Unleashing a Pond Feature Fit for a Wild Animal

Published on December 22, 2015

Mia explores all the nooks and crannies of her tributary created with Atlantic Water Gardens' Oasis line of Pond-Free products.
Mia explores all the nooks and crannies of her tributary created with Atlantic Water Gardens’ Oasis line of Pond-Free products. (Click Image to Expand)

One weekday afternoon, a customer came into our store inquiring about installing a pond water feature. Interestingly, he followed it up with, “I’ve looked it up online and I really do not want to buy a bunch of expensive jazz.” With all the home remedies out there and the DIY channel, who can blame him? Homemade projects are made to look easy and doable with common household items.

I took the time to explain the difference between a quality system and a homemade system, centering my factual points on routine maintenance, sustainability and reliability. For example, in a pond-free system, a five-gallon bucket can be used in place of a pump chamber, milk crates can be used in place of Eco-Blox and a sump pump with garden hose can be used to run the system and deliver water to the waterfall.

Of course, there are many downsides to using these types of products. Five-gallon buckets and milk crates do not maintain structural integrity under pressure, and we all know the disadvantages of sumps pumps and garden hoses. The power consumption of a sump pump is mind-boggling; many are oil-filled. And what happens to a garden hose when a rock is placed on top of it?

After communicating these few facts, the customer was receptive to exploring components composing a quality system. Before showing him products, I needed to ask about the application to recommend the appropriate system. I must admit, I was not prepared for the answer.

Aqua Ultraviolet
In 18 years of business, I have never sold a water feature for a cat…even an ordinary one. And this was no ordinary cat. Mia is an African serval.

For those wondering, African servals are medium-size cats native to Sub-Saharan Africa. Although they can be aggressive, Mia, in many ways, is no different than any other ordinary house cat. African servals tend to take to one person, similar to a parrot. In this case, Mia has taken to Cassie. Larry, on the other hand, has learned to deal with the cat’s instincts of swatting, clawing and pouncing. Mia can and will draw blood, so adequate care and caution must be taken when handling her.

Building a Habitat

In order to acquire an African serval in Missouri, as in other states, a potential adopter must take several classes and build a suitable habitat that accommodates the animal while providing a humane living space. The habitat must provide a safe environment for the adopter, the serval and the public. These habitats must be inspected by local and state government.

Mia's enclosure is quite nice, measuring 26 by 24 feet outdoors with an attached 14-by-14-foot indoor sunroom.
Mia’s enclosure is quite nice, measuring 26 by 24 feet outdoors with an attached 14-by-14-foot indoor sunroom. (Click Image to Expand)

Larry and Cassie went through all the necessary protocols, constructed a habitat and obtained certification to adopt Mia. Based on the natural habitat of the animal, not required by the government, they decided that Mia needed a water feature to finish off her habitat. African servals, being native to Sub-Saharan Africa, live along tributaries. African servals have the ability to swim, but rarely do so.

After discussing Mia, her natural habitat and maintenance expectations of the water feature with Larry and Cassie, we all decided that a pond-free system was the way to go for them and for Mia. We compared the pros and cons of a DIY, product-based solution versus a professionally designed system. I mentioned pump longevity, safety and energy consumption as well as future maintenance. They decided they needed a heavy-duty solution designed for a professional installer, but a system that was easy for them to install at the same time. We had the perfect solution in stock: the Oasis Pond-Free System manufactured by Atlantic Water Gardens.

The Perfect System

Atlantic Water Gardens’ Oasis Pond-Free System comprises a heavy-duty compact pump chamber, Eco-Blox, a robust waterfall spillway, an auto-fill kit, 45-mil EPDM liner and PVC. And we recommended the new TT series pump. The TT series pump does excellent work in a pump chamber application, requires minimal maintenance, carries a three-year limited warranty and uses very little electricity. These components fit the bill for the customer because they were robust and easy to install and would work to create a “tributary” inside Mia’s habitat. After all, it is all about the cat. The added bonus was that, regardless of whether they purchased a pre-boxed kit or purchased all the components separately, there was a complete instruction manual detailed with illustrations addressing both applications.


A mini tributary provides entertainment and duplicates the natural environment of a serval.
A mini tributary provides entertainment and duplicates the natural environment of a serval. (Click Image to Expand)

The next major obstacle was maintenance, in terms of water quality and overall appearance. As with any animal enclosure, there are waste issues and organic debris issues. In a natural setting, of course, Mia would live near tributaries and rely on the tributaries for food and playtime. The pond-free water feature would duplicate this necessary component of her life. Keeping this in mind, a natural and non-toxic maintenance regimen was needed to address toxicity and organic buildup. The last thing Larry and Cassie wanted was a water feature they had to power wash and clean on a regular basis.

We recommended the Triton Ionizer as well as a regimen consisting of Microbe-Lift PL and PondMarket Restor. The Triton Ionizer adds minerals to the water, dramatically decreasing organic buildup on rocks and coping of the water feature. Microbe-Lift PL eats up waste from Mia while naturally maintaining healthy water quality. Restor safely removes the remaining gunk buildup on the waterfall rocks, eliminating the need to power wash or scrub the water feature.

As of today, approximately five months later, Mia loves her tributary and Larry and Cassie love the low maintenance of the water feature. Even better, the tributary provides Mia with hours of rooting and exploring time while burning excess energy — without being destructive inside her enclosure.

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