The Pond Food Chain

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  • 0:00 What is a Food Chain?
  • 1:35 How Pond Food Chains Work
  • 3:10 Moving Along the Food Chain
  • 4:50 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Dominic Corsini
What eats what in a pond? All ponds are unique and may have different organisms living in them. This lesson describes the basic structure of a pond food chain and how that structure applies to any pond you may encounter.

What Is a Food Chain?

Here's a picture of a fish that I caught several years ago. Why do you suppose I was able to catch this fish?

Largemouth Bass
Largemouth Bass

Allow me to give you a hint; it had little to do with my fishing ability and more to do with the bait I used. You see, this fish was caught while using a minnow as bait. In fact, many of the fish caught on local lakes and ponds are caught with minnows. This is because minnows are part of a pond's food chain. A food chain is a representation of what eats what within an ecosystem. An ecosystem refers to a co-existing group of organisms and the environment in which they live and interact.

One example of a pond food chain would begin with the plants in the pond being eaten by small herbivores, and the small herbivores then being consumed by larger carnivores. As this occurs, the energy gained by one link in the food chain is passed on to the next organism in the chain.

Throughout the world, ponds function as unique self-contained freshwater ecosystems, each complete with their own collection of organisms. This includes species like largemouth bass, bluegill, crayfish, insects, algae, and other aquatic plants. All these organisms require a constant supply of energy in order to survive. Ultimately, this energy comes from one of two places; the sun or other organisms. How organisms obtain their energy is dependent on the food chain that exists within the pond itself. While chains are unique to their individual ponds, there are shared traits we can focus on.

How Pond Food Chains Work

Plants such as water lilies, duckweed, grasses, and algae form the base of most pond food chains. This is because plants are producers, which are organisms that make their own food. Producers harness the energy of sunlight and convert it into sugars through the process of photosynthesis. The sugars in plants can then be converted into other forms of stored energy such as starches. Individual plants will convert energy differently, but the point is that energy-rich plants are the start to our pond food chain.

These plants are eaten by primary consumers, organisms that eat producers such as plants. Examples of primary consumers include certain insects, such as daphnia or may fly larvae; crayfish; and fish such as small minnows. It's difficult to cite specific primary consumers because all pond food webs are unique. However, if something eats a plant, then it is functioning as a primary consumer.

Next comes secondary consumers. Secondary consumers eat primary consumers. Examples include certain predatory fish, birds, and insects. Consider the fish I caught a few years back. The minnow it was caught on acted as a primary consumer because it ate plant material, and the fish I caught tried to eat the minnow, thus making the fish a secondary consumer. In ponds there can be many different secondary consumers. The thing they have in common is these secondary consumers are generally going to be carnivores (meat eaters). They don't eat plants because doing so would make them primary consumers, not secondary.

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