Outdoor ponds are at the mercy of the elements. If you’ve designed your pond properly, your fish are set to weather many environments. But what are you to do if an animal starts to view your pond as an all-you-can-eat buffet?
Smart Fish & Caves
Domestically bred fish are not aware of what a “predator” is until their first encounter. Their little brains think the fuzzy, clawed rock is going to feed them, just like the big pink thing that talks to them. It’s a lesson some fish learn too late. However, it just takes ONE attack to make your fish wise to the visitors who are not coming with treats. If you bring new fish into the pond, the ones who are there will teach the new kids what to do when the predator comes.
Now, if you are lucky to have smart, wise fish, you need to provide them some cover. If the big winged thing with spearing beak makes an appearance, they need a place to run and hide. Usually, this is in the form of a permanent cave. Sometimes you can get away with temporary plant cover. Make sure there is enough room for all your fish to hide! Fish will hurt themselves if there are not enough places and they have to kick each other out to protect themselves.
Although unsightly, physical barriers to the surface of your pond are the most effective.
There are many types of netting available for outdoor pond use. We recommend using nylon cord netting rather than cheaper plastic netting. Sharp claws and beaks easily slice through plastic netting and it easily tears. Use stakes or rocks around the border of your pond to secure your net.
This method uses clear fishing line to create a network of strings over the top of your pond. When birds try to fly down, they will encounter the lines and fly off. This does NOT prevent walking predators, such as raccoons and birds that land elsewhere and walk over.
Just as you can keep your dog from leaving your yard, electric fences work to keep critters out of your pond. Fairly effective against raccoons, unless they can climb over elsewhere, and birds, if it’s high enough to prevent them from stepping over it. Please warn your veterinarian! (I’ve only been shocked once – it was not pleasant.)
Birds flying overhead won’t come to the fish buffer if they can’t see it. This method will also provide your fish shade and protection from sunburn, not to mention catch nuisance tree debris.
Some of these will work better for some owners than others. It probably depends on how smart a predator you get and how many easier alternative foods they can find.
Bird, raccoon or veterinarian walk into the path of the motion detector and get sprayed with water. Simple concept and works until the raccoons turn the sprayers away. (True story) We recommend you keep moving these around the pond to prevent critters from having too much time to study them.
Decoys (Heron, Alligator, Etc)
Some owners swear by these, while they are completely ineffective at others. Maybe some of you have smarter predators? These work best if you keep moving their position.
No, it doesn’t matter what kind of dog you have, but it does matter how bothered they are by critters in their yard. Dogs can be the most effective critter deterrent only if they are honor bound to defend their yard. A simple bark or sound of tags jingling is enough to scare off most animals. However, if your raccoon can pay off your dog with some well-placed scraps, you’ll have to use another method.