I put any fish in there, they would probably eat them too. Any suggestions?
    Also, what plants do you recommend for the fountain?

    • hi Lou-Ann! you can plant some cat deterrent plants such as lavender, or thorny roses around the fountain base. we used we used water lettuce, Cyperus involucratus “Baby Tut”, Taro, Canna Lily, Siberian Iris, and Loriope in the fountain. many other pond plants should work too! πŸ™‚

  11. So cool! Ok not a gardener here… so for the plants you keep them in a pot with soil and submerge the pot under the water?? I don’t understand this part 🀣 Thank you for any help!!

  12. Dear Ananda,

    I love your fountain idea and adding fish to help control the mosquitos. Do you keep your fish in the tub all year? Do you have to supplement the fishes diet or are they sustained in the pond ecosystem.

    • hi Kathi! the mosquito fish are small and don’t need feeding because of the plants and debris. it does not freeze here, but i would ask local pond experts if you live in a cold winter climate. πŸ™‚

  13. I love this 😍. I went and got my galvanized container today. Now I am not for sure about the plant. So if I buy them from like Lowes they are in potting soil. So do I have to repot them in clay soil? This is absolutely beautiful. Excited to get mine done. Thank you

    • hi Cynthia! if you put a layer of small rocks to prevent the soil from floating up, you can just soak the potted plants then drop them into the tub. have fun! πŸ™‚

  14. Where can I purchase a solar pump kit? I’ve not found anything online that isn’t coming from China, and they give no specific date of delivery other than 2-4 months time and of course yas gots ta pay up front. . gurrr

  15. OMG, this is so great. Can’t wait! I love the idea of running it in the evening as well. I don’t know much about solar, but is there a way to use the panel to charge a battery that can then run the pump at night? Thank you for sharing so generously!

  16. Can you use an electric pump instead of solar? I have several small pumps lying around at home. Thanks

  17. It’s such a good idea to have little fish to eat the mosquito larvae that end up getting laid in your fountain. It’s self-sustaining because the fish are kept fed naturally. I’ll definitely keep this in mind if I ever have a pond or fountain.

  18. I love your solar water garden/fountain but wonder if you have to set the small fountain on a large stone or can it be totally submerged? I have a shallow tub but the water sprays outside the tub and evaporates quickly making it difficult to keep enough water in it. Thank you for the video. I look forward to enjoying this on my patio.

  19. Just gorgeous! I had to smile; my mom used to bathe my brother and I in a similar galvanized tub outdoors in warm weather! We thought it was such a treat!

  20. I just love this idea already have a tub like this i mainly just need the solar pump & plants.i am so excited to get started so thank you for sharing.ann daniel portland tn.

  21. So are the plants in their own containers planted in clay soil and then submerged in water? I know nothing about water plants. Would love to try this.

  22. Good Afternoon!
    I have purchased everything except the plants for my new water feature! I was just wondering if you had any issues with the plants because of using a metal tub? Did the galvanized tub rust? And do you think it would get too hot for fish? I absolutely love the rustic yet bright arrangement! I can’t wait to add this feature to my garden.
    Thanks for sharing!

    • hi donna, thank you! πŸ™‚ we don’t have any problems with rust or water getting hot. i think keeping the tub in part sun also helps, while solar panel can be in full sun all day.

  23. Wonderful idea, thanks for sharing I was looking for something different and cheap…. I’m on a fixed income and it’s funny I just found a tub was going to put pansies in it but will do your idea. God bless Diana

  24. Love all the tjings you do.Very creative and easy to do.Thank you so much for all your creative ideas.Love them All !!!!Trudy

  25. Thanks for your post. I can’t wait to make one with gold fish for my granddaughter. Looks so easy and affordable. Thank you for sharing

    • A couple of questions pop into my mind… 1… the tub is small so what would keep the water fr getting too hot in the sun and burning out the plants?
      2. I think water plants don’t like constant spray on them it they will rot. How do you deal with that?

      • hi corinne, the tub does not need to be in full sun, just the solar panel with extension cord needs sun. our tub is in 1/2 day sun, and the water never gets hot. also the pump would run for 4-6 hours daily, so the water is oxgenated, but it’s not spraying on plants 24/7. πŸ™‚

  26. I live where it freezes in winter. You mentioned moving it in somewhere in colder climates. Could I just move it to my basement plants and all or will I need to purchase new plants each year.

    • hi robin, you could just empty the tub instead of moving it, and some of the water plants will even be ok through the winter just in soil. i will write more about different water plants and add a link in this post. πŸ™‚

  27. Oh lovely Ananda..I’ma so hapy to meet up you because since my move I did not have connexion,computer! And I love this nice idea to make a little water garden like you do it! It’s so lovely! I hope i could make one fitur summer on my terrace in a galvanized steel and solar pump if not too expensive for me ..because I love so much I wille telle you.. I move in mountains..In a appartment,so no garden and no more my house but with a large terrace and a appartment with +++++luminosity..and in the heart of nature…with my cpmoanions cats and my Dog CybΓ¨le..my dog Iris dead ths 6 april miss me so much..I love her.. I hope you wille understand me because bad english!
    I kiss you withe my heart.

    • hi chamoise, so happy to hear from you! your new apartment sounds lovely!! sorry you lost iris! good luck with your new home and new adventures! xoxo

  28. This is such an awesome project. I would love to make something like this for my outside garden!

  29. Your fountain is absolutely gorgeous! I smiled all the way through it. You see, as small kids, my Mom used a galvanized tub to bathe us (I’m now 66) in the summertime outdoors! Probably the next size up of tub! So it triggered fond memories! I can’t remember what else she used the tubs for’ I’m quite sure it wasn’t just for us kids!

    • )my aunt lived in Ky in county when I was a child , we use to go see her during summer from city ..it was great we kids all got in tub on porch and bathed . In early 50’s some of greatest memories water melon juice all over us . That big metal tub was fun .thanks for memories.

  30. This is so darn pretty. I will be making one in August when the house is ours. Paying cash to buy this house is the bomb.

  31. OMG I love THIS!! and thanks for addressing the mosquitos – that’s what popped into my mind. And I really want to do this. We have a brand new house and I’m still trying to beautify my patio.

  32. These pond plants and flowers are so vivid and beautiful. I love the rustic look of the fountain too.

  33. This looks gorgeous! such a great idea! Now I want to make one of these for my backyard. I’ll have to share this with my husband and see what he thinks about it!

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