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Hello Ci,

Tricky question to answer, because this is new territory for me.

Otters, huh. This sounds interesting.

I would recommend the following:

You could leave the deep part deep. [Adding dirt to fill it up to a water depth of 3 ft deep is still pretty deep for submerged plants). Then you're going to have 1.5 ft of soil with not much growing in it. If this goes anaerobic, then you've got a real mess.] If you really want to fill up the hole, you could use sand and small rocks for your fill-in for about 2.5 ft, and then cover it with a couple inchs of soil. I did this kind of fill-in for my little pond, which was deeper than I liked.

I would add tubs with water lilies, etc to the shallow sections or add a layer of soil to the edges for emergent plants.

For sure I would try out "Floating Islands", which are floating rafts filled with emergent plants. Maryland Aquatic Nurseries (wholesale nursery) is promoting and selling them. I saw natural floating islands in South Carolina swamps, and they're really cool. If I had your pond, I wouldn't hesitate to put in several floating islands.

With all this plant growth, you shouldn't need any filtration to remove ammonia, etc. But you will almost certainly need water circulation. My little pond doesn't have any, and even though the water's only about a foot deep, it always goes anaerobic over the winter. Frogs love it, but I can't keep any fish in it.
 
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