You’ve got to give it to them, the companies presently running these wonderful marketing campaigns. They hold seminars that lure in the landscaper and other entry-level pond builders and convince these innocent people how simple their product is to install and "teach" them what an effective job their product does. Their product is the handy-dandy all-in-one filter / skimmer / pump combination. Just dig the hole and line ‘er up with the pond and your job is halfway done — And it’s affordable!
Can you afford to lose your fish — right down the skimmer? That is exactly what happens with this handy-dandy unit. So unless you’re planning to have sushi for dinner I’d suggest mounting some sort of screen on the skimmer to keep the fish inside the pond where they belong. But...doesn’t that sort of defeat the purpose of a skimmer? The only fish-safe skimmer around is the kinds manufactured especially for the pond. Not even a converted swimming pool skimmer is safe.
Who needs circulation anyway?
The water on this system is being pulled in from the top. That means that no bottom water is being moved at all - or circulated. That means there is no fresh aeration and most of the water isn’t even being routed through the filter. What doesn’t need circulation? A swamp.
Does "poop" float?
Whoever coined the phrase "poop floats" (okay, I cleaned it up a bit) has never seen the amount of fish poop on the bottom of a pond. Without a bottom drain or a pump to pull muck off the bottom fish poop and other solids do nothing but accumulate. The answer: No, poop does not float.
What’s this you say? The handy-dandy all-in-one filter / skimmer / pump combination can come with an optional bottom drain of sorts that pulls water from the bottom? Optional — hum — meaning more money?!? Think about it. How much you wanna bet this optional attachment was conjured up after they saw the problems the original system created? Be aware, also, that there is no way this optional attachment (or bandaid) can do what it is designed to do. The pump does not pull water through the bottom drain thus the water is only draining via gravity and never makes it up to the filter.
Yes, let’s give a hand to the marketing efforts of the companies that manufacture the handy-dandy all-in-one filter / skimmer / pump combination . They sell product. But let’s not lose our perspective and buy product just because they train us to buy it. This kind of "filter" can work great if it is designed for a watergarden that has absolutely no fish in it. Most people, even if they tell us they don’t want fish, end up purchasing fish for their pond. Consider what the system actually does and decide for yourself what kind of system you want to keep your pond running.
Oh, by the way, the company that manufactures this product also promotes lining your pond with rocks. If you look back to our last issue and read the article entitled "Turn Your Pond into a Cess Pool — in One Easy Lesson" you’ll see our views on that subject as well.
An Update to the Scary Skimmer Story...
We wrote this article in July to include in this issue of What’s Up, Doc?. At that time, we had no idea we would be attending one of these so-called seminars. Many of you are aware that The Doc and I took a little time recently to attend Pondapaloosa and the SNA show here in Atlanta. Pondapaloosa was a series of seminars designed for landscapers and others in the pond industry.
The seminars were very helpful. I spoke with fellow water-gardeners and learned a few tricks of the trade. (Thanks Jeremy of Rockfish Valley Center in Virginia for your hint on pricing rock!) Gary Jones of Aquarium Pharmaceuticals gave me a better understanding of pH and water quality and we got to hear Doc Johnson speak again. Always a pleasure!
The folks that manufacture the handy-dandy all-in-one filter / skimmer / pump combination (and I won’t name names) were there in all their glory. After listening to their seminar I knew I wasn’t changing a word of my article.
When an enlightened landscaper raised his hand and asked about fish getting caught in the skimmer, the speaker cemented my distrust of the system by saying something on the order of "they had 40 fish — so now they only have 39..." and he laughed about it.
How would you like your favorite fish to be number 40?