If you’ve ever camped near a pond or were lucky enough to have one in your backyard, you know it comes to life at night. Ponds provide unmistakable sights and sounds that are soothing and relaxing. Many people have childhood memories of fishing on the banks of a pond. There are many different types of animals that live in ponds.
Whether artificial or natural, ponds are habitats for countless species of fish, birds, mammals, amphibians, insects, and crustaceans. These creatures have evolved with some pretty unique features to survive life in the pond.
Let’s learn about all the different kinds of animals that live in ponds. Here is a list of 25 types of animals living in ponds and a few facts about them.
Animals That Live In Ponds
Bullfrogs live in lakes, rivers, and ponds throughout North America. They are green or brown-green to blend into their environment. As nocturnal predators, they have large eyes to help them see at night.
Bullfrogs get their name from the deep bull bellow males make during mating season. Females are usually larger than males. Male bullfrogs are territorial and can be aggressive. They will physically wrestle each other for territory and females.
2. Leopard Frog
Leopard frogs have an unmistakable dark spotted leopard pattern that gives them their name. They’re usually green or brown colored with their spotted pattern, but colors vary based on their environment.
Several different species of leopard frogs inhabit ponds throughout North and South America. They are predatory and eat insects as well as other smaller frogs. Females lay up to 7000 eggs at a time, and leopard tadpoles have eyes on top of their heads, unlike other species’ tadpoles whose eyes are on the sides.
3. Red-Eared Slider
Red-eared sliders are turtles that live in ponds and are the most abundant subspecies of pond slider turtles. Males have red over their ears, giving them their name. Sliders can see much better than they can hear and sense vibrations. Therefore, they slide into the water at the slightest disturbance.
These turtles are kept as pets in aquariums and backyard ponds, but they often escape or get released into the wild, where they have become an invasive species. They are omnivores and eat small aquatic plants, dead fish, and amphibians.
4. Mud Turtle
Several species of mud turtle live in lakes, ponds, and rivers worldwide. In addition, they can be found in some of the most uninhabitable bodies of water, like muddy ditches and brackish marshlands.
Mud turtles are relatively small compared to their larger pond turtle cousins, like sliders and snapping turtles. As a result, their shell is unremarkable with no colorful patterns. They’re usually gray or brown to camouflage into their environment.
5. Snapping Turtle
As their name implies, these turtles snap! Snapping turtles have a vicious bite when cornered and spend most of their time at the bottom of a pond, lake, or riverbed, avoiding predators. Their bite force is way more than their cousin, the alligator!
There are two species of snapping turtles – common snapping turtle and alligator snapping turtle. Both have a rough prehistoric-looking shell and a long neck that quickly extends out to strike at passing underwater prey. They eat fish, amphibians, snails, and insects.
Many species of catfish can be found in ponds all over North America. However, channel catfish are most common because they are easy to care for and grow fast. If not controlled, a pond can be overpopulated quickly.
Catfish are scavengers and live at the bottom of the pond. They are omnivorous and find food by smell, and they feel with those “whiskers” that make them look like a cat. So, contrary to what many pond owners believe, catfish are not suitable for cleaning the bottom of the pond.
Goby is a fish species that live in different water habitats worldwide. A few Goby species thrive in freshwater ponds, like the marbled goby, dragon goby, bumblebee goby, and cobalt goby.
Depending on species and pond size, goby vary in length and have been known to eat smaller pond fish. They also consume insects, bloodworms, and plant material that sinks to the bottom.
8. North American Perch
Perch are incredibly adaptive fish, and many different species live in both fresh and saltwater. A favorite of fishermen, they are often used as bait fish or cooked up for a tasty meal.
Perch are relatively small, only reaching up to a foot in length, which makes ponds their ideal habitat. They like shallow areas and eat insects and their larvae.
9. Fathead Minnows
Fathead minnow is native to North America and a popular bait fish among anglers. They live in ponds and other freshwater habitats. They spawn and reproduce quickly in a pond environment.
Females lay eggs that stick under rocks and logs. Unlike other minnow species that leave their eggs, male fathead minnows stay and guard them until they hatch.
Many anglers will stock their pond with bass for sport fishing. With enough pond space, largemouth and striped bass grow rapidly, making them a favorite for fishermen. However, they occasionally require restocking because they don’t reproduce well in small areas.
These predators need plenty of food because they have a voracious appetite. Bass will eat the offspring of catfish, minnows, and perch. They even eat small frogs and birds. They can be used to control a pond catfish population.
At least six species of herons call the pond home in North America, and the great blue heron is the most populous. They are found along the pond’s shores, stalking fish and other small prey.
These pond birds vary in size depending on species, and most have long legs that allow them to wade in shallow water. Their thick beak acts as a spear to stab fish and frogs.
Like herons, cranes are water birds that enjoy hunting prey along the edge of a pond or other wetland habitat. Whooping cranes are the tallest birds on the continent and also the most endangered.
Several crane species migrate across North America each breeding season, and many different species of water birds can nest together in multi-species rookeries.
Who doesn’t love feeding ducks at a pond? Wild and domestic ducks inhabit park ponds in all parts of the country. At least 29 different species of ducks are native to North America.
Ducks are also hunted on natural and man-made ponds. Contrary to popular belief, many duck species don’t migrate south for the winter but instead move to warmer areas to access more abundant food sources.
14. Pond Snails
These snails belong to the gastropod family. They are relatively small and only measure a few centimeters in length. They carry a long conical-shaped shell that is usually brown and prefer temporary ponds and water puddles that dry up.
There are several species of freshwater snails found in North America. Depending on the species, pond snails eat algae, plants, and decaying fish or amphibians.
Crayfish, also called crawdads, are freshwater crustaceans who scavenge on the bottom of a pond. They are hardy little creatures and can handle just about any condition, from the muddiest environment to a clean, clear pond.
Interestingly, crayfish reproduce according to water levels. Therefore, populations are naturally controlled with lower pond levels. They’re also delicious to eat, another way to control pond populations.
16. Pond Shrimp
A few species of pond shrimp adapt easily to any pond environment and can handle extreme hot and cold temperatures. They survive in ponds as long as they have enough vegetation, rocks, or debris to hide from predators.
Pond shrimp are scavengers, eating algae, plants, and other decaying materials that collect at the bottom of a pond. Unfortunately, they’re also a tasty snack for most pond predators.
Mayflies are fascinating insects that experience the four life cycle stages in a pond. First, nymphs hatch from eggs in the water. Then, mayflies grow wings in their sub-imago stage and fly from the water to perch on nearby pond plants.
A few hours later, the mayfly molts its skin again and morphs into its adult stage, revealing a bright-colored imago, also called a spinner. They only live a few more hours, long enough to mate.
Dragonflies are a common pond insect found in a variety of water habitats. With an unmistakable long segmented abdomen and two sets of transparent wings, dragonflies are often seen darting and zipping above ponds.
Females are called damselflies. They have an unusual mating behavior where the male dragonfly grabs the damselfly behind her neck with his abdominal clasps. Then they fly in tandem with one another.
19. Water Beetle
Water beetles can quickly colonize ponds and are a nuisance in backyard pools. They live up to three years, laying lots of eggs during that time. Within a month, larvae are mature adults.
Water beetles are relatively large compared to other pond insects, growing up to a couple of inches in length. They have long flapping legs that act as oars in the water. They eat dead insects and plant debris floating in ponds, so to prevent water beetles, keep the pond clean.
20. Pond Skater
Pond skaters are also called water striders because they can seemingly skate or stride on the water’s surface. Their long legs have hair and grooves that trap air, allowing them to glide effortlessly across the pond.
Water striders appear like their standing on elastic because their legs repel water and create buoyancy for the insect. They are effective predators, sensing with their leg hair and skating to any prey that falls in the water.
Mosquitoes are often unwanted inhabitants of ponds. They search for standing water to lay their eggs. Larvae hatch and infest water that is stagnant or not circulating.
Mosquito populations are a food source for pond residents, including frogs, fish, birds, and larger insects. In addition, small aquatic predators feed on mosquito larvae. Humans consider mosquitoes to be pests because they carry diseases like malaria, West Nile, and the Zika virus.
Snakes are not the first animal that comes to mind when thinking of pond animals. A few species of snakes live in or around ponds, some harmless and some not. Pond snakes eat small amphibians and other small pond inhabitants.
Different kinds of water snakes are frequently found in ponds, and harmless snakes like corn snakes or garter snakes hang out near ponds for the water source. So please don’t mistake the venomous cottonmouth or water moccasin for one of its harmless cousins!
Muskrats are found along the shores of ponds and other bodies of fresh water. Related to the beaver, these medium-sized rodents are primarily herbivores but generally are not picky, eating small insects, fish, and crustaceans. They have even been known to eat their own.
Muskrats only live about three years in the wild but can live up to 10 years in captivity. Their fur is dense and thick, helping them float, but like their cousin, the beaver, they are a target for fur trapping.
Beavers not only live in ponds, but they also help create them. These crafty critters have an instinct for building dams to stop the water flow. They can cause significant damage to an area if their damming activity goes unchecked.
Beavers are thick and stocky with broad flat tails. Between their flat tail and webbed feet, they are incredible swimmers. They can hold their breath for up to 15 minutes underwater.
An alligator is the last thing anyone wants to find in their backyard pond. Yet, these prehistoric reptiles find their way into pools and ponds in swamp states like Florida and Louisiana. They move from place to place looking for comfortable temperatures.
Alligators like ponds’ calm, warm water because prey is abundant and easy to catch. They especially like to be where birds gather. Ducks and other waterfowl are a proven way to attract alligators to a backyard pond.