Do you have a predator problem in your koi pond? Are you looking for the most effective way to keep them away from your fish? In this article, you’ll learn the top predators to your koi and the most effective ways to protect your fish from being eaten.
Depending on where you live, there could be several fish-eating predators who will find their way over to your koi pond. Plus, the bigger your pond is, the more likely you are to have more than one culprit. So, in order to prevent your fish from going “missing”, you’ll need to steer these critters away from your pond.
What Are The Main Koi Fish Predators?
It’s nice to have wildlife in your backyard, but when you have koi fish, they are in danger of being hunted by predators. Unfortunately, their bright colors are a dead giveaway to cats, herons, and other animals too.
Truthfully, the fish-eater you have around will really depend on the size of your pond and where you live. For example, if you live near a river, otters and herons are the biggest problems, but a neighborhood pond will be more likely to attract cats or raccoons.
Soon, having any predator around becomes a big problem. And if you only have a few fish, you could even find yourself with an empty pond within a week. When that happens, you usually have the following animals to blame.
In a residential area, your number one problem will most likely be the neighborhood cats, and perhaps even your own cat. Even if it’s not specific to eat your fish, cats just love to play with them. When given the opportunity, a cat will spend hours trying to catch your fish.
Raccoons are scavengers, who eat anything they deem fit, from garbage to your koi fish, although your fish are clearly the best option. Raccoons also eat snails, turtles and turtle eggs, and frogs as well.
Plus, when they are around, they make an absolute mess of things, leaving what they don’t eat behind, which attracts more pests like rats or birds. Finally, they’ll tear through your yard to find more food, and bring their friends or mates along for dinner.
This happens more often during migration, but all heron species eat fish. If they find a place to land, they are very likely to come to fish in your pond. Herons will typically eat a pound of fish every day, you can count on a heron taking multiple smaller fish on a daily basis.
If you happen to live near a river, there’s a good chance that there are river otters about. And if you do, then your fish are in deep trouble, especially if this otter has babies. You don’t want your pond to become a learning facility for a mother otter to teach her young to fish.
Unlike birds or raccoons, these guys are a year-round issue. During the winter, an otter will find your pond has easier access than a frozen river. Ice does not stop an otter and dormant fish are clearly easier to catch. Even a heavily stocked pond can be totally cleared out during the winter.
While the predators that are listed above are indeed the most likely, don’t be fooled. There are many other animals likely to come looking for food in your pond, including:
Big turtle species like painted and snapping turtles are known to eat small koi.
Animals related to the otter, like Mink, Fishers, and Muskrats are problems in swampy, rural areas, as well as any residential areas near a lake.
Other birds of prey like eagles and osprey (only in a large pond, as they prefer coastal living on large ponds and lakes) or the heron’s smaller cousins, the bitterns.
Mergansers are a semi-aquatic bird related to ducks and loons.
In a larger pond, they will typically stop for a rest during migration and will eat any fish under a foot long. Worse, a pair may even see your pond as a quiet place to lay eggs.
How To Protect your Koi from Predators
Some pest control agencies will suggest that you have the right to shoot these animals, obviously except for residential areas. Truthfully, you don’t hold that right unless you’re legally farming the fish.
Only legitimate farmers have the right to kill predators for the safety of their livestock. So, to save you from breaking the law.
Below are some humane ways to take care of the predators around your large or small pond.
1: Humanely Trap and Take Them Away
Using live traps is one of the best ways. It’s not exactly immediate, but it does put you back in control of your garden pond. You may have to do this more than once as well since another critter is likely to eventually take their place.
To start, this won’t work with a bird of prey like a heron, but it will work will anything else. When you’ve trapped the predator, you will need to release it at least a half-hour away so they won’t come back.
Of course, this is unless your “predator” does turn out to be your neighbor’s cat. In that case, you clearly just return the cat and politely let the owners know it’s been causing a problem.
2: Let Your Dog Chase Them Away
A large dog can be the best way to keep EVERYTHING out of your yard, right down to squirrels. Keep your dog outside when your koi fish are at risk, and your pup will fend off the predator without a problem.
Now, the only problem with this method is if your dog happens to catch the predator, which happens often. If it’s a bird of prey, you may be fined by the Ministry of Natural Resources, or the appropriate department of your city.
Remember that raccoons, otters, and other rodent-related animals carry rabies, so make sure to vaccinate your dog before letting them chase anything!
3: Fabric Softener Sheets
Fabric softener sheets are an odd, but effective way of preventing predators from getting too close to your pond. Usually, the smell of fabric softener signals an animal that there is a human nearby, so the predator will avoid the area altogether.
You can place the sheets under the plants surround your pond or pin them to the trees or fence around your property. Just note that you will need to replace them each time it rains, which can get quite expensive.
4: Pest Deterrents
Animal deterrents and barrier sprays made with non-toxic ingredients will safely keep everything away from your pond. You can also use cayenne pepper to create a spicy deterrent around the area.
Simply sprinkle or spray the product in the area surrounding your pond to make a barrier of odor, keeping it safe from predators. You can also sprinkle it around the barrier of your whole yard, to help them avoid the whole thing.
5: Build a Fence
Though you may not want to hide your beautiful pond, fencing off the area will make it harder for animals to get through. Note that this method doesn’t fully prevent them, but it does make it more difficult to get to your fish.
Further, a fence with narrow points will be impossible for birds to land on, and harder to climb for other animals, so your fish can save themselves and hide. Lastly, you can use this fence as a surface for other pest control methods.
6: Barrier of Plants
Planting a barrier of plants is the more aesthetically pleasing alternative to fencing your pond off. When there is a thick plant-barrier around the area, animals that come around will be stopped by this “hedge” of thick plants.
Small trees like Japanese Maples or Lilac Trees and shrubbery like Hostas are perfect for providing safety and much-needed shade for your fish. These are also very low maintenance plants, so that’s a bonus.
7: Pond Netting
Pond netting, like fencing, is not the prettiest way to protect your pond, but it’s very effective. When you have a net over the pond, it stops everything from getting in there.
Birds can’t fish from the net and the holes are too small for a slinky otter to get into, let alone a plump raccoon.
However, besides being rather ugly, the biggest downside to this method is that it will make pond cleaning and fish feeding a bit trickier. You’ll have to take it down and put it back up each time.
8: Lily Pads
Lily pads aren’t just useful for the aesthetic of your pond. Water lilies and other aquatic plants also provide shelter for your fish and frogs to hide away from something looking to make a quick meal out of them. Speaking of frogs, water lilies also host frog eggs, which make great food for your koi fish.
You can find waterlilies at your local pond supply shop. In a smaller pond, you won’t need more than four, but a larger pond will need more of everything.
9: Add Fish Caves
Whether there is stormy weather or fish-eating animals, your fish will want to seek shelter in the deeper parts of your pond. Fish caves are little hideaways or shelters for fish to take cover in.
You can find various sizes of fish caves at a nearby aquarium or pond supply. You can also make your own quite easily with a bucket, PVC pipe, or hollow logs of driftwood.
10: A Scarecrow
In your garden, scarecrows keep away rabbits and crows. But an unknown talent is that they’re quite useful for keeping animals away from your pond as well.
Similar to their use in the garden, they stand as a human guarding the pond.
No wild animal in their right mind will want to approach your pond, thinking a human is right there, so they will avoid it instead.
11: Big Bird Decoys
A decoy of a goose or swan will drive away most of what comes around. First, these birds are highly aggressive, especially geese, because of their territorial nature. So, if your pond is big enough, put a decoy swan or good in there.
For a smaller pond, consider using a heron statue. Herons are solitary, territorial birds. Raccoons, otters, and other herons will be driven away by a decoy heron for a smaller pond, simply because there’s not enough space and a live heron would get aggressive to compete for fish.
12: Predator Decoys
Predator decoys like coyotes and alligators work similarly to the bird decoy or scarecrow, but usually are more effective from banishing things for the long term, just out of fear. This method also depends on how big your pond is, as well as where you live.
Of course, an alligator decoy will only work in areas that actually have them. So, it’s obviously not going to work in Canada, but it will in a large pond in the southern United States. However, in the northern areas, a coyote decoy staged to look like it’s drinking from the pond will deter all fish-eaters, since most of them will be prey for a coyote.
13: A Bar of Soap
A bar of soap is an inexpensive and useful tactic that farmers usually use to keep deer and rabbits out of their garden or crops, but it doesn’t just work on them. The smell of soap is a signal to critters that you are near, so they will avoid your yard.
Now, you’ll need a strongly scented soap like Zest or Irish Spring. Simply hide chunks of the soap around your pond or rub the soap onto the bark of any trees in your yard, as well as bigger rocks. The scent is sure to keep the wildlife out, and your fish safe.
14: Motion Detection Light or Sprinkler
Motion Detecting light or water sprayers are usually used for security purposes, but they are also great for pest control against nocturnal predators like raccoons and otters.
A spotlight will create the impression that a human is coming, so the animals will likely run away.
Alternatively, a sprinkler will startle and soak them, which isn’t worth it to a raccoon, cat, or bird. An otter probably won’t mind as much, so a spotlight is usually the better choice for them.
15: Darker Water
Finding a fish-friendly pond dye can not only create better-looking water, but it also prevents your koi from even being seen by predators. You see, if the predators can’t see them, they can’t eat them, so there’s no need to hang around.
There are different colors to choose from like ocean blue, dark blue, or even black. However, the downside to this method is that it also prevents you from seeing your fish as well. But it’s a good sacrifice to know that they’re safe.
How Do I Keep Birds from Eating My Koi?
Birds, specifically birds of prey, are a scourge to koi ponds, big and small. From herons all the way to ravens coming up to take another animal’s leftovers, this is just a dangerous environment for your fish.
The only way you can keep birds from eating your koi is to make sure there’s no room to land. Since birds are creatures of habit, their predictability to eat at the same time every day will make deterring them simpler than other predators.
As stated, many pest control sites will suggest using inhumane options like fishing wire to keep the birds out of your pond. This is a harmful and often fatal way to keep them from your fish. It’s not fair to them, even if they are trying to steal your fish.
Instead, try something more humane like:
- Planting shrubs around the pond
- Fencing off your pond
- Using a pond net
- Sprinkler system
- Scarecrow or decoy
How Do I Protect My Koi from Raccoons?
They’re loud, obnoxiously messy, and also a hazard to have around your pets and more so, your koi fish. Not only do they eat your fish, but they also invite friends and leave the mess for you to clean up.
With the exception of cats, raccoons are more adapted to humans than any of the other predators and they won’t exactly be stealthy about their presence. It can also be tricky to spot them since raccoons are usually nocturnal.
The best way to beat a humanized raccoon is simply by making them think you’re their predator. If they think you want to eat them, they won’t want to be anywhere near your yard.
So, to avoid losing any sleep, here are some of the ways you can protect your koi from raccoons without waking up and chasing them off yourself:
Having a deep slope in your pond, rather than a shallow one because raccoons won’t swim in deep water. Lily pads or fish caves for your koi to hide under.
Barrier spray or the urine of a bigger predator. It’s unusual, but as a last-ditch effort, it’s well worth it because no fish-eater will want anything to do with the territory of something bigger.
Security light or sprinklers to chase them away.
Does Irish Spring Soap Keep Raccoons Away?
As we’ve stated, a strongly scented soap will steer a number of wild animals away from your property, including raccoons. Honestly, most members of the rodent family (or related to them) will avoid an area with this smell. Here are some other problem animals it might deter:
Try rubbing it on your fence or on the bark of the trees close to your pond. This might not be guaranteed, especially in a residential area because the Racoons are already used to the human scent from picking through our garbage. So, they might not be bothered until you actually approach them.
Will Raccoons Eat My Koi?
If they get the chance to get at your fish, you can count on a raccoon stopping by on a regular visit, and once they start, it’s hard to get them to stop eating your fish. Not only will they take one fish a night for themselves, but they’ll also bring back their young once they’re old enough.
Here are some other things raccoons will do to your whole yard:
- Bringing their friends, and then fighting with them over food.
- Creating a huge mess with their own leftovers, feces, and by digging holes in your yard.
- Raccoon feces is full of toxic bacteria that cause respiratory illness in pets, children, and yourself.
- If they like your yard enough, they’ll make a home there.
- They carry diseases like rabies, and if they run into your pets, they will attack them.
How Do You Keep Raccoons Away?
Over every other method you could try, the best way to keep raccoons away for good is by removing whatever they want to eat. Chances are, they’re not just coming around because they smell your fish.
Raccoons are only present in places where there is an excessive amount of garbage and more specifically, wasted food in the garbage. The solution? Simply remove what appeals to them.
Lock your trash in a shed to cut the odor, remove any dog bones or other leftovers that may be lying around the yard, and they will quickly move on.
Besides this, there are also many other ways to make them stay away from your yard altogether. Here are the top methods that will banish those bandits forever!
- Scaring them away yourself or letting your dog bark at them.
- Plant things they hate the smell of like garlic bulbs, cucumber.
- Keeping all garbage and compost locked away where it won’t be seen or smelt.
- A deterrent like peppermint essential oil, cayenne pepper, or another non-toxic barrier spray.
- If all else fails, live use a live trap to catch and release them elsewhere.