Is it a large pond or a small lake? Believe it or not, there is no “official” definition of a pond. While many use size as criteria — large = lake, small=pond — remember that the Atlantic Ocean is sometimes referred to as “The Pond” by people who live on the U.S. East Coast or Great Britain. This doesn’t stop limnologists, the scientists who study freshwater bodies, from trying to create criteria that everyone can agree on. Here are some distinctions used to differentiate ponds from lakes. Can you match each with the body of water it is describing? Answers below. 

1 A. This body of water is shallow enough for sunlight to penetrate to the bottom throughout its entirety.

1 B. This body of water is deep enough to have three zones. The littoral zone is shallow enough for sunlight to reach the bottom. The limnetic zone occurs in open water and consists of the water from the surface to the depth that sunlight fails to reach. The profundal zone is water too deep for sunlight to reach.

2 A. This body of water has different temperature layers. In the summer, for instance, there are usually three layers: the top layer is 67–75 degrees; the middle 45–65 degrees and the bottom, 29–45 degrees.

2 B. This body of water is usually the same temperature throughout.


3 A. This body of water can freeze solid, from top to bottom.

3 B. This body of water is large enough that even if its surface totally freezes over, the whole body of water does not.

4 A. This body of water, if large enough, can have waves.

4 B. This body of water, as a rule, does not have waves.


5 A. The surrounding climate affects this body of water.

5 B. The larger of these water bodies can affect the climate around them.

6 A. Plants grow at the edges and in the shallower water of this body of water.

6 B. Plants grow throughout this body of water.


7. Some of the smaller of these water bodies are small and seasonal — drying up in the summer — making them poor habitat for fish but great for breeding amphibians, because there are no fish to eat their eggs.




Lake: 1B, 2A, 3B, 4A, 5B, 6A

Pond: 1A, 2B, 3A, 4B, 5A, 6B, 7