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related article: Fish Diseases in a Garden Pond
It is always a hard test for each animal lover when they find out that their beloved pond fish have disappeared because of herons, other animals - not less interesting, but following their own demands.
So pond owner come to the question: How to protect pond fish, especially precious Koi Fish in a Garden Pond against hungry herons and other fish thieves visiting the water garden. The loss of fish is common problem at aquatic gardens and fish farms.
It is our advice to protect your fishpond against herons right from the beginning. In most countries herons are protected wild life and can not be killed. So it needs some clever ideas and tricks to make your garden pond less attractive for herons.
Especially in spring, when herons have to feed their hungry young ones, these bird search everywhere for food. Pet shops offer an automatic heron shocker available between 100.-$ and 160.-$.
Such a heron shocker is a combination of a water hose and a movement detector. Whenever one of these birds tries to land near the garden pond the device squirts a stream of water. The sound of the water together with the cold shower disturbs the heron drives the bird away.
A similar device against herons is an acoustic heron protector. Instead of a water stream from a hose the movement detector of this device starts a loud noise to drive the hungry heron away.
Mechanical water sprayer as well as acoustic heron protection drive hungry fish thieves away without injuring the animals. Herons look for quiet ponds for "fishing" without disturbances each time. Otherwise they fly away and look in other territories for their prey. On the other side: If you do not disturb frequent visitors at your water garden and let these birds go ahead with fishing your precious pond fauna they will come back all over the year. Especially Freshwater Fish in a Garden Pond are a favourite meal for herons. Besides the automatic devices, that we mentioned above, there are other precautions to protect your fishpond against these birds.
A pyramid, covered with aluminium foil, floating on the water and reflecting the sunlight, can drive herons away, because of its flashing light effects while it is moving and turning on the pond surface. The original and professional manufactured "floating scarecrow" was produced by a company in the Netherlands and is available at most pond suppliers or pet shops. Many pond owners just help themselves with similar self-made copies of reflecting pyramids. Do-it-yourself and drive the herons at the pond away with a flashing "scarecrow-blender".
If you realize the problem of efficient protection against fish thieves right from the beginning during early pond planning, you can take natural precautions against the habits of herons. Have in mind when you build your own garden pond, to avoid proper landing areas for these birds around your aquatic garden. Herons prefer to land near the pond or in shallows from where they walk a few steps to catch their meal. We suggest to place big, round stones, plant pots and garden sculptures, wherever a heron might be able to land near the water. The long, graceful stilts of these 3 feet tall birds cannot find a stabile place to stand on round stones or similar objects. Not so nice, but quite effective is a little fence, about 2 feet high, next to the water. With a fence or high pond plants close to the fishpond and its deeper pond zones you block the bird's easy way to get close to your water garden.
If your aquatic garden is designed with large shallows, you can cover these zones with bird nets to prevent herons from landing there or with Garden Pond Netting. Well, this doesn't look very attractive, but it is for sure the most efficient protection of precious pond fish against airborne fish thieves. If you have many other little birds in your area that might get caught with such a pond net, you better avoid this solution and read the following advice.
It takes more time to install, but it is extremely useful to put up tiny flower all over the pond surface wire or use fishing line that reflects the sunlight. Stretch the wire in one direction with a distance of about 1 ft and in an angle of 90deg with a distance of a little less than 2 ft. This huge grating reduces the heron's possibility to move and prevents the bird from landing, so your visitor will look for an other water place. This installation needs lot of work and it interferes a little bit with temporary pond care like fishing out some leaves with a manual pond net.
Some garden pond friends had good results in heron protection by placing an artificial heron dummy next to their water garden. This solution is based on the fact that herons respect the territory of others and don't try to fish in their waters. By positioning an artificial heron at your pond should show the real birds to move on and to search for other lakes. Unfortunately, not all herons seem to know this rule. The animals often watch their hunting ground for hours to realize any possible danger. If their hunger is huge and the plastic bird hasn't moved for months (and is getting moss-green already,) the birds see through the trick and your pond fish may suddenly unprotected again.
Some pond owners try to protect their precious fish with an electric fence. We cannot approve of such a protection, even if - for sure - the electroshock might be un unforgettable surprise for this pond visitor.
We show great understanding of some Koi lovers getting furious over the loss of a big and valuable fish. Real animal lovers should remember animal welfare and even the fish in our artificial garden pond are replaceable and should not be protected by hurting the last wild life in open nature.
Besides protection against herons at your fishpond there are other visitors that like to disturb your peaceful pond life. Storks, cranes, and ice birds might have a look at your fishpond from the air. Especially that beautiful ice bird doesn't show any respect for "your" pond fish. But even a hungry jay has already been seen going out for fishing.
At the ground around the water garden there are more fish hunters, waiting for a good occasion to catch a fish. The own cat at the pond is often the biggest risk for your fish, - or even worse, the neighbour's cat goes fishing in your pond. Best protections against fishing cats is a pond net, even if a covered garden pond isn't a pleasant view in your garden. The water spraying heron shocker is another efficient protection against cats near a pond.
But there is a more natural solution to prevent cats getting close to your fish by surrounding your water place with a landscape, that is unfriendly for cats and other quadruped visitors. Shallow wet zones and a difficult embankment landscaping keep many animals that are afraid of water away. And sometimes a short and unwanted bath of your cat und the water garden helps to keep her away from the fishpond in the future.
Protect a pond against herons by making their landing more difficult near or in the pond. This can be done with natural, ecological elements like high pond plants in shallows and around the pond. By positioning round stones, rocks and plant pots in the water landscape, on which the birds cannot land or stand, you create an organic protection against herons and other fish thieves in your aquatic garden.