After being a business owner in the pond industry for more than 10 years, you respect the hard work and relationships you have formed with longtime customers. You also learn that your personal time and weekends are also very important. Weekends allow you to recharge your mind and body so you can continue to give your best to the business.
I own Pond Professors Inc., in Greensboro, North Carolina. I built my business with a strong focus on maintenance, which allows me to have full-time employees working year-round rather than relying on seasonal help during peak times. In central North Carolina, we usually build or renovate new features 10 months a year. The number of service accounts and new features we build each year leads to frequent communication with our customers. It can be overwhelming and rewarding at the same time. The goal is to continue engagement with customers while also reducing the number of unnecessary phone calls about pond issues that can frustrate both pond owners and business owners.
I’ve found that as you plan for new pond builds and maintenance contracts, installing a two-pump system — although it may seem extreme to some pond owners — can save time, money and heartache.
Two Pumps in a Fishpond?
The idea here is to strategically balance your work and family time. Picture it: the work week ends, and Saturday finally arrives. You have worked hard all week to satisfy your customers in extreme conditions, so your body and mind naturally need time to recover and prepare to do it all over again the following week. Saturday afternoon rolls around. It’s 95 degrees. You just threw some steaks on the grill and opened your first adult beverage. Then, the phone rings.
“My pump quit working, and my fish are going to die!” your customer exclaims.
Now, your afternoon has completely changed, and your responsibility to that customer and your livelihood (i.e., what allows you to have a house and grill steaks on a Saturday afternoon) takes over. Bottom line, if you are going to build ponds or provide maintenance on ponds, you need to plan on how to address an issue like this without taking away from your precious family time.
When building a standard pond, typically the waterfall pump by itself gives the pond enough oxygen to sustain aquatic life. However, if that sole pump fails, we have a big problem. At Pond Professors Inc., we install an air system in even the most basic ponds, and we strongly recommend adding this feature to our maintenance accounts that lack a secondary oxygen source. An air pump adds oxygen to preserve life as well as benefit the overall health of the pond by supplying it to the floor and rotating the water from the bottom upward.
Two Is Better Than One
If you can, it is wise to run the air pump on a separate circuit from the waterfall pump, just in case the ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlet is tripped from one of the units going bad or getting moisture in it from a heavy rain. This way, your other oxygen source will continue to run with no loss of aquatic life! Always remember that air diffusers need to be lifted to the top shelf in the winter to keep a hole open in the ice. This ensures that super cooling does not happen to the pond water, which will harm the fish that are hibernating.
Also, if the customer states that there is a leak, 95 percent of the time it will be in the waterfall areas due to debris blockage, a low edge of liner or a plumbing issue. Armed with a secondary pump source, you can tell the customer to just turn off the waterfall pump, and the air system will maintain the pond oxygen level so that the issue can be addressed on Monday. Now you have successfully saved your Saturday afternoon with your family while putting the pond owner at ease.
Other O2 Options
Another system that works well is to install two pumps in one skimmer. By incorporating this method, you can reduce the pump sizes and run one through an ultraviolet light or a bog filter and have the flow come into the pond in another location. If one pump goes bad, the other will continue to run if they are on separate electrical circuits. On larger ponds, you can use two skimmers, with each pulling from different locations of the pond surface to ensure that there are no dead spots in the skimming action. Once again, it is crucial to separate electrical circuits in case a pump goes bad and trips the GFCI. This avoids both pumps stalling and risking loss of pond life. The pump will likely fail at some point, so using different electrical circuits ensures that a two-pump system can successfully complete the job of keeping ponds running and saving your Saturday afternoon plans.
You can also simply drop in a second pump that sits on the bottom of a pond. This is seemingly easy to do, but a word of caution: there are drawbacks to this method. First and foremost, maintaining the submerged pump is a challenge. I choose not to use this method, because servicing the pump requires physically getting into the water. Further, if a leak occurs in the plumbing line outside the pond, all the water could drain out, resulting in the loss of aquatic life. This method also requires an additional step in the winter, because the bottom pump needs to be turned off to ensure a warmer water temperature at the lowest level in the pond for the fish to overwinter. Thus, during the winter months, the pond defaults back to a one-pump system, essentially defeating the purpose of a two-pump system.
While there are many two-pump combination choices, my favorite is the pump and air system. The maintenance of the air pump, air stone or diffuser is minimal and very dependable, serving as a fish-saving oxygen source for the health of the whole pond. We have actually built ponds large enough for a full pond lake air system by Atlantic-OASE. The energy consumption is very low for air pumps, and the rate of pond turnover is generally more than other pond pumps can provide.
A few other industry recommendations include the Atlantic TT Series magnetic drive pumps, because they are energy saving and always good in low-head pressure situations. They also will not deplete your customer’s wallet when purchasing and running it. The dual pump in the skimmer is a reward for the customer when you downsize the pumps and go with two 3,000-gph pumps instead of one 6,000-gph pump. This gives the pond owner a backup plan in case one pump fails in the system. The company also has a unique satellite skimmer that will allow a 3,000-gph pump.
I am a believer in most skimmers on the market, even though I know you can lose a fish to it on occasion. However, the risk is worth the reward when it comes to reducing unnecessary maintenance issues. Having a two-pump system does require a bit more work on the front end, but it can be an invaluable tool in pond performance, customer satisfaction and relationship building, while also preserving your personal time. Weekend calls and service trips come with a heavy price, so plan ahead and install a two-pump system on every pond.