How to Stop Herons Taking Goldfish from a Pond

The heron is one of nature’s most beautiful sights.  It stands tall and elegant with a striking colour pattern, and in flight looks like it has the wings of an eagle.  As a fisherman, it has great skill – hours of perfectly still patience followed by stabbing its prey in a flash with a snap of the neck.

However, that is in a natural setting.  When a heron visits a goldfish pond, it doesn’t need any patience.  There is crystal clear water with brightly coloured goldfish that can be picked off at will.  No need to wait for a fish that is the same colour as the murky water it is swimming in.

Apart from the obvious problem of quickly removing goldfish from a pond, herons cause a number of other problems for goldfish.   Firstly, they are disease carriers.  Secondly, if they don’t introduce a disease to the pond, an attack could increase stress levels in the remaining goldfish to levels that make them susceptible to disease.  Thirdly, they can spear a goldfish only to discover it is too big to swallow.  When that happens, they leave the goldfish by the side of the pool to die.  Whether or not suffocation kills it before the stab wound, it will die in agony.

Therefore it is very important to do everything possible to prevent heron attacks, and there are a number of methods available.

Hiding Places

Put some sections of pipe or upturned flower pots with entrance holes in the pond.  Goldfish can use these to shelter in when they see a heron at the surface of the water.  Unfortunately the goldfish will need to have been attacked at least once before knowing what a heron looks like, and taking advantage of the hiding places.

Netting

Netting stretched tightly over the surface of the pond will prevent herons taking goldfish.  The problem with this method is that it is unsightly and makes feeding the goldfish more awkward than it should be.  Having said that, a net should be used for a while after the first heron attack.  This is because the heron will be sure to return for more easy pickings.

Fishing Line

Herons usually won’t land in the pond, because they know it will scare the goldfish.  They prefer to walk up to the pond and launch a surprise attack.  A length of fishing line across the path of the heron about a foot (30cm) away from the pond and a foot off the ground will give a heron a fright when it trips over it.  The RSPB recommend using two lengths at about 6 and 12 inches off the ground.  However, herons will get wise to this trick, and use other approaches.  Then the whole pond will have to have a perimeter round it.  Eventually the heron will learn to land inside the perimeter, or on sturdy plants inside the pond.  If the pond is quite large, they will most likely land in the water anyway.

Scarers

Various forms of scarers can be used.  Some rely on a constant flow of water causing sudden movement on a hinge, others use trip-wires or infrared detectors to set off loud bangs or squirt jets of water.  Whatever method a scarer uses it will most likely be expensive, and a patient heron will eventually get used to it.

Plastic Herons

Plastic herons are sometimes placed in ponds to make real herons think the territory has already been claimed.  Many goldfish pond keepers dispute this, and point to the fact that herons looking for a mate will very often land beside a plastic heron, realize it’s not real, then eat all the goldfish.  On top of that, a hungry heron won’t care if another heron appears to stand between it and a meal.

Routines

Probably the most effective long term method of preventing herons taking goldfish is to train the goldfish when to come to the surface of the pond.  Always feed them at the same time every day, so that they eventually get to know when to come up.

On the other hand, break up the routine of going to the pond.  Herons watch and wait before deciding when to attack a goldfish pond, and will not do it when they think a human will be in attendance.  They will work out when the coast is clear and fly in.

Approaching the pond at unpredictable times but feeding at predictable times means that the goldfish will know not to surface every time they see a figure at the side of the pond.

Obviously if a house is left unattended at regular times for long periods this method will not work.  Neither will it work at the crack of dawn when most people are still in bed.  However, if it is done when possible it is very effective.  It foils the heron’s plan at the earliest stage – before it gets anywhere near a pond.  Outwitting the heron is something no fishing line, net or banger will ever be capable of.

Summary

It’s a game of cat and mouse.  Herons will always be attracted to goldfish in a pond.  Hiding places should be provided as a matter of course, and trip-wire may be necessary at some point.  However, the main thrust of any anti-heron activity should be to make the pond more hassle for the heron than it is worth at another pond.  Herons will visit a number of ponds looking for an easy meal, so a pond that gives them a bit of hassle should quickly get taken off the list.

However, other herons will take a look, so it’s important to remain vigilant and keep on top of the situation.

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17 Responses to “How to Stop Herons Taking Goldfish from a Pond”

  1. The Goldfish Guy Says:

    People who have a goldfish pond should read this. Yes I agree herons are an amazing looking bird but they cause so many problems for pond owners. I know this past summer even with some protection using a pond net it was able to spear through it and stab one of my big kois. I wasn’t happy about losing him but that’s nature. Since then I took extra precautions so this won’t happen again. Herons are smart, they will keep coming back as they know fish are in your pond unless people do something about it. People definitely need to take action if they want to keep their goldfish in their pond.

    Sincerely,

    Jamie Boyle
    The Goldfish Guy

  2. Bestromann Says:

    Scarecrow motion activated sprinkler is an extremely effective method to deter Herons. It emits a 3 second spray of water the moment it detects motion around the pond.The sprinkler repels them with a short but startling burst of water. The sudden noise, movement and spray scares heron away, teaching them to avoid your pond in future. See how Scarecrow Sprinkler Repel Heron at how Scarecrow Sprinkler Repel Heron

  3. Andy Says:

    I have a perfect heron deterrent. He’s a Jack Russell terrier and lives outside at all times. We knew we had a heron nearby and erected an anti heron wire around the garden pond. However last week we were woken at 7-30am by the dog barking. We let this go on for a minute but when he didn’t stop I looked out of the window to witness carnage. A heron was trying to fly away but had caught a leg in the anti-heron wire which kept pulling it back down to earth. The dog was diving in an nipping at the bird. I quickly got dressed and went outside to call the dog into the house. The heron just stood there but couldn’t escape. I ended up having to tackle the heron with a blanket and cutting it free (apparently its protected so you can’t smack them with a cricket bat! The heron eventually was released minus a few feathers an took off. We haven’t seen it since – good doggy…have a biscuit!

  4. Claudiane Says:

    I bought the scarecrow motion activated sprinkler thinking I had solved my heron problem. My husband woke up one morning and happened to look outside. The sprinkler was being activated, but there was no wind. (it will spray when there is wind). It was then that my husband saw the heron standing right in our pond. The heron did not care about being sprayed. I returned the sprinkler where I bought it as it is a useless deterrent. The heron had visited our pond before and had also been sitting on our neighbour’s roof watching, so I suspect he figured out how the sprinkler worked and wasn’t surprised when it sprayed him. Now we have fishing lines across the pond. The little sticks of wood that hold the fishing line and surround the pond are not attractive so if anyone has a suggestion, it would be appreciated!

  5. steve Says:

    our two dogs a westie and a scottie protect our pond they are fearless they sleep in the sunhouse with the bottom door open ,i am sure they would scare half to death if he ever dare come back

  6. jeff Says:

    Hi everyone, i have had a pond for 10 years now and have had a problem with the heron every day, this was getting me down to see my fish on the lawn most of the time as my baby’s are far to big for the heron to take. i have used fishing line nop that did not work, sprinkler nop did not work, fake heron nop did not work, a net worked for a bit then came home one day to find a hole in it the size of a door and two fish with holes in them..that was 2 years ago the heron still comes to see me BUT it has never not once made a strike it just goes around the circumference of the pond, no netting, no fishing line, no fake heron, no sprinkler, no dogs, just a unique protection system consisting of a floating plastic net which leaves the centre free, fits any pond ( for about £100 if you have a big pond) i am going to list this on ebay this weekend it works trust me i have used everything.. if you want more info please feel free to email me. equine.horseball@yahoo.com

  7. sid Says:

    I HAVE TRIED ALL OF THE ABOVE BUT THE HERONS KEPT COMING BACK…………BUT I HAVE NOW A USED SIMPLE METHOD OF ATTACHING TWO OLD CD’S GLUED TOGETHER(REFLECTIVE SIDES TO OUTSIDE),ATTACHING TO A PIECE OF STRING AND ALLOWING CD TO FREELY ROTATE IN CIRCLES ABOVE POND AREA.THE KALEIDOSCOPE OF REFLECTIONS FROM THE ROTATING CD CREATES ENOUGH DISTURBANCE TO DETER THE HERONS AWAY.SIMPLE,CHEAP AND EFFECTIVE.SID/SOUTH AFRICA

  8. sid Says:

    i have patented my heron cd reflective idea and hopefully it will be available in markets soon.Anyone can contact me on sidcunha@vodamail.co.za

  9. Will Says:

    I use green grass strimmer plastic wire. I zig zag it across the surface of the pond, at about 18″ apart . Since I have used this idea no fish have gone missing.

  10. Sara Says:

    I have this freakin heron that comes to my pond everyday twice a day and has eaten over 25 of our fish and all 40 of our frogs. We put a fake heron out there hoping that would stop him, it worked for about a month and no longer works anymore. What should I do about my heron problem??? email me at soccerdevil11@hotmail.com with ur replies thanks!

  11. Emma Says:

    Our pond is tiny with a few goldfish in. I know someone who could make a metal grid on legs to stand just below the surface, but I’d rather not bother unless its really needed. The ponds got a low wall round, may be too high (about 18″) for a heron to fish over but could it stand on the wall to fish?
    Maybe the pond is too small for a heron to spot at all; also it is in a yard, surrounded by buildings, perhaps a deterrent if herons prefer open areas.
    There is a fountain which runs during daylight, but from what Claudiane says thats not going to stop a heron.
    Has anyone any thoughts to share on this? If I go for a grid, how close should the bars be?

  12. Robert Says:

    My 2000 gallon pond has had Koi and goldfish taken by Herons and raccoons. I’ve used everything that previous messages have discussed with little success individually. I now use a combination of (1) hiding places, (2) an electric fence and (3) a floating plastic net. This net might be similar to what Jeff mentioned in June 2010.
    My floating plastic net is cut from black plastic fence material found at a garden supply. The openings are about 1/2 inch so that the beak can’t penetrate, and the net is held in place by long flexible plastic ties so that the predators will sink if they step on it.
    Bye the way, my 1st low powered electric fence was ripped up by the raccoons; the fence is now a pulsing type suitable for a 15 mile corral – measured at 11,000 V.

  13. Dave Says:

    I am using a net during the spring and fall but I hate the fact that it does ruin the appearance of the pond. Our Heron has eaten about half of our fish last year, before I got the net. I guess I will try the fake heron for the summer months this year and I hope that works. I am waiting for the mating season to pass, early spring, before I remove the net, cross my fingers, and add the fake heron. I have not seen the beast since I put the net on, so I hope he has found a better hunting ground and does not come back. My dogs have also been chasing him, but they live in the house, so I have to see him in order to release them.
    Thank you all for the tips and good luck to everyone.

  14. Wendy Says:

    I am SOOOO SAD! WE lost our WHOLE pond of Koi in two days this weekend! We have had our pond for a year now with no problems and all of a sudden POOF they are gone!~I ACTUALLY saw the beast the last day it was there….I am FREAKING out I want to kill it and ring its neck!!! I am so sad and want my fish back…I cant afford this but still want my pond but DONT want a pond with no fish! UGH! PLEASE tell me something that will work…from reading above it looks like NOTHING helps! CRAP!I think we should be able to kill them since it sounds like SO MANY people are having a hard time with them! Wendy from Snowflake, AZ

  15. Chris Says:

    I dug a pond four years ago and watched my goldfish grow and they sort of became part of the family. Until this tuesday all was well but when I went out to feed them on weds morning, I was greeted with nothing. I was so upset and went all day thinking of nothing else and thought they would mysteriously be there again when I got home from work. I couldn’t believe that after four years with no visits from herons they would suddenly get spotted. My guess is that a large tree that had to be cut down near the pond a few months ago meant that a passing heron must have added it to its list of restaurants it would be visiting sometime. It seems that there are no REAL ways of stopping herons because they are very clever creatures. I shall still be going out to get more fish this weekend even though they will probably become a meal some time in the future I am sad to say.

  16. djaz Says:

    About an hour, ago, a Great Blue landed below the feeder and carried off a parent chipmunk, who, had just brought out the young’uns for the first time. The feeder is about 15 yds from the 5 acre pond we stay by. He took the chipmunk to the other end of the pond to wet it several times to feed on it. I can’t tell you my upset. I’m going to try the CD idea, thank you.

  17. Lorraine Says:

    After losing several koi to a heron recently, a neighboring farmer suggested I try what he uses to deter birds from his strawberries, corn, etc. it’s a large beachball sized balloon with round reflective “eyes” resembling an owl. You can find it on the internet under “Scare Eyes”. I have three bobbing on stakes around my 2500 pond and haven’t lost a fish since. I also have solar spotlights on them at night in case any raccoons decide to come fishing. Very effective. Another good tip for covering the surface of your pond in spring before the lilies establish themselves is to float several large pieces of landscape fabric so fish can’t be spotted from above.

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