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A word on sticklebacks.

DesthemoanerDesthemoaner FlintshirePosts: 182

Just wondering what to stock our new, small pond with. I quite fancy putting a handful of sticklebacks in there because I remember them fondly from the pondside observations of my childhood...cheeky little fellers, particularly the males with their red flash and aggressive patrolling of the area around their nests. 

But...we like frogs and we like tadpoles, and I've read that Jackie Sharps and Taddies don't mix. Sticklebacks are carnivores, its said, and they'll eat tadpoles and indeed anything else they can get their spines and teeth into. I've also heard that to thrive properly, sticklebacks need live food.

Does anyone here know the truth of that? Should I look for a more placid species of fish to share the pond with the (hopefully) annual crop of tadpoles?

Obviously the situation is more manageable in a large lake or pond. However, ours is a very small affair, and there'd be nowhere for the taddies to hide if the sticklebacks fancied a froglet sandwich.  


  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Central Norfolk UKPosts: 82,079

    The usual advice is that, especially in small garden ponds, frogs and fish do not go well together ... the fish eat the spawn and tadpoles ( and the frogs attempt to be amorous with larger fish).

    We find that our wildlife pond has enough life in and around it to keep us entertained without the addition of fish. 


    “I am not lost, for I know where I am. But however, where I am may be lost.” Winnie the Pooh

  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Central Norfolk UKPosts: 82,079
    “I am not lost, for I know where I am. But however, where I am may be lost.” Winnie the Pooh

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  • DesthemoanerDesthemoaner FlintshirePosts: 182

    Much obliged for all the advice, and for the link, Dove. And for your encouragement that fish/ amphibian diversity in a small pond might still be possible, Chrissie. 

    My pond is perhaps just four feet square,  so it might be worth buying a couple of sticklebacks and just seeing how things go. No way do I want it turning into a modern version of the Coliseum, with frogs and fish indulged in a constant life or death struggle with no room for escape. However, right now there's nothing in there at all bar a few invertebrates I managed to save from the old pond, so it's as good a time to experiment as any.

  • It's definitely worth trying a few sticklebacks as they'll help to keep the mosquito larvae down. 

    Dove is right about amorous frogs. Seeing a goldfish bear hugged by a randy frog is not a sight for sore eyes image

  • OnopordumOnopordum Posts: 390

    I don't find mosquitoes much of a problem in ponds because invertebrate predators eat most of them - I think particularly the water boatmen.

    The trouble with fish (especially goldfish and sticklebacks) is that they rapidly breed to a large number which decimates the more interesting pondlife, including tadpoles, newt larvae and damselflies. You do get much better value for wildlife from a fish-free pond.

    At this time of year, provided there are other ponds somewhere nearby you ought to have insects like dragon & damselflies, water beetles and bugs, mayflies and other species moving in and colonising the pond (even a small one).

    In reply to ChrissieB, toads can generally coexist with fish since the tadpoles are toxic (although they do generally prefer larger ponds). Frogs prefer shallow or temporary ponds, or the margins of larger ones, so it may be your sister's pond is too deep to be ideal for them.

  • DesthemoanerDesthemoaner FlintshirePosts: 182

    Thanks again.

    Lots to think about there, so I'll take my time and meanwhile make sure I get the look of the pond right for its new inhabitants. Whoever and whatever they may be. image

    Last edited: 09 July 2017 19:06:46

  • josusa47josusa47 Posts: 3,531

    I'm possibly going to put the cat among the pigeons, but I think deliberately importing creatures into our garden ponds, or for that matter our gardens generally, is not really consistent with the ethos of wildlife gardening.  Do we want to support wildlife for its own benefit, or for our own amusement?  A wild creature that lives where humans have put it is no longer wild.  Would you take eggs from a wild bird's nest and incubate them at home?  No?  So how is it different to take spawn from a pond where amphibians have chosen to breed, and put it somewhere it hasn't chosen and which may be in some way unsuitable,  eg water chemistry not right, predators close by.

  • DesthemoanerDesthemoaner FlintshirePosts: 182

    Its a fair point you make. Cats, herons and other occasional nuisances no doubt find less well protected ponds a handy source of food. Some ponds are no doubt ill suited for the unfortunate creatures which are expected to thrive in them. 

    Speaking for myself, I've resisted pressure from another member of the family to visit a body of water at a local beauty spot where frogs have already spawned,  to put some of that spawn in a pot and bring it home to put in our pond. My argument for resisting is the same as yours: if they ain't born here, they don't belong here. I do agree to some extent that moving fauna around for our own entertainment doesn't seem to cut with the ethos indicated by the title of this forum.

     However, putting a couple of fish into a pond when they're already in a shop staring through glass, thereby releasing them to something a little closer to their natural habitat, doesn't seem that bad in comparison. Although I would acknowledge that by doing that, you're encouraging the shop to buy and imprison a few more. 

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