Animals that Live in a Lake

Lakes are some of the most beautiful places on earth. They provide us with fresh water, food, recreation, and even inspiration. Some of these lakes are home to amazing wildlife.

 You’ll find many different types of animals living in lakes around the world. And while they may look very different from each other, all have one thing in common: they need water!

Let’s take a closer look at the different animal species that live in lakes.

Quick Navigation

1. Alligators

Alligators are equipped with webbed feet and strong tails that propel them through the water. American alligators live between 30 – 50 years.

Females are usually smaller than males, and the female alligator is a gentle mother who protects her young from predators.

They are opportunistic predators. They eat prey that’s easy to catch. A juvenile alligator will eat insects, amphibians, and small fish. Adults eat snakes, fish, turtles, small mammals, and even birds.

You’ll find them from North Carolina to the Rio Grande in Texas. They are usually found in lakes and slow-moving freshwater rivers. Also found in swamps and marshes. Because they lack salt glands, they can only tolerate salt water for a short time.

2. Aquatic Salamanders

Mostly known as newts, salamanders can reproduce while still in their larval stage, and some have poisonous skin.

Their skin is moist and smooth to the touch and maybe drab or colorful, exhibiting various patterns of stripes. They’re opportunistic predators that eat almost anything. Especially when resources are low or time is short, they can sometimes resort to cannibalism.

Salamanders have different life spans depending on their species. Some live up to 55 years. They can be aquatic, terrestrial, or semi-aquatic. As they grow, salamanders develop lungs and move from the water to the land.

3. Australasian Grebe

The Australasian Grebe is a small water bird that lives in greater Australia, New Zealand, and nearby Pacific islands.

They are small to medium-sized aquatic diving bird that uses large feet to propel and steer while in water. During dives, they catch small fish, snails, and aquatic insects.

The Australasian Grebe is an excellent swimmer and diver and will dive and re-surface 10 – 15 meters away if disturbed.

Both parents will raise the chicks, but the male will leave after a couple of months. The mother may return soon after to check on the chicks.

4. Axolotl

Axolotls are aquatic salamanders that have external gills and a caudal fin. They have wide heads, lidless eyes, long, thin digits, and barely visible vestigial teeth, which develop during metamorphosis.

They are freshwater fish native to Lake Xochimilco and Lake Chalco in the Valley of Mexico. 

Axolotls are dark-colored with greenish mottling and have a large head donning its signature feathery gills waving gently in the water.

Axolotls are solitary creatures that reach sexual maturity at a year old. They lay their eggs on plant material or rocks, and the larvae hatch after two weeks.

 5. Bass

The bass is a freshwater fish that breeds in estuarine waters. It is migratory and lives in freshwater and estuarine waters.

They are found all over the world, from black Bass in Florida to largemouth bass in California.

Largemouth bass can reach 25 inches in length and 12 pounds and are distinguished from their close cousin, the smallmouth, by a large mouth.

Smallmouth bass is golden-green to bronze with dark vertical bars and blotches on the side.

Striped Bass from behind their heads to their tails has 6-9 black stripes running horizontally from the top of their bodies to the bottom.

 6. Bat

There are over 1,300 species of bats, and they weigh less than a penny. They are vital members of their ecosystems.

They have four long fingers and a thumb and can fly. In midair, they catch mosquitoes due to their movable joints and flexible skin.

There are two types of bats: microbats and megabats. Vampire bats drink blood from cattle and horses and not humans, as we see in the movies.

They live in roosts around the tropics, dense forests, and wetlands and can be found in caves, tree hollows, and old buildings. Seasons often dictate where any bats choose their homes.

The bats roost upside down because it’s the best way to escape when they have to fall into flight.

There are different kinds of bats, and they eat different things like insects, nectar, pollen, fruit, and even vertebrates. They can travel significant distances each night and get most of their water from the food they eat.

7. Beavers

Beavers are semi-aquatic rodents that can be found in North America and Europe. They are known for building and keeping dams in rivers.

They build dams on rivers and streams to impound water and then build lodges in the resulting pond. They use powerful front teeth to cut trees and other plants for building and for food.

To digest cellulose, they consume leaves, roots, and bark. They sometimes consume aquatic plants.

They can hold their breath for 15 minutes, which helps them to go underwater during activities. As well as eating trees, they help trees grow by trimming the bark as they feed on it.

8. Bittern

As members of the heron family, they are hard to spot as they slip through the marsh reeds. Their odd pumping or booming song, often heard at dusk or at night, can be heard far away.

A streaky, brown, and buff heron can materialize among the reeds and disappear as quickly. They stalk fish, frogs, and insects in the marshes. American Bitterns are secretive but fairly numerous. 

They are wading birds that frequent marshes, lakes, humid forests, and other wetland environments. They build large, untidy nests in trees and bushes or on the ground.

9. Black Caiman

Black caimans are fierce predators of Ecuador’s Amazon. They look similar to alligators and crocodiles but are more similar to alligators than crocodiles.

They can reach 17 feet long and weigh up to 1000 lbs. They lay clutches of up to 60 eggs that weigh 5 oz each.

They have no real predators in their native home, but jaguars and giant river otter families have taken them down.

As apex predators, they will eat anything that crosses their path, including cattle, giant otters, horses, monkeys, pythons, boars, deer, armadillos, and even young dolphins.

Black caimans live in the Amazon Basin and can be seen in Yasuni National Park.

 10. Bluegill Fish

The bluegill is a species of freshwater fish found east of the Rockies that can grow up to 12 inches long and about 4+12 pounds. It is omnivorous and feeds on small aquatic insects and baitfish.

They can swim backward and change color during the breeding season. They are found in warm, freshwater lakes and slow-moving streams in the United States, Mexico, and Canada.

On its head and chin, the bluegill has a dark shade of blue and a black spot on its gills and dorsal fin.

Usually found near fallen logs, water weeds, and other underwater structures, they live in shallow waters of lakes and ponds. They eat insects, insect larvae, and small crustaceans.

11. Caddisfly

Caddisflies are moth-like insects with hairy wings that live underwater. They make shelters from stones, sand, leaves, and twigs and are an important food source for predators such as Atlantic Salmon and Brown Trout.

They are closely related to dragonflies, mayflies, stoneflies, alderflies, and lacewings, which all evolved different types of gills for their aquatic larvae.

Associated with fresh water bodies, they are found worldwide. They live in the damp woodland litter.

12. Catfish

Catfish are a diverse group of ray-finned fish that are named for their prominent barbels, which resemble a cat’s whiskers. 

They’re bottom-dwellers and scavengers and may exhibit various parental behaviors. Brown bullheads build and guard nests and protect their babies.

They live on every continent except Antarctica, and some live underground. Catfish can lay thousands of eggs at a time and hatch after five to 10 days. Their maximum life expectancy is between 8 and 20 years.

Catfish have four pairs of barbels, a Weberian apparatus, and mucus-covered skin. 

They have many different predators, such as birds of prey, snakes, alligators, otters, fish, and humans.

13. Chinook Salmon

The Chinook salmon, also known as king salmon, Blackmouth, Quinnat salmon, Spring salmon, Tsumen, chrome hog, and Tyee salmon, is native to the western North American rivers and the North Pacific Ocean, this fish is anadromous.

They are blue-green on the back and top of the head, with silvery sides and white bellies, with black spots on the upper half of the body and on both lobes of the tail fin. They have a black pigment along the gum line.

Before they return to their rivers to spawn, they spend one to eight years in the ocean. 

14. Clams

Clams are bivalve mollusks that live in both freshwater and marine environments. They are filter feeders that have two shells of equal size connected by two adductor muscles and have a powerful burrowing foot.

A clam’s shell consists of two valves, a hinge joint, a ligament, kidneys, a heart, a mouth, a stomach, and a nervous system.

They are an important part of the ecosystem for river otters and a variety of birds.

Freshwater clams are only distantly related to true mussels, and many species are threatened, endangered, or species of concern in the United States.

15. Climbing Perch

A climbing perch is an invasive freshwater fish that can crawl on land by its gills and live out of water for up to 6 days.

It’s native to Far Eastern Asia and has been discovered on Saibai Island and other small Australian islands.

It’s an air-breathing labyrinth fish. Growing to 25 cm (10 inches), it is oblong, brownish, or green. When it emerges from ponds and ditches, it “walks” with a jerky motion, aided by its tail and spines on its gill covers.

16. Common Carp

Common carps inhabit lakes and large rivers in eutrophic waters in Europe and Asia. It is considered a destructive invasive species.

Common carp are deep-bodied, heavy-looking fish with short heads and forked tails. They have large scales and two barbels on their mouths.

They are omnivorous. Aquatic plants are their preferred diet, but insects, crustaceans, crawfish, and benthic worms are often found eating on the bottom of a lake or river.

A carp can lay over a million eggs in a year, but the eggs often fall victim to bacteria, fungi, and small predators.

17. Common Frog

The Common Frog is easily recognizable and can be found in almost any habitat where suitable breeding ponds are near.

The common frog has a body length of 6 to 9 centimeters (2.4 to 3.5 in) and a weight of 22.7 g (0.80 oz). It can lighten and darken its skin to match its surroundings.

The common frog lives solitary in damp places like marshes or ponds and hibernates in the winter. As early as February, if conditions are right, they can emerge at temperatures close to freezing.

They eat insects, their larvae, spiders, snails, woodlice, and worms.

18. Cormorant

Double-crested Cormorants are gangly, matte-black, yellow-orange fishing birds.  Across North America, you’ll see it in salt and fresh water.

They are fish-eaters and dive from the surface to forage. Some cormorants have been observed diving to depths of 260 ft.

A cormorant is a small black waterbird with a distinctive crook in the neck. Flying in irregular shapes, they sit low on the water, with their heads tilted slightly up.

19. Cottonmouth Snake

Cottonmouths are large, keeled-scaled, heavy-bodied, venomous semi-aquatic snakes with large, triangular heads, elliptical pupils, and large jowls due to the venom glands. 

They range from 2 to 4 feet long. They have keeled scales and dark stripes next to each nostril.

They are native to the U.S. and can be found in swamps, marshes, ponds, ditches, lakes, and streams. They can be seen year-round but primarily hunt after dark.

Cottonmouths can hunt prey in water or on land and kill with a single venomous bite. They swallow their prey whole.

20. Crayfish

The Crayfish has one pair of robust claws and 10 walking legs. Its coloration makes it difficult to see in its rocky, underwater habitat.

The fish live in clear water and use their vision to hunt. They respond to chemicals and touch too.

Crayfish are preyed on by large fish, otters, mink, raccoons, and great blue herons. 

Crayfish are found in southeastern North America and the Pacific Northwest. They are found in lowland areas where the water is abundant in calcium and oxygen.

21. Cricket

Crickets chirp to attract a mate or repel male rivals. They’re distantly related to grasshoppers.

They have six long legs, two long antennae, and sensory appendages on the back. While some ground crickets can fly, others can’t.

You will find crickets in cracks, bark, and stones. Many different species of insects and lizards eat crickets. To avoid being eaten, they hide in narrow crevices.

22. Deepwater Sculpin

The deepwater sculpin is a fish that lives in the cold water lakes of North America. It can be found in Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, Erie, and Ontario.

It lives in cold and well-oxygenated waters between 196.8-492.1 ft (60-150 m) deep. It feeds on plankton and small invertebrates and eventually becomes a bottom-dwelling fish.

They eat zooplankton, crustaceans, leeches, clams, shrimp, opossum shrimp, and fish eggs.