Water Quality Basics
Guidance from pet retailers can be critical in helping customers maintain the water quality in their ponds.

The factors leading to poor water quality in ponds are constant and include poor design, overstocking and overfeeding of fish, inadequate water circulation and poor filtration. Moreover, as Michael Masterson, president of Masterson’s Garden Center Inc. and Aquatic Nursery in East Aurora, N.Y., explains. “Poor water quality leads to health issues for fish and eventually fish loss. It can also cause plant health problems, as well as cloudy and smelly water conditions.”

Dr. David German, research associate at South Dakota State University in Brookings, S.D. and an expert in water assessment, says that maintaining water quality is the key factor in managing a pond. “For fish, water is akin to the air that humans breath,” he explains. “Fish die if the water is toxic or they don’t have enough oxygen.”

By maintaining their pond’s water quality, consumers can prevent problems and ensure a healthy functioning pond habitat. This is where pet retailers play an important role. “Nothing is more important for a pet retailer than to give customers complete and accurate information, whether they ask for it or not,” explains Sally Trufant, the co-owner of B & B Pet Stop in Mobile, Ala. “If a retailer is negligent in this area, the customer will not be successful and will want to get out of the hobby.”

Michael Masterson says that helping customers ensure water quality should be a matter of preaching proactive maintenance. “Pet retailers need to help their customers acquire a basic understanding of their pond’s ecosystem and how to maintain it,” he explains. “Pet retailers should encourage customers to practice preventive maintenance rather than simply reacting to problems once they happen.”

A Well-Trained Staff

Before providing assistance, it’s imperative that a pet store’s employees know what they are talking about. According to Bethany Stockman, co-owner of the Laconia Pet Center in Laconia, N.H., employees should not only be knowledgeable, but also capable of conveying that information clearly to customers. “Pet retailers should be able to explain things about water quality in layman’s terms, because many pond owners are not always familiar with the terminology being used,” she says.

Of course, employees shouldn’t be expected to keep all the valuable information about pond water quality in their heads; so prepare handouts that customers can take home.  B and B Pet Stop prepares handouts with titles like, “Basic Information on Water Quality” and “Basic Information on Aquatic Plants.”

Vendors also offer a variety of helpful publications and brochures. TetraPond, for example, offers a brochure titled “Guide to a Beautiful and Healthy Pond,” as well as assistance by phone, a comprehensive website and a free newsletter. “With a little bit of effort, a pet retailer can find many services that can help them provide their consumers with advice and tips to solve their pond water quality-related problems,” explains Kiley Thompson McMichael, associate marketing manager for Blacksburg, Va.-based TetraPond. 

Practice What You Preach
Don’t do anything to the tanks in your store that a customer couldn’t do in the pond. And only use products that your store sells to address any water quality problems that may arise in the store’s pond fish display tanks. “That way, employees will know exactly how to use the products and how well they will work,” explains Bill Trufant, co-owner of B & B Pet Stop. “It’s very important that your store’s water quality is good so that the customer at least starts with strong, healthy fish.”

Ron Chepesiuk is a Rock Hill, S.C. business writer. Contact him at dmonitor1@yahoo.com.