The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space


Photo of our pond with fish but the fish are not visible!We’ve lived without fish in our pond for about three years and I yearned for them. Ours were fish that had been born and bred here for over 25 years. But one bleak winter a hungry heron discovered the joy of our pop up restaurant.

There are ‘heron losses’ in most country ponds. In a big pond like ours they tend to take the weakest ones and solve the problem of overcrowding so we didn’t take much notice. It was only in spring that we realised that the heron had picked them all off one by one. There must have been at least a hundred fish. I was devastated and the result was to do nothing. Silly I know but I’d had enough. A pond without fish is a haven for misquitos.

At one point last Autumn Seraphina’s pugs ambled across the pond on the thick carpet of oxygenating weed. Something had to be done.

This spring I overhauled the pond. Removing the three inch thick carpets of weed was a struggle, but after a few days to allow creatures to return to the pond, I dragged these thick carpets down to the welcoming arms of the compost heaps.

Dredging out loads of nutrient rich sludge from the bottom took a month to clear just two thirds of the pond. Each barrow load was spread on the borders of the kitchen garden and to date the results of this top dressing have been superb. Apart from the area used by the basket weavers to grow vegetables, the rest of the kitchen garden was not the bountiful area that I’d imagined that it would be. Good fertiliser should replace hope every time.

Having returned the pond to some semblance of normality, Seraphina and I went out on a fish buying mission. I was amazed how expensive that fish have become. A tiny, teeny goldfish costs £1. We bought 22 mixed goldfish and shubukin (mottled, coloured goldfish) of varying sizes. I bought another five goldfish on an outing with TCL and S. All together an investment of about £60. The 15 smallest ones are not more than 2” long and the 5 largest are 6”.

Incidentally the smaller ones are growing fast but the larger ones seemed to have stayed at the same size.

They are fed each evening and I stand by the pond and watch them. The pleasure that these fish give me is enormous – twisting, wheeling or just slinking along searching for food. When they are full they play. Chasing, hiding and quite breath stoppingly beautiful. Well worth the springtime cleanout – cheap at the price. In time these fish will multiply – they have been canoodling for a couple of months now and we should see babies next spring.

I’m happy to dress as a heron and stand on guard beside the pond all winter. No bird is going to eat these fish, even the hideous one that the girl slipped into the bag when my back was turned. Needless to say that fish is already special. I can instantly recognise her after all.


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  1. seo in london

    I had to erect a large fence to keep the birds out on mine.

  2. This might be a daft question but if you have goldfish in a pond do the frogs still like it?

    • Fiona Nevile

      Hi Claire

      Not a stupid question at all! I’ve had koi and carp (big ones) and frogs before. They all get along fine but the bigg fish will eat some of the frogspawn.

  3. Mohclips

    I had massive problems with Herons this year.

    Now i have covered the whole lot with decent anti-heron netting. Which is cheaper than buying 10 more fish.

    Some youtube movies of the damn things in my pond…

    Best of luck waiting them out. Mine were about at 3-4am as soon as it was light.


  4. Herons like to land next to water, then wade in. You can stop them by putting up a fence around the waters edge – I’m sure you could buuild something decorative as well as functional.

  5. saw this, remembered you are on oil heating

    hope it is of some benefit. would have gone in the forum, but am at work and i cant get in there.

  6. We have Great Blue Herons here in New England. They go for my middle-sized fish, but leave the little ones alone. My one Koi, named The Beast (for obvious reasons when you see her – she’s 2 foot long) is too savvy to be speared. In our water feature we have a deep spot under an overhanging rock. Provide a safe cave for you fishes and they’ll survive.

  7. The Liquineer

    Herons are patient creatures, they can out wait you. When I worked in Scotland, I had to go to one of my companies distilleries fairly often, usually early in the morning, and once spotted a heron standing on one leg watching the water near a bridge over the burn I had to cross- it was still in the same spot several hours later.

  8. KateUK

    If you put a length of old soil pipe flat on the bottom of the pond the fish will have a hiding place if a Heron calls by.

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