Many of us enjoy a pond in our outdoor space and one of the most fascinating things about these small bodies of water is that they are filled with a vast number of species. Even the smallest ponds have a delicate and diverse ecosystem that requires special care. But this leaves you wondering, what do pond animals eat?
It is extremely difficult to pinpoint one particular food that pond animals eat since they all eat something different. A lot of pond animals will feed on algae and other plants, whereas there are some that are carnivores and eat other members of the pond ecosystem.
If you are observing a pond in nature or attempting to ensure that your garden pond is thriving, it can be useful to know what foods will benefit the animals the most. Let’s explore this in a little more detail.
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What is a Pond?
Before we dive into the world of pond food, it is important to understand a little bit about these unique ecosystems. Unlike other bodies of water like the ocean or rivers, a pond is still and does not have a flow of water. This environment may be far too harsh for some animals, but there are others that thrive here.
According to the Young People’s Trust For The Environment, to classify as a pond, the body of water must be no more than 1.8 metres at any point in depth. This may not seem like a lot, but you’d be amazed at how many animals can make a home here.
Fish, insects, amphibians and even birds do very well in ponds. Depending on where you are in the world, there may be a variety of different species, making this a perfect place for anyone with a passion for native wildlife.
While many people install an ornamental pond in their gardens, filled with fancy koi and pretty statues, natural pond life will thrive much better in a ‘messy’ pond. This is because, despite its lack of aesthetic appeal, the mud, sludge, and wild plants serve as nutrients for many of the inhabitants of the pond.
What Do Pond Animals Eat?
In terms of food, the range is incredibly vast when looking at what pond animals eat. From frogs and toads to water skaters and flies, these animal diets are diverse and interesting. Once you familiarise yourself with what animals live in your pond, you may be able to make sure that they have the correct foods.
One of the most common animals in any garden pond is the frog or toad. Depending on where you live, you may also spot the odd newt in your pond. This classification of animals will feed on a largely meat-based diet with frogs and toads preferring insects, snails and even small aquatic invertebrates. They are opportunistic hunters and aren’t very fussy about what they eat.
However, their young, tadpoles, stick to a plant-based diet and a pond that has high levels of algae will provide excellent nutrients for these baby animals.
When it comes to the ornithological visitors to your pond, there will be a huge range of species. Of course, if you have fish, you will likely be mindful of larger, predatory birds such as the heron. Of course, eating fish is only natural to these animals, but if you are managing a smaller pond, these birds could quickly eradicate all fish.
Other birds that may pay a visit to your pond are those that are commonly found in the garden such as sparrows, pigeons, and blackbirds, to name a few. Often, these birds won’t be here for food but for a drink so make sure that there are plenty of platforms for them to easily access the water.
Furthermore, you may have the occasional duck coming to your pond and while we may be accustomed to offering bread at the park, your pond should provide enough natural sustenance for these water birds. Ducks will feed on pondweed and some might eat insects and snails. Depending on your location, ducks might also be partial to crayfish.
There are two main types of flies that will be attracted to your pond; dragonflies and damselflies. These are often quite large and many people are dubious of them but if you allow them to go about their business, they can be a delight to observe.
In terms of food, these flying creatures may like some of the smaller aquatic creatures in your pond such as tadpoles and minnows. However, they are also likely to feed on small insects like butterflies, moths, midges and even mosquitoes making them a favourable visitor for those who are susceptible to an evening of summer bites!
One of the most common and often overlooked members of your pond’s ecosystem are the invertebrates, and there will likely be a huge array of these tiny creatures. In garden ponds, you may find things like water skaters, beetles, snails, worms, mussels and even a selection of insect larvae. Those dragonflies and damselflies that visit love to lay their eggs around ponds.
Depending on the species, these tiny animals may eat a plant-based diet, thriving in ponds where there is a large number of algae. However, there are some that will hunt smaller creatures or even each other.
If you have fish in your pond and the pond is well-functioning, there is a good chance that the fish will take all the nutrients they need from plants and algae growing in it. However, many pond owners also like to offer their fish diet supplements (amazon link – opens in a new tab) and this is OK.
You can offer a variety of fruits and vegetables including citrus fruits, peas, squash and spinach. Alternatively, things like shrimp, plankton and bloodworms go down well with things like goldfish.
Throughout the year, your garden pond is likely to see a lot of visitors. What’s more, there may be some permanent residents in this mini backyard ecosystem. Having a pond is a true honour and allows you to take a glimpse into nature right from the comfort of your own home.
Your pond will be filled with frogs and toads, birds and fish as well as a huge selection of insects and invertebrates. Each of these animals has its own diet and provided that your pond is allowed to naturally develop, each of them will be able to thrive.
Garden Doctor Tips
“If you want to see your pond animals eating, watch your pond first thing in the morning or in the early evening when the pond will be at its most active!”
“If you have prized fish, be careful of larger predators such as birds and even cats!”
“If you have a wildlife pond, ensure that you have some oxygenating plants to help your ecosystem thrive!”
“If you have Goldfish, they will pretty much dominate your pond and eat anything that moves!”
Frequently Asked Questions
What do insects eat in a pond?
There are a variety of insects that live in a pond ecosystem. Some insects will eat the plant life, algae and phytoplankton and other insects will eat other animals, insects and zooplankton.
What is an example of a pond food chain?
At the bottom of the food chain is the phytoplankton which is the microscopic plant life that resides in a pond. This along with zooplankton is eaten by larger insects which in turn are eaten by each other or by larger animals like fish or amphibians which are then eaten by larger predators such as birds.
What do fish eat in a pond?
Pond fish will eat many plants that grow or fall into a pond. Many fish will also eat larvae and insects. You are also able to purchase fish pellets that fish will absolutely love.
Hi, I’m Trev and I’ve been growing things since I can remember. When I was younger, I grew up on a farm, so I have always been around plants and animals. After studying horticulture at university, I decided to start my own nursery which I have run now for 25 years. In my spare time, I run this website – which is a resource for people who want to learn more about their gardens.