Ron Toft on the story of how a koi health problem led Richard and Ann Telford to set up their company - AllClear Water Purifiers
Richard and Ann Telford beside their pond. All photos by the author.
When Ann and Richard Telford moved into their new house in Essex in 1987, they discovered a koi pond.
Despite lacking filtration and oxygenation, the pond still supported fish - three koi, two goldfish and one shubunkin in 250 gallons of water.
"It was a stagnant pit with all this muck at the bottom," recalled former teacher and lecturer Ann. "We embarked on a rapid learning curve, for fish lives were at risk.
Although we had a great deal of experience with aquaria at that stage we didn't know what pumps and filtration were required for that volume of water and number of fish. A local koi keeper helped us turn the pond around."
From that point on, Ann and medical supplies agent Richard became 'koi freaks'. They learned more and more about them and kept them successfully without any problems - until they decided to build a new pond in 1990.
"We took the koi out of the existing pond and kept them in the original water in our garage over the winter. They grew and thrived. We filled the pond with 'new', treated water and gradually put the fish in. Our water parameters were superb, but after three months we started getting severe fish health problems. Some of the fish were ulcerated, some dying - things we had never had to cope with before."
Ann's brother, who was a principal safety officer at the time and knew nothing about fish asked her what was in the water.
"I told him the ammonia and nitrite levels were fine, as was the pH. Everything was spot on. He had the outside tap tested for faecal and bacterial contamination. It was clear. He also obtained a water report from the water company. We could then see what was causing the health problems: our fish were facing far higher copper and zinc levels in the water than before".
Ann contacted various water purifier suppliers, eventually buying a model which seemed to be the answer to the metals problem. "Initially the health of our fish improved, but the media inside the purifier became exhausted far earlier than we anticipated. We kept running the water through it, but the reduction parameters had gone down and the fish health problems up."
That's when Ann began her water purification crusade - 'my mission' - as she wryly puts it. Drawing heavily on her academic background and its scientific content, Ann threw herself into a programme of intensive research. Her aim was to launch a scientifically accurate and effective range of purifiers for fish protection.
"Apart from earning some pocket money as a part-time lecturer, I also researched on an almost full-time basis." The research, Ann told me, was all about finding the right questions to ask the right people. "It was months and months of questions leading to yet more questions."
During the research phase, Ann received the help and support of a number of experts.
A qualified fish expert researched the long term fish-safe levels of substances in water. These were compiled from accepted authoritative sources and not 'guess figures'. The head of a water analysis laboratory who became involved in recommending and designing test programmes was brilliant. A selection of these independent test results can be seen at shows and talks. Richard also had considerable input on the testing side.
With the initial R&D work completed, AllClear Water Purifiers was launched in April 1993. Since then, the business hasn't looked back and now sells a range of more than a dozen purifiers. Each model is designed, says Ann, to do "different things in different ways for different amounts of water."
Reproduced with permission from Ron Toft January 1999 ©