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How To Remove Leeches From Your Pond Without Chemicals

Updated on April 22, 2015

A Safe Pond For Fish And Wildlife

What to do if you have leeches in your fish pond. If you have a nasty leech infestation, you really don't have to use chemicals to save your fish! When caring for your fish how do you cure a leech infestation without killing all the plants and wildlife and starting all over? That is the question I faced recently when I saw some horrible leeches on my fish. I needed a safe way to remove leeches from my pond. I had too many leeches in my garden pond and the leeches were attacking my fish. If there is one creature that totally grosses me out it has to be the leech. Leeches can't help it, but they are basically unloved and unwanted. The very thought of them is enough to make you cringe - and here was a leech on my fish.... What could I do? What would you do to remove leeches from your pond?

Photographs used in this article are all my own work. Please do not copy!



Before you resort to dangerous chemicals try this method.

Not everyone is confident in natural treatments for a start but this is one that worked. It is all about caring for your fish in a more natural way. You can control a leech problem using natural methods! Before you buy pond chemicals, read this story....

The fish have been well cared for during my vacation in British Columbia and I shall check them carefully this morning. If necessary, a repeat treatment may well see us safely through the Fall. Update on pond.... the little fish are growing well, they are lively and eager to feed, and I have seen no more leeches. We may be through the crisis certainly until Spring. I will watch them carefully!

An Established Pond With Fish And Frogs

Twenty years of caring for a garden pond and pond leech removal

Shortly after my parents moved in to the bungalow where I now live, they decided to dig a pond. They wanted it to be natural and encourage frogs and newts. My partner and I left some goldfish from the fair in the pond one weekend while they were away. They were delighted (so were the fish) and over the next year or two they were given ghost koi, shubunkins and some golden orfe. Frogs came to the lily pond and established themselves. The pond was kept fresh by a water pump, water soldiers, water snails and mum's meticulous care removing falling leaves and debris. The plants spread, the ghost koi kept the balance. Herons came and took some of the fish, but it was peaceful enough. Chemicals were never used. Then the remaining big fish died one by one and the last fairground goldfish, now huge, succombed the week they moved into sheltered accommodation. I saw a leech on his body, but assumed it was there due to his weakened state.

We redecorated, refurbished, moved in and saw the pump was hardly working. It was important to fix this as it is the main factor in caring for your fish. At this point the frog population was healthy too because it was before the big freeze. The week we moved in, we bought a pump with a water filter and UV light intending to restock. We bought six comets and two green tench to join the little brown carp-like wild fish that we believed were the result of crossbreeding and reverting between shubunkins, goldfish and ghost koi. We couldn't believe how clean the pond became within days. One of the comets died - again we saw a leech, but didn't realize at that point that fish were being attacked by leeches. We thought it was because it couldn't cope with the move.


We were keen to restock our pond, so when the weather warmed up, we went back to purchase some ghost koi babies and some small shubunkins. There were fewer frogs due to the harsh winter, and we wanted to get things back the way they were.... little did we know what awaited the new fish. Within days we had to remove a comet for treatment - it had a leech attached. Then one of the baby ghost koi died. That was when alarm bells really rang - leeches on pond fish are no joke!

The Peaceful Garden Pond - Our Pond in May....

Click thumbnail to view full-size
A frogs eye view through bluebells to the pond....Water lily leaves strewn with cherry blossom.A comet rests in the rippling water.Fish at feeding time.Contrast enhanced - feeding frenzy :)Shubunkins, ghosts and comets feed on flakes.
A frogs eye view through bluebells to the pond....
A frogs eye view through bluebells to the pond....
Water lily leaves strewn with cherry blossom.
Water lily leaves strewn with cherry blossom.
A comet rests in the rippling water.
A comet rests in the rippling water.
Fish at feeding time.
Fish at feeding time.
Contrast enhanced - feeding frenzy :)
Contrast enhanced - feeding frenzy :)
Shubunkins, ghosts and comets feed on flakes.
Shubunkins, ghosts and comets feed on flakes.

Making A Leech Trap - The Search For Safe Leech Control

Avoiding Dangerous Chemicals And Using Safe Methods

Hmmmm.... how to kill leeches in pond..... If you want to go down the chemical route it is complex and dangerous. It is also expensive to buy pond chemicals in the quantities needed. It involves replacing all plants, estimating exactly how much water the pond holds, mixing chemicals that could possibly harm the smaller fish - and destroying every living invertebrate in the pond. That was not something we were prepared to consider. So what is safe to use to kill leaches? I searched and searched until I found the idea of constructing a leech trap out of a coffee tin. Here coffee tins are not so easy to find, they tend to be metallic cardboard. Then I thought of fresh soup containers and the leech trap was born.

At present we are on our third trap and numbers are reducing. I was horrified at the number of leeches in the last trap.... How you dispose of them having caught them is another issue of course, but you need to remember that leeches are dangerous, but they are also living animals with a nervous system and should be disposed of humanely. Freezing them is one method, or release into a river system, if it is permitted, where larger fish may eat them.

Leeches in Medicine - Leeches have been used in medicine for centuries.

So why be kind to leeches? Well, believe it or not they can be helpful. This book explains how and why leeches can be useful to the healing process.

Medicinal Leech Therapy
Medicinal Leech Therapy

Find out how leeches can help us.

 

Making the holes in the leech trap - Boring from the outside of the leech trap

Boring holes to make a leech trap
Boring holes to make a leech trap

Boring holes from the outside to create a burr on the leech trap makes it less likely leeches will crawl out through the holes. These holes can be made carefully with a steak knife and should vary in size from 2-5mm.

Raw Materials for the Leech Trap - And how the Leech Trap works

The leech trap baited with kidney.
The leech trap baited with kidney.

The leech trap works on the same principle as Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Jar. Leeches, being greedy, will gorge on blood and when they do they become so big that they get stuck in the hole. That is the principle - and it works. The main items needed are meat and a container. Liver or kidney is cheap and works well. Here you see a view of the inside of the leech trap. The holes are also burred which discourages early escape.

A Treatise on the Medicinal Leech (General Historical Collections)
A Treatise on the Medicinal Leech (General Historical Collections)

The life cycle of the leech and its medical uses in great detail!

 

Sinking the leech trap - Placing the leech trap in your pond

Leech trap Floating in the Pond
Leech trap Floating in the Pond

Just use a net to lower the trap into the water. It will fill with water and float upright. This will catch many leeches as they can sense the meat and swim up to it. To sink the trap deeper, put stones in before the meat. Then just leave the trap for a few days to a week. It will soon fill if you have a bad infestation.

Garden Pond Resources. - Everything you need for a pond in your garden

If after reading about our safe, organic method of leech control, you still feel squeamish and want to go down the more extreme chemical route, you can buy chemicals to clean your pond, or chemicals to kill leeches, in this section.

The First Leeches at the Feast - Leeches in the Trap....

Leeches in the Trap
Leeches in the Trap

Within a few hours, the first few leeches will come to the trap. They swim in through the holes and gorge happily on the meat.

The Leech Trap Works - The leech trap fills with leeches - pictures of blood sucking parasites.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Inspecting the trap after a day in the water. Leeches are on the sides and also on the meat. These small leeches would probably normally prey on water snails, but the population explosion may have destroyed all their normal food.Leeches caught in the leech trap on the second day.... As this is the third trap, there are not so many. There were hundreds caught in the second trap. The first trap was possible emptied too soon. Leeches have very few natural predators and can wreaThe trap is lowered back into the water. After another two days it will be emptied and replaced. This needs repeating until no further leeches are caught. After a few weeks another trap may need to be set for hatchling eggs.
Inspecting the trap after a day in the water. Leeches are on the sides and also on the meat. These small leeches would probably normally prey on water snails, but the population explosion may have destroyed all their normal food.
Inspecting the trap after a day in the water. Leeches are on the sides and also on the meat. These small leeches would probably normally prey on water snails, but the population explosion may have destroyed all their normal food.
Leeches caught in the leech trap on the second day.... As this is the third trap, there are not so many. There were hundreds caught in the second trap. The first trap was possible emptied too soon. Leeches have very few natural predators and can wrea
Leeches caught in the leech trap on the second day.... As this is the third trap, there are not so many. There were hundreds caught in the second trap. The first trap was possible emptied too soon. Leeches have very few natural predators and can wrea
The trap is lowered back into the water. After another two days it will be emptied and replaced. This needs repeating until no further leeches are caught. After a few weeks another trap may need to be set for hatchling eggs.
The trap is lowered back into the water. After another two days it will be emptied and replaced. This needs repeating until no further leeches are caught. After a few weeks another trap may need to be set for hatchling eggs.

What is a Leech then?

Facts about leeches....

Apart from being gross, what is a leech? A leech is a water worm, it belongs to the phylum Annelida, class Hirudinea. The blood sucking leech is a parasite to animals, birds, fish, frogs and mammals - including man. Infestation by leeches produces a condition known as Hirudiniasis. Not all leeches suck blood, some are carnivores and hunt insects and snails. However about 75% of known species of Leeches are blood sucking external parasites.

Leeches secrete Hirudin, a chemical produced in their mouth glands, which stops blood coagulating. Up to the middle of the 19th century bloodletting by leeches was a common treatment. Medicinal leeches are sterile, but wild leeches can produce infection and ulceration when satiated as they drop off.

Leeches enjoy slow moving streams, ponds, lakes and marshes, and can live on on moist vegetation in jungles and other humid environments.

Facts about Leeches - Leech Control and Collection

"He with a smile did then his words repeat

And said that gathering leeches far and wide,

He travelled, stirring thus about his feet

The waters of the pools where they abide

Once I could meet with them on everyside

But they have dwindled long by slow decay,

Yet still I persevere and find them where I may."

From Resolution and Independence by William Wordsworth, 1802

I wondered should there be leeches in my pond? Some of these links are about killing leeches in ponds, others are by admirers of garden pond leeches. Leeches after all will control a snail infestation quite effectively. Some people just LIKE them. Not everyone is out to how to kill leeches in pond water....

Leeches in your drinking water?

A serious health problem

Someone asked this question:

How do you treat a pond that is your drinking water and it has leeches in our pond?

This is a very real problem! Drinking leech infested water can lead to fatal illness. Leeches have been known to attach to the throat or mouth and suffocate the victim or cause internal haemmorhages. If your pond is your drinking water supply then you must treat it aggressively. Treat with chemicals, neutralize, drain, remove and destroy all plantlife and allow the pond to dry out completely for several weeks.

This will basically destroy your pond wildlife, and you maybe don't want to be so destructive, so you are faced with two alternatives, chlorinate pond water with water treatment tablets from a camping store and then thoroughly boil it before use or find an alternative drinking water supply. Purchase a watercooler or ask for the town water to be connected....

Water Treatment Solutions On Sale - Chemical and other water treatments

Maybe the route we choose isn't right for you? Perhaps you need a faster solution? Do you want to buy leech killing chemicals for ponds? Perhaps you have an algae problem and just need to clarify the water? Here are some water treatment solutions for common pond problems.

Some people have manicured ponds, others like them to be as close as possible to nature. Do you have a pond? Have you experienced a problem with leeches? Tell us about it here.

© 2010 Lisa Marie Gabriel

Have you have a leech problem? - Do you avoid chemicals in your pond?

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    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 2 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      Great hub Lisa. I'm glad I don't have to worry about this problem, while I feel bad for those who do. Voted up for useful!

    • maryseena profile image

      maryseena 4 years ago

      I had a severe leech problem in an aquarium. It killed half the fish. They would attach themselves to their eyes and become a black spot when full of blood. Even the fry were not spared! I treated each fish separately by sprinkling salt till the leeches dropped off. But the treatment killed the sucker fish because they cannot have high salt content in the water.

    • Old Navy Guy profile image

      Old Navy Guy 4 years ago

      Congratulations of the Purple Star Award. I must say, this was a most interesting lens. I have never dealt with leeches in my choi pond, (only in the wilds) but I suppose that doesn't mean they are not there. What great advice for a simple fix. Thanks for a fun read today.

    • EpicEra profile image

      EpicEra 4 years ago

      Thankfully, no leach problems here - unless the kid decides to never move out :)

    • profile image

      angelatvs 4 years ago

      Had my first encounter with these critters yesterday at a river. My daughter had several attached to her. It was scary.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      very smart..do you sell them as baits?

    • profile image

      LadyDuck 4 years ago

      Thanks for sharing your tips. I have an artificial pond and this season is time to clean it, before doing this I will put your traps. Very Useful lens:)

    • jayavi profile image

      jayavi 4 years ago

      most of them including me don't like leeches. but i have heard that leeches are using for some treatments. Nice lens Thanks for sharing. best trap for catch greedy leeches. and you have a nice maintain pond.

    • happy-birthday profile image

      Birthday Wishes 5 years ago from Here

      Thanks a lot for this amazing hint! I will try it out.

    • LisaMarieGabriel profile image
      Author

      Lisa Marie Gabriel 5 years ago from United Kingdom

      @GoAceNate LM: That's great! Hope it works well for you :)

    • GoAceNate LM profile image

      GoAceNate LM 5 years ago

      Ha cool I'm going to try one of these traps in the pond in our backyard. Thanks and blessed.

    • profile image

      lakebottomblanket 5 years ago

      Nice pics really, how to get leeches in pond,do they really contaminate pond water & how much they are dangerous to our pond.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I have a problem. I have discovered leeches in my drinking water. They are of varying sizes, so the chances of me ingesting them is extremely high.

      My water supply comes out of a small water hole about 200 metres away. It flows by pipe through a basic filter and into a first holding tank. From there it gets distributed to a handful of other residents, so I am not the only one to be affected. My water supply flows from that holding tank, 200 m down a hill and into a stainless steel holding tank, which was thoroughly cleaned out 6 months ago.

      Naturally I am boiling my water, and then filtering it.

      This is the first time I have had this problem.

      Putting a meat bait in the system is out of the question.

      I can treat my holding tank with chlorine, but new water will continue to flow in.

      What can i do ?

    • LisaMarieGabriel profile image
      Author

      Lisa Marie Gabriel 5 years ago from United Kingdom

      @UKGhostwriter: LOL - with the state of the health service as it is, it wouldn't surprise me to see them out themselves there begging for leeches to sell!

    • UKGhostwriter profile image

      UKGhostwriter 5 years ago

      Can you sell the leeches to your hospital?

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      No leeches or ponds in my house! This is very impressive and very creative work!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I've actually used leeches as bait when fishing. Worked quite well actually, but I can see how they would be damaging to domesticated fish.

    • Robin Gray profile image

      Robin Gray 5 years ago

      We didn't have time to get leeches in our pond - the raccoons ripped it apart so often that we gave up :(

    • emmaklarkins profile image

      emmaklarkins 6 years ago

      Wow, very interesting, and great pics! I didn't even know you could get leeches in a garden pond. Blech!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      I haven't but this was a great educational lens about this, enjoyed reading thru it and learning something new. If you like to browse lens as I do, mine has a great educational topic with poll questions for my readers to do.

    • adamfrench profile image

      adamfrench 6 years ago

      Impressive lens, thumbs up

    • Noelle and Dan profile image

      Noelle and Dan 6 years ago

      So far our fish (in 300 gallon horse water tanks) have been healthy. But I think there are leeches in the water. The horses drank out of these tanks. I'm going to do your method. Many thanks for your lens. It is extremely helpful for us.

      We use heaters in our water tanks so the water never does freeze. I think this will be a good preventive measure. Again, thanks.

    • whoisbid lm profile image

      whoisbid lm 6 years ago

      Leeches have always amazed me. I never knew you could set a leech trap!

    • profile image

      JennySui 6 years ago

      Another useful lens. Thanks for sharing such useful tips.

    • gottaloveit2 profile image

      gottaloveit2 6 years ago

      I was hoping you'd add a leech in medicine module and you did. They do have their place but it's not on me. Ugh.

    • profile image

      pawpaw911 6 years ago

      Great idea. Never heard of a leech trap before. Love to learn new things, thanks.

    • newbizmau profile image

      Maurice Glaude 6 years ago from Mobile, AL

      Used to have a pond but never swam in it. Never thought about leeches. The pond was big but was never deep enough and often dried out during dry season. We eventually filled it in after several attempts to dig it deeper. I only know of leeches from movies. Very interesting lens.

    • profile image

      PondWorld 6 years ago

      Great tips and a reminder to everyone to check your ponds for leeches. Also a great reminder to keep you ponds clean and check the water!

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 6 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      We have a Fish Pond, too but I haven't noticed any Leeches yet. We do have them in the creek, though and they really gross me out. I had about 6 large ones on my leg one time. Yuk! I really enjoyed seeing your beautiful fish pond and all this great information on getting rid of a leech problem. Thanks.

    • profile image

      r2fish 6 years ago

      Thanks for a very well written informative lens

    • LizMac60 profile image

      Liz Mackay 6 years ago from United Kingdom

      Great informative lens. I don't have a pool so I enjoy yours.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Very helpful lens. Thanks for this.

    • evelynsaenz1 profile image

      Evelyn Saenz 6 years ago from Royalton

      Thank you for your article on removing leeches from a pond without the use of chemicals as well as for featuring my lens, Frog Unit Study. I was just updating my lens, Build a Classroom Frog Pond. I thought you might like to know that this lens is now featured there.

    • profile image

      Jerrad28 6 years ago

      Very informative and interesting! I don't have any leech problems, but I will keep this in mind if they start showing up, thanks!

    • RetroMom profile image

      RetroMom 6 years ago

      This is a very helpful lens. Thanks for sharing it. :)

    • profile image

      r2fish 6 years ago

      I totally agree with your point. Using chemicals is too too dangerous.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      I agree that avoiding the use of chemicals is the right way

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      I agree that avoiding the use of chemicals is the right way

    • profile image

      fish_problems 6 years ago

      I really liked reading through all your information!

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      This is genius! I would love to have a pond like yours some day, what a delight! I'm so glad I stopped by and just couldn't resist the lens title, one doesn't see that everyday! I certainly hope the leech problem is over but now you are armed and dangerous, lol. Beautifully done!

    • profile image

      WriterBuzz 7 years ago

      Nice idea for a lens. Very informative. Gave you a quick thumbs up.

    • profile image

      SofiaMann 7 years ago

      I find it very interesting pest control naturally. I have no leeches but it's good to have this information for later. Thank you.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      My pond was dug 6 years ago because my garden backs onto a small wooded area.I wanted a wildlife pond,but well meaning friend gave me fish for it.The first year I had 5,the second 20 plus.Last summer,after thinnig out the fish stock to20ish I noticed leeches.Since then I have lost all of the fish but have had a bumper brood of frog/toad spawn grow from tadpoles to froglets and now,sadly have gone.My dilemma is, do I restock with fish and risk the leeches or do I allow it to'go wild'

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Gosh, leeches in a fish pond isn't something I've ever thought about. A fish pond is one of my up coming projects so your info is greatly appreciated. Your pond looks beautiful, I hope mine eventually looks as seren as your does.

    • LisaMarieGabriel profile image
      Author

      Lisa Marie Gabriel 7 years ago from United Kingdom

      @anonymous: I think they initially come in as eggs on birds' feet. We had no problem for years and years and then they appeared all of a sudden. Now we know how to get rid of them it's not so bad so don't worry about getting fish :) Thanks for visiting :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Ugggggg! So glad I'm not planning on putting fish in the large pond I've dug this year! It's only 4 foot deep, not deep enough to sustain fish in the US midwest during the winter. It's only for my enjoyment! :) Whew, I've got a long way to go to make it pretty like your pond!

    • GonnaFly profile image

      Jeanette 7 years ago from Australia

      This seems like a great idea. Must remember this if ever I get this sort of problem.

    • LisaMarieGabriel profile image
      Author

      Lisa Marie Gabriel 7 years ago from United Kingdom

      Thank you all for your comments. I am happy that this is proving useful to people :)

    • SacredCynWear profile image

      SacredCynWear 7 years ago

      One of my biggest fears. I had one on me as a little girl. I had blocked out that memory until recently my sister told me. No Wonder I fear them so!! I put this lens on my Fears Module! Thanks for the insanely LARGE pictures *Shudders* Good advice

    • profile image

      martialartstraining 7 years ago

      I really don't like leeches so thank you for this lens.

    • profile image

      the777group lm 7 years ago

      Am excellent - I mean, really excellent lens. I thought your photos module worked really well, too, I've favorited it!

    • Grasmere Sue profile image

      Sue Dixon 7 years ago from Grasmere, Cumbria, UK

      I thought this lens was so good, i used my first week as giant to put it forward for a purple star. VERY happy to see that the team agree with my nomination! Brilliant! Hope you are now leech free

    • Grasmere Sue profile image

      Sue Dixon 7 years ago from Grasmere, Cumbria, UK

      How great that you turned your own problem into a great lens to guide others! Brilliant.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Interesting lens you have here! Keep it up!

    • teacher2 lm profile image

      teacher2 lm 7 years ago

      I found this lens well done and filled with useful tips. I loved your choice of video!

    • LadyFlashman profile image

      LadyFlashman 7 years ago from United Kingdom

      This is a very helpful lens, leeches are so gross. Excellent information and disgusting pictures!

    • LisaMarieGabriel profile image
      Author

      Lisa Marie Gabriel 7 years ago from United Kingdom

      @justholidays: Sometimes I just don't fit in my niche... LOL... Thanks Dom! Just wanted to share my fishy adventure :D

    • WildFacesGallery profile image

      Mona 7 years ago from Iowa

      Nicely done lens. I love that you provided information that didn't actually require you to buy anything (with the exception of some meat) and can be done easily at home. Plus we used to be organic farmers so no chemicals always piques my interest :)

    • justholidays profile image

      justholidays 7 years ago

      Very interesting... But what happens? No music, no antiques... Just fish! Well, anyway, you amazed me with your page!

      Dom.

    • Richard-H profile image

      Richard 7 years ago from Surrey, United Kingdom

      Luckily I don't have a pond, so don't face this leech problem. Ingenious and useful solution you found though :)

      Blessed by a Squid Angel. You are welcome to add your lens to the Plexo here: http://www.squidoo.com/waxing-lyrical-squidoo-ange...

    • norma-holt profile image

      norma-holt 7 years ago

      Great topic for a lens. I have 3 ponds but no leech problem but they are so great for the wildlife, especially the birds. Blessed and featured on Sprinkled with Stardust

    • profile image

      olivertadpole 7 years ago

      Having seen those pots I think you are doing right to share! Better than killing all the bugs!

    • profile image

      SquidooAsh 7 years ago

      Very helpful lens! Am in the midst of refurbishing the pond at our house (we're making it bigger!) and thanks for sharing these tips. We lost 3 of our biggest kois last week! :(

    • jptanabe profile image

      Jennifer P Tanabe 7 years ago from Red Hook, NY

      Goodness, leeches! We don't have a pond so I'm happy to say we don't have a leech problem. I think your solution is brilliant. If there isn't a predator that eats leeches in the pond you gotta take them out!

    • Rachel Field profile image

      Rachel Field 7 years ago

      Bleh! I think you've just put me off ponds lol! Well done on the trap - ingenious!