Freshwater Ecosystem Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Debra Patuto

Debra has taught at elementary levels and has an M.ed with certification in elementary education and special education

This lesson will teach you about freshwater ecosystems. We will learn about what a freshwater ecosystem is, and what living and non living things you will find within it.

Life in the Water

Cast out your fishing line or scoop your net through the water. You are bound to catch something when you are along the river's edge or at the lake. Catching fish is always exciting, but while you wait for that fish to come along, what else do you see?

What Is an Ecosystem?

An ecosystem can be either a land or water based area that is made up of living and non-living things in their natural habitats, or homes. Within an ecosystem, the living things, or organisms, like plants and animals work together with non living things like weather, soil, light, and climate to keep the ecosystem up and running properly.

This is a picture of a freshwater ecosystem.

Freshwater Ecosystem

Freshwater ecosystems include lakes, ponds, rivers, streams, springs, and wetlands. You will find them in many different sizes, from very small to very large. The water within the ecosystem can be still (not moving), like in a pond, or it can be running (moving), like a river or stream.

Freshwater ecosystems are broken into three zones: littoral, open water and deep water - we'll talk more about these below. The plants and animals within the ecosystem interact with light, food, oxygen, weather, and climate in different ways.

This is a freshwater spring. A spring is made from water coming up from under the ground.
freshwater spring in Australia


Plants and animals grow in different zones in freshwater ecosystems.

The littoral (or marsh) zone refers to the plants and animals that grow closest to the edge of the water. The plants in this area can make great hiding spots for animals to hide from predators. You might find snails, clams, or even eggs and larvae from reptiles and insects in this area. Common predators (animals who prey, or feed, on other animals) in this zone include snakes, ducks and swans.

The open water zone refers to plants and animals that live near the top of the water. Some float on top of the water and have tiny roots that go down into the water, like duckweed. Others have their roots down in the mud at the bottom of the pond and leaves that float at the top of the pond, like water lilies. These plants get lots of sunlight, which makes them the top energy producers for the animals in the water. Many fish also swim in this open water zone.

This picture shows animals swimming in the open water zone. Notice the plants growing up from below.
frog swimming in pond

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