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KEEPING YOUR FISH SAFE – Pond Predators
One day, if you have a water feature with fish, you will have to contend with some type of predator looking for an easy meal. To keep your garden from becoming the neighborhood sushi bar see some of the solutions that you can implement to keep your fish friends safe. Also to consider, is what you are putting in place going to ward off the wildlife you DO want at your water feature?
There are many to choose from and based on your aesthetic and budget. We find what works for one generally works for all pond predators. You can choose what works best for your particular situation be it a cutout, floating additions, or motion activated heat seeking sniper sprinklers. Just remember to move them around time to time to keep the predator off their game and you should have a happy predator free water feature. Here in Houston we generally see two main perpetrators being the Great Heron and Raccoons.
COVERS: First and most obvious is to simple put a net over the water feature. Fish breeders use fishing line across their ponds to deter birds of prey, and is a very cheap and relatively effective deterrent. Netting also works, but the predator can sit atop or walk out on top and peck at the fish causing injury or death just to discover they can’t get it out. This is annoying to the bird, but can still results in the demise or injury of your fish friends and us again 100% effective. This is one of the most straight forward and cheapest route running a few bucks for fishing line and around $30 + for a net depending on the area you need to cover.
PLANTS: Second approach is letting nature help. Well placed landscaping limits what can be seen under the water and getting to it. A border of bushes or plants or the addition of aquatic plants that afford cover and a place to hide is a great way to protect while adding more character to your area. Most predators what a “quick in - quick out” bank robber approach and these can make the plan more complicated and can keep them from becoming repeat offenders if the job is too difficult and move on to easier hunting grounds. Expect to spend $50 and up depending on your needs.
THREATS/DECOYS. There are plenty to choose from with owls, herons, and crocodiles being the most prolific. As a lone hunter Herons’ will tend to stay away from another’s hunting area although we have heard of Heron Decoys being destroyed by a would be newbie on the block. Key take away for a placing a “scarecrow” or faux wildlife near your pond is to remember to move it around often so it doesn’t become just another decoration that is disregarded by your new nemesis.
One great idea if you can find them, is a faux fish. Yep, that’s right a fake fish in your pond anchored near the surface and a steady target makes work for a potential meal easy for Herons or others and acts as an early warning system to your fish to take cover. This of course falls into what I call the “Tornado Warning” category for your fish as the threat is already nearby, and if the decoy isn’t the first on the menu for the predator you can still lose a fish.
You can put reasonable doubt in the mind of your nuisance by adding a silhouette of a dog or other figure. Any predator scouting the area will usually avoid dogs, people, and its own predators and move along where it believes it is safer to hunt. Don’t forget to move these often as they will get used to seeing the dog sitting in the same spot day after day after day.
If your budget and location allows you can also implement a pond scarecrow. This is a device that is motion activated and fires bursts of water in the direction of the interloper which could also be you if active when near your pond. The price on these vary, but if you shop around you can get something that fits the bill for around $100 or for about $20 if you aren’t concerned about the “pretty factor” some stakes and reflective tape staked around the pond about 2 feet high does a fairly good job of keeping pests away as well.
SAFEHAVEN: An extra rock ledge, cave or adding a dramatic fish Castle will do the trick. Anywhere that you can provide your fish to take refuge will help keep it safer from an unwanted visitor.
DEEPER IS BETTER: Most professional ponds are at least 2 feet deep or more. If yours is not you may have built a buffet instead of a water garden. As a note, herons do not hunt in water deeper than about 18-20 inches. Having a deep water feature is one of the best deterrents from predators. The pricing will vary on this depending on where your pond is now.
SCARE TACTICS: These are great, even more so when your friends are family are the victim and can get a good laugh out of it. Predator calls are motion activated broadcasters making the sounds of various land and air predators. Small versions of agricultural industry versions can be purchased and installed near your pond. Then wait… when it goes off it should chase away most anything. If you get bored waiting, send a friend in the path of the sensor and watch what happens when they set it off. (have towel handy) One more reason to have a dog in the family… leave them on duty when you cannot be around to guard the pond.
Lastly, remember that these fish threats are animals. SOUND, NOISE, and more to the point, ANYTHING that might EAT or hurt them is what they are on the lookout for.
Be creative, use a layer of protection with more than one approach, be safe, have fun, & best wishes!