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Leaves and blossoms aren’t the only things that land in your backyard swimming pool. Sometimes you’ll find an unexpected visitor in there – and no, we’re not talking about your neighbour’s son retrieving a lost soccer ball.
We’re talking about animals, critters, bugs. That’s right. Anything that flies or crawls and makes your pool feel like an insect haven or a subaquatic paradise. This can happen when the weather’s hot, dry or stormy. So what can you do about it? First, you need to know that it’s perfectly normal to find animals or critters in your pool, particularly if it’s left uncovered. Animals need to drink and cool off too, so what better place to do that than in your pool.
Having said that, there are ways you can coexist with your animal friends (and foes) and still keep your pool clean and bug-free. In this guide, we show you why critters are drawn to your pool, how they affect pool water and what to do to keep them from coming back!
Humans aren’t the only ones who need water to survive. Animals seek water to hydrate, cool off or find food, which is why they’re attracted to your pool. In fact, if you live in a drought-prone or seaside area, it’s not uncommon to find yourself with ducks, storks, herons or ibis landing in your pool.
But you may also get smaller animals, like frogs, lizards or rodents. This can happen when they accidentally fall in or a storm sweeps them into your pool. Because pool steps are steep and slippery, they usually can’t get out, which means that they may drown or succumb to the effects of your sanitiser.
Other critters like mosquitoes and water boatmen show up when your water chemistry hasn’t been properly maintained. We’re talking about pools with cloudy, stagnant water and algae blooms or spores. When this happens, mosquitoes and water boatmen drop by to feed on the algae and lay their eggs. To make matters worse, insects like water boatmen attract other predators, like backswimmers, which feed on both water boatmen and algae. So you get two water bugs for the price of one!
It all depends on the animal, how long it’s been in your pool and the condition of your pool water. Most of the time the effect is minimal, particularly if you fish them out quickly, but if a critter makes its home in your pool or perishes in the water, it might be a different story. Below is a list of common pool critters and how they can affect your pool:
Ducks: While ducks are adorable and having them in your pool may seem harmless, they can introduce water-borne diseases like bird flu, salmonella and E. coli. These can unbalance your pool water, deplete your chlorine and even pose a risk to swimmers. And because ducks like to spend as much time in the pool as outside, you’ll get splotches of poo on your decking. This can be unhygienic and a slip hazard for anyone using the pool!
Frogs: Frogs are attracted to pools because they breed in water (remember, tadpoles are swimmers before they turn into frogs). They also hydrate by absorbing water through a drinking patch on their belly. Unfortunately, frogs can’t tell the difference between a chlorinated pool or a wetland, and before you know it, they’ve dived in. Once they realise that there’s no food and that the chlorine is inhospitable, they get swept up in your filtration system, causing blockages and pool circulation issues.
Water bugs: Unlike other critters, water bugs don’t really affect your pool water – except to make it look unsightly. Instead, they indicate that your pool isn’t clean. That’s because water bugs such as water boatmen and backswimmers feed on algae, mosquito larvae and other microorganisms.
Bees: If you’ve got flowers or hives in your garden, chances are you’ve got bees. But if they’re too close to the pool, they’ll be attracted to the water for three reasons: to hydrate, dilute honey for their young or cool down the hive. If you’ve got a saltwater pool system, bees will be doubly keen! That’s because they’re more attuned to salt than they are to nectar. They need it for their own metabolic processes and for larvae in their hives. This is why many saltwater pool owners complain about having swarms of bees around their pools. Luckily, bees aren’t a huge problem for your pool water, but they can frighten or sting swimmers. And if bees perish in the water, they can litter your pool and clog up your skimmer.
Rodents: Mice and rats need water to survive, and while they get most of it from food, some may come to your pool for a drink, and because of their size, it’s easy for rodents to fall in and drown. This means you’ll wind up with a dead rodent floating in your pool. Unfortunately, rats can carry up to 60 transmissible diseases. Most sanitation systems can kill many of these pathogens, but some can survive and pose a risk to swimmers. If there’s a rat in your pool, call pest control and address the problem at its source. This is one critter you don’t want in your home or garden!
Spiders: If you’ve got plants around your pool or you’ve been lax with maintenance, you may find spiders in your pool water. They can fall in while looking for prey amid leaf litter or algae. In general, arachnids like funnel-web spiders and mouse spiders can’t swim, but they can create an air bubble around themselves that allows them to survive for about 24 hours. If left in the pool, they can pose a risk to swimmers, clog your skimmers and upset your water balance.
Mosquitoes: Mosquitoes love warm, wet conditions, and if you throw bare human flesh in the mix, it’s dinner time! But dinner can be postponed if your water is clean and circulating. Why? Because mosquitoes are like frogs, they can’t breed in clean or moving water (or their eggs would float away!). So if you’re not rigorous with maintaining your pool, mosquitoes will multiply – and fast. While mosquitoes may not affect your pool water, they can drive visitors and your family crazy.
Snakes: Contrary to popular belief, snakes need water to survive. An Adelaide family found out the hard way when an eastern brown snake was found swimming in the bottom of their backyard pool. And while snakes won’t affect your pool water – unless they perish in there – they can pose a risk to swimmers.
Dogs: Most people love having dogs in their pool, so they’re not in the same category as rodents or frogs. However, they can introduce dirt into the pool, which increases phosphates and throws off water balance. To make matters worse, dogs can shed a lot of fur, which can clog up filters and affect water circulation.
Credit: Photo by Gayatri Malhotra
There are plenty of ways to keep animals and bugs out of your pool. Some strategies can be implemented straight away, while others may require some DIY handiwork. Remember, if one strategy doesn’t work, try another, or implement several strategies at once. Every bit helps!
1. Cover the pool
The easiest way to protect your pool from animals and bugs is to use a pool cover. Solid or automatic pool covers are preferred because they can take the weight of larger animals like possums or small dogs. Liquid or flimsy covers won’t provide much protection, so steer clear of them. If solid covers are not within your budget, consider a solar cover. As long as the animal can’t see the water, they won’t be tempted to dive in. What’s more, covers keep out leaf litter and prevent evaporation of your sanitiser. This keeps your pool clean and makes it less enticing to critters like water boatmen!
2. Trim trees or overhanging foliage
Trees and lush foliage may look attractive beside your pool, but they can also provide habitat for wildlife. If branches or leaves hang over your pool, small animals like possums or young birds may fall in and drown. To prevent this, trim any branches or foliage as much as possible. And if you’re planning a pool installation, try to position it away from existing trees or hedges.
3. Use a floating pool toy
Floating pool toys in the shape of an animal can be an effective deterrent, particularly if it’s a lion, shark or crocodile. The bigger, the better! Animals such as frogs or ducks will be intimidated by their size and movement and go elsewhere. Of course, you can’t keep them in the pool forever, but if you use them for a short time, frogs or ducks may get the message and not come back.
4. Remove any food sources
If crumbs or food scraps are lying near the pool and entertainment areas, remove them as soon as possible. Also, keep an eye on Lilli Pillies, mulberry trees or Moreton Bay Fig trees. These can drop seeds and berries in and around your pool – animals just love to nibble on them. Last, keep compost bins or household bins away from the pool, making sure they’re securely covered.
5. Turn off lights at night
Have you noticed the way moths are drawn to light poles? The same can happen when you keep your pool lights on in the evening. Lights help animals and bugs navigate their environment or hide from predators. This increases their chance of falling into the water or making a home under your decking.
6. Keep the pool water warm
If you’ve got a frog problem, try keeping your pool water heated. You may not know this, but frogs absorb oxygen through their skin. And guess what? Cold water is more oxygen-rich than warm water, so turn on your heat pump and watch them hop away.
7. Run your pool cleaner
To keep away frogs or ducks, run your pool cleaner when your pool isn’t being used. Like a pool pump, it creates movement in the water that most animals find unappealing. If you find that animal activity is at night, use a timer so it only comes on after dark. This will create noise and agitation and make it look as if there’s a predator in your pool. It’ll also remove debris that makes your pool enticing to creepy critters like water bugs.
8. Provide alternative water sources
If you can’t keep wildlife away from your garden, provide a source of fresh water away from the pool. Not only does this keep your pool cleaner, but it’s safer for the animals. But remember, change the water regularly or you might start attracting the wrong bugs!
9. Keep your pool water clean
Believe it or not, frogs and water bugs love pools that are cloudy, green and stagnant. The more algae and leaf litter, the happier they are. That’s why you need to keep your pool in tip-top shape. Make sure you keep up a weekly pool maintenance schedule. This means running your pool pump 8-10 hours a day, keeping your sanitiser levels topped up and using a pool cleaner. If you find that animal activity is at night, set a timer for your pool cleaner to run after dark. This will also create noise and agitation that most animals find unappealing.
10. Install automatic sprinklers
If you’ve got a sprinkler system in your yard, move it closer to your pool (if you can) and activate it whenever you see cats, ducks or possums around the pool. You could even program it to come on at random intervals just to surprise any curious critters. A motion-activated one is even better. The burst of water out of the blue will frighten them away!
11. Use chemical deterrents
You can keep animals away by using animal-specific deterrents. We’re not talking about poisons or traps but devices that encourage critters to go elsewhere. For example, if you’ve got a duck problem, you can use a product like No Ducks. This is a non-toxic product that decreases the surface tension of the water, which makes it difficult for ducks to swim. What’s more, it won’t affect your water’s chemical balance or hurt the ducks.
Keeping animals and critters out of your pool is easier than you think. All you need to do is implement one or more of these strategies, such as using a high-quality pool cover, trimming overhanging trees, removing food sources, running your pump often, keeping your pool water clean, turning off pool lights and using natural repellents.
Remember, bugs and wildlife are part of our ecosystem. If you get rid of one insect, another may overpopulate, so the key is to deter and not kill.
And if the animals have already made their way into your pool, help them make a safe exit or shoo them humanely with sprinklers or large pool toys. These simple strategies can help you minimise critters in your pool, prevent chemical fluctuations and make your pool the pristine oasis it was meant to be. For more pool care tips and tricks, check out our pool and spa guides.