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Controlling Leeches – Pond & Lake Q & A

Picture of a Leech

Q: How do you get rid of leeches?
– Richard of Waterbury Center, VT

A: The “muck” at the bottom of your pond is a great breeding ground for leeches. So the absolute best way to get rid of them would be to get rid of the “muck”. MuckAway™ Pond Muck Reducer is the best way to do this. MuckAway™ will eat up to 5″ of “muck” per year!

Another thing you can do in the short term is trap them. To do so, do the following:

1.) Start with a coffee can with a plastic lid.

2.) Poke holes in the sides of the can with a nail. Holes should be 1/8 to 1/4 inch in size. The nail holes should leave a sharp burr on the inside of the can (approximately 50 holes).

3.) Put about 1/4 cup of raw meat in the can (ground beef, liver, chicken or turkey giblets are recommended).

4.) Put the lid on the can and submerge it completely in your pond. A rock placed on top of the can will prevent it from falling over and will help prevent snapping turtles from tampering with it.

5.) Check the trap a couple of times a week and remove the leeches. Keep the trap in the pond until the leech numbers decrease, or you no longer catch any leeches in the trap.

58 Responses

  1. Is it safe for dogs to swim in the pond after adding the chemical to reduce the muck?

  2. I live on a large lake,Leeches are at the shore line where my kids swim. Will block salt kill them. Setting out leech traps will not be effect due to the turtles and the large miles of shore line. It has a pebble bottom but only up to about 4 foot out then it is mud and stone. We have pulled up all the weeds around the shore line. The leeches are taking over-need help.

  3. Will try. I have a farm and three kids. They love to swim in the pond but it’s so dirty. What we did is used the leech killer above, true blue pond dye, and a floating dock. We then put sand all around the bank and a water geyser in the middle and it’s just like there on little beach! They love it and it wouldn’t be possible without the leech killer. It was a great idea and really worked. Ps- there was no fish in the pond so I don’t know how that works

  4. I just want to know how to kill the leech…

  5. I have a 12 acre pond with rainbow trout and i have lots of leaches in the pond what is the best way to get rid of them they are black with orange bellies i think they are horse leeches. somone told me by some catfish are they good to mix with the trout? somone else told me get some crawfish? has anyone had any luck regarding this


  6. what so bad about the leech? do they harm the fish? i wonder if my catfish would eat them, because i don’t feed them anymore they won’t eat, they all have a fat belly, i know they must be eating something.

    • An occasional leech bite isn’t going to do too much harm to the fish; however a leech infestation can cause fish to become stressed due to leech bites. If the fish become stressed, that will make them more susceptible to other diseases. A Catfish will eat the leeches as fish food. You can also put a leech trap in the pond to help reduce their numbers. Punching holes in a metal can that has a lid and placing meat in the can as bait will lure the leeches in without a way to exit the trap. Check the trap every few days, discard the leeches and rebait the trap.

  7. What I have doesn’t look like the photos above. when they are contracted, they look almost like that shape, but when moving in the water, they stretch out into a narrow ribbon-like shape. They are also a reddish color. They do seem attracted to motion, and if we’re playing around in the swimming area, it doesn’t take long for several of them to show up, Are these leeches, or something else? If something else, will they attach like leeches?

    • John,

      What you are describing sounds like leeches. They do contract and stretch out as they move through the water. Leeches do come in a variety of colors, such as brown, reddish, black.

      If you are entering the pond, you are stirring up the muck where they hide and they are attracted to the motion in the water. Using MuckAway will help to reduce the “muck’ where leeches like to hide.

  8. I’ve heard a method of getting rid of leeches that I have yet to try. I’m curious if anyone else has tried it…

    This only has a chance if you live in an area that gets hard freezes over the winter: Keep the pond topped up until things are getting colder in the fall/winter. Then drain the water level down about 3 or 4 feet. Let it sit this way over the winter. The leeches usually hang out in the shallower water and may burrow into the muck in shallower areas. Draining the pond down will expose the leeches and their eggs to the cold and kill them. You may still have some the next year, but it should put a good dent in the population. I’ve been told that since it took about 4 years for the leaches to first show up in the pond, I should plan on doing this every 3 or 4 years.

    Has anyone heard of this? Does it work? I’m going to give it a shot this winter. I’m curious if anyone has ideas about the timing… drain things too soon, and they may just migrate down to the new water level.

    • John,

      Adjusting the water level to allow the mud where leeches live to freeze, can be used to control leeches. However, keep in mind the dropping the water level is effective but it will also kill other forms of aquatic life that burrow in the mud.

    • Just an update on my plan to drain the pond down 3 or 4 feet after things got cold enough to start freezing last winter:

      I waited too long, and things froze up. I chopped a hole and started pumping. Unfortunately, I only got it down about 18″ before the pump sucked up a chunk of ice, clogged, and punctured the diaphragm.

      I’d still be very interested to know if anyone has tried this with any success. I saw Pond Guy’s response that this would probably kill other burrowing animals as well. I’d hate to risk killing off the amphibians we’ve got in the pond, but the leeches have got to go, and the can trap is not working.

      We are taking steps to reduce the Muck (not that we have much). Unfortunately, we’ve got Chara (algae that looks like a bottom growing weed). Raking live Chara is a bad idea, so we’re treating with Cutrine to kill it, then waiting a couple of weeks to rake and add Muck-away and other bacteria to control algae and digest the muck.

  9. Is there a product to kill the leeches without killing the fish?

    • Hi Corrina,

      There is not currently a product we have to remove leeches. The best thing is to remove the muck in the pond and reduce vegetation growing around the outside perimeter in stagnant areas. You can also try putting a coffee can with small holes and bait in the pond to capture some however this may not solve the issue just reduce it.

  10. Been reading all the articles here because we are in Ontario and have a 100 foot x 100 foot pond that is 15-18 feet deep. Have tried the coffee can with the liver twice with no luck. Got a small leech stuck on me and then saw a huge one when it was swimming about 10 inches long when spread out with a very ugly bright orange underbelly. They seem to reside at pond edge. Our pond is only 2 years old and no algae whatsoever. We know almost for sure that Canada geese brought in the leeches because we caught one with leeches all over its legs. We have rainbow, brown and tiger trout (about 65) in our pond and oodles of minnows. The rake or the muck away seems to be the only solution. However, pond guy when going to your site it doesn’t say how fast this will work or how much much has to be removed to get rid of the leeches. We do have a solution for people with algae blooms. We had it really bad last year from the Canada geese pooping and we divided up two small square bales of barley straw into 1/4 wrapped it in monofilament fishing line and tied them to a stake at the water’s edge. In two week the pond was clear again. It had been 80% covered with algae scum. Wish we could find such a simple organic solution to the leeches. If anyone has any other advice please advise. Thanks

  11. i have a small pond and i found tiny grey leeches in a bottom tear we have. they have miltiplied very quickly and are attaching themselves to the snails i have. The weird thing is i put them on my arm to see if they would bite me and they dont!! So im guessing they are vegitarians… but why r they attaching to snAils? i am positive they are leeches and i want them out!!! is there any other way to get them out besides the coffee can method? and if i put sqlt in my pond.. how would i do that? please help these lil guys are really becoming an nusense! thanks

  12. Does anyone know if bass will eat the leeches? i have a pond in the hudson valley area in NY State..

  13. I have a pond in Kenya with lots of muck and leeches. I wonder of geese will eat leeches. Anybody know?

  14. My kids are freaked out by the “all of the sudden” presence of leeches on the paddle boat and chair that was in the water. Our lake is sandy near the shoreline. I’m not even sure they are leeches. But the kids will NOT swim.
    I’m going to try the coffee can, did the salt system in the can work? Did you put the meat in too?
    Why would they be present in the sandy shoreline? We also just raked the lake. Help…I need the kids to swim.

  15. I wonder if anyone has thought that if you catch a lot of leaches they could sell them for fishing bait we do in Canada all the time .and there’s a good show about catching leaches on dirty jobs.My self I’m going to put system salt in the can with holes poked in the lid and let the salt keep them out of the swimming area.

  16. A variation on the coffee jar–use a narrow necked bottle , squeeze a chunk of meat in through the neck, place bottle onto pond floor, horizontal so opening is next to mud or plants. This is working for me very well indeed in catching them. I attach a cord to the bottle neck to aid retrieval. When removed add salt to the bottle to elminate them.

  17. Mt wife is Filipina and she has a rice field. There are leaches in there and of course you cannot remove the much as it is needed. When trapping the leaches , the best way to get rid of them is to burn them. Dont cut them up as they will multiply themselves. She has tried many methods and now will try the coffee can with liver.

  18. Hi!One Day my brother and i was fishing in my grandmas pond.about 6 year old pond and the bobber fell off our fishin’ pole so my brother got in the pond with all the muck and then got out and a leech was on his leg.As I was reading all the ways to get rid off them what if te leeches are in the muck where would i put the muck and everything?How would i kll the leeches?and keep them away for good? As soon as you can answer my question please email me back i need to get rid of these pests asap for my 3yr olds sake.
    Thanks-Carissa and Carol

    • Carissa,

      Muck is really a fertilizer, so when removing you can actually place it into your garden or flower beds. Or you could just toss it as yard waste. I would use a rake called the Pond & Beach Rake to rake out as much muck as possible and then use MuckAway to keep the muck levels down.

      To keep leeches away for good, you need to get rid of their mucky environment.

  19. I have a small pond in Vermont that is 4 years old. Last year, I noticed a black leech about 4″ long in the shallows and scooped it out and threw it into the meadow. This year, I have been dealing with tiny creatures that look leech-like when seen with a magnifying glass – they are about 1/16th of an inch – and are clustered on the inside of my pond standing drainpipe. They move in the water as it flows out. I take a spatula and scrape them off the surface and wash them down the pipe. They keep coming back.
    In reading about environments for leeches, my pond has little muck and vegetation. What about crawfish? or adding table salt to the pond to change the Ph?

    • Hi Hannah, thank for your question. One of our pros, Sue C., has a great way to trap leeches, so try this: Get a metal coffee can, punch holes in the side, place meat inside can and secure lid. Leeches will crawl in and will not be able to get out. Works like a charm! Let us know if you have success with this as well. Thanks!

      • I tried the coffey can trap for leaches. I am concerned about 2 things with it.

        first, rust. Do I want a rusty can in my pond. dosnt sound good for my fish. my can started getting rusty after a couple of days.

        second, seems what ever meat I use will become rancid. can this be good for my fish.

        The more I learn about leaches, the less I want them in my pond/yard. I understand they can move through damp grass. I really dont want these things.

  20. We have a camper on a large lake. We have leeches at our area but they do not seem to be elsewhere. Our shoreline has
    mid size gray rocks to hold the shore line. We brought them in
    many years ago due to excessive erosion Could they be the reason we have the leeches and they are not elsewhere?.

    • Mary,

      Do you have a muck layer on the bottom of the shoreline in your area? This is where leeches like to burrow and to help keep the population down, I would suggest MuckAway to help digest some of the muck in your area.

      I wouldn’t think the rocks you brought in would cause you have have leeches.

  21. Which is best–MuckAway or Pond Clear? I have what looks like a small variety of leeches–less than an inch long but they sting like a horsefly when they bite! I use a bluing agent and have fish–the leeches just started this year so hopefully by getting after the muck I can get rid of them. The muck isn’t deep and not present all over the pond.

    Thanks–Nancy T.

    • MuckAway is the best at digesting and eliminating muck. These pellets are natural bacteria that will sink into the muck to be the digestion process.

      For some quick results you can rake the muck out using a lake rake and then continue to use MuckAway to keep the muck levels to a minimum.

  22. Are Leeches harmful to humans?

  23. Anita,

    When there are excessive organics in a pond, usually the population of leeches can increase. The best way to help remove leeches is my removing some of the “muck” on the bottom of the pond. Leeches will burrow into this muck and call it home. If you can remove this muck via a Pond & Beach Rake or usually MuckAway you will help be able to keep them at bay.

  24. I tried the coffee can with beef liver as the bait. IT WORKED. Two days later we took the can out of our pond and behold it had many leeches inside it. We took it over to the barn and washed the can out therefore washing the leeches into the stone drive. My question is, will the leeches find their way back to the pond? If so, how do you suggest killing them? I am thrilled because I think this will take some time but definitely do the job. I just want to make sure that we are really getting rid of them and that they don’t make their way back in.
    Thanks for your help!

  25. I take a piece of cooked ham roll it into a tube and tie a piece of string around it. An hour later removing it slowly it was black with leeches. Not only on the outside but within the folds of the roll.

    Untie the ham, scrape the leeches off and reuse

    • Thanks for your comments Milton!

    • When you scrapped the leeches off of the ham did you then kill them or how did you keep them from going back in your pond? I am using the liver and can method as I commented below. It seems to be attracting them but it is a very slow process. I’m wondering if the ham will work better. We have several red ear fish but they are not keeping up with them.


  26. My leeches don’t look like the picture on top of this page, they look more like very small worms, about one inch long, black and skinny. i took a sample to the Pond shop and the guy thought it was leeches. But now I am very confused. Any suggestion?

    • Gerta,

      What you have sounds like a leech even though they might not look like the picture above. I plan to right another blog post about leeches because the one above isn’t the best.

      What you really need to do is to get rid of the environment that they burrow is, which is the muck. If you can use a Pond & Beach Rake to remove the muck and use MuckAway to help keep the muck levels down you will have better luck at controlling leeches.

      Hopefully this helps you.

    • We are at Lake Brownwood in Texas and several of the kids have had small red worms attached to their feet from walking on the shore. Anyone know what these are called and if they are harmful?

      • Stephanie,

        Those red worms are probably what you would refer to as blood worms. They are actually a type of worm that a lot of fisherman will use for bait. You shouldn’t have any problem.

    • mt leeches are small, about one inch, they wiggle very differently than a worm. they have mouths on both ends,they are hard to smash unlike a worm. They maybe food some fish but they attach thenselves to my gold fish and kill them.

  27. I also tried the can and hamburger thing here in Minnesota. I did not work. I wish I knew where they came from. I am thinking of trying bleach (chlorine) before I put my fish back in. They are a great food source, the fish were in a frenzy for weeks. The algea was saturated with leech eggs. DNR confirmed that they were leeches. My only concern with chlorine is if the pump can tolerate it and not destroy any seals. Anyone with dosage info or other ideas would be appreciated

  28. To All Pond Owners with Leeches,

    Anyone have any other thoughts on controlling leeches besides what has been said already? Any comments are welcome!

  29. Christy,

    Yes, adding fish will help. Having a fish population will keep some of the leech population down. If you had to choose between swimming with the hybrid bluegill and the leeches, I would swim with the hybrid bluegills. One thing with the hybrid bluegills is that if they have enough of a food source in the pond, such as fathead minnows, they usually won’t bother you or come up and nibble at your toes.

  30. I tried the coffee can trick-didn’t work. I am going to try again but I am wondering if it would help to have fish in my farm pond. In the past we had hybrid bluegills-no longer have them-and we did not have leeches then. Do you think the fish would help? My grandchildren did not want to swim with fish in the pond and now they won’t go in with the leeches.
    Thanks for any other help you can give me.

  31. i had them bad a few years ago they were so bad they had attched themselves to my cat fish i took him out of the water put salt on the leaches it seamed to kill them then i put rock salt in my pond and for a long time i didnt see any i have them back this year the salt did not kill my gold fish or cat fish now iam haveing green water have not had that for years trying toi get rid of that

  32. I tried this leech trap. I only caught 1 leech in 2 traps in 2 weeks – checking them every few days. The ground beef I used rapidly turned into beef spagetti. I must have a fair number of leeches because I often see them when I rake up debris. Since leeches are attracted to movement I was wondering if anyone knows of a “bobbing” or “moving” trap that might work better. I have some ideas, but wondering what others’ thoughts might be.


    • mark i am wanting to know if a leech can kill a snaping turtle, because i was walking around the pond a saw a snping turtle and i caught him. when i got him in my yard i saw leechs on him. wright back if you are on please

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