One concern that some potential koi pond owners might have is that their koi pond will attract snakes. This is not an unfounded concern. Due to habitat encroachment and dwindling resources like food and water, many types of wildlife are being driven into backyards to forage.
So do koi ponds really attract snakes? Yes, koi ponds can potentially attract a variety of fish-eating snakes such as garter snakes, water snakes, ribbon snakes, and cottonmouth snakes. Of these snakes, the only one dangerous to people is the cottonmouth.
Other snakes attracted to koi ponds may eat smaller koi but are not a danger to people.
Yikes! If koi ponds attract snakes, that’s a major concern to address, right? Not necessarily. Read on to find out more about snakes and koi ponds, and how you can keep them out of yours.
Snakes Can Be Attracted to Koi Ponds
There are several varieties of snake that are water-based snakes and are attracted to bodies of water because fish are one of their primary sources of prey. This is a list of water snakes commonly found in North America:
- Water snakes
- Ribbon snakes
- Garter snakes
- Cottonmouth snakes (also known as “water moccasins”)
These snakes can be attracted to a koi pond as a source of potential food, as these species of snake would happily chow down on koi fish if they are less than three or so inches long.
But many other species of snakes that are not water snakes can still be attracted to a koi pond if other sources of water are not readily available, such as more arid habitats.
In this case, a pool of water will be very attractive to wildlife and snakes in particular, as all animals need to drink, and snakes are one of the few that can get through a large manmade fence without trouble.
Are Snakes a Danger to Koi?
Water snakes that like to feed on fish, such as the ones listed above, are a threat to smaller koi and goldfish, as well as the rosy minnows and smaller pond fish that koi tend to be housed with.
If there are not many other sources of food available elsewhere, a snake may settle down near a pond and feast until it can find no more small fish to eat. So once a snake has found your koi pond, it’s probably sticking around. Snakes are territorial creatures.
If your koi pond has large koi in it, you probably don’t have much to worry about with regards to them being eaten by snakes. Most small water snakes like garter or ribbon snakes are actually in danger of being preyed upon by large koi.
Are Snakes Around a Koi Pond Dangerous to People?
It depends. The majority of snake species attracted by koi ponds are water snakes, and
the majority of water snakes are non-venomous and beneficial to the environment and
These snakes may bite a person if threatened or frightened, and the bite might hurt, but it is harmless.
However, one type of water snake, the cottonmouth, is very venomous and is attracted to water. Koi ponds, depending on their location, may also attract other venomous kinds of snakes to drink, such as rattlesnakes or copperheads.
How to Keep Snakes Out of a Koi Pond
Unfortunately, your options are going to be pretty limited with regard to keeping snakes away from your koi pond. There is no evidence that commercial granular snake repellents work at all, and the same goes for the old fishwife’s cure of using mothballs.
Some people will tell you that you should cut down all the scrub and cover in your yard to prevent habitat for snakes, but this also has the adverse effect of taking away habitat from other beneficial wildlife in your yard too.
Snakes cannot be easily fenced out either. Unless you want to put up a six-foot privacy fence and skirt the entire thing with hardware cloth, you’re not likely to keep most snakes out if they are really determined to get in your yard.
The smartest thing to do, ultimately, is leave snakes around your koi pond alone.
Leave Snakes at the Koi Pond Alone
The majority of snakes found around your koi pond are going to be non-venomous and non-aggressive snakes. Snakes, in general, are very beneficial to the environment and can help keep pests such as rodents out of your yard. Unlike snakes, rodents are invasive in human homes and can spread disease.
For most koi snakes are too small to be a predatory threat, so if they are not a threat to humans and they are not a threat to people, they should be left alone.
By deterring rodents from your yard, snakes play their role in the food chain, and also serve as a ready form of food for any pesky herons in the neighborhood—the same herons that would otherwise be taking a hungry look at your koi!
Keeping Snakes out of Your Yard
If you are dead-set on keeping snakes away from your koi pond entirely, your only real option is to install a fence that goes at least a foot under the earth, to prevent burrowing. You’ll also want to keep any sheds cleared out and make sure there are no holes leading into the home.
You can also deter snakes from using your yard by clearing up any debris, such as log piles or dead branches. These are areas where snakes like to hang out.
If you find a snake near your koi pond and you are sure it is a non-venomous snake, the most humane option is to catch the snake, trap it in a pillowcase (that you can then tie closed to prevent escape) and drive it a few miles from your house.
There you can open the pillowcase and safely dump the snake. The further away you relocate the snake, the smaller its chances of returning to the koi pond.
How to Prevent Snakes from Eating Your Koi
For snakes and koi ponds to co-exist peacefully, you need to make sure that the snakes aren’t going to eat your koi.
There are a few solutions for this:
- One is to keep koi indoors in a large freshwater tank until they are a large enough size that snakes are not a threat to then, and then introduce them to the koi pond at
- The other solution is to purchase koi that are already a large enough size that small water snakes cannot pose a serious threat to them.
You always have the option of keeping smaller fish in the pond, but if you do, do it with the understanding that no matter how careful you are, you might end up losing a couple to snakes or other predators. But that comes with the territory when it comes to owning a koi pond.
Snakes Are A Good Sign for Your Koi Pond
If your koi pond attracts a snake or some other kind of wildlife, you should see it as a badge of honor. To attract wildlife to your backyard is to prove that you have established a functioning ecosystem that serves as a crucial sanctuary for many kinds of creatures.
While we have been conditioned to fear and detest snakes, they tend to get a bad rap for no reason. Most are very passive animals, and the overwhelming majority are not actively aggressive towards people, like some kinds of wild animals can be.
Koi ponds can be a thing of beauty in and of themselves just as a decoration in your yard, but it’s also pretty beautiful when they can also be environmentally friendly and help give back to local wildlife some of the habitat they’ve been denied by human housing development.
By providing habitat for wildlife, you are really moving from just having a water feature in your yard to emulating a true pond environment.