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What can I do to help out a fish that was attacked by a heron? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: What can I do to help out a fish that was attacked by a heron?

Q: What can I do to help out a fish that was attacked by a heron?

Lori – Glen Forney, PA

A:  Ouch. A heron attack isn’t pretty – and it’s potentially deadly to your fish. Unfortunately, you can’t call 9-1-1 or an emergency fish veterinarian for a pond call, but you can try some things that could save your pet’s life.


  1. Examine, Triage: The first thing to do is examine the victim and do some triage. Capture the injured fish in a pond net and take a closer look at its wounds without removing it from the water. How severe is the injury? Are there just a few scrapes, or does the fish have an open wound?
  2. Minimal Injuries: If your fish’s injuries aren’t too severe and it appears to be normal except for a few scrapes, leave it in the pond and add some Stress Reducer PLUS to the water. The liquid formula will help to calm the fish and rebuild its slime coat, which defends it against infection. You might also want to add some soothing salt to the water (read about it here).
  3. Remove and Isolate: If your fish is severely injured, set up a quarantine tank with pond water and an aerator, add some Stress Reducer PLUS, put it in a shaded and protected area, and gently move the fish from the pond to the tank.
  4. Watch for Infection: Keep an eye on your fish while it’s in the quarantine tank. Because damaged tissue becomes a breeding ground for bacterial and fungal pathogens, watch for signs of infection. If you see split or ragged fins, slimy patches or red ulcers on its body, or any other unusual symptoms, use CrystalClear® Wipeout™ or API® MelaFix to heal the wounds and restore damaged tissue.

While your finned friend is recovering, makes some plans for how you’ll guard your pond against future attacks. A Blue Heron Decoy will dissuade the real things from stopping by for a snack. Pond netting will prevent birds from reaching the water. Floating, submerged and marginal aquatic plants give your fish somewhere to hide, as do fish shelters, like the Koi Kastle. Set your fish up for safety – especially since that heron will be back for seconds!

Pond Talk: Have you ever nursed a sick fish back to health?

Reduce Stress & Heal Damages Tissue - Pond Logic® Stress Reducer PLUS

5 Responses

  1. Herons are voracious feeders. They’ll pluck a 12in. fish out of the water, flip it up on the bank and eat just the eyeballs. Then do it again! I suggest a 22 hollowpoint – safely.

  2. While the heron decoy is a pretty decoration on your pond, I found that it really does not work as a deterant to real herons. I have come out to see a heron standing right next to my decoy and still going after my fish. I put it out after breeding season like I read to do and I do move it and change it’s position. I believe it was a fledgeling heron as there was another heron at my other pond without a decoy and the other heron was larger. Maybe young herons don’t realize they need to be wary of decoys?

    • Hi Dawn – I’m not sure if there have been any studies done on the age of the heron versus the affects of using a heron decoy but you may be on to something. If the decoy isn’t working on it’s own you may need to consider a back up approach such as a motion activated sprinkler or possibly setting up some other obstructions that would stop them accessing the pond.

      • We have been plagued by herons here on Nantucket Island. The harbor and surrounding creeks are full of bait fish, but the heron would rather raid everyone’s ponds. We inherited two koi ponds when we purchased our present house….otherwise I might not have put a snack bar so close to the natural habitat of the heron. Two summers ago we had rampant infection in one pond because so many fish had been struck. This past December, one of our pugs was struck and lost an eye. To say the least, heron are not among the birds we love. This spring I converted the “lower pond” into a water garden…no fish. We built a pergola over the remaining pond. The day after it was finished, the same old heron was standing in the pond. I watched him take off and out of the pond through an opening between a post of the pergola and a whirligig that was supposed to deter him. I immediately got out my tape and found that he needed 52″ for wingspan to take off. I ordered 6 new copper rain chains to add to the one I already had. All have been broken down into varying lengths and now hang from the pergola at random intervals, none allowing for that wingspan. I’ve also hung a bamboo wind chime, a humingbird feeder and planted climbing roses and clematis. So far, we have seen the same heron zoom in and right out of the airspace over our garden just once. I have my fingers crossed that we’ve gotten him…and his pals…to by pass us for easier pickings. In the fall, we will probably wrap the sides of the pergola with netting.

      • Hi Susan – You definitely have some brave herons, I’m sorry to hear about all the trouble they’ve caused but we will also keep our fingers crossed that all the extra details will help keep them away!

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