How to Keep Your Living Pool Clean

Thinking about taking the plunge into a sustainable, natural pool? One of the common misconceptions about living pools is that it could be harder to maintain than its common, chlorinated counterparts. While living pools have their differences, different does not equal difficult. Some might even say they’re easier to care for with the lack of chemicals to worry about!

What makes a living pool

A living pool is the biological version of the conventional swimming pool. Similar to its chlorine or saltwater cousins, a living pool fundamentally is a sealed, contained, watertight vessel that uses a pump to circulate the water.

The key differences are:

  • It has a plant or “regeneration” zone or biological filter. ​​
    • The planted regeneration zone is separate from the swimming zone so that the swimmers do not disturb the plants. The plantlife enriches the pool with oxygen and supports beneficial bacteria that consume debris and potentially harmful organisms.
    • A biological filter can be used in conjunction with, or instead of a plant zone. The biofilm filter is separated from the swimming zone and draws the nutrient-rich surface water from the swimming area to nurture the biofilm growth. The circulation rate mimics the ecosystem of a river or stream.
  • There is no use of chemicals or devices to disinfect or sterilize the water. The water is clarified and purified by pumping water through the plants’ root structure or through a pre-charged biofilter. The living aquatic environment relies on healthy – but controlled – growth of phytoplankton and other healthy microbes to remove contaminants.

To read more about what makes a living pool, check out our blog!

Keep a healthy balance of plants

If you opt for the regeneration zone option, the best thing to do is to take inspiration from your natural surroundings. It’s best to incorporate the native plants that grow wild around ponds and rivers in your region. That way, if you’re able to utilize perennial plants found in your area, they will regrow come spring.

According to our partners at BioNova®, there are five main types of plants that are the best natural filters. Those include:


This is the most basic form an aquatic plant can take. While most try to get rid of algae in traditional swimming pools, this simple organism is one of the best natural filters you can have! Algae has been around for hundreds of millions of years and is an essential part of creating what we call “living water.” It’s important to keep algae growth in check of course, which we do with the other aquatic plants listed below.

Floating plants

Floating plants are not attached to the bottom and usually have roots that dangle in the water to absorb nutrients. These can be floating foliage like duckweed, or large in diameter like water hyacinth, water lilies, or water lettuce. Floating plants can grow out of control and clog skimmers, so it’s important that they are contained properly for maximum benefit.

Submerged plants

Submerged aquatic vegetation are plants that are completely under the water and typically have a root system in the bottom sediment. Some portions may stick above the water, but most of the plant mass remains beneath the surface. These plants are very valuable in creating a balanced ecosystem; they produce oxygen during the day and compete with the green water algae to help create clear water. Some examples include plants like seagrasses and pondweed.

Emergent plants

You’ll often find emergent plants rooted along the shoreline. Their stems are a lot firmer to help stand the plant up above the surface. The taller types of grasses, rushes, and reeds (like cattails) offer habitat for frogs and shelter for dragonflies. Using these wisely in a regeneration zone adds visual interest and even more biodiversity to an organic pool.

Marginal plants

As the name suggests, these plants grow in a water garden’s margins. Marginal plants grow in continuously saturated soil and share nutrients with other nearby plants. This type of vegetation has the ability to filter and clean water as well as soak up pollutants. Some examples of marginal plants include arrowhead, horsetail, papyrus, swamp hibiscus, taro, and pennywort.

Keep it moving

Of course, filtration is vital for keeping a pool clean. Traditional plumbing and filter systems depend on a pump and suction port that circulates the water through sand, paper, or diatomaceous earth.

In natural swimming pools, water passes through the regeneration zone or the biological filter. Water is pumped through the gravel and roots of your plants in the regeneration zone, or into a separate biofilm filter zone.

To prevent a natural swimming pool from becoming stagnant, they are often outfitted with a mechanical circulation system or natural water feature, like a waterfall. This aeration gives the plants and biofilm needed oxygen, as well as helps move the water through plant roots for filtration.

Through constant and properly maintained water flow, this natural system will provide clear, soft water for bathers and swimmers. And because they are open-to-atmosphere, our filters can run at much lower pressures, achieve the same flow rates, while consuming far less power.

Skim it off

Just like a traditional pool, skimming the water before debris gets a chance to decay in the water is important! When you skim the pool, you remove the unwanted debris, such as dead leaves, twigs, and other large objects which fall into the water daily. It’s a good idea to remove them as often as you can.

Further, depending on the construction of your living pool, you can clean the surfaces with an automatic robot regularly or a hand-held vacuum to keep things extra spotless.

Mirroring nature, but in a controlled environment

You can almost always expect maintenance for a living pool to be less than a conventional pool. On top of cleaning them every few months, traditional pools also require that you keep an eye on chemical filtration, pH balance, and the water filtration system.

Living pool maintenance is more like gardening than anything else. It’s important to take care of your water garden plants by trimming them and replacing them, as needed. Because the swimming zone and water garden zone are separated by a wall, you don’t have to worry about mud or muck in your swimming area. Aquatic plants in the garden zone will remove nitrates and lower phosphates, preventing algae buildup. A layer of gravel at the bottom of the water garden also acts as a filter.

Natural swimming pools are environmentally friendly and offer you a natural alternative to chlorine, salt or ozone swimming pools. Best of all, maintenance costs associated with natural swimming pools are much less than the other options.

Ready to dip your toes in? Please get in touch with us; we’re happy to help you learn more about living pools and see if it’s the right choice for you!