The animal kingdom is alive with all sorts of beasts, some great and some small. Some of those beasts have vast habitats that span across continents or the whole of the worlds’ oceans and others will live out their days in a tiny area that you could cross in one single large stride.
Today we are going to look at one of those smaller habitats and look at what animals live in a pond, a whole eco-system of wonders is happening right now in thousands of gardens around the world.
What Types of Pond Are There?
There are several types of pond that occur in nature, some are seasonal, and some are permanent but there are only two main types that you are likely to have in your garden and chances are that they are man-made.
The two types of man-made pond that you are likely to have is either a fishpond or a wildlife pond. Is there a difference between the two I hear you ask? Well, yes there is, although both ponds may look the same to the untrained eye, fishponds and wildlife ponds vary greatly in what kind of animal life they will be able to support.
Fishponds are designed primarily for holding fish. They are often named Koi Ponds or Ornamental Ponds due to the type of fish that they will usually hold. Koi is an ornamental fish that is part of the Carp family and is prevalent in Japanese culture and artwork.
Fishponds are often devoid of plant life so that the fish can be seen and do not remain hidden through the day and without plant life, fishponds are usually artificially cleaned and aerated using a pump or pumps.
Although pumps (amazon link – opens in a new tab) are a great idea and keep ponds clean and aerated and are even necessary in most cases, they are not great for the microorganisms that reside in water meaning that the usual explosion of life in and around the water is limited however the opposite is true for our other type of pond, the wildlife pond.
Unlike fishponds that are created almost exclusively for fish, Wildlife ponds are created to provide as natural a habitat as possible to the creatures that reside there. They are built with the intention of letting mother nature take over and do what she is best at – life.
In a healthy wildlife pond, you will find a whole ecosystem with all sorts of creatures making up each step of the food web and in this type of pond, you will not usually find a pump or any kind of filtration system.
Healthy wildlife ponds rely on plants to clean and aerate the water as nature intended, although there are a few quick-growing pond weeds that may need a little management every now and again.
What Animals Live in a Pond?
In and around a pond, you will find all sorts of life, from the smallest plant-based microorganisms known as phytoplankton all the way up to the top of the food chain where there are birds, reptiles, and mammals.
Any healthy water source will always attract life and in life, especially in the animal kingdom, only the fittest will survive.
We are going to look at what animals you are likely to find living in your garden pond.
We will start with the obvious and that is fish. Fish are obviously the most recognised aquatic animal and you will find them in many ponds across the world. Like we mentioned though, fish are usually kept for ornamental reasons so that they can be seen, and they will usually have the pond almost to themselves.
We do not recommend having fish in a wildlife pond as they can be too dominant and eat a lot of the plants and other wildlife that may arrive.
Ponds make a fantastic home for invertebrates and insects, you will find various flying bugs, beetles, and larvae in a wildlife pond.
The insects that you find in a wildlife pond mostly feed on phytoplankton which is microscopic plants but some of the insects you will find, feed on each other!
Surprisingly, many of the pond insects spend most of their lives submerged underwater as larvae feeding and preparing for adulthood.
Some of the insects and invertebrates that you will find in your pond are black leeches, water louse, tadpoles, dragonfly nymphs, water snails, great diving beetles, dragonflies, water boatmen, infant newts, and pond skaters.
In the UK, it is unlikely that you will find many mammals that live in a pond although they are not likely to be too far away. Hedgehogs and foxes for example can be seen popping in for a drink from time to time.
Not only do ponds make a great place to stop for a drink for many mammals, but ponds also attract all sorts of prey animals and bugs which make a great meal; the bat for example is a flying mammal that will use the area around a pond as its hunting ground.
Some of the mammals that you will find around your pond are hedgehogs, foxes, domestic cats, bats, badgers, rats, and depending on where you live, small deer.
There are not many reptiles that live in the UK but there are a couple of native breeds of small snakes and it is the ultimate compliment to find an adder or grass snake that has been attracted to your wildlife pond.
Snakes are not particularly common although if you are lucky enough to have any make residence in your garden, you must be doing something right.
In the united states, there are several reptiles that may be attracted to your pond and depending on the size, that could include the deadly apex predator, the alligator.
Probably the most famous pond animal that will arrive and take residence in your pond, is the common frog. Frogs and other amphibians seek out new water sources for living and breeding.
Frogs are not the only amphibians that will come across a pond and make it their home, you will often find toads, newts, and even salamanders using the water for a swim in the evening.
Birds… Why would birds be around a pond? Birds are natural predators, some eat insects, some eat small mammals, and some will eat your fish!
The heron for example is a bird that you do not want to see around your pond especially if it contains your expensive ornamental fish.
Many other birds will be attracted to your pond due to the number of insects and invertebrates as they will make up a large portion of the birds’ diet.
How to Look After Pond Animals ?
If you want to look after your pond animals, the first thing to think about is the water. You will need to regularly test the water to ensure that it is healthy and in the habitable zone for wildlife.
There are various inexpensive testing kits that can be bought to help you check whether the water has the right chemical balance and ph.
You will also need to keep the water clean and aerated and this means creating oxygen in the water. The best way to do this is to have a variety of plants that will do their work at different depths.
If you have a fishpond, you will want to have a good quality filter to remove any fish waste that will accumulate and cloud the water.
Plants are an essential part of a wildlife pond; they are nature’s own way of keeping water clean and injecting oxygen back into the habitat.
Plants are not just for aerating the pond, they are also one of the major food groups in the food chain with many insects and invertebrates feeding on them before becoming prey to larger carnivorous predators.
To keep your plants healthy, you will want to ensure that your pond gets plenty of natural sunlight.
Plants require sunlight for photosynthesis and if they are in the shade for too long during the day, they will struggle which will have an impact on the water and, the food chain.
3. Cleaning your Pond
Even if you have a healthy wildlife pond, it will occasionally need a clean, this should be done every few years.
When you are cleaning your pond, you will need to be careful as there are various insects that will overwinter in the silt at the bottom.
We advise cleaning your pond by carrying out a large water replacement. You can remove the water with a bucket or with a pump during the autumn when the activity is extremely low, and you can read about how to clean your pond here.
As you can see, there are all sorts of animals that will make your garden their home if you have a pond. Smaller insects will use the pond for breeding and eat all the algae and microscopic plants. You will also attract many birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians that will feed on the insects and in worst cases, your fish!
Whatever you do, be sure to keep a watch out and see what life is doing around your pond, there will be bugs eating and being eaten and there will be creatures enjoying their day basking in the sun.
If you do not yet have a pond, check out how to build one!
Garden Doctor Tips
“If you see a heron around your pond, you will want to think about having some sort of deterrent or decoy to try and keep it away!”
“Keep your pond healthy by testing the water weekly, especially if you live near a source of pollution!”
“Ensure that you put your pond in a place that gets plenty of sun so that the plants can produce oxygen that keeps the water healthy!”
“If you have children and see a large predator visit your pond, ensure that you call a professional to help you remove it!”