The Freshwater Food Web & Ecosystem

Instructor: Ebony Potts

Ebony has taught middle and high school physical science, life science & biology. She's also been an assistant principal and has a doctorate in educational administration.

What do you know about the freshwater ecosystem? In this lesson, you will learn about the freshwater ecosystem. You will also learn some of the feeding interactions that occur between organisms in this environment.

At the Lake

Nothing says summer like swimming at the lake! You must have spent every lazy summer day here with your friends and siblings. So, when your ecology teacher ask you to do a project on any subject of your choosing, you pick the freshwater ecosystem of course! This should be easy. However, as you start to look at the requirements, you realize you don't know as much about the freshwater ecosystem as you thought. What are the main producers of your ecosystem? Where can it be found? What are some interesting facts about your ecosystem? You pick up a book entitled Wet and Wild Down Under: the Freshwater Ecosystem and begin to take notes about the freshwater ecosystem and its food web.

The Freshwater Ecosystem

Freshwater ecosystems have a wide range of characteristics. They include, rivers, streams, lakes, ponds and wetlands. One thing that all of these different types of freshwater environments have in common is that they all have low salinity/salt - less than one percent. All of the organisms that live in and around these various freshwater environments are adapted to this and would not survive in a saltwater environment.

Lakes and Ponds

Lake and ponds are found on every continent. They range in size from just a few feet wide to thousands of miles wide, like the world's largest lake by area, Lake Superior. As a result of their worldwide dispersal, plant and animal life in and around lakes and ponds is varied. You can find many different types of plants, such as water lilies and duckweed, as well as various animals. Some common animals you will find in and around lakes and ponds are frogs, mosquitoes, swans and turtles.

Rivers and Streams

Rivers and streams are also found worldwide. Rivers and streams change as they flow from their source to where they meet a channel or an ocean. There is often more plant and animal diversity closer to the center of a river or stream. Some common organisms of rivers or streams are trout, carp and catfish.

The Nile River
Nile river


Freshwater wetlands, or swamps as they are sometimes called, exist where ever there is a low lying area that is permanently saturated with freshwater.These areas are a mixture of land and water and have a mixture of land and water organisms. The climate of wetlands varies just as greatly as other freshwater ecosystems. In freshwater wetlands you can find alligators, leeches, frogs and squirrels.

Food Chains, Food Webs & the Freshwater Ecosystem

A food chain is a linear, 1-directional diagram that shows the feeding relationships between organisms in an area. A food chain shows what an organism eats or is eaten by, but does not give a good overall account of what happens in an ecosystem. Food chains only show the feeding interactions of a few organisms in a straight line pattern. A combination of food chains that shows feeding interactions in a multi-directional way is called a food web. Food webs give a better summary of the feeding relationships of an ecosystem.

Food webs usually contain some or all of the following:

  • Producers - plants
  • Herbivores - plant eaters
  • Omnivores - plants and animal eaters
  • Carnivores - animal eaters

Some examples of these types of organisms in the freshwater ecosystem are:

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account