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Pest Deterrents - How To Protect Your Fish From Predators

Here are some simple ways to keep predators away from your fish.

05 December 2020

Are you waking up to find you have fewer fish in your pond? Have you lost fish throughout the day?  Have you noticed chew marks on your plants?  This is usually the aftermath of a pond predator, like herons.  So how do you keep these animals away? The truth is, it is really difficult to keep predators away; you need to have a multifaceted approach to make the area as unwelcome as possible while providing protection for your plants.

For many pond keepers, the influx of wildlife into the garden is a welcome treat and often the main reason for installing the pond in the first place. It is common to see frogs, newts, hedgehogs and many varieties of birds make their way into your garden to utilise the pond. In many cases, visiting or introduced wildlife can live quite happily alongside resident fish, either co-existing without paying much attention to each other, or simply avoiding each other. Frogs and toads, for example, generally fall within these categories. Other types of wildlife, however, pose a real threat to the pond inhabitants. Perhaps the best-known examples of such unwelcome wildlife visitors are birds that prey on fish and amphibians.

The most common predator is the Heron along with other birds.  Among mammals, you may find you are having to fight against mink, foxes, and beavers. So please keep a watch on your garden to see if these pests start to intrude upon your pond. We have compiled a short list of tactics that can help provide protection for your garden and fish while deterring the predators. We have divided this list into methods which can be used inside, or outside, of your pond alongside other forms of deterrents.

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  1. Make your pond deep.  If you have koi or fish, the recommendation is to have the pond be 0.9m to 1.2m (2ft to 3ft) deep and if there are shelves to have them 30cm to 40cm (12” to 16”) deep.  This gives the fish plenty of space to hide from predators while deep shelving deters predators from wading into the water.
  2. Install hiding places.  Shelves are amazing places to put plants, which provide immense benefits for your pond. But the plants also act as hiding places. You could also use large pipe works, wooden archways, ceramic tunnels or you can create a ‘fish refuge’ made up of hard mesh.
  3. Aerator / Air Stones. Having an aerator in your pond helps to prevent herons due to the water movement and bubbles from the aerator. These bubbles stop herons from spotting your fish while they are flying. Aerators are not only good at preventing herons, but they are a fantastic way to maintain healthy water, a robust ecosystem and healthy fish.

Outer-Pond Protection

  1. Pond Cover Nets. Covering your pond with a cover net helps to predators away.  It is cheap, easy to find in stores, easy to install, and denies predators access to your fish. These cover nets can cover the whole surface of the pond and they can also be used to catch debris and prevent chemical imbalances in your pond. The PondXpert Pond Pyramid Shelter Net is the ultimate, innovative net available on the market.
  2. Pond Protectors. These Pond Protectors come in the form of plastic hexagons that interlock together and float on the surface around the edge of the pond. This stops the herons or other predators getting into the water. Herons tend to stand at the edge and duck their heads in to catch the fish so these pond protectors offer a great barrier to prevent this from happening. They maintain the aesthetic appeal of your pond as they sit just below the surface and are almost invisible from a short distance.
  3. Fencing. Using an electric fencing may seem like a drastic course of action, but it will deter most non-flying predators from getting near your pond.  This shocks herons and cats into looking elsewhere for their supper!

Other Forms of Deterrents

  1. Decoys. They are creative and can be a decorative way to trick a predator. As Herons are territorial animals, they will not intrude on an area they perceive as dominated by one of their kind. Decoys include a range of products like the classic Decoy Heron and an inedible plastic or metal koi; the predator will not be able to eat through the material and may be inclined to feed elsewhere.
  2. Spray repellents. Sprays can confuse animals with the use of smell and taste.  It is usually cost efficient and can be sprayed anywhere which makes for easy use. Sprays are commonly used to keep cats and dogs away from the pond; they hide any territorial ‘markings’ left by animals, thereby confusing unwanted cats and dogs enough to ensure they do not return.
  3. Alarms. Alarms, like the SuperFish Pond Alarm, is a motion detector that emits a high-pitched sound which can keep herons, cats, dogs and even children away from the pond. This category can also include having a guard dog; as they will scare away predators with their barking. Alterantively, the Velda Heron Stop Kit can be used to line the perimeter of your pond.
  4. Wind Chimes. When windy, wind chimes can deter herons by producing a loud noise. If the wind chime is shiny, the reflections can also act as a deterrent. 
  5. Reflective Surfaces. When herons see reflective lights from shiny objects, they become confused and fly away. The Velda Hanging Spinner Heron Deterrent, an excellent reflective surface and has an eye that resembles that of a predator, both of which deter herons from your pond. Alternatively, the Velda Bird Blocker Band can be used as an alternative.

Why do Herons attach garden ponds?

Heron's don't just attack ponds; they go where the food is. Because garden ponds are generally small and full of fish, they are seen as perfect hunting grounds for herons.

Are Herons Protected?

Grey herons are protected under the UK Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. Killing herons can incur hefty fines and even a prison sentence.

When do herons attack garden ponds?

Herons usually attack ponds early in the morning or late in the evening. It is rare, but not unheard of, that they can attack ponds during the day.

Do Decoy Herons Work?

Heron decoys can work for short periods of time; an approaching heron will notice the decoy and it will think that it is another heron. You will need to move the decoy heron every few days, givinge the impression that the decoy is alive; this will confuse passing herons. If the decoy is smaller than an approaching heron, the approaching heron may land and challenge your decoy for territory!

What is the best Heron Deterrent?

This is a tough question, but we normally recommend a mixture of cover netsplants (even artificial plants provide shade!), an aerator (they are fantastic at keeping ponds healthy while acting as a deterrent!) and a replica Decoy Heron. This helps to deter herons from visiting your pond, while protecting fish if you do get a visitor!

If you need any further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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