Fish fertilizer may attract animals such as rats, flies, snakes, and other species that eat meat. While it may work as a deterrent to keep herbivores like deer and rabbits away, I find that it has the opposite effect on any animals that are omnivores or carnivores and are within smelling distance of your garden.
- Rats and Other Rodents
- Flies and Other Bugs
- Cats and Dogs
- Does Fish Blood and Bone Attract Foxes?
Will Fish Fertilizer Attract Animals?
Due to the decaying fish materials that make up most of its ingredients, fish emulsion fertilizer can attract any animal that eats fish — be it carnivores like snakes and cats, or omnivores like bears and raccoons.
Rats and Other Rodents
Rodents are especially attracted to dead animals and are known to eat other dead mice, so the stench of dead fish might be just what they need to pique their interest. So, yes, this kind of fertilizer will likely attract rats. Even some of the ‘deodorized’ versions will still draw them in.
Flies and Other Bugs
Unfortunately, flies are drawn to the scent of rotting flesh and carcasses. While they don’t necessarily prefer to eat dead things, they often travel a mile or more at a time when looking for food. Stinky things like dead animals, rotten meat, or fecal matter are more odorous and easy to find.
Snakes are carnivores that thrive on eating mainly rodents, rabbits, and birds but some also feed on fish. If they detect the smell of fish from your fertilizer or the scent of rodents that have already been attracted to your fertilizer, they may well make an appearance.
Fish fertilizer is, indeed, known to attract bears from near and far. In fact, fish waste is often used as bear bait. If you have bears nearby, you may want to reconsider using fish-based products in your garden.
Cats and Dogs
Fish is a mainstay ingredient in cat and dog food. These animals enjoy fish and it’s good for them, so they may well be attracted to fertilizers containing fish. Bear in mind, though, that fish fertilizer may also contain chemicals that can harm pets, so always read the manufacturer’s instructions and keep them well away from the area you’ve applied it to.
As a matter of fact, many people see raccoons in their gardens after using fish fertilizer because the smell is so strong and captivating to them. It’s not uncommon for gardeners to see severe damage to their gardens due to raccoons trying to dig up the fish emulsion they are smelling.
Does Fish Blood and Bone Attract Foxes?
It does. When you use fish fertilizer made from fish blood and bone, it gives off a robust dead animal scent that humans might overlook but foxes will not. Their sense of smell is far superior to ours and they can detect these scents from far away.
Their sophisticated sense of smell means they have the ability to seek out food scents and attractive odors several inches buried underground, which may lead them to dig up your garden.
How Long Does the Fish Fertilizer Smell Last?
The aroma and odors of fish-based fertilizers usually dissipate within a day or two. Some materials, like Lactobacillus serum or wintergreen oil, may help in deodorizing it in the meantime.
How to Get Rid of the Smell of Fish-Based Fertilizer
While the best way to get rid of the smell of any fertilizer is to wait and let the scent disappear, there are some things you can do to reduce or eliminate the odor. You can first dilute the product by mixing a bit of fish emulsion with a gallon of water before watering your plants with it.
Others claim that vinegar may cover up the scent but be aware that vinegar is a natural herbicide. I don’t recommend adding it to your garden beds.
If you don’t want to add anything else to your garden, you can try burying the fish fertilizer several inches into the ground and allow it to reach the plant roots that way.
Types of Fish Fertilizers
There are two popular kinds of fish-based fertilizers: fish meal — made of fish blood and bone — and fish emulsion.
Fish Blood and Bone – Fish Meal
Fish meal is made up of the blood and bones of small ocean fish like anchovies, sardines, and herring.
To do this, the fish are pulverized and then the oil and water leftover is pressed out, leaving just the remaining solids from their blood and bones.
The solids are cooked once again and pulverized into a fine, grainy meal that can be sprinkled into the soil to provide tons of nutrients like phosphorus and nitrogen that plants need to thrive.
Fish emulsion is a combined and broken-down mixture of all the leftovers that remain from fish processing plants. This includes parts of or whole fish. It turns into a dark brown and highly concentrated liquid that can be mixed with water for dilution, then either used to water plants, as a foliar spray, or added directly to the soil as a fertilizer.
Benefits of Fish-Based Fertilizer
Using fish meal or emulsion offers many benefits to a garden, especially one in which the plants are struggling to retain the necessary nutrients they need to continue growing, blooming, and fruiting.
Some of the biggest benefits that stand out include:
- Organic – There are no synthetic chemicals used to make this product
- Recycled – Fish emulsion, in particular, is made from parts that would otherwise be thrown away
- All-Purpose – Can be used on any kind of plant at any time of year and can be used as a foliar spray, soil drench, or can be added to a compost pile
- High Nitrogen – This is especially helpful to lawns or leafy green plants that require this high nitrogen content
- Microbial Activity – Because these fertilizers must first be digested by organisms like fungi and earthworms before they can be used by a plant’s root, it creates healthy microbial activity that strengthens the health of both the plants and the soil
Final Thoughts on Fish Fertilizers
Like most things, fish-based fertilizer can have some drawbacks. Some people find its smell somewhat offensive, and this strong odor can attract a whole menagerie of unwanted pests and predators to your garden.
On the flip side, this type of fertilizer has a bucket load of benefits. It is almost always made up of all-natural ingredients that can bring peace of mind to those seeking a holistic approach to gardening. But perhaps more importantly, it can do wonders for your garden, from conditioning your soil to encouraging healthy, vibrant plants throughout the seasons.