After years of hard work creating and cultivating a beautiful pond that provides a home to a wide variety of diverse aquatic and amphibian fauna, the last thing you want is something to come along and ruin it. Fortunately, there are many easy ways to protect the wildlife in your pond from harm.
Protecting your fish
Even if your pond is in a relatively suburban or even urban garden, the Heron will more than likely pose a risk to your fish and frogs at some point, whether your fish are koi or minnows.
Herons are predatory birds and are highly evolved fishers. Their long sharp beaks and even longer legs make it easy for them to wade into the shallows of your pond and pick out a few choice fish, turning your prized koi or community fish into an expensive meal that the heron eats for free!
There are, however, a few things you can do to deter herons from visiting your pond, leaving them to hunt elsewhere. One of the simplest and most decorative ways to do this is to use a decoy heron. These are simply decorative and realistic looking herons that can be erected close to your pond. They work by utilising the Heron’s natural feeding preferences, opting to hunt along and away from other herons, making them partially territorial birds.
However, as many fish keeps have found out, if the spoils are rich enough a heron will take the risk and ignore the decoy. When things get a little more difficult, you might want to try things like floating pyramids which use reflect the sun’s rays in a way that deters herons and other fishing birds.
Arguably the most effective option is a heron guard, either standard or electrified wire which boarders your pond. These inhibit herons from wading in and disrupting your pond wildlife, and can also stop the neighbour’s cat from having a go too. But be warned: Herons are a protected species under UK law, and causing any serious harm to them can carry criminal charges, however even the electric variants usually carry only a low voltage – just enough to deter the heron rather than harm it. Applied correctly, they don’t harm the look of your pond much either.
Nets can sometimes be effective too, but can cause a problem for the other animals in your garden. Smaller birds and bats can get tangled as they swoop down for a drink, so beware – we want to protect your wildlife, not harm it.
Protecting Non-Aquatic Animals Near Your Pond
As beautiful as your pond is, it also provides a potential hazard to visiting terrestrial animals to your garden. Think about what might happen if one falls in – can it get out? Most terrestrial animals in the UK can swim to a certain extent, but if they can’t find a suitable escape route, exhaustion may set in and they could drown over time.
Consider making a gentle bank from pebbles leading to an open side of your pond, making it easier for hedgehogs or rodents to climb out should they fall in while having a drink.
Providing Safe Harbour
Boarder plants that are semi-submerged around the top shelf of your pond provide excellent cover for small amphibians and their eggs. Foliage prevents fish from swimming too close to the edges where they might eat certain types of eggs or small animals, giving them a safe place to lay or hide.
Choosing the right pond plants can even enhance the natural beauty of your pond too, making it more colourful and increasing variation in its’ overall aesthetics.
Leaching and Bioaccumulation
One of the most overlooked ways to protecting your pond wildlife is to be careful about the substances used in your garden. The use of fertiliser and pesticides can pose a serious health risk to your pond, so heavy use is not advised. They can leach into or run directly into your pond, causing algae growth and effecting the nitrogen cycle quite quickly, killing the wildlife in your pond by de-oxygenating the water.
Toxins from pesticides are also eaten by the plant feeding insects in your garden, which in turn are eaten by frogs, fish and other pond wildlife, causing the toxins to accumulate in their system and eventually causing death.
The most important thing to remember is to think twice before making any changes to your pond. The beneficial change you are making with one species in mind, might be the undoing of another, so think about food chains and water quality before you do anything.
Research is key, but there are plenty of things you can do to protect your much loved and varied ecosystem.