Enhancing your wildlife pond

Frog by Katrina Martin

Frog by Katrina Martin

Hedgehog by Gillian Day

Hedgehog by Gillian Day

Making your pond a haven for wildlife will take more than just water, a shovel and a pond liner. Whether you’ve just built your pond, or have had one in place for a few years, these are a few simple ways you can improve your pond for wildlife, and attract an array of animals into your garden.

Amphibians

One of the most pleasing signs of spring, and a functioning wildlife pond, is the presence of amphibians and frogspawn. Amphibians will often turn up within a year or two of a pond’s creation, and the following features may make your pond attractive enough to encourage them stay.

  • Place stones and logs around the border of the pond, and allow grass to grow long. This provides important shelter and shade for frogs, toad and newts.
  • Certain plants are also inviting to amphibians. The smell of duckweed attracts frogs early in the year, and water starwort (Callitriche stagnalis) is favoured by newts for egg-laying.

Dragonflies and Damselflies

Dragonflies and damselflies require stable habitats and lots of small creatures (aquatic invertebrates) to eat during their early underwater life stage, which can last over 2 years. Naturally over time your pond will be colonised by many of these small invertebrates, but plants can help the process.

  • Plant sedges and grasses, which are good for pond invertebrates, to increase prey for dragonflies and damselflies.
  • Pond plants are also ideal for some dragonfly and damselfly species to lay their eggs. Different species will have different requirements for egg laying and may prefer tall emergent plants, with hollow stems, over floating-leaved plants. Plant a mixture to attract different species to your pond.

Floating leaved plants in your pond are also great for flying invertebrates (e.g. bees) to rest on and drink water.

Mammals

Ponds are a great water source for thirsty mammals. It is important to improve the safety of your pond for small mammals (e.g. hedgehogs) and prevent them from being trapped if they fall in. You could do this by creating a stone beach at the shallow end of your pond, or by making a ramp out of a grooved plank.

Plants

Plants are the most important addition to your pond for attracting wildlife. Adding the correct plants to your pond will oxygenate the water and provide food, shelter and a place to lay eggs for a variety of animals.

There are four 'zones' in which pond plants may be grown, they are:

  1. Totally submerged (deep water)
  2. Submerged but with floating leaves (deep water)
  3. Emergent (shallow areas)
  4. Marginal (pond edge and bog areas)

Try to have plants in each zone if you can and, where possible, choose native species to plant in your pond.  A list of recommended pond plants can be found here.

Fish

A dedicated pond for wildlife should not have fish added to it. Fish will pollute the water and eat the majority of the wild creatures you have worked hard to attract to your pond.

Biosecurity

It may be tempting to kick start the wildlife in your pond by collecting plants, mud, water or even frogspawn from an established pond, to put in your own. It is far better to let your pond establish on its own, rather than risk introducing diseases and non-native invasive species into your new pond by taking material from others.

For more information on how to make and maintain a wildlife pond visit take a look here.