Rube Goldberg

Wiping face with napkin machine

Since I last wrote about our Koi pond my husband and I have become Rube Goldberg Revisited. For those of you 40 or younger you have probably never even heard of him. A Rube Goldberg machine is a deliberately over-engineered or overdone machine that performs a very simple task in a very complex fashion, The expression is named after American cartoonist and inventor Rube Goldberg (1883–1970). Over the years, the expression has come to mean anything confusing or complicated. Our system may be confusing to you but it works.

I have come to conclusion that our pond water will never be absolutely clear. That is because we have fish that poop and other critters, like doves and hummingbirds that visit the stream part of the pond on a daily basis. The ever present algae like to live in our pond. My goal was to at least get the water clear enough to see the fish, especially when we feed them in the late afternoon. We have done that. The pond water is still orangey-green but the rocks in the pond are tan, orange, beige, etc. So as the water clears it picks up the rock tones of color. Last year at this time the water was so pea green and murky you couldn’t even see the rocks on the pond shelf.

I have been doing my usual surfing of pond sites on the Internet and ran across a couple of ideas that we wanted to try to see if they would help to clear the water. The first of our Rube Goldberg contraptions is a pond vacuum. I had looked at many pond vacs for sale and the biggest problem is their inability to keep the gravel at the bottom of the pond from being sucked up. We thought we would try this idea because we could rig it to suit ourselves and prevent the gravel from being sucked up.

Pond vac 1

Pond vacuum

A friend of ours had an old, heavy duty shop vac and gave it to us. We modified it by drilling a large hole at the bottom to accommodate a hose that would discharge the water.  In the beginning we used a butterfly valve to regulate the outlet but we found that it allowed the water to drain slowly…very, very slowly. So we changed it to a valve that can be opened or closed manually. We also used a piece of pantyhose at the intake attachment to prevent the gravel from entering the shop vac tank. The outlet hose drains into an old, large plastic tote (we drilled large holes – about 8 – only at the bottom and only on one side) and filled the tote with poly-fill batting. The water is vacuumed into the shop vac, goes out through the hose/valve and into the tote filled with batting. The water that leaves the tote is clear as the batting catches the “green stuff.” In all, it cost us less than $20 to add our modifications. We use this contraption periodically to literally muck the bottom of the pond. The pond’s bottom collects everything – decaying leaves, fish matter, etc. It turns into a black, smelly muck. That is the material that we vacuum out.

Pond vac 7

Plastic Tote filled with poly-fill batting
Shop vac water drains into tote
Water percolates through batting
Drains into pond

Pond vac 6

Water drains through hose
Into Tote filled with batting



Hose outlet from
Pond Vac
drains water into
tote with batting






If, after reading this and looking at the photos you are still totally confused, please send me an email at and I will try to unconfuse you.