Fireworks Guide: Fountains
These create pretty volcano-like plumes of sparks from the ground upwards.
- Secured on the ground, shoots sparks, colours or crackles into the air.
- Single or varied effects available.
- Mostly low noise so ideal for out of season or quiet displays (fountains don’t bang).
- Safety distances typically 8m up to 25m. No licence or training required to buy and use at any time of the year.
- Individually bought fountains are usually significantly bigger and longer lasting than smaller fountains in selection boxes.
- Also available with strobing or blinking effects.
- Guides to other types of fireworks can be found in the Firework Guides main menu.
A closer look at a typical fountain
Fountains will usually be either cylindrical or conical in shape. The latter is shown above.
Nozzle: This is where the effects come out from, up into the air.
Fuse: Most fountain fuses will be on the top (whereas on cakes and barrages they can often be found on the side).
Base: This part should be on the ground. The label will advise if the fountain should also be secured to a stake to prevent it falling over.
Warning label and instructions: The important things you need to know about the fountain, its classification (Category F2 or F3), the net explosive content (NEC) and so on. On this fountain it is on the reverse side.
What types of effects to expect
Fountains eject sparks from the ground up into the air. Heights vary depending on the size and quality of the fountain, from a few feet up to 20ft+ for the biggest ones.
Conical fountains tend to be the same effects all the way through, which are typically either gold, silver or crackling. Some also contain flecks of colour. This type of fountain usually starts very low and gradually works its way up to full height by the end.
Cylindrical fountains tend to actually be batteries of several different fountains all fused to fire one after the other. Here, the usual display is one of changing effects as each tube progresses. Many finish with a plume of intense crackles. Some multi-effect fountains like this can last for a very long time; over 2 minutes is possible.
An example of a conical fountain in action is shown below.
An example of a multi-effect fountain is shown below. Although this has much less height (up to say 6ft) it does have the benefit of a longer running time and more variety:
How much do they cost?
When buying fountains individually (rather than as part of a selection box) expect to pay from £5 up to around £20 per fountain.
Good quality conical fountains typically cost £15-£25. Good quality multi-effect cylindrical fountains can cost from £10 upwards.
“Professional” style fountains – sometimes referred to as gerbs – are also available. These are specialist and expensive fountains which either run for a very accurate duration, create extra height, have low smoke or specific colours. Whilst they look great they’re often overkill for most consumers.
The photo below for example shows a pure red fountain that reaches a whopping 5m height but only lasts 7 seconds.
In addition to their sparking effects, some fountains contain flashing effects which can cause a face or similar on the tube to light up! I’ve seen all manner of novelty items in recent years ranging from smiley faces (see below) to frogs and even haunted houses. These are great fun and very much recommended for back garden displays if you have children in your audience.
Strobes and blinkers
A specialist type of fountain, strobes or blinkers (two names for the same firework) create, as their name suggests, a strobing effect. This is essentially a very bright flashing flame effect which has the effect of lighting up the surrounding area and its own smoke.
Although the flashing flames from these are very small – just a few inches – they can be very bright. They work well at the start of a display to get the audience ready, to create a moody effect or simply as something a little different. Usually available for just a few pounds each they are well worth a look.
Smoke effects and flares
Also specialist items (sometimes listed under fountains on retailers’ websites, sometimes not) are smoke effects and flares.
A smoke effect as the name implies is a fountain that simply emits smoke, typically coloured, rather than actual sparks and as a result is a daytime firework. The smoke effects available from firework specialists are significantly better than the small smoke pellets you might find in a joke shop. They are usually of no use whatsoever at night, however.
A coloured flare is where a fountain’s effect is concentrated just on a flame rather than throwing up sparks, and that flame is a specific colour. These effects are quite small however can be very effective since colours can be chosen to fit the occasion being celebrated.
Always check the retailer’s video clips of flares and watch them all the way through to make sure it’s the effect you want; some flares like Trafalgar Fireworks’ handheld flares end with a large silver spark effect which might be a good or bad thing depending on how you intend to use them.
Imitation Chinese crackers
A quick mention about this product as it is usually listed in the fountains section on firework retailers’ websites.
These are long tubes containing a crackling composition which you uncoil and light to create a ground-based noise effect (as opposed to it being shot out of a fountain tube into the air). You can read more about this in my Chinese crackers article as that’s the type of professional firework it is trying to imitate.
Indoor cake fountains
Fountains for use indoors such as on birthday cakes are a completely different type of firework to the outdoor fountains described above. Look specifically for indoor cake fountains, also known as “ice” fountains, because you will need a specialist low-smoke product.
For more help on indoor fountains I do of course have a handy guide: Ice Fountains for Cakes.
Most simply need to be placed on the ground and supported so they cannot fall over.
Bought individually (rather than as part of a selection box), budget for £5 to £25 depending on the size and number of effects.
Unless it's a handheld flare and specifically designed to be held in the hand, never do this, secure it on the ground instead.
Low smoke small fountains are available for cakes, these are called ice fountains. Otherwise, never use an outdoor F2 or F3 fountain indoors.
If your definition of low noise is "no bangs" then any fountain will be suitable. Otherwise, check retailers' video of their products if you want to avoid crackles and whistles, which some fountains include. These sounds won't travel far however, making fountains ideal for low noise displays.
It depends on the size. Small fountains from selection boxes may fizzle out in a few seconds. Most individual fountains last up to a minute however with some lasting for 2-3 minutes.
You need between 8m and 15m distance to spectators for F2 fireworks and 25m for F3 fireworks.
Ground flares and strobes: Less than a foot. Smaller fountains from selection boxes: Up to 6ft. Individual multi-effect fountains: 4ft to 10ft depending on size and effect. Individual conic fountains: Up to 20ft or more depending on size and effect.
Further information and next steps
If you are following the Beginner’s Guides then you can click here to return to that page. Alternatively you can click here to see the main menu of each firework type in this section if you want to read more (or click on the menu at the top of this page to access all of my guides).
If you have any questions then please feel free to join my Fireworks Forum and ask away. Members are always here to help beginners and no question is too silly.
If you’re ready to buy fireworks for your display then the Buying Fireworks section will guide you further.