Fountain pumps are pumps designed to handle the particular challenges associated with fountains. Most fountains are designed to lift columns of water into the air for decorative effect. Fountains are also open to the atmosphere and subject to surface debris similar to a swimming pool, and therefore, the pumps and pumping systems are designed to operate in this environment. An example is the Debris Pumping Tetra Pond Pump shown below.
- Rugged debris-handling impeller can pass 1/4" debris without clogging the pump.
- Large basket minimizes blockage and maintenance.
- Energy efficient uni-directional impeller and motor (asynchronous motor technology).
- Wear resistant and anti-corrosive ceramic shaft for longer life.
- Epoxy encapsulation protects motor from water intrusion.
Although it is designed to pump small debris, the pump is still used in conjunction with a filter. Some fountain pumps only pump clean and/or rain water, and hence do not handle chemicals, while other pumps must pump chemically treated water.
One thing that a fountain pump is designed to accommodate is pump head. Head is the amount of elevation that a pump will lift the fluid being pumped. (See the YouTube video on this page). On a swimming pool pump, the head due to altitude is relatively negligible. If the pump is located below the pool, then head is gained when the water goes down to the pump and lost again when it comes back up to the pool. If they are at the same elevation, no head is gained or lost due to a change in elevation. Many times, the friction loss which a pump must overcome while it moves the fluid inside the piping can be correlated to head. The larger the amount of friction due to either roughness of the inside of the pipe, length of pipe, turns in the pipe, or pipe that is too small for the flow, the greater the pump head must be to move the water. With a fountain pump, you have the frictional analysis to consider and also the elevation that a column of water must be lifted in order to give the desired appearance.
There are two categories of pumps popularly used for fountains: submersible and inline. Smaller fountains, such as might be found at a residence, will probably use a submersible pump. Submersible pumps come in lots of sizes, from micro to macro. Micro pumps are the kind we find in table top fountains, and are not discussed in this article.
Power may be provided to the pump by house current or 110 volts of AC power. If the pump is located in a pump house, then the electrical wires are run in a conduit or romex. If the pump is submersible, then the wiring must be sealed against leaks. A recent development is a solar pump, where the pump is powered by 6 volts of DC power. In this case, the solar collector panel must be nearby.
While a fountain pump may work for other applications, other pumps may not work in fountains.
One of the fastest ways to ruin a good submersible pump is to let it run dry. Submersible pumps are called "submersible" because they are not only designed to be run under water, but they should not be run out of water. Keep the water levels in your pond maintained well above the submersible pump. This may require adding water if your area is arid or the season has been particularly dry. It’s usually better to add a small amount of water each day rather than a large amount every few days. If water rations are in place due to a drought, then simply unplug your pump to protect it. Another time to remember to unplug it is if you are going out of town. In the winter do not allow water to freeze in the pump or lines, and the pump should be removed for the winter.
The fountain pump must be cleaned every one to three months in areas with soft water. Hard water areas will require more cleaning. To clean the pump, unplug it and remove it from the fountain. Read the manufacturer’s instructions on opening your pump, and take it apart. Soak it in a vinegar solution and then remove the buildup of mineral deposits and algae that can clog your pump. Clean it with a toothbrush or other small brush using liquid dish soap and warm water. If this simple maintenance is followed, the life expectancy of your fountain pump is from two to three years.