Keeping Ducks Away from a Fish Pond (Best Deterrent Methods)
Ducks may look cute and seem a novelty to have in your pond, but they can also cause major issues for both koi and goldfish by reducing the quality of your water. Duck faeces (poop) is an extremely potent fertilizer, containing very high amounts of toxic substances, such as ammonia, which can contribute to bad water condition. Both koi and goldfish do best in a very low ammonia environments, and the better water is filtrated from toxic substances, the happier fish will be! Regular visits from ducks are a problem because even in a larger fish pond, their waste can add up over time, causing gradual rises in ammonia, sludge, and changes in pH and water clarity. You may not believe it, but ducks poop A LOT, and leave a ton of waste on your pond floor which quickly accumulates.
As well as this, wild ducks leave feathers, damage plants, and can bring harmful bacteria and parasites from other locations they’ve visited beforehand. They may seem cute when they first arrive, but ducks are not a regular visitor you want if you have koi or goldfish – trust us!
Problems ducks can cause in ponds:
- Reduction in water quality (rise in ammonia)
- Increase in waste/sludge
- Algae bloom due to excess nutrients
- Damage to plants and ornaments
- Parasites, disease, and bacteria
- Stress and injury to fish
These are just some of the problems regular visits from ducks can cause, and often you don’t realise the problem is related to your new feathered friends until things have progressed badly. Even so, the odd visit from a single duck is not usually something to be concerned about unless you have a tiny pond (ammonia is dangerous in small volumes). You should start taking caution when you notice regular visits from the same duck, or worse, pairs of mating ducks – as this indicates they feel safe enough to possibly lay eggs! That’s a lot of little pooping machines in one place, and a huge hassle for any pond owner.
What if I don’t have any fish in my pond?
Things aren’t as much of a problem if you don’t keep any fish, as a natural wildlife pond is less sensitive to spikes in ammonia and waste. Fish are at the biggest risk from ducks, so a pond without fish can likely balance itself out around the ducks so long as you have a good amount of bio-filtration in place. If you don’t have a filter box running in your pond, having plenty of pond plants will help reduce waste and remove excess nutrients, such as nitrates and phosphates. This will help ensure waste doesn’t build up enough to damage the ponds aesthetic or contribute to smelly odours, and also reduce algae growth by removing nutrients. If maximum clarity isn’t a concern and your plants aren’t being damaged by the ducks, the choice of whether to allow them to stay if up to you, but they can still bring parasites and diseases remember!
What should I do if they’ve already laid eggs?
A major problem of keeping ducks comfortable on your pond is the possibility of them laying eggs and having ducklings. Again, this may seem cute, but ducklings have high requirements, and when adult ducks start increasing the food they provide, it also increases the waste in your pond. If you suspect you have a mating pair of ducks, or if you already notice eggs have been laid, it’s best to call your local wildlife rescue and advice center. This is likely best practice for both fish ponds and regular ponds, as keeping a whole family of ducks can seriously knock your ponds eco-system out of whack. The duck species may also be protected in some states and countries, so it’s always good to double-check and notify professionals about the best course of action.
Ways to Keep Ducks away from a Garden Pond
The easiest and most simple way to stop ducks landing on your pond is to deny them access with pond netting! Pond netting ensures ducks can’t enter the water, and they’ll need water to stick around. Even if they land in your garden, they won’t be able to get comfy if there is no water for them to swim, eat, and clean in. Ducks in your garden are much less of an issue than ducks in your pond, and can actually be beneficial. So long as they’re away from water, their faeces will act as a good fertilizer for terrestrial plants and shouldn’t cause issues with the pond itself.
Pond netting also has a huge range of other benefits, and can help reduce sludge from fallen debris and deter predators, such as herons, from taking fish. Both supported netting and floating netting would work for ducks, but supported netting ensures ducks can’t even set foot in the water; so may be a better choice! This is also a better option in comparison to shade sails (below) if you have low sunlight and plants, as netting still allows most sunlight to penetrate and reach the water surface.
Another option which is less effective than netting but may provide extra aerial camouflage from ducks are shade sails or shade covers. These are designed to provide shade to a garden pond, helping control algae growth and reduce the temperature of the water. Unlike netting, they’re not meant to cover all areas of the pond, so a duck can still easily slip underneath if it’s determined. However, shade sails will be able to mask your pond from above, so ducks won’t be able to easily spot the water while in flight, helping to prevent landings from new visitors. It will also make taking off more difficult for ducks, not allowing them a clear runway from the waters surface.
They can be combined with pond netting for maximum protection from both sunlight, ducks, and even predators. Especially useful for garden ponds in very warm climates which also have koi or goldfish, as the fish would probably enjoy cooler areas water. We would still choose regular pond netting for deterring wild ducks, but shade sails are certainly an option if your weather is particular hot in summer.
3) Make use of Water Fountains
This method is only useful if you have a water feature that covers most of your pond, as the disturbance and noise it creates will make your pond less enticing to visiting ducks. Wild ducks that land in garden ponds are often looking to get away from other ducks to relax, or they’re looking for a peaceful hunting ground to eat. A large water display makes both of these things more difficult, creating an area of noise and chaos which isn’t ideal for relaxing or feeding.
A small fountain in a large pond is unlikely to deter a duck, and may actually have the opposite effect! Ducks may enjoy the added convenience of an accessible shower, making cleaning and drinking even easier. A fountain that covers a large area of water, however, is less inviting and also does not make a good nesting ground for ducklings. This works especially well in smaller ponds, as the water feature doesn’t need to be huge to cover most of the water. In larger ponds, unless you have a huge display, it may be better to try a different method of deterrent – although extra aeration is never a bad thing for fish!
4) Automatic Water/Sound Scarers
An interesting deterrent that is both effective for getting rid of predators and ducks is automatic scaring systems. These usually come in two forms; water sprinklers and ultrasonic sound systems. Both are good choices to deter a range of pests that may visit your garden or pond, including herons, cats, dogs, raccoons, and wild ducks.
The systems are activated by movement, and both will work to “scare” any animal that comes close to the pond with either water or low-pitched noise. We find that automatic water sprinklers work better in most cases, as the sound systems don’t always have the intended effect on some animals. They’re especially useful if you also have problems with predatory birds, such as herons, as they’re one of the more effective deterrents for stubborn hunters.
The water and sound effect is harmless to wildlife, and simply works to shock the animal into flight so the don’t get too comfortable. After a few visits and sprays from a scarer device, ducks will likely move on to another body of water as they realise the constant shocks aren’t going anywhere!
Decoys are useful for deterring predators, and can also work on ducks if the decoy is convincing enough. Common heron decoys won’t scare away ducks, and may even make the pond seem safer for them to land. Decoys such as alligators, cats, or dogs may be more useful as ducks will be naturally weary of these kind of animals which they relate to danger. We find decoys can be hit and miss with wild ducks, and often the ducks which are frightened off will slowly become more aware the decoy isn’t real.
Decoys work much better when combined with automatic scarer systems, as they’ll start associating the “shock” from a scarer with the actual predator, and may eventually stop landing altogether. There are a huge range of different predator decoys you can try, but for ducks we would go with either a floating alligator or standing dog, fox, or coyote. Depending on how confident your ducks are in your garden, a decoy may be all you need to reduce their visits. If they’re already used to the pond and the surroundings, it may prove difficult for just a decoy to effectively scare the ducks away, so may need to be combined wither other methods.
6) “Shoo” them away (And don’t feed them!)
Sometimes, regardless of what you try, ducks will continue to land on your pond and in your garden. Since these ducks are being extra stubborn, you may also need to be extra stubborn back!
“Shooing” the ducks away as soon as they land, and making sure they can never get too comfy helps move them on. If you have a dog, keeping them in the garden during the day if the weather is nice would be useful for deterring day time visits when you may be out. Even with duck deterrents in place, actively scaring them off whenever you see them stops them feeling at home in your fish pond. Even if they continue to land, they may think twice about choosing your garden as their nesting ground – which is better than nothing!
One of the worst things you can do is feed them, as this acts as a direct invitation to continue coming down for more easy meals. You should also wait around the pond when you feed your fish, too, and only leave when all pellets are eaten. Ducks are notorious for stealing floating fish food, and if you get a duck arriving just after feeding, your fish may get no supper that day.