Crystal clear, dotted with floating lily pads and free of chlorine and lurking creepy creatures, natural swimming pools have the feel of a tropical swimming hole right in your own backyard. You can build decks right up to the edge and add waterfalls, stepping stones and rocky beaches to create your own private paradise resembling a natural environment, whether your preferred look is that of a crystalline aquamarine spring or a lake full of boulders and swaying cattails. A company called BIOTOP works with customers to build custom designs full of whatever features your heart desires, and they can convert existing chlorine pools, too.

Instead of using chemicals to keep the water clean and bright, a biological system of plants keeps good bacteria and microorganisms in balance, while a secondary filter keeps sediments from building up in the swimming area. A ‘regeneration area’ full of these plants sits adjacent to the main swimming area to create a system that finds and maintains its own balance, just like a natural self-cleansing body of water. Supporting equipment like additional filters, skimmers and pumps are hidden away to maintain the illusion that you were lucky enough to build your house on the edge of a swimming hole.

Are there going to be some frogs, salamanders, dragonflies and other critters hopping and flying around? Sure – with a natural swimming pool, you’re creating a backyard habitat that supports all sorts of wildlife, and that’s part of what keeps it healthy. But at least you’ll never have to worry about brushing your leg against a monstrous fish. Chances are, frogs will lay their eggs in the regeneration area, hidden among the plants, so you’ll hear them – and get their mosquito-eating benefits – more than you’ll see them.

Like the idea of going chemical-free, but prefer a more conventional swimming pool experience? A ‘living pool’ gives you the appearance of a traditional pool while actually being a full-fledged biological swimming pond, using a special phosphate filter instead of plants and microorganisms to keep the water clean. BIOTOP and similar companies can easily convert chlorine pools into living pools with the addition of a converter chamber containing the biological filter.

They might seem like a luxury, but surprisingly, natural swimming pools cost about the same as traditional swimming pools at about $50 per square foot, and yearly maintenance costs are far lower. Natural pools don’t have to be covered in the winter, and the most you’ll have to do to take care of them is skimming leaves and thinning plants. In fact, because they’re so shallow, they might just freeze all the way over depending on where you live, creating a private ice skating rink!

It’s pretty cool the way these pools create brand new aquatic settings that encourage plants and wildlife to flourish while also eliminating the itchy skin and red eyes that can come with swimming in chlorine. Between the low maintenance factor and these gorgeous photos, it’s not hard to see why natural swimming pools are becoming so popular. Don’t be surprised if your brain continually revisits these images throughout the upcoming long, hot summer.