Believe it or not, goldfish are a great way to control mosquitoes in and around your yard, garden, or stable -- anywhere you might have resting water. That is just the sort of place mosquitoes love to lay their eggs and the goldfish find this a buffet fit for royalty. Other small fish like minnows and guppies will also gobble up the larvae and keep algae to a minimum.
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Using fish in standing water features such as ponds, troughs, tanks, and rain barrels can be a great way to reduce the amount of mosquitoes such reservoirs help produce. Mosquitoes prefer still andstagnant water for laying their eggs Reducing mosquitoes can help keep your family, pets, and livestock safe from diseases like malaria, West Nile virus, and the Zika virus -- not to mention those itchy, irritating bites.
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Fish are also a natural answer to pest control and one that is cost effective. These days most of us are looking for non-chemical options for taking care of pests. With the right care the fish don't need to be replaced regularly as chemical options do. They are self-catering since they are feeding on the mosquito larvae. They also help keep down the proliferation of algae in these features.
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There are a few caveats you need to take into consideration before you run to the pet store:
- Don't get too many fish for your tank or pond. This can upset the natural balance that produces the bacteria that help break down the waste from the fish and help keep the water clean.
- You need to make sure that there is always enough water for the fish to thrive. In some cases you may need to replenish the water daily. An auto-refill system can help with this.
- Goldfish are cold water fish and a small tank in the sun may get too warm for them. Providing shade is a good idea.
- Fish-loving predators such as raccoons will be looking at your water feature as a lovely buffet. Providing cover such as rocks or bricks in the bottom will give the fish a place to hide. A friend of mine built a cover for his pond to use at night to keep the raccoons away. Darker colored fish are also harder for predators to see. Keep in mind that shallow water and ledges make for easier fishing.
- In colder climes you may want to install a heater to keep the water from freezing. The fish are fine through the winter months feeding on the algae. In the case of horse troughs the fish can also enjoy an extra snack from hay and grain falling from a horses mouth. People who have not used heating systems have been pleasantly surprised to find their fish survived the winter.
- You will still need to keep your pond or trough clear of debris and remove dead fish. The live fish and bacteria aren't going to do it all. You have to help. When it comes to tanks and troughs you will likely still need to clean them once in awhile. Cleaning too often can disrupt the bacterial balance, as can cleaning too rarely. The old water and waste will make a tasty snack for your plants.
- Smaller fish work best. They are better able to get to all of the nooks and crannies in your water feature. They also are less likely to crowd each other out in the hunt for food. Smaller fish are also able to move more easily around the plants in a water garden.
- This method will not rid you entirely of mosquitoes. They do breed in a variety of places. Make sure you keep your property clear of all standing water that may collect in containers such as buckets and wheelbarrows. Mosquitoes will also come in from your neighbors' properties.
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There is some controversy over the use of fish for mosquito control. Some people consider fish to be too dirty and messy to make this effective. Others seem to have made the system work for them. Many of the detractors don't seem to have tried this and those that have may not have achieved the right balance in handling the issues listed above. Some consider them too much work while others say it is no big deal. With a horse trough you are basically establishing a pond-like ecosystem. Before you go fish shopping do your homework.
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In addition to goldfish you can also consider using guppies, minnows, koi, mosquito fish, or killfish. Your choices are not limited just to the golden ones. That being said I do not recommend the use of Goldfish Crackers for insect control. They would likely just mess things up and draw ants.
If going the fish route is not for you then you may want to consider a product like Mosquito Dunks. This product is organic and safe for pets, livestock, wildlife, and beneficial insects. Each "dunk" lasts up to 30 days and kills the mosquito larvae.