How to Remove Leeches From Your Pond Without Chemicals

Updated on January 17, 2018
LisaMarieGabriel profile image

I tend to my fish and pond religiously. When I found leeches on my fish, I had to find a way to remove the leeches without harming my fish.

A frog's eye view through bluebells to the pond.
A frog's eye view through bluebells to the pond. | Source

A Safe Pond for Fish and Wildlife

How do you get rid of a nasty leech infestation in your pond without using chemicals or 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 them from my pond. If there is one creature that totally grosses me out it has to be the leech. They can't help it, but they are basically unloved and unwanted. The very thought of them should be enough to make you cringe, and there they were—on my fish. What could I do? What would you do to remove leeches from your pond?

A Simple and Natural Solution

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

How to Make a Leech Trap

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, and possibly harming smaller fish and killing 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. Where I live, 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.

Here is how to make and set your own trap:

Materials:

  • Plastic or metal container (I used a soup container)
  • Sharp instrument (in this case, a steak knife)
  • Bait (raw meat—I used kidney in this example)

Step 1: Bore holes into your container.

Boring a hole from the outside of container creates burrs, or sharp edges, on the inside surface of the hole, discouraging the leeches from crawling out. This can be done using a steak knife. Holes should vary in size from 2-5 mm.
Boring a hole from the outside of container creates burrs, or sharp edges, on the inside surface of the hole, discouraging the leeches from crawling out. This can be done using a steak knife. Holes should vary in size from 2-5 mm. | Source

Step 2: Place the bait at the bottom of the container.

Here, I used raw kidney as bait.
Here, I used raw kidney as bait. | Source

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 container. That is the principle—and it works.

Step 3: Set the trap in the pond.

My leech trap floating in my pond.
My leech trap floating in my pond. | Source

Use a net to lower the trap into the pond. 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.

The Trap Was a Success!

Taking the trap out. You can see a couple of leeches on the side of the container! 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.
Taking the trap out. You can see a couple of leeches on the side of the container! 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. | Source

After One Day

Inspecting the trap after a day in the water. Leeches are on the sides and also on the meat. They would normally prey on water snails, but their 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. They would normally prey on water snails, but their population explosion may have destroyed all their normal food. | Source

After Two Days

Our catch on the second day. As this is the third trap, there are not so many. There were hundreds caught in the second trap.
Our catch on the second day. As this is the third trap, there are not so many. There were hundreds caught in the second trap. | Source
View from below as the trap is lowered back into the pond. After another two days, it will be emptied and replaced. This needs to be repeated until no further leeches are caught. After a few weeks another trap may need to be set for any hatchlings.
View from below as the trap is lowered back into the pond. After another two days, it will be emptied and replaced. This needs to be repeated until no further leeches are caught. After a few weeks another trap may need to be set for any hatchlings. | Source

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.

— William Wordsworth, 1802

How We Determined There Was a Leech Problem

Shortly after my parents moved into 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. My parents were delighted—and 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 with a water pump, water soldiers, water snails, and mum's meticulous care, removing falling leaves and debris. The plants spread and 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, succumbed the week they moved into sheltered accommodation. I saw a leech on his body but assumed it was there due to his weakened state.

My partner and I 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 the 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 our fish were being attacked by leeches. We thought it was because it couldn't cope with the move.

Our Pond in May

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Water lily leaves strewn with cherry blossom.A comet resting in the rippling water.Fish at feeding time.Feeding frenzy! :) Contrast enhanced.Shubunkins, ghosts, and comets feed on flakes.
Water lily leaves strewn with cherry blossom.
Water lily leaves strewn with cherry blossom. | Source
A comet resting in the rippling water.
A comet resting in the rippling water. | Source
Fish at feeding time.
Fish at feeding time. | Source
Feeding frenzy! :) Contrast enhanced.
Feeding frenzy! :) Contrast enhanced. | Source
Shubunkins, ghosts, and comets feed on flakes.
Shubunkins, ghosts, and comets feed on flakes. | Source

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 of what awaited the new fish. Within days, we had to remove a comet for treatment because 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!

What Is a Leech?

Apart from being gross, a leech is a water worm that belongs to the phylum Annelida, class Hirudinea. The blood-sucking parasite feeds on birds, fish, frogs, and mammals, including humans. 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 external, bloodsucking parasites.

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

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

Do You Have Leeches in Your Drinking Water?

This is a serious health risk.

Someone asked this question:

How do you treat a leech infestation in a pond that is your source of drinking water?

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 (bleeding). If your pond is your drinking water supply, then you must treat it aggressively. Treat with chemicals, neutralize, drain, remove and destroy all plant life, and allow the pond to dry out completely for several weeks.

This will basically destroy all life in your pond. If you don't want to be so destructive, you are faced with two alternatives:

  1. Chlorinate your pond water with water treatment tablets and thoroughly boil it before use.
  2. Find an alternative source of drinking water. Purchase a watercooler or ask for the town water to be connected.

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.

Questions & Answers

    © 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 5 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 5 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 6 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 7 years ago

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

      • profile image

        anonymous 7 years ago

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

      • profile image

        anonymous 7 years ago

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

      • profile image

        fish_problems 7 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!

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