As the ground thaws, storeowners must prepare to help their pondkeeping customers with the products and knowledge to make their pond dreams come true. Start by explaining the basics of cleaning and opening up a pond and then suggest ways to add on to create the ultimate outdoor oasis.
Step One: Clean-up and Planning
Before pondkeepers start any new projects, explain that their first step is to start cleaning the pond bottom of accumulated debris. If a customer is considering expanding their pond, now is a good time to start planning, especially if they have to add or replace pond liner or rearrange edging stones around the pond. Spring is also the perfect time to add a waterfall, a header pond or floating, submerged and potted plants.
Step Two: Equipment Care
Pondkeepers in colder climates may have had to add a de-icer this winter. Instruct these customers to remove the de-icer, dry it and store it properly for easy set up next fall. Next, show pondkeepers how to inspect all hoses and connections. It is important to replace any fitting that has a leak before pond season is in full swing. In most cases, adding plumbers’ tape to a connection will fix the leak. This is also a good time to add lighting to the pond–both underwater and around the perimeter. Lastly, have customers start their pond pump and filter in shallow water to ensure it is working properly.
Step Three: Water and Fish Care
Spring is a critical time of the year for fish. As they come out of dormancy, their bodies are low on important nutrients that help ward off disease, making them vulnerable to illness. To keep the incidence of sickness to a minimum, tell customers to clean out sludge and debris from the pond’s bottom. At the start of the season, recommend that pondkeepers replace up to 25 percent of the pondwater with tap water. Remind them to add a water conditioner to remove chlorine, chloramines and heavy metals.
Pondkeepers should also be reminded of the importance of treating water early in the season and regularly thereafter. Talk about the importance of healthy water and remind customers that healthy water means a healthy ecosystem, especially if they plan on adding fish. Walking customers through a visual representation of the nitrogen cycle can be very helpful.
Educate customers on what healthy fish look like and what signs a struggling fish exhibits. Fish that are sick will gasp for air, have a change in color, have an emaciated appearance or show visible sores and spots.
In spring, to make the transition from dormancy to an active state, pond fish should be fed a wheat-germ based diet only after pond water temperatures rise above 39°F. Display food, water conditioners and water treatments at eye level so customers can easily find what they are looking for.
Step Four: In-Store Spring Prep
Whether a store has a large pond department or just a few shelves dedicated to the hobby, determine what needs to be re-stocked and cleaned up. Check with manufacturer partners for information on their newest products and equipment, and ask for demonstrations. Be sure to create displays that will engage pondkeepers. Remember that colorful posters and live water displays will excite customers with sights and sounds.
Curt Nuenighoff is TetraPond director.