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4:49 AM   May 03, 2015
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The Do-It-Yourself Way

Makers of pond products are shifting their focus to help hobbyists fare economy.
By Meghan E. Murphy

Manufacturers today are focusing on two things: cost savings and saving the world.

Although the pond market fares better than other retail areas during economic down times, manufacturers are focusing on lower price points and do-it-yourself products to enhance their pond lines, industry insiders report. Hobbyists are still interested in enhancing their gardens, but they’re looking for affordable add-on features they can install on their own. In response, manufacturers have released items geared toward smaller ponds and that enhance existing environments.

“People aren’t moving into the bigger home with the more expensive price tag, so they’re looking for ways to improve where they currently live,” said Jennifer Zuri, marketing communications manager for Aquascape Inc. in St. Charles, Ill.

According to several retail outlets, hobbyists are also shopping for eco-friendly labels on their pond features. From water conditioners to rain barrels, hobbyists want items that make their backyards beautiful and keep Earth green.

The focus of Blacksburg, Va.-based United Pet Group’s TetraPond products this year is on easy maintenance for small ponds.

“We feel that this year you’ll probably have a shift from people building larger ponds, which require a landscaper and a lot more money, to doing small, do-it-yourself ponds,” said Curt Nuenighoff, TetraPond brand director.

The company re-engineered its bioactive pressure filters by taking an industrial-strength idea and modifying it for the average homeowner. The filter uses plastic instead of foam, and has a reverse setting that empties the filter of debris so it can be easily cleaned and reused.

TetraPond has also released an easy-to-install waterfall filter that hobbyists can add to any size pond, Nuenighoff said.

Clear Pond, a division of Aquatic Biotechnologies Inc., focuses on ease of use with its new Sludge Buster Blocks, said Jack Colman, president of the Camarillo, Calif.-based company. The pond-cleaning tablet, which hobbyists toss into their ponds once a week, sinks to the bottom and eats sludge and garbage in up to 1,000 gallons of water, according to the company.

Colman said hobbyists with busy lives are looking for simple solutions to pond maintenance, as evidenced by sales of the product.

Grant, Mich.-based Easy Pro Pond Products is also seeing a lot of sales in the do-it-yourself category. The company acquired Tulsa, Okla.-based Pond Eco last year and rebranded Pond Eco’s line as the Eco Series, marketing it as a do-it-yourself line. The series includes a waterfall diffuser and fountain basis in various sizes. The diffuser is small and can be placed on a block wall to create a sheet of water.

Many companies have also tailored their lines to the eco-friendly hobbyist.

“It’s part of the whole green movement that you’re seeing now,” Zuri said.

For example, Aquascape created its new RainXchange barrel, which allows the pairing of a water-collecting basin with a decorative feature. A smaller version of Aquascape’s AquaBasin underground reservoir, it collects up to 75 gallons, has an overflow pipe and can support a waterfall or bubbling fountain.

“With the economy the way that it is, people aren’t willing to spend a lot of money on bigger features,” Zuri said.

Rain barrels have become increasingly popular, especially in areas that are experiencing drought and watering restrictions.

Aquascape and Easy Pro have both launched new LED lighting products this year. The energy-efficient bulbs last longer than traditional lighting and cost the homeowner less in the long run, Ouwinga said.

Keeping with the eco-friendly tradition of the company, Lynbrook, N.Y.-based Ecological Laboratories this year will become the United States distributor for two herbal water conditioners: Sabbactisun and Parazoryne. The Sabbactisun targets bacterial diseases and fungal infections, while Parazoryne fights parasites. They come together in a kit for ponds.

Both have been used in the European market for five years, where they’re popular with hobbyists who don’t want to put chemicals in their ponds, said Carolyn Weise, the Ecological Laboratories consumer relations manager for pond products.

Although hobbyists might not be buying big-ticket items this season, the pond industry is still seeing inventory move. A focus on affordable add-ons to existing ponds, as well as a focus on environmentally friendly products has already proven successful for some manufacturers.

“With all the stress in life people want their water more than ever these days,” Ouwing said. “Things are flying off the shelf this year.” <HOME> 

Newspaper reporter Meghan E. Murphy has written articles on pet industry trends for more than three years.

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