Swimming au Natural

I looked at my fish tank and sighed deeply, The water was cloudy again. It seemed that no matter what I did, I couldn’t get the water in my big fifty gallon tank to stay clear. I don’t even want to think about the money I spent on filters, chemicals –and fish. I happened to visit a friend who kept fish and saw that he was using a biofilter. Basically, he had a second tank that was a mixture of sand and gravel, and had aquatic plants in it. Water fell via gravity from the main fish tank into the bio tank. Then just one small pump moved the water back into the main tank after it had moved through the soils and roots of the biotank. It took about three weeks for things to settle down, but from that point on I never had tank clarity troubles. Not only that, but my tank setup was more interesting to look at, held more natural plants, and the fish thrived. In essence, the system was better, cheaper and quieter than all of the mechanical filtering methods I tried.

Because of this experience, I was fascinated to see that the scale of a biofilter system had been upgraded to swimming pool scale. A friend of mine posted a link to a company that promoted such pools, and I spent an hour just looking at the different photos of pool system other people have installed in their yards. Regular in-ground pools were converted to the natural type, and people laid out pools to appear as natural swimming holes from the outset. But no matter which approach was used, the finished products were attractive and inviting. At least I think so.

natural poolHere is one of the featured pools from the website. It looks so natural that it’s hard to believe that someone stuck this into their lawn space. But they did, and the result is excellent. By their nature, pardon the pun, they don’t require annual draining or cleansing. They are, for all practical purposes, a part of the local ecosystem and so tolerate both the warm days of summer as well as the icy chill of winter. Many people use their pools as skating rinks in winter.

The pool systems have adjunct benefits. They encourage the local wildlife; birds and animals like the pools, yet insects and problematic life get disposed of with the skimmer systems, so pool owners needn’t worry about providing breeding grounds for mosquitoes and other pests. With no chemicals in the water, bathers needn’t worry about chlorine burning or having to shower after a dip. The water in the pool is just as clear as the water coming through the city water taps. Perhaps even more so because of the reduced need for artificial filtration. Bacteria do all of the work as a natural course of their existence.

My old fish tank went from a fishy smelling, loudly humming and buzzing contraption to a combination terrarium and aquarium. I can’t comment on just how well –and simple– the changeover worked on my fishies. Had I not moved into a tiny apartment and passed my tank setup on to a friend, I would still have it as a part of my house. I enjoyed having the fish. But I can easily see myself enjoying a much larger scale of the same operation, albeit one made for me to swim in rather than fish. Although, I don’t think anything says one couldn’t keep fish in their pool as well. The examples I have seen vary in scale, showing that one could accommodate almost any size of pool. Considering that a pool like this can be had for the same money as a regular in-ground pool, it doesn’t take a jury to decide which would be a better approach.

It does take a pool like this about three years to find its balance. That doesn’t mean a lot of fighting, smelly water and algae, it means that it takes three years to establish itself completely, needing only a bit of water plant culling at season’s end to maintain it. The pool should look weathered in and natural within 90 to 120 days. The more time passes, the more everything around accommodates the new situation and embraces it.  The costs of these pools can vary, depending on size and material mostly. A basic pool could be had for as little as eight thousand dollars. But the sky is actually the limit. I was measuring my backyard and trying to imagine what a swimming pond might look like. Fortunately, I have HGTV’s software package that allows anyone to design a house from the slab up, and to landscape the property. So this little guy started pumping out different shapes and ideas right and left. I finally came up with one that appeals to me, and of course it would. I guesstimate that it would cost about $50 thousand bucks and require me to purchase the property behind mine. All in all, it would only take about $120k all together. Riiiight.

But in reasonable bounds and with professional guidance, an attractive and functional pool would be a value raising and utilitarian addition to my home. Of course, that means that it falls into the category that holds solar power, wind turbine power, solar heating and geothermal cooling. The end result, after the greenhouses are added, is an off the grid, independent and mostly self supporting home. I suspect that the closest I will come to independence will be by having my generator automatically taking over home power when the power company lets me down. But the pool idea really does tug at me.