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Now that my plants are gone, how do I protect my fish? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: Now that my plants are gone, how do I protect my fish?

Q: Now that my plants are gone, how do I protect my fish?

Vicky – Chatham, NH

A:  This time of year, aquatic plants are tough to find in backyard ponds. Cold temperatures and fewer hours of sunlight make all the lush greenery die off or go dormant for the winter — and that leaves your fish high and dry and without any protection from hungry predators, like raccoons, herons and passing coyotes.

The lack of lily pads, hyacinth leaves and other plant cover also means more sunlight will penetrate the water. All those rays can lead to algae blooms and poor water quality, which is not something your hibernating fish will appreciate.

So how do you protect your finned friends from hungry bad guys during the sparse winter months? Here’s what we recommend.

  1. Create fish habitats: Because fish will naturally hide in crevices between rocks and other sunken debris, replicate that environment by creating fish habitats and caves. Prop up some slate slabs to make a fabricated lean-to. Build extra hiding places with clever rock placement. Provide an ecosystem that will encourage them to do what’s natural.
  2. Install fish shelters: In the winter, fish will intuitively head to deeper water where it’s warmer and safe from claws, paws and beaks. But to add another layer of protection — particularly if your pond isn’t that deep — give them plenty of sheltering options. Install a Koi Kastle or two. Lay down some empty flower pots or short lengths of 4-inch PVC pipe. Give your finned pals plenty of options to hide, just in case predators stop by the pond.
  3. Crank on your aeration system: As your aeration system bubbles and infuses oxygen throughout the water, it creates water surface movement that can help camouflage your fish from overhead predators. The aerator will also keep the water churning, and create a hole in the ice for gas exchange. If it’s not running already, now’s the time to crank it on!

Until your plants start growing again, keep your fish safe and sound with these simple steps – and do it before the frigid temperatures really kick in.

Pond Talk: Where do your fish hide when your plants die back for the season?

Provide Hiding Places For Fish - Nycon Koi Kastle Fish Shelters

11 Responses

  1. Beverly give it another try. I can tell that you love your pond and you are very sad to get rid of it. I am older too and my pond has been predatorized off and on in the past 25 years. Losing goldfish that I have nurtured is heartbreaking. I have tried different methods of protecting the pond. But i won’t give up. My current fencing is working very well and is not too much of an eyesore. (3 years no fish loss!) I have 36″ tall garden fence post stakes every 4 feet all around it with black plastic coated metal fence mesh 3×2″ panes attached to the stakes. This allows frogs and toads to travel and this garden fencing can be bought at Home Improvement Stores $49 for 50 feet. The fencing is set back by 18″ from the pond edge. Herons will have a very hard time to stretch their necks to reach the water from the outside of the fence. I tightly stretched a black 5/8th’s inch hole black netting (the Pond Guy sells it) over the entire fencing and tied to the fencing every 8 inches. The black color is not as obvious and a little natural beauty is lost but its a good trade off from losing fish and viewing the pond is better (than my previous barricades) and air can circulate. Make sure that there is no gap between the ground and fence bottom. Herons are very smart and study the pond from my roof trying to figure out how to get at the fish. Hawks sit in the trees hoping to swoop up fish. A mallard tried to land in the water but the net stopped her discouraging her from nesting in our yard. I don’t mind the ducklings but hate to see the carnage after a cat plays with them. I use a water scarecrow (pond guy sells this too) shoots a stream of water at approaching predators is the first defense. Herons will stand very still at the edge of your pond and wait for the fish to venture out from their under water hiding places then snatch them up. Your common backyard predators are, cats, raccoons, herons, hawks, dogs, foxes and coyotes (recently). If an animal is hungry an under protected pond is a buffet for them. When your fence is up think like the predators and look for any weak spot you might have missed.
    Good Luck, I hope you give it another chance.

    • Thanks for the information and the extra encouragement to keep on trying. If it’s what you love there is no reason to stop just because of a few pond bullies 🙂

    • Hi Rose,
      Thanks so much for all the information, it does sound good.I had hubby look at this too, and he thinks he can build it. We really are torn about this. lol Never thought I would get attached to fish. Should of known, when I named them all. We have the whole winter to think about this, and you know we will think about everything, Thanks for all the info, I printed it out too. I will let you know what happens in the Spring. lol hopefully. Love Bevi

  2. Protecting fish pond is always my problems. Thank you for this post.

  3. How do I control algae in the winter without chemicals? Apple snails?

    • Hi Matthew – This depends on how much of a winter you experience. Snails will not be active algae eaters during freezing conditions either. The best thing you can do in that case is make sure the pond is free of debris buildup before winter and keep aeration and/or a de-icer running to vent the pond and then wait until spring. You could use barley extract however to help keep the water clean as it does not have a temperature restriction.

  4. Well, I read this a little late. We live in Monroe Mi. and 4 large Koi was taken, with damage to 3 more, in the last week. They look like they will be alright, the ones that are left .And the Koi that were taken, were very large and heavy. Blue, was the largest, and I would say at least 16″. the others were a tad smaller. No signs of distress around the pond, there is 2 places where something could of walked down (not easily) and got in the water, and we have no idea what it was. We never see anything around. We had fishing line strung all over the top of the pond to help keep the big birds out..
    Now we have covered and barricaded them in. Even though, I can hardly see the poor fish that is left. Since we are old people,, we are now thinking this pond is to much mentally and physically to much for us. We are thinking of filling it in, in the spring. Sad to say. Thanks for advice. Love Bevi

    • Hi Beverly – I’m sorry to hear about the loss of you fish. Unfortunately sometimes the predators win no matter what measures you take to prevent them. It looks like you are doing everything you can and I’m sure your koi appreciate the wonderful home you’ve created for them.

      • Hi Kathie, thanks for the kind words,, and the thing is, we moved down here from Det. 4 years ago and the pond was here,, empty of fish, so we bought all of the koi,, and they were all small. So we have had them for the 4 years, And just didn’t know enough about them. Sure was hard to loose them, lol and you would not think so. So, thanks again, Love Bevi

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