How to keep birds and other predators from eating my fish?
Pond predators are not a fun problem, but they are however a common one. With Herons, Hawks, Raccoons, Fox, cats, snakes and more all licking their lips for a free meal, it’s easy to feel a bit outnumbered.
If you do find that your pond has been turned into a bit of a crime scene do a little CSI investigating. A good first step is to examine all your fish and see who has been harmed. If you notice an injured but still living fish, use a net to capture is to take a close look. Inspect the wounds, if they appear not to be too severe then it will likely be ok to leave in you pond.
If you notice major injuries immediately remove and gently put your injured fish in a separate holding tank in a shaded, protected area. You will need oxygen for your hurt fish so put an aerator in their too. You can add fish formula to the water to assist with the healing process of your fish, our team uses Aquascape Non-Iodized Salt, but any related products can provide the same assistance. This formula will help to calm your fish from the stress and begin rebuilding its slime coat, defending from infections. While your fish is quarantined be sure to regularly check on it, if you see most of its wounds have healed and it’s back swimming normal you can begin to re-introduce your fish back into the pond by acclimating it to the water.
How can you protect your pond?
When it comes to protecting your fish from pond predators the techniques vary depending on the type of predator.
For birds like Herons the solution we see many pond owners using are a strong and sturdy pond net. Unfortunately, this is not very appealing visually but if you have an insistent heron it may be your strongest option. Some people also use a Heron decoy to deter other birds. This works in theory because Herons are very territorial animals, however, the decoy may work for a brief time but almost always the REAL Heron eventually realizes your decoy is a fake and will go right back to your pond without hesitation.
For land based animals like raccoons, foxes, cats, etc., a good deterrent is a Motion activated sprinkler(Scarecrow). These sprinklers basically spray chilly water just like a lawn sprinkler whenever something approaches it. Even if the water doesn’t hit your predator the sudden movement will often startle them into hiding. However, beware, the motion sprinkler cannot tell the difference between friend or foe, so it could end up spraying you or a unprepared house guest. When installing one it’s always a promising idea to place it somewhere that allows you access without getting sprayed yourself.
The best thing to help your fish avoid predators will always be a well built pond. If you are in the planning stages of building your pond you can plan ahead for these fish thieves. Bigger & deeper ponds are will always help to prevent harmed fish. The more space they have to dodge predators the harder it is for these crooks to snag their prey. When we first build a pond we often build a fish cave or fish tunnel. These can also be added if you already have a built pond it will just require a little extra effort. A fish cave can be built by taking large flat piece of irregular flagstone that can be set on the bottom shell of your pond. This gives your fish a place to hide when they see an unwelcome guest peeking into the water. A fish tunnel will provide similar safety and they can be purchased as small mesh tents that sit at the bottom of you pond. If you are looking for a subtler fish tunnel an experience building can take a large piece of pipe, placed at the bottom of the pond and build with rock around it to give it a more natural look that will still provide safety for your fish.