Developing life-long pond customers requires you to have a firm understanding of the equipment and supplies available. As the expert, you must first determine what products are important to stock to make your customers’ pondkeeping easier. Then, educate them on new products and products they may not have heard of if they are new to water gardening.
Choosing the Right Equipment
Although a little costly initially, the right pond equipment is invaluable. Help your customers make the most of their investment and educate them on the mechanics of the ideal pond system. Discuss the dependent relationships of pumps and filters, the importance of ultraviolet clarifiers, and how to select the correct sizes. Pondkeepers are looking for low maintenance equipment that won’t ‘burnout’ within the warranty period.
The pump is the heart of the pond. Its main purpose is to circulate water to the pond and maintain the overall health of the ecosystem. Recommend to your customers they purchase a pump that is the correct size for their pond, thus improving overall efficiency and reliability.
As a rule of thumb, pumps should circulate the entire water volume of the pond every two hours- including waterfall spillover. Remember, when choosing the size of the pump be sure your customers take into consideration the pumps ability to power the filter and water features such as waterfalls and fountains. If there is any question as to which sized pump to purchase, suggest a slightly more powerful pump than what they might need. Over-filtration is not harmful, but under-filtration will lead to poor water quality, extra work and overall frustration.
Most pond owners use a submersible pump. The pump is placed in the pond or in a skimmer and is always submerged. External pumps may require piping through the pump liner for water to flow into it. The pump is located outside of the pond. Many pumps come with pre-filters to keep the pump from clogging with dirt and debris.
Debris handling submersible pumps resist clogging by using an open-faced impeller design that can pass larger debris without clogging. No pre-filter is needed for these pumps. These pumps are great for minimizing maintenance.
Since water gardening pumps are used 24 hours a day/7 days a week, be sure to explain to your customers that they should consider their energy cost when deciding on a pump. While some pumps may seem expensive, in the long run they will save your customers hundreds of dollars in electric bills by being energy efficient.
Finally, recommend your customers purchase a pump with a good warranty to protect their investment.
Filters and UV Clarifiers[i]
There are two basic methods to filtration: mechanical and biological. Mechanical filtration uses foam filters to trap dirt and debris while biological filters use the natural biological process to improve the water.
Remind your customers of the importance of implementing both aspects of filtration in their pond. To further ensure clear water, suggest your pondkeepers install a UV clarifier to eliminate suspended microscopic algae that cause “green water” and destroy its reproductive ability. Microscopic algae are so tiny that they pass through even the finest filter. Most UV Clarifiers remove heavy algae blooms within five days, keeping the pond algae-free. For optimum efficiency, remind pondkeepers to replace the UV bulb every spring or every 11 months of continuous operation.
To make this entire stage in pondkeeping simple, some pressure filters are equipped with a complete filtration system (mechanical, biological and UV clarification) in one rugged efficient unit, eliminating the need for separate pieces of equipment. These feature a convenient reversing valve, which back-flushes the filter, removing sludge and debris easily.
[i]What is a De-Icer?
Many pond owners do not understand the need for pond de-icers. Provide customers the service of educating them on the importance of de-icers and have the products in stock.
De-icers help fish survive the winter by allowing harmful gases to escape through a small ice-free opening in your pond’s frozen surface. As fish breathe dissolved oxygen, they give off ammonia and carbon dioxide. Additionally, ammonia is a result of decaying organics, including plant matter and fish waste.
If the pond does freeze over, caution pond owners against smashing an opening in the ice. Physically breaking ice causes harmful shockwaves that can stress and possibly kill semi-dormant fish.
There are energy conserving de-icers designed specifically for ponds that are inexpensive to run. Remind customers of the dangers of not using a de-icer. Without clean dissolved oxygen, fish may not survive the winter.
Pond Supplies: Nutrition, Water Care and Features
Recommend to your customers to follow a seasonal feeding cycle. By doing this, they will easily determine the best foods to feed throughout the year. As the expert, customers need you to take the confusion out of fish nutrition so they need only to focus on enjoying their pond beauties. Give them guidelines to implement a Seasonal Feeding Cycle and you’ll help them maintain happy, healthy fish.
• Summer: Above 50°F, feed fish foods for growth and diets promoting vitality and color enhancement.
• Spring and Fall: In water temperatures between 39°F to 50°F, use a wheat-germ based diet, which is highly digestible, to transition fish in and out of the season.
• Winter: Stop feeding entirely once water temperatures dip to 39°F and below.
Product placement is very important when stocking your shelves. Consumables can become very confusing and overwhelming to your customers, especially new pondkeepers. Take the guesswork out of this experience by placing the food for the season you are in at eyelevel and in a prominent position in your pond department. For instance, as fall and winter are upon us, stock your shelves with wheat germ based food and remove summer foods. This will get your customers in the habit of changing foods for the season.
[i]Water Care and Treatments
For day-to-day maintenance and water care, keep customers informed of solutions for algae control, treating tap water and other treatments. Provide literature to educate your staff and have on hand for customers to refer to as they need it.
The number one complaint of pond keepers is the presence of algae and sludge build-up in their pond. In addition to other non-life-threatening challenges, algae obscure colorful fish and deplete valuable oxygen. With a few simple treatments for healthy water, algae can be eliminated. Stock and recommend an algae control product that is proven to combat green water, string algae and blanket weed. There are also water clarifiers available that work fast to remove contaminants.
In the fall, pondkeepers are cleaning their ponds and prepping it for the winter. Many will remove a portion of the water to be able to see and clean the bottoms effectively. When replacing the water after cleaning, remind customers to always add a water conditioner to remove harmful contaminants like chlorine, chloramines and heavy metals. Be sure to stock this product throughout the year.
More than half of pond owners change their land- and waterscapes regularly. Among the more popular are unique water features, fountains and spitters, as well as lighting, in and around the pond that add a whimsical and decorative flair. While customers may be driven to buy based on the style water features add, it’s an excellent time to educate customers on the ecological benefits.
Fountains, waterfalls and statuaries are not only pleasing to see and hear, but provide necessary aeration which oxygenates the water, helping to keep your fish healthy. If there is not enough water movement, oxygen levels can drop too low to sustain all of the fish. Similarly, large fish have a very high oxygen-demand due to their size, placing a burden on oxygen availability.
Stock a variety of these water features for your customers’ convenience. When customers are planning their pond, be sure to ask if they will include a waterfall, fountain or statuary right away or possibly a few months after. By asking this question, you can then guide them towards a pump to handle the added water flow.
Customers for Life
Take every opportunity to share your knowledgeable expertise, backed by quality products, to engage your customers and keep them successful. Open dialogues so you can learn about your customers and how to make their future plans a reality. As the expert, you will be asked many questions and pondkeepers (especially new ones) will expect you to know the answer. Be sure to ask your manufacturer for help such as brochures, product placement advice and colorful signage. Guiding your customers in the right direction will eliminate headaches and ensure long-lasting relationships.