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Protecting Your Fish From Predators – Water Garden Q & A

Picture of Great Blue Heron

Q: Last year something caused over 20 of my fish to disappear overnight. How can I protect my fish?
-Katherine of Nanty Glo, PA

A: More often than not, what took your fish was a blue heron. We hear this quite a bit throughout the year. Here are a couple suggestions:

Blue Heron Decoy: These decoys, when used correctly, will deter blue herons away from your water garden. Here’s why: Blue herons are very territorial birds. If a heron sees another heron by a prospecting water garden, it will rather fly to another destination than challenge the heron thats there. By using a Blue Heron Decoy, you can accomplish just that. It is recommended to move the heron decoy every other day. Caution: DO NOT use heron decoys during mating season as they will become a heron magnet instead.

Motion Activated Scarecrow Sprinkler: This motion activated sprinkler works extremely well to deter any predator (including kids =) ). Simply hook to your garden hose, set the sensitivity level and any predator that comes within a 20 foot range will get hit with a 3 second burst of water. It works great and it is guaranteed effective.

Aquatic Plants: Having a 50-60% coverage in plants will help create a hiding spot for fish when predators are around.

5 Responses

  1. I have had a real problem with racoons and snakes trying to get into my pond. It’s just a small pond with about 13 fish. I have put a net over the pond and it stops the snakes as well as the racoons. The snakes get caught in the netting and of course, you have to get them out. (only bad thing about the netting) If I didn’t have the netting, my fish would be gone. I did loose a couple of fish before the netting was installed. The racoons around here aren’t afraid of a spray of water. They are very bold!

  2. What about a coyote decoy or of another animal that would prey upon Blue Herons?

    I have a 16 x 8 pond, with many, many plants. Plant coverage is about 85%. I also have two turtles, one of which is pretty big. Covering with a net would be such a pain as I also net out the pond’s bottom every other day and have several tall plants in the the pond as well.

    For the first time ever (my dogs were inside at the time last night), I had a Blue Heron visit my other pond which is small and I think she took my large fantail gold fish! I placed a net over that pond this morning.

    Would you suggest the 3-prong approach: decoy, moton-dectector sprayer and ample plant coverage to deter the Blue Herons? I have dogs, do these birds fear dogs? Thank-you, Lisa

    • Lisa,

      Your three-prong approach is definitely a good way. Just know that since the heron has deemed your pond as its territory, the motion activated scarecrow is probably the best approach to help scare them off.

      If a dog were to run after them, they more than likely would be scared off as well. I guess it may depend on the size of the dog =).

  3. I will totally agree with you that using a heron decoy, on its own, is a great start, but there is more to be done to make sure your prized fish are protected. Like you mentioned, using a pond netting to cover the water garden is a great way to keep predators away.

    Heron decoys are best utilized when a “real” heron has yet to establish your water garden as its place to feast (Meaning they’ve come back more than a couple of times.). If a “real” heron already has and you place a heron decoy out there, the “real” heron will more than likely challenge that decoy and in turn discover that it wasn’t much of a match.

    If a water garden already has a heron problem, using the activated scarecrow, having 50-60% coverage with aquatic plants and using a netting to cover the water garden are the ways to go.

  4. Yeah herons can be very annoying. unless you do somthing to protect your fish they will keep coming back day after day as they know there are fish there to eat. Trust me I know how annoying these are. I have many ponds at Country Koi Fish Farm as they were regular visitors daily and had to protect them. I placed a net over the pond and it helped protect the fish. They are pretty smart fishermen as they still tried but the fish were much more protected. We not only have to worry about herons eating our fish but kingfishers, eagles and racoons too. Without a pond net they would have cleaned out our fish in no time.

    The scarecrow sprinkler works well, pond plants adds lots more protection for your fish and so does pond netting. As for the heron decoy I am a little weary on that as I know they are territorial but hey when it comes to mating time they need to get close……… so I never really just rely on that but a combination of all the above will help protect your fish from predators for sure.

    Pond guy, what’s your thoughts on the heron? Do you think people can strictly rely just on that?


    Jamie Boyle
    The Goldfish Guy

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