Buying Guide

Types of Fountains

Indoor Fountains
A contemporary tabletop fountain on a desk.

Small indoor fountains can be placed on a table and other types of fountains can be hung on a wall. You can also choose from floor fountains. These freestanding units are usually larger and more substantial than tabletop fountains. Be sure to consider the available space when deciding on an indoor fountain.

  • Tabletop, wall and other indoor fountains recirculate their water for nonstop operation.
  • Most indoor fountains come pre-assembled and are often used as accent pieces, though some are intended to be the primary design element in a room. 
  • Look for models with quiet, submersible pumps that will not drown out the calming sound of flowing water.
  • For increased versatility, buy an indoor fountain that can also be operated outdoors.
  • Many people find that indoor water fountains help improve their mood and increase energy. Waterfall fountains bring the calming effect of cascading water to any room. 
  • You can create your own indoor fountain using a watertight bowl or receptacle, a small submersible pump and some rocks, shells or other items.

Indoor water fountains enhance the beauty of a room and can also add moisture to the air. This soothes dry skin during the winter months and makes it easier to breathe. Unlike dedicated humidifiers which can be noisy and a poor fit for your decor, fountains do not generate too much mist that can collect on walls and other surfaces.

Outdoor Fountains
A tiered water fountain in a flower bed next to a walkway.

Some types of fountains are designed to be incorporated into your landscaping. A fountain can be a unique accent as part of your outdoor decor or even the centerpiece of your entire garden.

Your garden, patio or poolside area will benefit from the installation of an outdoor fountain. In addition to their calming, tranquil effects, fountains provide beautiful accents and can even serve as an elaborate focal point for your space.

Spitter fountains are a popular option, often featuring a sculpture with built-in piping that transports water from the source (a pond or pool) to a small opening or series of openings where a concentrated stream of water is expelled.

Bird bath fountains keep water circulating to help maintain a fresh supply for the feathered friends in your garden. If you already have a pond or water garden in your yard, you might want to consider adding a fountain to it. 

Flowerbed fountains can be installed in both above and in-ground configurations. Cistern fountains and reflective pools also allow you to house fish, plants and other aquatic life. Outdoor wall fountains can be installed along an external wall for a truly bold statement.

  • Fountains keep water in constant motion, helping to prevent your garden from becoming a breeding ground for mosquitoes.
  • For an energy-efficient, cost-effective solution, consider a solar-powered fountain that won't add to your utility bills.
  • Floating fountains can be placed in a pool or pond on special occasions for an extra touch of elegance.
  • Foggers can be used to generate a misty appearance around your pond for a unique effect.
  • Make your own outdoor fountain using a waterproof container or barrel, a pump and a fountain head.
Types of Fountain Materials
An outdoor water fountain in a flower bed.

Fountains can have an elegant, natural or whimsical design. They can be constructed from a variety of synthetic and natural materials. Each offers a unique look and many fountains incorporate more than one type of material. 

While rock, slate and stone fountains can be heavy, they are also very durable, withstanding the constant flow of water without showing signs of wear.

Metals, such as copper or brass, age and develop a finish that adds character over time. Synthetics such as acrylic can be made to resemble natural materials such as stone or metal but will maintain their appearance and are much easier to move. Models made of synthetic material often are the less expensive types of fountains.

Bamboo fountains provide tranquility and serenity with the natural material and tabletop design,

Fountain Material Options
Aluminum - Fountains Thinner metals can be dented or damaged more easily. Most metals age and can take on new characteristics over time. Suitable for both indoor and outdoor areas.
Bamboo - Fountains Often used in Asian-influenced gardens, such as Zen or meditation gardens. "Chaser" fountains often use bamboo receptacles. Suitable for both indoor and outdoor areas.
Ceramic - Fountains Can be glazed or unglazed. Available in a wide variety of colors. Durable and long-lasting to withstand the elements, but can be cracked or broken. Typically paired with rocks or pebbles to generate more soothing sound effects. Available in a range of prices. Often used in indoor configurations.
Concrete - Fountains Durable and long-lasting. Can be heavier than other materials. Suitable for both indoor and outdoor areas.
Fiberglass - Fountains Can be molded into different shapes. May be more expensive than resin or acrylic. Often used in outdoor configurations.
Glass - Fountains Available in clear, colored or frosted surfaces. Can be etched or mottled for different effects. May be susceptible to cracking or breaking. Often used in indoor configurations.
Resin - Fountains Most economical option. Lightweight for easier relocation. Can simulate the appearance of a variety of natural materials. Scratches can be easily removed. Durable and long-lasting. Suitable for both indoor and outdoor areas.
Slate - Fountains Thin layers of rock in various shapes and sizes. Available in a spectrum of natural colors. Excellent backdrop for wall and floor fountains. Often paired with copper, stainless steel and other materials. Can be heavy and difficult to move. Often carries a higher price tag. Suitable for both indoor and outdoor areas.
Stainless Steel - Fountains Durable and long-lasting. Highly resistant to corrosion. Easy to clean and not easily dented. Typically paired with other materials. Often used in outdoor configurations. May cost more than other types.
Stone - Fountains Includes rock, granite, marble and more. Highly durable and resistant to wear. Distinctive appearance. Available in a spectrum of natural colors. Can be heavy and difficult to move. Suitable for both indoor and outdoor areas.
Fountain Features
A water fountain with lights illuminating the water.

The basic functionality of all types of fountains is the same. Look for different features that suit your needs.

Some types of fountains are sold with everything you need to get started. Other models require the purchase of a pump to get the water flowing. Either way, there are plenty of options for you to choose from.

  • Adjustable flow control allows you to alter the pump's speed, which can affect both the sound and appearance of your fountain.
  • Some fountains, both indoors and out, incorporate lighting, which can enhance their visual appeal, create unique effects and provide additional illumination to the area.
  • Units that feature a built-in clock or thermostat offer increased functionality and usefulness.
  • Some models use solar power but most fountains require an electrical connection to keep the pump operating.
Fountain Maintenance
A tabletop fountain on an outdoor table on a patio.

Most residential fountains use recirculated water to provide a continual flow of soothing water. As they operate, a certain amount of water evaporates. Continually monitor water levels to keep your fountain operating correctly and always use distilled water for indoor fountains.

  • If water levels become too low, the pump may be damaged and reduce the life of your fountain. Frequently check water levels and replenish the supply as needed.
  • Use distilled water for indoor fountains, as it has been stripped of all minerals, preventing deposits from building up both on the surface and in the water tubes and pump. Water from a garden hose is fine for outdoor gardens.
  • Some chemical solutions can be added to the fountain to prevent mineral buildup and to ensure water stays smelling fresh and clean. Using an algae treatment to outdoor water fountains helps prevent algae growth and buildup.
  • Winterize outdoor fountains in areas that experience strong seasonal changes by draining the fountain of all water and bringing the pump inside. Stone or ceramic fountains should also be brought inside to avoid cracks and other damage if at all possible.
  • Wipe your fountain down regularly and follow all manufacturer-recommended cleaning suggestions.
  • If building your own fountain, be sure to use solid materials that do not disintegrate, as loose particles can damage the water pump.
  • If you live in a harsh climate, invest in a fountain that is constructed with materials that can withstand weather extremes.
  • Completely change your fountain's water three or four times a year (or as recommended by the manufacturer).
  • Inspect pumps every six months to ensure that everything is in working order.

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