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Submitted by: Doug Hoover

I will teach you how to build a new pond or remodel your existing pond and make it completely safe from predators – except for bears. If you have bears in your yard, you have more to worry about than losing some fish.

If you have ever experienced finding a family member missing or laying by the pond half eaten (fish family member) or three-quarters eaten, you probably were not too thrilled about it. Especially if it was named Charlie or Nemo and had eaten from your hand every day for a couple of years.

I would imagine you want to get your finger around its neck for just a couple of minutes. You thought: what should I do? Install an electric fence, scarecrow, decoy, or plastic floating alligator? Cover my pond with an ugly net? Buy one of those owls or crane statues, or maybe a BB gun, pellet gun or (if your loss brought tears) a shotgun? Or maybe, all of the above!

I do not have time to explain why 75% of this stuff does not work; as for the other 25%, the resulting benefits are not worth the trouble. That will be covered in my article entitled “Which Pond Predator Deterrents Work?

Now I am going to explain how to build or remodel your pond so predators have no reason to put your pond on their dinner tour.

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If you have done your research, you have read all the recommendations of the pond “experts”: that if you build your pond over 24 inches deep and create hiding places in the rock, your fish will be safe from cranes. WRONG! Before I remodeled my pond, which is five feet deep, I sat in my office and from the window I watched a 5 foot crane land at the pond’s edge. Instantly the koi fish swam to the bottom of the pond for safety.

Smart fish, huh? No, dumb fish! I watched the crane stare at the water for a few minutes, standing as still as a statue. Then suddenly he leaned forward and vomited up into the pond part of an earlier meal. As the regurgitated morsels began to slowly sink below the surface, my dumb, beautiful, colorful, expensive koi proceeded to swim to the surface to intercept the generous offering from the air mail delivery.

I discovered three things: (1) cranes are smarter than fish; (2) the depth of a pond is not a major deterrent; and (3) the more colorful a koi fish and the more it costs, the better it tastes! Because those are the ones that the cranes eat first.

That experience taught me an expensive lesson, and allowed me to figure out how to guarantee that it would never happen again.

One fallacy touted by “experts” is to build ledges around the pond to hold marginal plant pots. The raccoons love that idea, found on almost every pond liner website on the internet. Here we go, now, so pay attention. You can argue with me later if you feel you have to. However, a man with experience (26 years and over 1,900 ponds) is not at the mercy of a pond liner guy with an argument.

First of all, you should never build ledges, period. Marginal plants should be placed in border planters that are contained within raised bond beam walls; lower bog planters can house papyrus, cattails, horse tail or iris, which prevents predators from standing at the edge. Photos can be seen on my website.

Depending on the perimeter of your pond, you should design your waterfall to encompass a good percentage of the pond’s edge, rather than a small, narrow area as found in most designs. You should also make sure that the waterfall is steep and does not afford a landing near the water’s edge. In a flat back yard, this can be accomplished by building a raised berm using the dirt from the pond excavation. This creates a raised shore line. In these raised shore line areas you can create sheer rock cliffs, providing places for moss, baby tears, isotoma or ground cover between the rocks.

In the one quarter to one third of the remaining pond’s edge, you should build a dock-style walkway or deck that is 13 inches off the surface of the pond. Allow it to cantilever over the edge, which consists of a sheer raised rock bond beam. Pictures are on the website and in the construction manual.

With this design, the cranes are standing on the edge of the deck or dock walkway a full 13 inches above the surface of the water, so they cannot bend over far enough to snag the fish. They just stand there and stare for a while, and then they will fly away. The raccoons, likewise, will hang over the edge of the deck and paw at the water’s surface. The only thing they will accomplish is to scare the fish, causing them to stay in the deep water. Raccoons are not very patient, nor do they have the ability to sit still for any length of time to allow the fish to swim to the surface.

If you have dogs, you need to assure that they have an exit from the pond if they fall in. The exit area should consist of a heavy fishing net hung over the side of a ramped wall area. The slanted wall is angled enough to allow the dog to easily climb up the net, but too steep for a raccoon or crane to ascend.

You can see photos of my pond at askdoughoover.com.

About the Author: Douglas Hoover; CEO of Aquamedia Corp, designer, architect, inventor, engineer, writer and builder of over 2,000 waterfalls and ponds in California for the past 30 years. Inventor and manufacturer of the “AquaFill” electronic float control system for ponds, pools, hot tubs.

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