From Humble Beginnings to a Innovation Leader

The history of Russell Watergardens & Koi

Founded by John Russell, Russell Watergardens & Koi has grown from a one person landscape design/build/maintenance company in the early 1990's, that catered to the high-end residential community of Medina, Washington near Seattle to a leading high quality water feature equipment manufacturer and distributor in North America.

The landscape company evolved from a full service design/build/maintenance firm to a specialty water feature contractor in the mid 1990's. Russell Landscape Services became Russell Watergardens. This move allowed us to focus on water feature construction instead of the wide variety of specialty jobs associated with full landscape projects. This allowed the company to become much more efficient and knowledgeable within a single area of expertise - water features.

Russell Watergardens & Koi has a history of winning awards.


Russell Watergardens became recognized throughout the Pacific Northwest as a company that exhibited the highest levels of expertise and customer service in the water feature construction field. The company won numerous prestigious local and national awards for water feature designs, installations, and sales records. Awards included the Gold Medal at the prestigious Northwest Flower and Garden Show as well as being featured in national industry magazines.

Russell Watergardens has been featured in local and national news publications, as well as numerous magazines and videos.

Russell Watergardens expanded its operations just after the turn of the century by opening a professional water feature equipment store in Redmond, Washington. Once open, the Russell Watergardens Store instantly became a "Destination Location" for everything waterscaping related.

The history of Russell Watergardens & Koi includes building The Original Pondless Waterfall that started the entire pondless revolution.The store was a first of its kind destination location that featured dozens of working display water features, including the Original pondless waterfall that helped spark the phenomenon all across the continent. The store offered professional contractor grade equipment directly to the public. The store also featured a large selection of koi, pond fish, and aquatic plants.
The retail store has been transformed into an online-only store to better serve our rapidly growing national customer base.

As sales grew, our customer base expanded exponentially. With Russell Watergardens & Koi customer-centric direct customer contact - we began hearing interesting questions that had never been asked before in the industry such as:

  • "Why are these filters so difficult to clean?"
  • "How can I keep my pond or water feature more clean?"
  • "Why do my fish get sick and die so easily?"
  • "Why do I have to take apart my filter to clean it?"
  • "Why do I have to drain the pond to clean it?"
  • "Why do I have to catch and remove all my fish when cleaning my pond?"
  • "Isn't there a better way to clean these filters than by hand?"
  • "Why do I need special tools to install these systems?"
  • "Why am I limited to either a Koi pond or a water garden pond?"
  • "Why do so many of the "professional grade" products fail after a few short years?"
  • Plus many, many more!

The history of Russell Watergardens & Koi includes innovation and invention.Until Russell Watergardens & Koi opened, customers had limited places to ask these and other questions about the products that were on the market at the time. When staff members of Russell Watergardens & Koi forwarded these questions to the various product manufacturers, they were met either with silence or "marketing advice" instead of actual information.

That wasn't good enough for Russell Watergardens & Koi's highly educated customer base in the greater Seattle area, so we started an In-house Research and Development department to look into the customer's' questions - as well as our own.

Since the Russell Watergardens Store at that time had so many working water feature displays on site, it was easy to convert them into  "testing displays". We bought virtually every type of product by every major manufacturer and installed these products in the "testing displays" to see what worked and what didn't, and to learn why things worked or failed.

This gave us and our customers information that had been previously unavailable.

It seemed that no matter which product, system, or combination of products and systems from any multiple of manufacturers that we tested - the same results appeared. Difficult to clean systems wouldn't get cleaned as often as they should. The result is dirty water features. Dirty water features created unhealthful conditions for koi and pond fish. More algae grew, and they were generally unattractive after just a short period of time.

Every type of system or product tested had varying degrees of difficulty in installation. They were difficult to clean and/or service once installed. Virtually all the products required special tools to install. While contractors usually have these types of specialty tools, the average homeowner didn't.

Through our in-house research and development, and the large numbers of customers that we serviced, the results of the product testing were conclusive:

  • Difficult to clean filtration systems led to dirty ponds and water features.
  • Dirty water features led to unhealthy water conditions for Koi and pond fish.
  • Unhealthy water conditions contributed to fish disease and death as well as high levels of unsightly algae growth.
  • Difficult to clean filtration systems discouraged owners from performing routine maintenance - which resulted in dirtier water features.
  • Homeowners typically don't own large Channel-Loc tools or "hole-saws" to install the systems.
  • The aluminum hardware included with the systems corroded and failed within a few short years of use - quicker if salt was used in the pond.
  • Hidden costs such as purchasing the additional media that the manufacturers excluded for their media bags, and the cost of replacing the media every few years was not calculated into the overall cost of the water feature.
  • Thin plastic components warped, bowed, cracked, and leaked as a result of winter freezes.
  • Since no products were available to address each of the customer's concerns and with the result of thousands of testing hours, Russell Watergardens saw a demand for products that would address these issues.
  • Using the data compiled by in-house research, as well as using data compiled from a variety of industries and technologies, John Russell designed and engineered, and then Patented the now famous Hydro Vortex™ waterfall filter. Prototypes were made and tested in our test displays, as well as many of our local customers that participated in the testing program.
The history of Russell Watergardens & Koi includes inventing and patenting the world's first backwashable waterfall filter - the Hydro Vortex™.

 Using the data collected from these tests, the Hydro Vortex™ filter design was "tweaked and re-tweaked" until it functioned flawlessly in every test water feature - including through a winter freeze. The filter could be installed without special tools and was tested with multiple methods of cleaning the filter including manually with a garden hose, or self-cleaning with a pipe and valve system - whatever the method of backwashing, the media could be cleaned without having to be removed from the filter.

Unlike the conventional "pad-&-media-bag" filters on the market that require additional media, the Hydro Vortex™ comes standard with all the required media. All hardware is solid Stainless Steel and Brass to eliminate failure due to corrosion.

With the success of the first Hydro Vortex™ filter - which later became the "Marlin", a smaller version, the "Ahi", and a larger version, the "Dolphin" were released. Sales exploded and often times exceeded production.

The history of Russell Watergardens & Koi includes designing the innovative line of pond skimmers - HydroClean™.With the success of the Easy to Clean Hydro Vortex™ program, customers began asking for improvements in pond skimmers, bead filters, and water treatments.

This led to the research and development, testing, and introduction of HydroClean™ pond skimmers, HydroBead Vortex™ pressurized bead filters, and the entire "Hydro" line of products. Each new product is designed for easy installation, easy maintenance and servicing, and reliable performance. Every product is thoroughly tested to ensure quality in a variety of weather conditions.

Russell Watergardens & Koi's web site has become recognized as the online destination for high quality products and service coupled with detailed information, education, and customer service.

At Russell Watergardens & Koi we pride ourselves for innovating cutting edge products and systems, and our ability to stay ahead of the competition.

With national growth and the popularity of this web site, we've had to move to a larger warehouse in Arizona. A larger warehouse with a larger shipping and receiving department allows us to better serve you. 

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