Best Fish Shelters for Goldfish and Koi 2020 (Models Compared)
Fish shelters for ponds are an easy way to provide your koi and goldfish safe hiding places to escape predators and de-stress after a long day. They’re a cheap investment, and will provide great protection from herons, cats, raccoons, as well as make your fish more confident while in your pond.
Do I need a Fish Shelter in my Pond?
Fish shelters are a popular choice of predator deterrent if you’re having issues with herons, hawks, cats, or raccoons taking your pond fish. Both koi and goldfish will retreat if they feel threatened, but without adequate protection their only option is to move to deeper water. In very deep ponds or heavy planted ponds, this may be enough to hide from most predators. However, many garden ponds are much more shallow, or without plants, so retreating into the deeper parts of the pond may not be enough to deter a hungry animal looking for a catch.
Fish shelters provide protection at the deepest part of your pond, and can work well even if your pond is fairly shallow. They create a place for your fish to retreat in safety, so even if a predator tries to follow them, so long as they remain close to the shelter they’ll be safe.
Even if you don’t have any immediate issues with predators, sometimes it is better to have a shelter just in case. If feeding grounds become less fruitful in one location, predators will start searching for better options, and it may be only a matter of time before your pond appears on their daily menu.
On top of this, both goldfish and koi need to de-stress from time to time, and in a wide open pond with no shelter, there is little place for them to do so. Fish which are constantly hiding may actually become more confident with a fish shelter in place, as often stress can be confused with shyness. Providing that “safe space” for your pond fish is important, and if you don’t have good coverage from plants (lilies etc.), installing a pond shelter is the next best thing!
Will a shelter stop herons eating my fish?
One of the main reasons fish keepers invest in a shelter is to try and deter herons from eating pond fish. Herons can be very persistent in their assault, and if they’re already accustomed to feeding in your pond it can be very difficult to deter them away. If your pond is open with no places for your fish to hide, a heron has no reason to move on as your pond is the perfect feeding ground. Adding fish shelters will give your goldfish and koi a place to retreat, and can work very well to stop herons taking fish in most situations. Fish that panic and have nowhere to hide are the easiest catch for a predatory bird, so giving them a clear hideout is a good method of protection.
With that said, some herons are much more persistent than others, and sometimes it’s almost impossible to deter a hungry heron that is confident with its surroundings. For maximum protection against this stubborn predator, fish shelters are best combined with other forms of deterrent, such as decoys, sprinklers, or fences. For more information on protecting your pond against herons, check our full guide on this here.
Installing a Fish Shelter
Shelters for pond fish are designed to sit on the bottom of your pond on the liner at the deepest depth point. Placing the shelter at the deepest point of the pond ensures fish are at their safest distance from predators, and are in the best position to de-stress from the outside world. Being deep in the pond also helps in winter, as a shelter will act as a slight insulator, providing warmer temperatures as fish huddle together inside the shelter. Since the deepest point of a pond is always the warmest and the place fish like to hide in cold weather, adding a little home there to spend the winter seems fitting!
Depending on the design and material of your shelter, it may sink on its own or need to be weighed down with rocks. Generally mesh shelters will sink on under their own weight of their metal frames as water leaks through the material. If you have a shelter made from plastic, which is popular for “rocky” aesthetics, the shelter may need to be weighed down along the edges or along the top. If your pond is already filled with water and very deep, placing weights on top of the shelter is probably easier than draining your pond. If your pond is shallow enough or you can drain some water, however, you can place rocks around the outer edges which helps the shelter blend in with the surroundings.
In general, the more secure you can make a shelter the better, so even if a shelter sinks on its own it may be best to add more support. This is especially true for koi ponds as koi are powerful fish and can easily topple a shelter when panicking. Predators that wade into the water will also try to move the shelter, so making it heavier can help stop this from happening.
Mesh Vs Plastic Shelters
Fish shelters are usually made from two different materials; one being plastic, and one mesh. Both options will work great for deterring predators and providing a place to hide so long as they’re installed correctly.
Plastic shelters are usually quite light in design and may require added weights to sink to the bottom of the pond. Natural rock designs are a popular plastic shelter choice, allowing almost immediate camouflage which blends in with the pond liner.
Mesh shelters will often sink without any extra weight, but rocks can be added to the corners to make them more secure. Mesh shelters also blend in well, but may take some time in a shallow pond to look natural with the surroundings. Mesh shelters benefit from a planted pond, as oxygenating plants and small amounts of algae like to grow along the outer casing. This helps blend the shelter into the surroundings, but takes a little time to become established.
Both types for fish shelter are fine in most cases, so the choice would largely depend on the size of your pond, the type of fish, and the design you prefer. For koi or ponds with a large number of fish, a shelter with a wider opening and longer length would be better. For shallow ponds or goldfish, either a small or big shelter would be suitable so long as the shelter isn’t exposed to the surface.
Add Pond Plants for Extra Camouflage!
Aquatic plants are your ponds natural shelter, and provide great camouflage and hiding spots from predators. The problem with plants is they can take time to establish, and can be hard work to maintain if you’re not prepared. Some plants, however, are much easier to care for and can help your fish shelter blend-in better with the surroundings. Submerged oxygenating plants, such as Hornwort, form dense and soft underwater forests for fish to hide, and grow very well around a fish shelter. With mesh shelters, they often shoot their roots through the mesh to secure themselves and grow. They also provide extra oxygen to the water which is beneficial for fish, and help combat nuisance algae growth by competing for excess nutrients and sunlight.
If you’re interested in adding pond plants, check our full article on our favorite plants here for more ideas and information.
Best Shelters for Pond Fish 2020 (updated reviews)
Below are our top 3 fish shelter choices for both koi and goldfish. They come in a range of sizes and designs, and the choice of model would largely depend on your fish and pond size.
A basic fish shelter created from sturdy modeled plastic measuring 13″ in length, 7″ in width, and 6″ in height. This is the most simple design of fish shelter you’ll find, but it still works very well for the job at hand. The plastic is strong and non-toxic so will be safe for fish and wildlife, but the shelter is quite light so will require additional weights to sink. Rocks can be placed alongside the edges or the roof which will help make the shelter more secure for fish, although this may be difficult if your pond is particular deep.
This is a good choice of shelter for smaller fish, such as goldfish, but we wouldn’t recommend it for larger koi. It’s a bit too light and koi will easily move it around, even with weighted rocks. It blends in very well with the surroundings, however, so gets to work immediately when installed with no extra work required.
Recommended for smaller ponds or ponds with goldfish, but may not be suitable for koi or deeper ponds.
- Material: Plastic
- Color: Black
- Measurements: 13″L x 7″ W x 6″H
A larger fish shelter made from strong molded plastic to give a natural “rocky” aesthetic. This fish shelter from Nycon measures 12.5″ in length, 12″ in width, and 9″ in height, making it quite large for a shelter. The good width and height make it a great choice for koi, or if you have a large number of goldfish. It offers very easy access for fish, and is long enough to house quite a few fish at once if necessary.
The plastic is black and molded with a bumpy rock design, which helps it blend in with the pond liner and surroundings. It works surprisingly well in both deeper and shallower ponds, and gets to work instantly camouflaging your pond fish.
The shelter is still quite light, and may need to be weighed down with rocks to increase support, especially if you’re using it for koi. With that said, we’d advise adding rocks to the edges, anyway, as it helps the shelter blend in even better as they match the general design.
Overall, a very solid pond shelter which would work great for both large koi or goldfish, but may still need to be secured in place with rocks to be safe.
- Material: Plastic
- Color: Black
- Measurements: 12.5″L x 12″ W x 9″H
A much longer fish shelter made with durable black mesh with an aluminum frame. This shelter from Koi Kastle is a great choice for ponds with a large number of fish, as the tunnel length is more than double that of many other shelters, coming in at 24″ in length. The opening is also still quite wide at 14″, and with a height of 9″ it would be suitable for even the largest of koi.
A benefit of mesh shelters over plastic is that they don’t need to be weighed down with rocks, as the metal frame is heavy enough to sink the shelter. We also find that this design is more sturdy overall, but it can still benefit from added support if a predator is very persistent and starts trying to move the shelter.
The mesh provides good coverage for fish, but works better in deeper ponds as predators may still be able to see fish in shallow water. Pond plants and algae tend to grow quickly around the mesh, however, and soon enough the shelter becomes a very well hidden natural hideout. It can be cleaned if you don’t like this aspect, but we find the extra plants growing on the outside provide fantastic camouflage.
Due to the generous size of the shelter, this would be a good choice for almost all types of ponds. Both koi and goldfish can hide easily, and a large number of fish can fit at a time. Highly recommended and one of the best koi shelters around!
- Material: Mesh & Aluminum
- Color: Black
- Measurements: 24″L x 14″ W x 9″H