Probably like many folks planning on putting in a koi pond, I had picked out some pretty low cost fixtures from various online sources. \r
Then I visited Russell Watergardens and Koi. They patiently answered all of my rookie questions. They spent a ton of time with me, talking pros and cons, giving me things to think about, and showing me various implementations in their own gardens. \r
As a result, I have purchased a complete system. I still have questions, and they're always helpful. They remember the details of what I'm planning, and even provided a complete schematic of the system, showing where all of the various components go, and which pieces connect them. \r
It's really true that not all pond equipment is created equal. You can definitely spend a lot less on other equipment. If you're willing to take on the hassles of trying to mate mismatched components, getting service from an online retailer, and spending a lot more time maintaining your pond instead of enjoying it, then cheap may be the way to go. If you want to have a system you KNOW will work and is easy to maintain, and people you KNOW will stand behind you post-sale, head straight to Russell.