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Freshwater biomes are very important to life on Earth. They are home to many different species and provide a lot of resources. In this lesson, we will go over what a freshwater biome is, where they are located, and the different plants and animals that inhabit them.

What Are Freshwater Biomes?

Freshwater biomes are large communities of plants and animals centered around waters with less than 1% salt concentration. They are very important to survival on Earth. Types of freshwater biomes include ponds, lakes, streams, rivers, and even some wetlands. (Wetlands are not always considered freshwater biomes because they usually have too high of a salt content.)Lakes and ponds are considered still water since they do not move very fast. Rivers and streams move water from one area to another and are known as moving waters. Both still waters and moving waters offer a home to many different types of plants and animals.

Many of these organisms are structured to live in a specific type of freshwater habitat. For example, some plants thrive in the nice calm waters of a lake but don’t survive in rivers and streams, unless they have a specific structure or can hold onto objects like rocks.Estuaries are the areas between the moving and still waters. They also offer a habitat to many different plants and animals, including types of coral reefs, fish, shellfish, and birds.

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Some of the animals in estuaries have a very unique ability to survive in both fresh water and salt water.Different areas of freshwater biomes have different structures and resources. For example, a headwater, or the source of a river or stream, has water that is clearer and higher in oxygen levels than the middle of the river or the end, the mouth of the river. Examples of headwaters include springs, snowmelt, or even lakes. In the headwaters, you will find trout and heterotrophs. In the middle there is much more diversity in species.

In the mouth, it is murky with all of the sediment the water picked up on the way. Less oxygen and light leads to a lot less diversity of species in the mouth or end of the river.


Freshwater biomes are found all around the world. They have many seasons.

A single pond during the summer season could be up to 39 degrees Fahrenheit on the bottom and 72 degrees Fahrenheit on the top. This same pond could be 39 degrees Fahrenheit on the bottom and 32 degrees Fahrenheit on top in the winter season. The climates usually average 39 degrees Fahrenheit to 70 degrees Fahrenheit.


Did you know that 75% of the world is actually covered in water? There is a lot of water on Earth. However, 97% of water is actually salt water, and 2% of all the water is freshwater that is locked up in the glaciers. This leaves only 1% of freshwater found around the Earth.

Still, freshwater biomes are found all around the world. Lake Victoria in South Central Africa, as well as the Great Lakes of the Midwest U.S. and Canada, are very well known freshwater areas. Lake Baikal in Southern Siberia is the largest freshwater lake in the world. The Nile in Africa is the longest freshwater river on Earth.

Plants and Animals

There are many diverse flora and fauna in freshwater biomes. Algae, although not very pretty or fun to swim in, is a favorite snack for most of the animals that live in a freshwater biome. Algae live on the top layer of the water, soaking up the energy from the sun’s rays. Plants are not just a snack for the freshwater animals. They provide oxygen through the process of photosynthesis.There are many different plant species unique to the different types of freshwater environments. Algae just hangs out in the still waters of lakes and ponds.

Other plants that can hang on in still water are ducktails, water lilies, and cattails. Moss has the proper structure to cling to rocks and can therefore survive in faster-moving water, such as rivers and streams.Like plants, animals are plentiful in freshwater biomes. Some of these animals, like fish, live solely in water. Some, like beavers, live on the land surrounding the water. Others, like turtles, live in both the water and on the land of the freshwater biomes.The trout is an example of an important fish that lives in fresh water.

Trout inhabit streams and rivers and eat fish and other insects that also live in the freshwater biomes.

Lesson Summary

Freshwater biomes are large communities of plants and animals centered around water with less than 1% salt concentration. Ponds, lakes, streams, rivers, and even some wetlands are all types of freshwater biomes. There are over 700 species of fish, more than 1,200 different amphibians and many other animals that live in the fresh waters and the surrounding land. Plants, such as water lilies, algae, and cattails, are also plentiful in freshwater biomes.

This is why freshwater biomes are so important. There are so many species that call them home. From a human perspective, we need the water and the food that they provide. Let’s not forget that freshwater biomes also give us many different opportunities for research and recreation.

Learning Outcomes

Use the knowledge obtained from this video lesson to:

  • Discuss the importance of freshwater biomes
  • Identify different types of freshwater communities
  • Name specific freshwater biomes found around the world
  • Indicate the seasons of freshwater biomes
  • List examples of animals and plants that live in different freshwater environments

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