Skimming Off the Top – Pond Liners and Pond Filters

Skimming Off the Top – Pond Liners and Pond Filters

Trading Reliability, Simplicity and Effectiveness For Skimmer Profits

Tom Barthel’s article, “Pulling the Envelope,” in the May 2007 issue of Water Garden News, has got me going. In it he said, “Technological innovations for skimmers and filter-fall products have leveled off recently. On the rise, instead, are units that use creative features and meet the customer’s need for low maintenance, durable products sold at competitive prices.”

He is confirming the truth about what I have been preaching for over ten years. The true reason that sales of liner skimmers and fall-filters have leveled off is because their poor performance is coming back to “bite” the skimmer scammers in the bottom line! These skimmers are designed for making profits, not filtering ponds.

The so-called pond experts operate like the pharmaceutical industry. They advise consumers on the so-called benefits of the very products they produce and sell, in this case skimmers. Drug companies sell products which generally mask the actual symptoms of a disease and in the process mess up the body’s balance even more. This creates yet a new need for another drug to mask yet another symptom, instead of buying this type of drugs we suggest to read this full article here.

If the skimmer’s engineering and design is not effective in providing the proper filtration of water, it will not only require regular cleaning, but will demand another “drug” or band-aid. Hence, yet another innovation sweeps the planet, and this engineering marvel is designed to solve yet another water garden ailment. Some of the “drugs” used to treat ineffective filters are what I call the “flim-flam filter falls,” the “bio-balls filter falls,” the “ooh-la-la cha-ching cha-ching filter falls”.

These are some of the sales pitches you might hear from the purveyors of miracle potions for your ailing water garden: “Oh you poor thing, your pond is turning green, your water has body odor. ( the fish are exhibiting an evolutional behavior, by trying to leave the water and live on land.) Here, we just happen to have something for those two symptom. It’s called ‘Green Be Gone’, only a pint and we recommend you buy a gallon. Then, add three bottles of our ‘fish safe’ (we’re not sure about the turtles) and plant-safe, ‘Stink Be Gone.’ So that your fish will go back in the water where they belong, we recommend our very own private label, ‘Home Sweet Home pH Up.’ And if that does not work, for another per pint, try our ‘Home Sweet Home pH Down.’

Oh, and I have some bad news for you. My technician just got back from your house call and discovered that your leaky pond is from a big fat rat that chewed a hole in it. Sorry, our warranty does not cover that, only factory defects.”

This is why the liner pond experts recommend covering the bottom of your pond and the catch basin of your pondless waterfall with rocks. It is to give you added surface area for the nitrifying bacteria to grow which is not provided by the cheaply produced, expensive to buy, state-of-the-art, Berkeley-designed, MIT-engineered, Rubber Maid approved, maintenance-laden, grotesque profit-making, scum-sucking skimmers and fall-flushing plastic wonder devices!

I don’t claim to be political, but I do claim to be correct. Why? Because “a man with experience is not at the mercy of a man with an argument.” After building more than 1,900 concrete ponds and waterfalls over 26 years with no cracks or leaks, my experience speaks for itself. I have always wondered why I have no competition in the area of professional concrete ponds and waterfalls. The answer is simple: everyone is using liners. Why? Because they are cheaper? No! It’s because the liner industry has spent millions in advertising that they are cheaper.

They never mention all the negative aspects of liner construction, such as rodents, tree roots, sharp objects, the weight of the rocks, etc., that can puncture holes and cause leaks. Let’s compare the cost differences in construction and long-term maintenance of both concrete and liner ponds.


Let’s look at the facts, rather than water garden hype, liner industry tent revival terminology, and biased opinions from the liner messiah’s disciples, the tinker-toy skimmer and filter salesmen. To be fair with my comparison, I’m not going to use the pond liner “messiah’ Aquasacape as my example, even though everyone knows they are truly the “Microsoft” of the liner industry.

I’m going to use someone who claims to be the best in the industry. Proof of this fact is that he suggests you google “Pondless” and you will find him at the top of the first page. He also states’ “My skimmers, filters and pumps are the best in the entire water garden industry.” His statements are now in the public domain since they can be found on his website.

So let’s use Russell Water Gardens for our comparisons between two ponds: one built with a rubber liner and the other constructed professionally with concrete, rebar and highly efficient, quality equipment.

I. Pond 12′ x 14′ x 4.5′ deep (no rocks)

Russell Water Garden’s equipment and materials pricing:

1. 25′ x 27′ liner (required for a pond 12′ x 14′ x 4.5′) 5
2. 25′ x 27′ underlayment material 5
3. Hydro Centrimax HC-050 4,500 gph, 6.5 amp, 2 yr. warranty (Russell’s own pump) 0
4. Hydroclean “Piper” skimmer (Russell’s own) 0
5. Dolphin Hydro Vortex filter (Russell’s own) 0
6. 100 ft. 2″ flex PVC pipe  0
7. 80-watt UV light  4
8. 10 20-watt underwater lights  0

TOTAL (with everything still in the box) $ 5,014

II. Professional Concrete Pond

Pricing of materials available to contractors and/or homeowners, including labor:

1. 5 yards concrete (3500-7000 psi) with stealth fiber 5
2. 426 sq. ft. rebar (8-10″ on center @ per sq. ft. including materials & labor  2
3. Concrete pumper – 5 yards (ranges from 5-200) 0
4. Concrete labor (3 men @ /hr. x 3 hrs)  5
5. 3 bags Thoroseal plus labor  0
6. Sequence pump (#5800SEQ23 w/leaf basket; 5800 gph, 3.1 amps, 3 yr. warranty)  3
7. Aqua Ultraviolet Ultima II 4000 filter 5
8. 100 ft. of 2″ flex PVC piping  3
9. Emperor Aquatics 80-watt UV light with wiper 9
10. Skimmer (professional concrete/gunite pond, with low water valve waterway Renegade) $ 87
11. 10 20-watt underwater lights – Alpine  0

TOTAL cost of Material and Labor (project completed) $ 4,329

So far, I have shown a difference between the costs of two types of ponds, except for the important fact that labor is not included in the first example and it is included in the second. Now for some information on construction methods and pumps.

1. Construction Method

Liner: These manufacturers only provide warranty against factory defect, not from heavy sharp rocks, gnawing mice, rats, ground squirrels, gophers, chipmunks, groundhogs, tree roots, sharp objects, animal claws such as raccoons, dogs, etc. Concrete (3500 – 7000 psi rebar with stealth fiber): When constructed professionally, concrete ponds and waterfalls can carry a lifetime warranty, something that no liner can do.

2. Pumps:

Most liner ponds use sump pumps, which use 50 to 60% more energy than a high-efficiency centrifugal pump, and which carry an inferior warranty. In the previous comparison, the Sequence pump costs 35% less than Russell’s, and it pumps 25% more water per hour for 1/3 less the energy and with 1/3 longer warranty than Russell’s pump. In six years, if you had to replace Russell’s pump every two years (the length of the warranty), the cost of the pumps plus electricity would be: ,950 (3 pumps) + ,853 (energy cost using it 24 hrs. a day, 7 days a week for 6 years) = ,803. On the other hand, with the Sequence 5800SEQ23 pump, there is a 3-year warranty; over 6 years the pump cost would be 6 (2 pumps) + ,314 (energy cost @ 24 hrs./day, 7 days a week, 6 yrs.) = ,160.

So the total cost of energy for the Hydro Centrimax pump plus the warranty replacement cost over six years is a whopping ,643 more than that of the Sequence pump!

NOTE: Russell’s website publishes the following statement: “You will find that Hydro CentrimaxTM pumps are the best value of any centrifugal pump on the market today.”

Russell also boasts about his skimmer being the best. Twenty dollars worth of plastic that he sells for 0 – let’s see if they really are the best.

Here are his instructions for cleaning his “HydroClean Pond Skimmer:

1. “Lift the lid off the skimmer and take out the skimmer net at the front.”
2. “Shake the skimmer net to get rid of any debris.” [Try not to get any on you.]
3. “If there is any algae on the skimmer net, hose it off as needed.”
4. “Replace the skimmer net in front of the skimmer unit.”
5. “Behind the net there is a brush rack, a bar with large brushes hanging from it. Pick up the brush rack and shake it to get the debris off.” [Be sure not to splatter any of the pond scum, fish waste, worms and parasites on yourself.]
6. “Replace the brush rack in the skimmer behind the skimmer net.” [Be sure to wash your hands very thoroughly when you are finished.]
7. “Failure to clean the skimmer can lead to slow water flow and place stress on the pump. It can even cause the pump to overheat and burn out. Check the skimmer often to see if it needs maintenance.”

Now, let’s compare Russell’s 0 maintenance-intensive, messy skimmer with the Waterways Renegade professional concrete pond skimmer at only .

Here are the maintenance instructions:

“Lift the lid, remove the basket, dump debris, replace basket, close lid. No need to check skimmer often. If the basket gets full, the pump will not be affected, even if the water level in the pond drops below the skimmer opening. This skimmer has a special float valve system that by-passes the skimmer in the event of neglect or low water level.”

Russell’s biofilter is very similar to his skimmer in design. While it is basically a molded tub, Russell claims his “Hydro Vortex” filter supports a higher number of fish than other brands of biological filters. Even though, there are several manufacturers of biological filters that can easily out-perform this simple elementary and cheap design. It is the same as comparing an economy car to a high performance luxury model.

Only in this case, you are comparing an economy filter with a state-of-the-art, high performance, engineered, no maintenance (a simple turn of a handle to clean it) filter for only more.

Bottom line I repeat: “A man with experience is not at the mercy of a man with an argument.” The pond I described is my pond.

I have the Sequence pump, Aqua Ultraviolet filter and UV light, anti-vortex drains, professional skimmer, and four times more fish than the so-called experts say I should have. My pond is crystal clear, my fish are healthy, and I have not lost one of them to disease in the four years I’ve had them. The only chemical that

I have ever recommended to any of my 1,900+ clients in their professionally constructed concrete pond is rock salt, which controls the algae and aids in the slime coat of the fish.

Watch a HowTo video at YouTube.

Douglas C. Hoover, CEO of Aquamedia Group Co., Master Waterfall Builder, freelance writer and author designer, architect, inventor, engineer, writer, author and builder of over 2,000 waterfall and ponds in California over the past 30 years. Inventor and manufacturer of the “AquaFill” T.M., electronic float control system for ponds, pools, fountains and hot tubs.  Read more. Aquamedia also manufactures the Solar Oven Dehydrator Kit.

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