Herons are an absolute nightmare for any pond owner, especially ones with koi carp and goldfish swimming around. Grey herons are smart and see these fish as easy pickings and will spend time analyzing your pond setup, then eventually eating fish from it. They can cost you lots of money and cause a lot of stress for outdoor fish owners, on top of that, your pond setup might end up looking less eye-catching with all the defence measures you have to set up. At the end of the day though if you want to protect your fish, you have to take action.
Here is my advice for keeping herons away from your pond and out of the water in your garden pond effectively.
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Sort Your Pond Design
The first thing to think about when considering the safety of your fish from herons is the pond design itself. One thing that’s very important to note about herons is that they will typically refuse to walk inside of a pond that’s any deeper than approximately two feet. So if you make your pond deeper than two feet in all areas, you have now eliminated the ability for the heron to walk around inside your pond.
Now herons can obviously still hunt from the sides, but you’ve drastically reduced the area that they’re able to hunt from. So you want to make your pond deeper than two feet, and you also want to make the sides very steep. That way they can’t stand on any of the sides to hunt the sides that are shallower.
One other useful recommendation is that you can make the sides that you’re not going to use either have some bushes, trees, or high rock walls. This way you’ve reduced the hunting area even further for the heron and restricted it to one small area which you use to maintain the pond yourself.
Overall Effectiveness: 5/5 – The most important thing that you can control in my opinion, though it may not be possible for everyone to re-arrange an existing pond.
Cover With Netting
Installing netting is widely regarded as the most effective method overall, as although a perfect pond design should eliminate herons landing, a net will protect the fish from any predators getting near them in the water. The downside to netting is that although it protects your fish better than most other methods, it does make the water less aesthetically appealing, which in a way defeats the purpose of most ponds. Netting is a very cheap and effective solution, but you have to decide if you’re ok with netting going all over the place and the practicalities involved for yourself when maintaining the pond. It may just be a last resort for some pond owners who have tried everything but to no avail, in which case it is a godsend.
Overall Effectiveness: 5/5 – Nearly 100% effectiveness but also comes with a lot of drawbacks such as trying to get into your fish yourself, and aesthetically is not very pleasing on the eye.
Tie Fishing Line About
A very common approach used by pond owners trying to stop birds from getting near the water is to tie fishing line around the edges and over the water, much like you would with electric fence wire, except the electric fence wire wouldn’t go across the water.
It simply involves setting up a bunch of small stakes around the edges of your ponds and then wrapping fishing line in between the stakes in a zigzag or any other formation you want. This eliminates pretty much the ability for the heron to navigate inside the pond. If the bird is able to walk inside your pond, the theory is that they will get tangled up in the fishing line and fly off due to the hassle, or even better, once they feel the slightest contact with the line they will scatter off immediately.
This method is not the most effective as proven by owner pond owners who have used it. As mentioned earlier, herons are smart, and they will take their time to analyze and test a defence system, therefore in some cases, stepping over the fishing line to get to the fish. Also, make sure the fishing line is strong enough in terms of lbs as the herons will simply break weak line and recognise that the whole setup is easy for them to breach.
Overall Effectiveness: 3/5 – It can be a reasonably effective and cheap method for running around the edges of your pond to stop them from getting near, but it certainly isn’t as effective as an electric fence, and in a lot of cases will not stop them from getting in the water if it’s too shallow, even if you have line running across the pond.
Set Up an Electric Fence
Electric fencing can be seen as a bit of an extreme measure for keeping herons away from garden fish ponds, but there’s no doubting that they are effective at deterring these birds.
There are a few obvious downsides such as the setup being a bit more tricky than standard fishing line and netting, on top of that, the cost is much more expensive. There are also some safety concerns such as having children and pets near the electric fencing.
Overall though, a very effective method as once the heron receives a safe shock from the electric fence setup they certainly won’t be back. There are a few different ready to setup kits out there designed specifically for protecting ponds from herons and other unwanted animals, check out the recommended kits here.
Overall Effectiveness: 4/5 – One of the most expensive purchases, but also very good at keeping away unwanted animals providing you have set it up correctly, the main thing to consider is safety if it’s a family garden.
Use Floating Pond Plants
This one is cheap and easy, and will additionally improve the water quality in your pond. Floating pond plants like water lettuce, water hyacinth, big lily pads and duckweed are all types of plants that will sit on the surface of your water and help improve the water quality overall. They’ll also provide the additional protection of covering the surface of your water from a predator like a heron. A heron can’t hunt what it can’t see, so if you have a bunch of surface plants, you’ve made it that much harder for a heron to locate your fish in the pond and grab them, however, you are also making it more difficult for you yourself to see the fish.
Now pond plants aren’t always going to be possible, especially when you get those larger koi that love to tear up all the plants in the pond. Instead, you can try putting all your floating pond plants beside the lily pads, inside little nets, little floating pond nets. Try to strategically place them around the edges of the pond, the edges that the heron visits the most, and those floating pond nets will allow you to have pond plants that will thrive and not get their roots eaten.
Overall Effectiveness: 4/5 – This stops the heron from hunting fish as it effectively can’t see them, although it doesn’t really offer any real protection in terms of stopping predators and other animals from getting in the water for a free look around.
Create Air Bubbles
Air bubbles, air stones or any type of surface ripple that you can produce with air is a useful deterrent. This produces the same overall effect as floating plants in that it covers the water and makes it very difficult for a heron to spot and detect any fish in the pond.
You obviously want to place the stones in such a way that any bubbles or air created is enough to obscure the view from the surface of the whole pond. If the cost is an issue and you can’t, or simply don’t want to cover the whole body of water with air bubbles, then simply place them around the edges where you think the heron is most likely to hunt or observe from.
There’s lot’s of different options out there for creating these effects on the surface, some with switch activations and others that create the bubbles at random intervals, so have a browse around to see what suits your overall pond setup.
Overall Effectiveness: 3/5 – Similar to the floating plants method, this is great for stopping any curious herons from getting sight of your precious fish, but again, will not stop any unwanted animals from getting in your pond water.
Plant A Heron Decoy
The fake heron or decoy method is simple and straightforward, you can buy one of these fake plastic herons from Amazon and set it up somewhere around the edge of your pond in order to try to fend off potential herons. Because herons are extremely territorial, they will dominate another heron that is smaller than them. So if the heron that visits your pond is taller than your decoy, the decoy is effectively useless as it won’t scare him away. One idea is to mount your decoy on a pole that you can adjust the height to make it taller in order to make the real heron think that this is a larger bird.
This is a popular method amongst garden pond owners, but as you’ll find out from speaking to several pond owners that have tried this method, the results really do vary. A top tip is to move the plastic heron around to different locations every week or so, as any regularly visiting bird is smart enough to work out that they are fake. Sometimes a heron decoy can have the opposite effect and end up drawing in other curious herons for mating or territorial reasons.
Overall Effectiveness: 2/5 – Not the most effective method but is worth a try alongside another more effective method mentioned, it should not be relied on to protect your fish from herons.
Let Pets Roam About
This is a great defence system against herons. Most dogs will go after or at least bark at birds like herons and are an amazing way of keeping these unwanted birds out of your garden and away from your pond fish. If the heron gets chased away by a dog at the pond a few times, the heron will 100% stop coming back to check the pond out, he’ll simply just move on. He’s going to deem that pond too dangerous to hunt in and your pond will hopefully be safe. The aim here isn’t to actually kill or catch the heron, but instead, just deter them from coming near the garden in the first place.
Overall Effectiveness: 3/5 – If you have a dog roaming about the garden, then the chances of a bird or other animal getting close to your pond are virtually 0. However, it’s not possible to have a dog protecting or guarding your pond 24/7, so you will need to use another method along with it.
Place A Fish Tunnel
This won’t keep herons away from your pond, but it does offer more protection and cover for your fish to hide in. The idea is that if a heron does somehow manage to get into your pond water, the fish have a tunnel or castle at the bottom of the pond that they can hide in, hopefully where the heron or other predators won’t be able to reach them.
You can build your own fish tunnel as they are simple to make, or you can purchase one from Amazon at a reasonable price. It’s good to have something like this as a last line of defence in case something does get into your pond after your koi carp or goldfish such as raccoons, herons, foxes, otters or even cats.
Overall Effectiveness: 3/5 – It is a very good protective fish measure, it just needs an effective deterrent method to go along with it to become an overall strong defence system.
This is more a trial and error method by using different sounds from your radio, mobile or even speaker system next to your pond when you’re not around to try and spook the bird. The idea here is to create constant noise with a human voice or even music, hopefully unsettling the bird and forcing them to move on from your garden.
Another popular suggestion online is using wind chimes around your pond, between the noise that the wind chime creates with a breeze and the visual shininess of it, it should be enough to make a heron feel uncomfortable hanging around. Wind chimes are also one of the least expensive purchases that you can make from this list.
Constantly playing sound from a speaker all day in the garden may not be a viable option for some people with close neighbours, consider the times you think the herons are most likely to drop by and try experimenting with different sounds to deter them and see if anything sticks.
Overall Effectiveness: 2/5 – Needs a bit of playing around with and testing of, certainly not to be relied upon and is further down the priority list than other recommendations on here.
Activate A Motion Sprinkler
A motion-activated sprinkler is very popular amongst gardeners for keeping cats away from soil as they absolute despise water, however, they are also great for deterring other unwanted animals such as herons, raccoons, foxes etc. These products are basically just a sprinkler on a ground stake, with most models you find these days powered by solar energy, although there are battery-powered sprinklers in case you want more reliability.
If you place them correctly near your pond it should shoot off a couple of bursts of water if any animal passes it, maybe for a couple of seconds or even a minute. Some of them have adjustable timers, but hopefully, this will scare off any predators that enter the vicinity of your pond. You can purchase them on Amazon for a reasonable price, although they do need a little bit of setting up especially in terms of positioning for effectiveness.
Overall Effectiveness: 5/5 – Providing you have the positioning of the sprinkler perfect next to your pond and there are no power issues, any blasts of water from it will put off the heron coming near the garden entirely.