Key to Life in the Pond

Shells Single Shell
spiral, opening on left spiral, opening on right coiled

(Sizes of illustrations are not proportional.)
No Shells

Double Shell
large, 2 to 8 inches, small, dark-colored whitish, tan or brown

Without Backbone (Invertebrates)

With Backbone (Vertebrates)
No gills External gills (legs may not be present)

No Legs
Fish Salamander Larva

Pouch Snail

Gilled Snail

Orb Snail Freshwater Mussel

Pill or Fingernail Clam


With Tentacles, Brushes or “Tails”
breathing tube at rear large head, 'wriggles' transparent body on surface, stiff with tail disk red, green or tan 'twists', distinct head

body with bristles, reddish brown, suckers, expands small, hair-like, segmented body and contracts, swims in no suckers segmented body “S”-shape glides along bottom, body not segmented tan to brown, long

Mosquito Larva Mosquito Pupa

Phantom Midge Larva Soldier Fly Larva

Midge Larva

Bristle Worm Tubifex Worm Leech

Nematode or Threadworm

Flatworm or Planaria

Horsehair Worm

swims with a jerk – using antennas tentacles


10+ Legs
lobster-like pinkish, feathery shrimp-like, swims on side walks on bottom

Four Pairs of Legs
tiny, often brightly colored runs on top of water

Three Pairs of Legs Wings Leathery Wings (True Bugs)
Seed & Clam Shrimp

Hydra Cyclops or Copepod Water Flea or Daphnia

Water Mite Fairy Shrimp Scud or Amphipod Aquatic Sowbug or Isopod Crayfish Water Boatman Fishing Spider
swims right-side up, back black

swims on back, back white

dark, lives on surface

tan, lives on surface

long, stick-like

long breathing tube, grasping front legs

grasping front legs, up to three inches

Backswimmer Water Strider

Marsh Treader

Giant Water Bug Water Scorpion ‘Nepa’

Beetle-Like, Wings Hard

No Wings Fewer than Three “Tails”
six legs and prolegs on abdomen
Developed by the University of Wisconsin– Extension in cooperation with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Based on a key developed by Riveredge Nature Center, Newburg, WI. May be reproduced with this credit for educational, non-profit purposes. For information, contact UWEX Environmental Resources Center, 608/262-2634. University of Wisconsin-Extension is an EEO/Affirmative Action employer and provides equal opportunities in employment and programming, including Title IX and ADA requirements.

Three “Tails”
tiny, hops on surface often lives in tube or case plate-like “tails,” no gills on abdomen long “tails,” gills on abdomen

large mouth parts, “spines” on side

large body, hangs from surface, hinged mouth large mouth parts

Water Scorpion ‘Ranatra’

swims, moving hind legs alternating

back legs move at same time

swims on surface

“crawls” through water, spotted

Pyralid Caterpillar Dobsonfly Larva Dragonfly Larva Predaceous Diving Beetle Larva

side view of “tails”

Caddisfly larva

Damselfly Larva

Mayfly Larva

Water Scavenger Beetle

Predaceous Diving Beetle

Whirligig Beetle

Crawling Water Beetle

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