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/Go Rin No Sho of Business

The Future of Mini Ponds


By Bob Fenner


There is a growing trend in the United States and most other civilized places in the world, a growing emphasis on people concentrating more and more on "Habitat Enhancement". Many contributing influences can be identified; the "graying" of our populace, AIDS, terrorism within and without our borders, poor foreign currency exchange rates effects on travel abroad.

This trend is very good news for the Pet Industry. Habitat Enhancement along with home improvement, landscape et al., is our business. Our economy is changing profoundly; maturing much like Western Europe's. Our target customers are more discriminating, more sophisticated and more willing to pay for service and quality; particularly in larger purchase categories.

One of these areas, poorly exploited/developed in general in the U.S., and in particularly in the pet trade, is "water features". These are ponds, streams, fountains, waterfalls, reflecting pools and the like, indoor and out. Most retailers entirely ignore this facet of our industry, considering it not their domain, too difficult, not profitable at this point or, or, or...

Such is not the case. Selling supplies and livestock to this market is currently a viable and rapid-growing part of the Pet Industry. Our corporation, Nature Etc. Inc., not only owns and operates retail outlets (Wet Pets) in Southern California, we design and build water effects (Aquatic Environments), have a very large maintenance Division (Aquatic Life Services) and manufacture and distribute supplies for construction and operation of the same (Aquatic Gardens). A good part of our store space and emphasis is on "pond" supplies: Liners, filters, pumps, fittings, chemicals, and other mechanical accoutrements, as well as Koi, goldfish, live plants, snails, turtles...... They sell!

Products, Livestock, Information:


Many, perhaps most of your available target customer base have neither the time/money to invest in a sophisticated, concrete effect. Happily, there are several readily available technologies that are inexpensive, easy and even fun to install and operate. Small or Mini Ponds made from liners, polyethylene, fiberglass, plastics, barrels and other containers are a craze. Manufacturers like Tetra, Sera and Supreme Products, among others, have recognized the future of this market segment and are offering and developing mini-pond lines. Stalwarts, like the established Water Gardening (mail order) companies, offer other sources of ready made ponds. Check out their catalogs. Display need not take up a lot of space; pre-made basins and waterfalls are typically light-weight. They can be spotlighted on upper shelves and/or suspended from your ceiling. Liners come pre-cut and seamed to size in boxes or bags, or if you can dedicate space, in determinate widths on a roll that can be cut to length. Our corporation manufactures these. The dollar sales and profit per space and season can be astonishingly high.


Are a critical area. Your best advertising is going to be the growing number of successful pond keepers you've helped generate. As with marine and fresh water aquariculture, water quality is of tantamount importance. Check with your distributors, trade shows, the PSM Buying Guide and Directory, and even your competitor/allies for what's hot and available. Don't be afraid to stock and show a high as well as lower priced filtration system. There is a very large potential market for top-end equipment in this field; endorse it properly and it will sell itself. Some swimming-pool gear can be adapted to use in biological ponds, but most is inappropriate for our applications; be careful.


Are another easily sold category that take up little room. The best submersed/emersed series for small flow rates/low pressure situations are, shock, American Made! Calvert Engineering, or Cal-Pumps of Van Nuys, California get my unabashed acknowledgement. Larger centrifugal pumps can be procured through swimming pool wholesale suppliers, contractor outlets, Grainger's, etc.. You may want to offer the same line you utilize on your own centralized filter/sump systems. Don't omit parts for sale for the same, including trap kits, baskets, impellers,...

Plumbing and Electrical: 

Depending on your own bent toward water effects and the presence and size of competitors, you can up or down-size the extent of fittings, pipe, valves, pipe, auto-fills, skimmers, drains, Ground Fault Interrupters, connectors, junction boxes, wire, outlets and so on. If these are relatively unavailable or expensive in your area, by all means stock them.


Large sizes of dechloraminators, algicides and therapeutics are advised. You may want to place these in a special pond supplies area of their own, or maybe adjacent to your pond-foods.


We offer Japanese ornamental carp or Nishikigoi (Koi), as well as Goldfish, Orfes, Mosquitofish and other suitable fish species year-round and lilies, oxygenating grasses and other plant stocks seasonally in in-door and out-door display settings. Few "hooks" in promoting pond keeping have worked as well in our stores over the years as our gum-ball machines offering pellet feeds. The fish become easily imprinted and children and adults delight in feeding them.


Is best accomplished as I stated in PSM May 1986, by setting up a working pond system at your store. It is easy and fun.

Books, calendars, reprints for sale or promotional should be offered openly. Tetra's series of books, in particular, stir up buying and building frenzies. Check with your manufacturer and distributor representatives for brochures and other media to stir up action with their lines. Tetra, Sera, Penn-Plax, and others have a profusion of these. Use them.


Construction, Maintenance and Consultation services, or referrals, artificial rock, water testing, fish pathology are only a few of the other possibilities that open up to you when you expand your operation's horizons to include mini ponds. Waterscaping is a wave of our future in the United States. You should choose to get on and ride it.

Other Reading:

 Pets Supplies Marketing May 1986, Find an Outdoor Niche for Flowers and Fish.

Freshwater and Marine Aquarium Magazine; I've written a column (entitled Aquatic Environments) for the last few years dealing with various topics of Water Feature Design, Construction and Maintenance. You might find these useful for distribution to your staff or customers; in particular the pieces on Filters, 6/83 and 2/90, Cleaning, 4/87, and several on philosophy and construction through 1988-89 (and many more to the present).


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