If you’ve ever gone fishing or taken a leisurely swim in a lake, you’ve likely had some close encounters with the animals that live there. Most lakes are teeming with life, including a variety of fish, reptiles, amphibians, mammals, and even birds.
While some animals only visit lakes occasionally, others make their homes in and around the water. Here are 25 animals that live in lakes.
One of the most common animals that live in lakes is the catfish. They may be found in lakes as bottom feeders and prey on smaller fish and some insects that fall in the water. Catfish have a great sense of smell, which allows them to look for food at night in areas where there’s only a limited source of food.
Ducks love being around water and can often be seen swimming in lakes or wading along the shoreline. Their primary source of food includes aquatic plants, fish, small amphibians, and other insects. Diving ducks are a type of duck that forages or searches for food deep underwater. Every year, some species of ducks travel vast distances to mate. They’re also very social creatures and often live in large groups.
3. Lake Herring
You can already tell by its name that this fish lives in lakes. Also called Cisco, it’s a type of freshwater fish that’s part of the herring family. They’re an important food source for many animals including humans, bears, eagles, and other birds of prey. Despite their name, Lake Herring can also be found in rivers and other types of freshwater habitats.
4. Red Cherry Shrimp
The Red Cherry Shrimp is one of the most popular species of freshwater shrimp. They are crimson red/orange and tiny, growing to be about one and a half inches long when fully grown. Mostly found in Taiwan, these tiny shrimp are often used in aquariums by fish hobbyists. Most dwarf shrimp are very adaptable and love to crawl out of the water, making them an easy target for predators and fishermen.
5. Landlocked Salmon
A type of freshwater fish, the Landlocked Salmon is a popular catch among fishermen. The average length of a landlocked salmon is around 15 to 25 inches and 2 to 5 pounds in weight. Fully-grown fish in larger bodies of water, like the Great Lakes, can easily exceed 20 pounds and reach lengths greater than 40 inches!
6. Painted Turtle
Painted turtles are freshwater reptiles that can prosper in ponds, lakes, or streams. Painted turtles thrive in places that include freshwater with soft bottoms, basking sites, and a good supply of aquatic vegetation. At sunrise, the turtle leaves the water to bask in the sun for a couple of hours. They’re definitely living their best life!
There are many different types of frogs that live in and around lakes. Some of the most common frogs found near lakes include the green frog, the bullfrog, and the leopard frog. They are assisted in swimming by their strong hind legs, webbed feet, and a streamlined body. The way frogs and toads swim is comparable to the breaststroke humans do.
Flamingos are among the earth’s most vibrantly colored animals, clothed in feathers of pink, white, orange, and red. They are known for standing on one leg while the other is tucked beneath their body. The flamingo’s primary habitats are vast alkaline or saline lakes or estuarine lagoons that almost always lack aqua vegetation.
Crayfish, also known as crawfish, are freshwater crustaceans that look similar to small lobsters. They’re found in streams, rivers, lakes, and other freshwater habitats with a good supply of food. Crayfish are omnivorous and will eat just about anything they can find including insects, fish, snails, and worms.
Otters are carnivorous mammals that live in freshwater rivers, lakes, streams, and the sea. The otter’s primary diet includes fish, shellfish, and other crustaceans. Otters living in areas with soft-bottom habitats have a more difficult time excavating their food, so they instead reside where the rocky bottom provides shallower prey that is easier to catch, like in the lakes.
Leeches typically reside in the shallower, more protected areas of lakes. Aquatic plants, submerged branches, and other debris are not only hiding spots for these creatures but also act as attachment points. Swimming in deep, clear waters will make it less likely for you to step or encounter a leech.
12. Snapping Turtles
Another common turtle in many lakes is the snapping turtle. These turtles are large, with an adult shell length averaging 30 cm (12 in). The carapace can be either smooth or serrated and is generally dark brown or black. The plastron is usually yellowish-brown.
Though commonly sighted in rivers, alligators can also be found in lakes, marshes, and swamps. As long as there’s enough water to cover their bodies and a good food source, alligators are content. They eat fish, birds, and mammals and will even attack and eat larger prey.
Just like ducks, geese are also waterfowl that you’ll find in many lakes. Geese are larger than ducks and have longer necks. They come in a variety of colors, but the most common are white with black markings. These noisy birds are often considered a nuisance by humans due to their loud honking, which they do to mark their territory and keep their group intact.
15. Aquatic Salamander
Also known as Triturus, the aquatic salamander is a newt that permanently lives in water. They typically stay on the lake bottom but can sometimes be seen swimming near the surface. Aquatic salamanders are like the chameleons of the lake because they can camouflage themselves among any vegetation or rocks on the lake’s bottom.
Carps tend to stick to areas with little water movement and low altitudes, especially locations rich in aquatic plants. They can also be found in brackish parts of several rivers and lakes. While they can survive in a number of different environments, most favor large sources of slow-moving or stagnant water with soft bottoms.
A mayfly is an aquatic insect that hatches from an egg and lives as an adult for only a few minutes to a few days. They can be found in most lakes and rivers. During their short lifespan, mayflies mate and then lay eggs on the water’s surface. They are a primary food source for many fish and other aquatic animals.
18. Water Strider
Water striders are long-legged insects that live on the surface of lakes, ponds, and rivers. Their legs are specially adapted to allow them to walk on water without sinking. Water striders feed on small insects and larvae that they find floating on the water’s surface.
Bass lives in a variety of bodies of water, including lakes. They usually swim near the bottom of the lake and look for food among weeds and rocks. They also often take shelter in these same areas. In addition, bass can be found in open waters where there is a plentiful supply of food. Best known to be quick in catching their prey, bass ambush their target by lurking slowly and then attacking with a quick and forceful strike.
20. Freshwater Clams
Clams are a type of shellfish that play a critical role in maintaining the health of lakes and oceans. They do this by filter feeding and providing food for many different animals. Although you would not want to eat a freshwater mussel—they’re tough and taste terrible—there are still several fisheries that fish for them specifically. This is because fisheries generate a few million dollars annually in revenue for buttons and pearls within the United States alone.
Minks are semi-aquatic mammals that can be found in the northern part of North America. They prefer to live near bodies of water with some sort of bushy or rocky cover. They find food near the water’s edge and can also hunt for prey underwater since they can dive and swim up to 16 feet below the surface.
22. Ring-Billed Seagull
These gulls are social with people and like to hang out by the garbage cans, parking areas, beaches, and fields in big groups. Their natural habitat is lakes or ponds. The seagull is a scavenger and will eat just about anything, which is why you often see them near areas where people are eating.
Have you heard of the “Swan Lake” ballet? Well, the ballet was inspired by this beautiful bird. Well, it’s no wonder that these large white birds are incredibly elegant. Swans live in freshwater environments like lakes and ponds. Their diet consists mostly of aquatic plants and sometimes, small aquatic animals.
The newt population is in jeopardy due to fragmentation, habitat loss, and pollution. Several species are at risk of extinction, and sadly, the Yunnan lake newt, has recently gone extinct. Newts live both in water and on land, although they spend more time in the water during breeding season.
25. Lake Trout
The lake trout is a freshwater fish that may be found in North America’s lakes. Lake trout have a body shape similar to that of trout and salmon. These fish have small, irregularly-shaped spots that are either cream or yellow in coloration and their bodies are typically a silvery-to-dark green.
Lakes provide a habitat for many different types of animals. All of these creatures contribute to the health and balance of lakes around the world. We hope you enjoyed learning about these 25 animals and next time you’re near a lake, take a moment to appreciate all the life that exists within it!