Ponds are undoubtedly attractive features that garner not only our attention but also the attention of the flora and fauna that surrounds us. Some visitors come and stay like frogs and salamanders, some simply pass by. Others, however, have more sinister intentions and see our ponds as appetizing. It is these visitors we have to worry about. Here, we discuss various ways to protect your pond fish from cats and birds.
Predators, as the latter visitors mentioned above are better known, are the bane of the pond keepers lives. They come to our ponds, treat them as their own personal restaurants, and then leave us mourning our losses. Predators come in all shapes and sizes and will feast on fish young, old, small, and large. But who are these predators, and what can we do about them?
Predators Commonly Found Preying On Your Pond
As a pond keeper, it is always in your best interest to learn who the predators in your area may be. Knowing who they are, after all, will go a long way in helping you to deal with them and in turn protecting your fish. Pond Predators could include:
Raccoons – an opportunistic and crafty predator that will eat anything.
River Otters – a night time pond feeder but only a risk if you live near a river.
Opossums – a rather lazy predator which will take the opportunity of fish if presented to them. Far more likely to scavenge, however.
Snakes – generally only a threat to very small fish or roe.
Wild/Domestic Dogs – occasionally known to prey on pond fish. They are rarely quick or crafty enough though, unlike extremely high-risk predators such as…………..
Cats And Birds
Of all the predators that may prey on your pond, it is cats and birds (herons and birds of prey) you should be most concerned about. They are by far the most proficient and successful of the pond pests, and the most common.
Domestic And Feral Cats
If you live in an urban area and have lost some of your beloved fish to a predator, the chances are it was a feral or domestic cat. They are by far the most common predators within this type of environment and found in high numbers.
It also doesn’t help, with your pond, that the cat has had millions of years of evolution and adaptation to make them excellent stalkers. They will just wait out of view until your fish relax and swim about. This is when the cat is likely to pounce on them and make them dinner.
Sharp claws and quick reflexes help with this making them capable of catching even your pond’s fastest swimming fish.
Herons are well known as fish predators by fish keepers as they will prey on ponds both readily and voraciously. They have keen eyesight, many times stronger than ours. This makes predation a breeze for them, and allows them to zero in on fish quickly and efficiently.
They also have incredibly fast reflexes and can both dive and wade in the water to catch their prey. Incredibly long beaks that allow them to snag species such as Koi as easy as we can fork our fries.
Read our complete guide to stopping herons eating your pond fish here.
Of all the birds of prey Owls and Hawks are the most likely to prey upon our ponds. Both of these have even better eyesight than the Heron and can easily scoop up fish in their hooked talons.
They are mainly a threat if you live near woodlands or forests where they live naturally. Hawks will hunt your fish by day and Owls by night. They do, however, if it is any consolation, prefer to feed on small mammals than fish.
Wildlife ponds also attract a lot of birds thanks to the insects and wildlife that are attracted to these types of ponds.
How To Protect Your Pond Fish From Cats And Birds
There are many ways that you can protect your pond fish from the attention of predators. Some are, however, more suitable to one species than they are to others. You may need to mix, match or even combine them.
Netting is by far the most cost-effective and efficient method of protecting your pond from cats and birds. It, however, needs to be fitted correctly and of the right size to ensure it works correctly.
For cats, this means making sure that there is an overhang to stop them from lifting the edge and getting a paw under to fish. And for Heron, the netting needs to be 2.5 centimeters knot to knot to prevent them from being able to get their neck through.
Here are some of our favorite pond nets on Amazon
Chicken wire is an acceptable substitute for netting and has the added bonus that cats dislike walking on it. It is, however, even
It needs to be said that odors are predation prevention that will only work with cats. It is, however, a very successful way of keeping the cats away. Cats abhor certain smells and will keep well away from them even if it means missing out on fish.
Planting rue, a herb which smells dastardly to cats, around the edge of your pond is a good method for implementing this deterrent. Or you could just sprinkle black pepper or cayenne nearby on a regular basis.
Not only is a water fountain pretty but it will also disturb the stillness of your pond. This will make it harder for birds to spot your fish. It is unlikely, however, that you will protect the entire surface with a fountain as they are not usually big enough to do so.
Cats also are not necessarily going to be put off predating on your fish because of a fountain, although they do not like getting wet so it may work for some.
Fencing will definitely not be a solution to deterring predators for everyone as it can affect the view of a pond and hinder access to it. However, fences can be made to look like a very attractive feature of any garden pond simply by using fancy fencing and strategic planting, and it will deter predators.
If a fence is high enough cats will not bother trying to jump over it and Herons just won’t be able to. Also, as long as you fence fairly close to the pond you will leave no room for Herons to come in and land next to it.
Activated by motion within 40 foot of the pond, a sprinkler will spray water over any approaching predator. They were designed with startling and scaring away predators in mind which works for both cats and birds, but they also have an added bonus.
Cats hate water, despise being wet, and being sprayed by a water sprinkler is their idea of hell. Using this predator deterrent may stop cats from trying to invade your pond altogether.
Pond Defender Discs
Pond defender discs are black plastic discs that look similar to a spider’s web and float on the top of the water. They connect together with small ties or clips and form a ring around the outer edge of your pond.
The idea is that whilst they float, they will dive down once a predator steps on them. This means they won’t be able to hunt here as the discs create a wobbly surface they can’t step on.
Our final suggestion is to use a decoy that is shaped like a type of animal. These are commonly used to keep the territorial Heron away from ponds by making them think another bird got there first. However, these can backfire in April and May which is Heron mating season.
Amorous specimens, at this time, may become confused and swoop down to do some romancing. Cats, also, are rarely fooled by decoys as they quickly realize they are fake. If this is the case an automated decoy make work instead. These are motion-sensor devices which are activated at the cat’s approach when they begin to move and make noises.
Conclusion: Protecting Your Garden Pond Fish From Cats and Birds
No matter what type of fish you keep in your backyard pond you’ll need to protect them from predators. It’s just a fact of life and no matter where you live there will always be predators in some form or another.
You could go for a simple option like a net or go for something Hi-Tech they all have their pros and cons but at least you’re trying something to protect your fish.