Spring is here, water temperatures are getting warmer, and it's time to start prepping your pond for the season! You also need to consider a plan for keeping predators away, especially birds of prey like the Great Blue Heron which is especially active at this time of year.
Types Of Predators
Land: The most common killer of koi may come as a surprise, but it is no other than the common household cat. Other predators include foxes, beavers, raccoons, otters, opossums, and muskrats.
Air: Although most birds don't have the need or size to feast on fish, some can give you a real nightmare. Two of these predators include the Great Blue Heron and Kingfishers. The Great Blue Heron can make quick work of a pond if it is left unprotected, and the Kingfisher (although not as much of a fish vacuum as the Heron) can swoop down and pick off a quick meal.
Water: If you live near a source of water, you should be careful of aquatic creatures making a new home in your pond. Bullfrogs sometimes eat small fish and snapping turtles will eat anything they can get their jaws on.
How To Protect Your Pond
Netting: There are many methods of protecting your fish from predators, and the one you choose will depend on your aesthetic preferences and your specific needs. Pond netting is one of the most popular and effective methods, however some pond owners do not like the way that it looks, and in some cases it may not be completely effective against predators.
Fish Caves and Tunnels: Including fish caves and tunnels in your pond is one way to offer natural protection against predators. This allows fish to hide safely out of reach. If you did not include caves or tunnels in the construction of your pond, you can purchased caves, fish castles, or other structures to provide a place for fish to hide. Surface plants will also help provide your fish with hiding spots. When creating a new pond, it is ideal to make it deeper than 24". Heron do not dive for their prey, so deeper ponds provide fish the opportunity to swim deeper and avoid being speared by a heron.
Decoys: Decoys are another way to protect your fish. Great Blue Herons and other birds of prey are naturally territorial, and will stay away if they see that another bird has already staked their claim. Heron, owl, and even swan decoys will be effective. To ensure that the decoys continue to work, you will need to periodically move the decoy to give the appearance that it is alive.
Aerators: Lastly, aerators are not only beneficial for the health of your pond, but they may actually serve as a deterrent for predators. The bubbles on the surface can make it difficult for heron to spot your fish, making it more difficult for them to catch any of your koi!
Protecting your fish from predators is an important part of pond maintenance, but with some creativity and the right equipment, you can keep your koi safe and swimming happily!