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Thread: Russell Water Gardens and Kodama Koi Farm Pair Up /Merged Thread

  1. #141
    Honmei KoiCop's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2005
    Southern California
    To use an analogy, Mr. Russell's approach can be likened to a pharmacist who will dispense whatever drugs his clients request -- no prescription required -- and if the drugs he sells harm or kill someone, well, it's not his fault because they would have gotten them from someone else, regardless.

    Well, that kind of defense won't work in a court of law and it won't work here. When it comes to koi ponds there may not be one best way, but there are some wrong ways.

    We still don't know whether he can build the former but we damn sure know he builds the latter -- and lots of them.

    If he'll take their money and build them a koi-killing-porta-potty when he knows better, isn't it worse than building that kind of pond out of ignorance??? Don
    Don Chandler
    Member: AKCA, ZNA, KoiUSA

  2. #142
    Daihonmei dick benbow's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    seattle, wa
    Last night after I had thoroughly read each thread, I wrote Taro Kodama and asked him for a clarification as to what he and his dad had said regarding the pond equipment set-ups....here is his response

    "Mr. Mamoru Kodama, and Taro Kodama will both personally review and test
    each and every component manufactured by, and for, Russell Watergardens
    to ensure the utmost in quality, workmanship, function, ease of
    maintenance, water quality, and Nishikigoi health and well being."

    In the email to me he also indicated that while this has not been accomplished as yet, it is definetely planned to be accomplished in the immediate future.

    I also made an appointment with John Russell tommorrow morning to meet with him and get a look at his facility and products. His new store is about an hr's drive north from where I live.

  3. #143
    Daihonmei PapaBear's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2005
    Davenport, Oklahoma

    Thumbs up Thanks Dick

    As one of the members here I value most both for your experience AND your fairminded temperment, I look forward to hearing about your day. The back and forth of a forum can't hold a candle to a good face to face conversation.

    Mr. Russell,
    I doubt you've had the opportunity to read much of the general discussion on this forum, after all, business = busy and the time you've spent conversing with us is much appreciated by me.
    Mr. Benbow is a knowledgeable gentleman who is highly respected among Koi Hobbiests. I hope you and he have a good day together.
    Larry Iles

  4. #144
    Daihonmei dick benbow's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    seattle, wa
    since the quote I was provided had been used in an earlier quote in this thread, I think these additional quotes from the email I received will shed some additional light on the matter....
    "There is still a lot for us to learn on the water gardenings, but we
    would like to do our very best to
    provide education on Koi so that anybody can enjoy the beauty of
    Japanese ...."
    and should there be any doubt...
    "Reputation is very imporatant. If we say we endorsed, we must mean it."

  5. #145

    More answers

    Hello all,

    I'm going to give you the complete history of Russell Watergardens that will answer all your questions - this make take a while.

    I started in the late 80's in the landscape design/build industry. In the early 90's our business "downsized" to just ponds and water features for two reasons. #1, it made business sense at the time. It would make our company different than our competitors. #2, I loved ponds and water features. When I say "ponds", I mean everything about ponds - not "just" the koi. My wife and I had a home in Bothell, WA with a "rock & gravel pond" in the back yard. You can see our backyard pond by clicking on this link:
    The photos on our "Underwater Lighting" page are of our home pond at dusk - click on them to enlarge them.
    You can also see my nephew Cody "The Bugman" in his Ken Griffey Jr. jersery at the edge of our pond by clicking here: http://www.russellwatergardens.com/P...dsandponds.htm The second and third photos are of Cody (in the #24 Griffey shirt) and of T.J. (Sitting in the pond with his shirt off).

    Our backyard pond at the time was constructed with different components from several manufacturers that are now my "competitors". This pond has been featured on many pond tours in the Seattle area and seen by hundreds of people.

    Our "old store" featured at least 12-14 different ponds and water features at any given time. All the ponds and water features that were built during classes get ripped out at the end of the season to make room for the following year's classes.

    So between our home pond, and our store - we had anywhere from 13 to 25 ponds and water features to play with 7 days per week. We would even go swimming in the lake we built and snorkel with the rainbow trout in it.

    We do not sell fish from any of our display ponds. The fish we sell are held in tanks for easier quarantining and catching for sale. We also do not sell aquatic plants out of our displays either. Our displays are working displays that show the customer what they could have in their yards - as well as see various flow rates of pumps, etc.

    On this link: http://www.russellwatergardens.com/Pages/fish.htm you'll see our Kujaku koi named "Howard" in the pond named after him at our old store. This link shows "Howard's Pond" at our old store and children feeding the koi. Howard's pond had koi, goldfish, shubunkins, and catfish in it. (I can hear you all gasping!) We also use a photo of Howard in his pond next to some blooming iris plants on our bacteria products. See it here: http://www.russellwatergardens.com/Pages/bacteria.htm

    Sadly, Howard died. He got damaged by either a heron or racoon or something. When we placed him in a hospital tank - the stress, combined with his injury caused him to "freak out" then he just stopped....dead. He was the "star" of many Northwest Flower and Garden Show gardens - his garden titled "Howard's Place" won the Gold Medal. He is near and dear to my heart - that is why we keep his memory alive by having his picture on all our Hydro Clear water treatments.

    Over the years I've grown to love all types of fish more and more. We have a catfish named "Chicken" that is about 16" that thinks he's a koi and eats out of your hand. Also over that time - we've killed koi, and have had koi taken by Herons, raccoons, and an Osprey that regularly visited our site. The heron showed up so often that we named him "Sam". Growing more and more affection for the koi caused me more and more heart ache when Sam would eat them. But, I love Sam too, and I could never do anything to harm him - so we had to find a way to keep him from feasting on our koi.

    This led us into researching better ways to keep Sam from dining at our expense. We started ripping out shallow ponds and making them 3' - 4' deep. We tried to go deeper at the site, but the ground water table is right at 40". When we dug past that - water would fill the excavation faster than we could dig it out. The soil was solid clay - so when it filled with water it turned into "mush" and was virtually impossible to work with. So our ponds went to a maximum of 4'.

    We started noticing that we weren't losing fish to the herons - but we where "over taxing" the filtration systems with the added water volume. So we experimented with every manufacturer's systems we could get our hands on. All with unsatisfactory results. (At the time, these where ALL rock & gravel ponds). Finding that no manufacturer made filters that could perform under the conditions that we were placing on them - we decided to create a filtration system that would work. This led us into research. Tons of research. No current manufacturer could answer my questions - so I looked to you - the people in the koi industry.

    The first thing I noticed with all koi pond filters - no matter what type or brand - or even home made - is one simple concept. BACKFLUSH. Simple. But why hasn't anyone in the rock&gravel pond industry (commonly known as water garden industry) designed a filter that can be backflushed? So we knew right off the bat that what ever we designed had to be backflushable.

    We experimented with various koi filter systems on R&G ponds with little success - so we knew also that we had to do something different. R&G ponds have a lot of dirt, sand, or other things in them - so we experimented with vortex type systems to help "spin out" the dirt and such. This worked. So we designed a waterfall filter that used "vortex" technology. We designed a round filter body with a waterfall opening at the top and a cone shaped bottom with a drain at the lowest point. Water enters in such a way that the water is forced to swirl.

    (The benefit of having so many display ponds is that we can test everything in real working conditions)

    We experimented with various flow rates. Swirling the water slowly caused almost everything to settle out - swirling it quickly caused the heavier soil and sand to settle out. (none of the ponds had bottom drains at that time - they were all R&G ponds with skimmers). So, what we learned is that light weight things don't settle in fast swirling water - but the heavy soils and sands associated with R&G ponds did.

    The next thing we did was research different types of media for our new filter design that we named "Hydro Vortex". We knew that we wanted to do away with the traditional pads & lava rock that all other waterfall type filter used. Our customers told us they're too difficult to clean. And, as mentioned earlier - backflushing is important - and pads & lava rock are not backflushable.

    We first experimented with Matala. For the record - it is a great product. The round Matala units fit nicely inside the Hydro Vortex filter and their "Staged" filtration concept worked flawlessly in all our test ponds. It backflushed super easy. The only downside was that the cost of the Matala to fill the Hydro Vortex filter was higher than the cost of the filter itself.

    So, to be able to compete in the market place against the likes of Aquascape, Savio, Pondsweep, and the others - we had to find a lower cost media that worked as good, or better than the Matala in our new filters. So again, I looked to you people in the koi industry for help. In various chat rooms and forums I kept finding people that use, and swear by "Pot Scrubbers", or "Shower Scrubbers" as filter media. So we found a manufacturer and ordered several cases of them for testing. We ordered different types - some soft, some hard, some with a fine mesh, and some with more open mesh.

    We found that these "scrubbers" were made of Polyethylene netting. It never decays. It's color may fade, but it never breaks down. Great. But it floats - so how do we keep it inside an upflow waterfall type biofilter? We started placing the scrubbers in lava rock nets. This worked fine - but quicly clogged. The only way to clean them was to remove them and "ring" them out. There had to be a better way. So we pulled the scrubbers apart and found that they were mesh "socks" about 10' long. What if we simply fill the filter body with the open mesh? No problem - but how do you keep it in place?

    We experimented with several types of grating before settling on "kennel flooring". It is a readily available product that we could cut to fit the filter. We made a grate for the bottom of the filter, and another for the top. We placed this new filter with new filter media (we named it Hydro FilterSilk) on an "Aquascape-koi-killing-porta-pottie" pond. We were blown away at the "overnight" results! The greenish-brown water cleared up over night!

    We opened the bottom drain to see what the filter trapped over night and we were astonished at the amount of "crap" that poured out! We tried it on another pond - the same results. We tried it on some of our customer's pond - same results. Everyone was shocked at how much "crap" was in their Aquascape type ponds! The new media rinsed completely with just gentle pond water poured in from the top.

    We took it one step further. We figured that if the filter, combined with this new media, trapped so much stuff - what if we "fluffed" the gravel on the bottom? So we tried it. You can imagine the amount of "crap" that floated up out of the gravel. Within minutes - the pond was a cloud of liquid "crap". It looked simply disgusting. We came back the next day and the "crap" was gone and the water was clear! We opened the filter's bottom drain and you should have seen the "crap" that flowed out!

    OK, we're onto something here. (This is 2004 - we still don't have koi ponds at the time). We were seeing many of our customers coming into the store and seeing our test ponds and the sparkle of the water - they wanted the new filters too! We recieved orders from over 140 customers that wanted us to rip out their pad & lava rock filters for these new Hydro Vortex filters.

    We now have reams and reams of research data, test results, and information. This is why I can rattle off SSA numbers, and ammonia calculations and such with ease. We are constantly studying the "science" of nitification. I am our own "web master", I am also our in-house photographer. So our web site, all the photos in it, all the information in it has all been put there by yours truly. Forgive me for sounding like a research scientist sometimes - but that is exactly what a big part of my job is. We strive to have our website serve also as an information source.

    Where do we go from here? We only have a few prototypes. My wife and I thought long and hard about it. We had to go into manufacturing. This would be a HUGE financial investment. The only money my wife and I had was the equity in our home in Bothell, Washington. You can see from the photos in the above links that our backyard was a paradise. But, we needed to move forward - so my wife, bless her heart - said that we could sell our home and invest every penny we had into manufacturing. (All plastic things require molds to be made - and molds cost a fortune!) Also, before going into production with our designs - we applied for Patents on our filter design and media usage. There goes another $20,000!

    So at the begining of 2005, my wife and I sold our home in Bothell and moved into an apartment in Redmond, Washington - where we still live with our 6 cats. Being an apartment - we don't have a pond at our home right now. We miss it dearly.

    The year 2005 was a blur. Our Hydro Vortex filters are the hottest item in the R&G industry. We pour profits from the filters into our own skimmers - they too sell like crazy. We pour the skimmer and filter profits into our submersible pumps. We start developing water treatments.

    Our new filtration system is taking the industry by storm - but where do we go from here? What is the future of our new manufacturing business? Where is it going?

    Koi hobbyists that would come into our store would "pooh-pooh" our R&G ponds and ask us if we ever thought about getting more into koi. So we thought about it - and yes, it made sense. There are millions of koi hobbyists out there, as well as the millions of water gardeners. Why only service one segment of a potentially huge market.

    So we went back to the drawing board. We started asking questions about pressure filters and centrifugal pumps. We started testing various brands that are currently on the market and asked ourselves - how can we improve this, or how can we fill a niche that no one else is?

    We started with pressure filters - as you know from Dayleans post - we didn't have succes with Ultima II filters. So we tried Emperor Aquatics, Fluidart, and Aquadine. They all worked in varying degrees - but with some limitations. We wanted a bead filter that could be used in a koi pond AND a R&G pond. So we experimented with various types of formats. Downflow like Ultima and Emperor, and upflow like Fluidart. Don't get me wrong. Each of these brand of filters are great for their intended uses - we were simply abusing them to see how far we could go.

    All of these experiments, and through dozens of trial and errors - we ended up with our Hydro Bead Vortex design. Like the other brands I mentioned above - they work great on koi pond applications where not a lot of "crap" is fed to them. We applied what we learned from our Hydro Vortex waterfall filter to our bead filters. We use a swirling vortex upflow concept combined with super light weight, high surface area media - we call it HydroFoam.

    Our new bead filters worked great on our experimental koi tanks (the ugly tanks we built in our greenhouse that I talked about in earlier posts). We over-packed the tanks with koi to see how far we could push them. We connected our new Hydro Bead Vortex filters to R&G ponds to see if they would quickly clog like all the other brands. To our supprise....NO! They didn't clog! Our lateral cuts are 1/16 inch, and our bottom drains make removal of settled "crap" a cinch.

    So more money invested into making three sizes of of bead filters. We have plans for two more sizes for release in 2007.

    Next we turned to centrifugal pumps. There are so many good brands of pumps out there - so what can we do to improve what is already out there? We couldn't make them any more efficient. We couldn't make them any more quiet. What we could do was make them stronger. We noticed that many bead filters require blowers, or two speed pumps on them to break up the bead pack during backflushing. We also noticed that centrifugal pumps are not used for waterfall construction as much as submersible pumps. We learned that a large volume of centrifugal pumps run at 1,700 rpm and aren't very strong in terms of pushing or pulling water.

    So we had pumps made for us that fill a niche in the market. Our pumps run at 3,400 rpm. These pumps push and pull water higher and farther than most other centrifugal pumps in the koi industry. Our Hydro Centrimax pumps don't require the help of blowers to backflush our Hydro Bead Vortex filters. They can be used to create waterfalls and streams like most submersible pumps do. The trade off is that our pumps use more power than William Lim, Koi Joy, Performance Pro, and others. Our centrifugals have the power of submersibles, but use less power than submersibles.

    Now, fast forward to 2006. News is spreading like wildfire about our waterfall filters, bead filters, skimmers, and pumps. We start getting calls from around the country and Canada from people that want to become "distributors" of our products.

    As you all know, we have a retail store. Internet discounters are extremely harmful to real brick & mortar stores. Manufacturers sell their products to distributors and dealers and drop ship anywhere. When everone sells the same products - they all resort to discounting. Discounting hurts retailers that have overhead to pay. Online stores don't have overhead - and thus discount things so that a real store can't compete.

    Where am I going with this? Well, our company is a manufacturer now - but we are also a retailer with a real store with real overhead and employees to pay. People want to carry our products in their store - so what do I do?

    The market place is already saturated with distributors, dealers, and internet sites. So how can we be different, be profitable, and keep our high standards up? Franchising. Bingo. But, franchising laws state that you can't market franchises until you have a specific licence to do so - what do I do for the people (some of which I've know for years) that want to carry our products. We have them sign a contract to be an "Authorized Dealer" with the first right to purchase a franchise when we are licenced to do so.

    A benefit to any franchise is territories. As you know - its hard to sell products when everyone in your town sells the same thing. Aquascape markets to every lawn mowing company on the planet - AND they're now trying to get their products into every nursery or garden center across the planet. A dedicated franchise store is the best was to compete with them.

    Looking at the koi industry I saw some of the same problems. Internet discounters everywhere. Another thing I found is that most koi stores are at people's houses. They are more "hobbyist" than "business" people.

    Having our products available exclusively through our own stores eliminates on line discounters. Franchising allows people to purchase a proven business model, gives the rights to exclusive products, and gives them territorial rights and protection. Don't forget that franchises also grow in equity - which can create built-in retirement plans for the franchise owners.

    So, I am a landscape designer - turned into a pond hobbyist - turned into a pond installer - turned into pond product retailer - turned into a koi lover - turned into product manufacturer - turned into a business man. Oh, and I'm a golf nut too.

    Having our own design of koi filters brings koi people into our store. Koi people turn into employees at our store. Our koi employees buy koi from Taro at Japan Koi Online. Mamoru Kodama invests into the Kodama Koi Farm. Taro Kodama and members of Miyoshiike and the International Nishikigoi Promotion Center then toured our facility in Redmond, Washington. Their initial visit was to seek us out as a potential customer for the Kodama Koi Farm in Hawaii.

    After touring our facility, seeing our products, and hearing my plans for distributing our products exclusively through our own stores a light went off in all our heads. We manufacture filtration systems for both koi ponds and Hybrid type ponds - and they distribute Nishikigoi. One goes with the other. So why not explore the possibilities of a partnership?

    So my wife and I went to Japan to meet with Mr. Mamoru Kodama, members of the INPC, the venture capital firm investing in KKF, and to meet some of the worlds best breeders in Niigata. We also visited Miyoshiike in Chiba.

    Having tea in many of the breeders homes, such as Hajiime Isa, and hearing of the horrible stories of the earthquake and hardship that hit Niigata so hard was a "life changing" experience.

    Since then, members of INPC have been back to our site - and we've been going back-and-forth with our intermediaries for almost a year now.

    I, and members of my staff went to Hawaii to assist Mr. Kodama in his Grand Opening event as well as announce to all of you our partnership plans.

    Mr. Mamoru Kodama and Taro Kodama are highly respected koi experts. Russell Watergardens is a filtration manufacturer and retailer. Neither RWG or KKF enforce "one way only" pond designs as that is completely impossible. Taro has toured our old facility, and he and his father will be on hand at our Grand Opening of our new facility this spring.

    Both Taro Kodama, and Mamoru Kodama have agreed to inpect and test each of our products for accuracy in information, marketing accuracy, and perform to provide the utmost in Nishikigoi health and well being. Russell Watergardens has agreed to build the Kodama's both a koi pond and a Hybrid pond for ongoing testing of Russell Watergardens' products. (These ponds are yet to be built - but you will all be kept informed as to when and where).

    Taro and Mamoru Kodama have reviewed all of Russell Watergardens "concepts" and understand that they are created for the best health and well being of Nishikigoi in which formats they are intended to be used in.

    There is no debate on rock & gravel. Arguing is pointless, and a waste of time as both formats exist in the industry and nothing anyone can say or do will change that. Russell Watergardens manufactures filtration systems for both formats and Kodama Koi Farm raises koi for both formats. The RWG/KKF partnership combined with the efforts of the INPC (International Nishikigoi Promotion Center) is for the purpose of education and information for the benefit of the consuming public.

    Yes, we'll help them sell more koi, and they'll help us sell more filtration systems. But the end result is that the consuming public with have better filtration systems, better koi health, and much more information than they'll be able to get in any other location.

    Whew! My fingers are tired.
    Any more questions?

    John Russell
    Last edited by John Russell; 12-05-2006 at 09:28 PM. Reason: text

  6. #146


    Hello Don,

    You are obvioulsy hostal towards me for some reason - even though you don't know me, and you know even less about my business.

    You are mistanken to lump any pond with a rock in it into the Aquascape catagory. They may have angered you - I empthasize. But I can assure you, we are nothing like them.

    We are not "pharmacists passing out drugs without prescriptions", we are equipment manufacturers and retailers providing quality products, service, and information to the consuming public. Your opinions on koi ponds are simply that - opinions - and they are valid. But, to be fair, you have to respect the opinions of others that may disagree with you.

    Russell Watergardens, and me personally, are not here to argue with you about what your opinion of a koi pond is, what a water gardens is, or what a Hybrid pond is. We are here to provide you with the very best in filtration systems and information. We also provide that same level of courtesy and respect to people with differing views than your own. As a business, and as a human, that is the right thing to do.

    I invite you to come to our Grand Opening next spring to talk directly with me and Mr. Kodama directly. While you're here, take a look around - ask my employees questions, ask my customers questions. "Kick the tires" on our products. See how they're used. Look under the hood. Make up your mind with first-hand information and facts - instead of assumptions.

    Then after all that - if you still want to be hostal - at least it would be justified.

    Thanks Don,
    John Russell

  7. #147
    John Russell,
    I don't know you and haven't met you. I would take a few exceptions though to some of your advertizing and claims towards you ponds. You mention added surface area with rocks that supplement the biofalls style filtration? Before I go on, I hjave a couple of questions. For biofiltration, cvan you please give me the factors other than surface area in relationship to its effectiveness? I'll anxiously await your reply.

    Steve Childers

  8. #148
    Administrator Brian's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2003

    I've been pretty quiet up until now, but I think that they policy on free advertising is pretty clear. There are supporters that are paying good money for the privilege, and Jim and I are both getting tired of policing the board for free plugs.

    Let this serve as official notice that we won't be allowing free plugs like this anymore as they're not fair to our sponsors or the board.
    Brian Sousa
    Koi-Bito Forum

  9. #149
    Quote Originally Posted by Brian View Post

    I've been pretty quiet up until now, but I think that they policy on free advertising is pretty clear. There are supporters that are paying good money for the privilege, and Jim and I are both getting tired of policing the board for free plugs.

    Let this serve as official notice that we won't be allowing free plugs like this anymore as they're not fair to our sponsors or the board.

    To be fair, it may be a good idea to flesh out a policy on how situations like this are handled. The gentleman did not begin this. He was merely responding to criticisms. Do you disallow these types of criticisms, or just the responses?
    -- Carl --

  10. #150
    Administrator Brian's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Quote Originally Posted by cppond View Post

    To be fair, it may be a good idea to flesh out a policy on how situations like this are handled. The gentleman did not begin this. He was merely responding to criticisms. Do you disallow these types of criticisms, or just the responses?
    Fair point Carl,

    I've not followed this thread in it's entirety, as I'm a very busy man these days. Will take a look at it more thoroughly later tonight when I have some time. My comments can remain on hold until then so feel free to carry on with discussion.

    But, to set the record straight here and now, you are not allowed to put a link to your business website in your signature unless you're an advertiser. That needs to be corrected by Mr. Russell as quickly as possible.
    Last edited by Brian; 12-05-2006 at 11:58 PM. Reason: Notice on signature links for non-advertisers.
    Brian Sousa
    Koi-Bito Forum

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