FAQ: Will Predators Eat All My Fish?

There is a constant fear in the water gardening community that raccoons and other four-legged predators will go swimming in your pond, and while they’re in there, they’ll help themselves to some of your prize koi, shubunkin, or goldfish. When you go out to your pond in the morning and discover you’re missing a fish or two, it’s very tempting to blame it on such critters, especially If you didn’t see it happen. There has to be a reasonable explanation, and predators are as good as any, right?

However, take the following facts into consideration before you jump to any conclusions. Raccoons generally won’t swim. That’s not to say they never swim, or couldn’t stand on the side of your pond and take a paw swipe or two at your fish. Fortunately, most fish will swim to a deeper, more protected part of the pond when a predator is threatening them.

The one predator with legitimate credentials is the blue heron. These tall, long-legged, big-beaked birds can easily wade into your pond, help themselves to any fish they think look tasty, and fly away with their bellies full. They are a protected species, so they are off-limits if you’re thinking about taking revenge on them. However, a scarecrow, a motion-sensing sprinkler that can be set up alongside your pond, ready to fire a steady stream of water at a heron, has had some degree of success in warding off these curious critters. It’s a good idea to move the sprinkler often though, to keep them guessing.

Giving your fish a place to hide dramatically helps their odds of survival. Plenty of lily pads give them some protection and will work to minimize attracting a heron in the first place. Other protection measures include a cave-like structure that can be built in during the pond’s excavation, or if you already have a pond, they can be added with a little pond remodeling.

Rocks are essential in creating these hiding places in your pond. Crevices, or miniature caves, can be created within the rock walls of your pond.

The possibility of pond predators seeking out your pond is, indeed, a valid concern in terms of the safety of your pond’s inhabitants, but the possibility shouldn’t be a reason to avoid building a pond.

FAQ: Does the presence of rocks and gravel make it difficult to clean my pond?

You are susceptible to buying into this myth if, and only if, you’ve never experienced pondering with rocks and gravel in your pond. If you have a smooth-bottom pond, and each season you’re amazed at the amount of muck and grime that collects on the bottom, you automatically rule out rocks as a solution. You keep visualizing that same amount of muck on top of the rocks and gravel and say, “NO!” to even considering them. It’s understandable. It seems logical… until you learn the rest of the story.

Rocks and gravel offer a natural place for aerobic bacteria to colonize and set up housekeeping. This bacteria breaks down the fish waste and debris that would otherwise accumulate in the pond and turn to sludge. Regardless of your ponds location (i.e.. close to trees and loads of leaves), or how many fish you have in it, you’ll find that having rocks and gravel in your pond not only makes it look better, but makes it healthier as well.

So contrary to the myth, having rocks and gravel on the bottom of your pond actually allows mother nature to clean up after herself, saving you headaches and hours of work trying to keep the bottom of your pond muck free.