Examples of freshwater animals include alligators, river sharks, the babirusa, caecilian, crayfish, fairy shrimps, jacana, leeches, beluga, river dolphins, and more.
When most people think of interesting animals, they usually think of exotic creatures from far-off lands.
But there are plenty of fascinating animals in our own backyards – especially when it comes to freshwater ecosystems.
Here is a list of 12 interesting freshwater animals.
Freshwater Animals List
- African dwarf frog
- Amazon river dolphins
- Climbing Perch
- Crane Fly
- Electric eel
- European eel
- Fairy shrimp
- Fishing Cat
- Freshwater crocodiles
- Freshwater turtles
- Garter Snake
- Glyphis (river shark)
- Great crested newts
- Irrawaddy river dolphins
- Medicinal leech
- Palmate newt
- River lamprey
- Sea Lion
- Striped mayfly
- Water snake
- Water voles
- White sturgeon
- X-Ray Tetra
- Yangtze finless porpoise
12 Freshwater Animals with Descriptions
There are many different types of freshwater animals that can be found all over the world. Some of these animals are very small, while others can grow to be quite large. Here is a list of some interesting freshwater animals.
Related: Sea Animals
|Diet||Fishes, insects, amphibians, mammals, reptiles|
Alligators are freshwater animals that live in rivers, lakes, and swamps. They are very large reptiles, with the males reaching lengths of up to 20 feet (6 meters). Alligators have thick, scaly skin and sharp teeth.
Alligators are predators, meaning they hunt and kill other animals for food. Their diet consists mostly of fish, but they will also eat reptiles, mammals, and birds. They are also known as ambush predators, meaning they lie in wait for their prey to come close before attacking.
Like other reptiles, they are ectothermic. They rely on external sources of heat to regulate their body temperature. They bask in the sun or lie in warm water to raise their body temperature.
Alligators are important members of their ecosystem. They help to keep the populations of other animals in check, and their carcasses provide food for scavengers.
2. River Sharks
|Common Name||River Shark|
|Diet||Small fishes, reptiles, amphibians|
Glyphis is a genus of freshwater sharks in the family Carcharhinidae. The name is derived from the Greek word glyphein, meaning “to carve”. They are found in fast-flowing rivers and estuaries in tropical parts of Asia, Australia, and Oceania.
Glyphis sharks are relatively small, with a maximum length of 3.8 m (12 ft 6 in). They have slender, streamlined bodies and long pectoral fins.
The first dorsal fin is small and originates over the midpoint of the second dorsal fin and anal fin. The caudal peduncle (the narrow part of the body leading to the tail) is very thin. Their teeth are long, sharp, and narrow, with serrated edges.
Glyphis sharks are apex predators in their habitat. Their diet consists of fish, crustaceans, and mollusks. They are known to attack humans without provocation, although most attacks are not fatal.
|Diet||Leaves, fruits, small mammals, mushrooms, fish, insects, barks|
Babirusa, also known as the North Sulawesi Babirusa, is a pig-like creature that inhabits the island of Sulawesi in Indonesia. It is one of only two species in the genus Babirusa, the other being the closely related South Sulawesi Babirusa.
The babirusa is easily recognizable by its long snout and tusks, which grow upwards out of its mouth and can reach up to 30 cm in length.
They are herbivores, feeding mainly on leaves, fruits, and roots. They are also known to eat snails, insects, and small vertebrates such as lizards and rodents.
Due to its unique appearance and diet, the Babirusa is classified as a flagship species for the island of Sulawesi.
4. Water Voles
|Common Name||Water vole|
|Diet||Grasses and waterside vegetation|
Water Voles have brown fur and a short tail. Their diet consists mainly of plants, but they will also eat invertebrates, fish, and amphibians.
As excellent swimmers and climbers, they can survive in a variety of habitats. They are capable of jumping up to 3 feet (0.91 m) out of the water.
Water voles build their nests in banks or among roots, where they live in family groups. A single female may have 2-6 litters per year, with each litter consisting of 2-7 young. They can live up to 2 years in the wild, but most only live for about a year.
Water Voles are an important part of the ecosystem, serving as both prey and predators. They help to control water levels by digging burrows that serve as channels for water runoff. Their burrowing also helps to aerate the soil and provide homes for other animals.
Apart from this, water voles are an important food source for many predators, including foxes, weasels, stoats, and owls.
|Habitat||Termites, worms, lizards, beetles, amphibians|
Caecilian is a term used for various groups of primitive limbless, burrowing, snake-like tetrapods that mostly resemble earthworms or slugs. They occur throughout the tropics, with the greatest species diversity in humid forested areas.
The name Caecilian comes from the Latin caecus meaning “blind” and -ilian, meaning “pertaining to”.
Caecilians are members of the class Gymnophiona (sometimes called Amphibia: Apoda). Although they superficially resemble snakes or eels, they are members of the same group as frogs and toads (the Order Anura).
They average about 20–30 cm (8-12 inches) in length, with a maximum length of about 1.5 m (4 feet 11 inches). Most species are brown or black, but some species exhibit bright colors and patterns.
|Scientific Name||Cambarus Sp.|
|Diet||Fishes, insects, amphibians, mammals, reptiles|
Crayfish, also known as crawfish, crawdads, freshwater lobsters, or mudbugs, are freshwater crustaceans that resemble small lobsters. There are about 600 species of crayfish found all over the world.
Crayfish live in streams, ponds, and lakes and can be found in a variety of colors including blue, red, green, and brown.
They are scavengers and eat just about anything they can find including other crayfish, worms, insects, and dead fish. Crayfish are also known to be cannibalistic and often eat their own young.
Mating occurs in the late summer and early fall. The female crayfish carries the eggs for about two weeks before they hatch. The young crayfish, known as nymphs, look like miniature adults and will grow to full size in about one year.
7. Fairy Shrimps
|Common Name||Fairy Shrimps|
|Diet||Glatworm eggs, algae, Arcella|
Fairy shrimps are live in freshwater environments such as ponds and lakes. They are related to crabs and lobsters and have a hard exoskeleton. Fairy Shrimps are filter feeders and use their gills to strain microscopic plants and animals from the water for food.
Fairy Shrimps are found all over the world, but are especially common in Australia. In some parts of Australia, Fairy Shrimps are the only freshwater animals around.
There are many different species of Fairy Shrimp, and they come in a variety of colors. Some species can change color depending on the temperature of the water they are in.
|Diet||Insects, worms, snails, small crabs, mollusks, fish|
Jacana, also known as Jesus birds or lily trotters, are a family of wading birds found throughout the tropics. The eight species are all similar in appearance and behavior, and are best known for their unique way of walking on floating vegetation.
Jacanas are small to medium-sized birds, with long legs and necks. Their wings are relatively short and pointed, and their bills are long and sharp. They are brightly colored, with yellow, red, or blue plumage.
They typically inhabit marshes, swamps, and other wetland habitats, feeding on insects, small fish, and other aquatic invertebrates.
9. Medicinal Leech
|Scientific Name||Hirudo Medicinalis|
|Common Name||Medicinal Leech|
|Diet||Mammalian or amphibian blood|
Medicinal leech is a freshwater animal that has been used in traditional medicine for centuries. Though it might seem icky, leeches have many benefits and can be helpful in treating a variety of medical conditions.
While leeches are commonly associated with bloodletting, this is only one of the ways that they can be used medicinally. Leeches secrete a number of substances that can be helpful in treating a variety of conditions.
These substances include the following:
- Hirudin: This is an anticoagulant that prevents blood from clotting. It can be used to treat conditions like stroke and heart attack.
- Hirustasin: This is a protein that breaks down fibrin, a substance that helps blood clot. It can be used to treat conditions like deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and arterial blockages.
Calin: This is a substance that inhibits pain signals from the nervous system. It can be used to treat conditions like migraines and arthritis.
|Scientific Name||Delphinapterus Leucas|
|Diet||Squids, crabs, fish, mollusks, clams|
The beluga whale is a marine mammal that is similar to a dolphin. They are very social animals, living in pods of up to 10,000 individuals. Belugas are one of the few species of mammals that can live and thrive in both freshwater and saltwater environments.
Beluga whales are native to the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions of the world. In the summer months, they are often found in estuaries, bays, and rivers near the coast.
As winter approaches and the water begins to freeze, belugas migrate to the open ocean.
Although they are marine mammals, belugas are capable of spending extended periods of time in freshwater environments. In fact, some belugas never leave freshwater throughout their lives.
These “ freshwater belugas” are found primarily in the St. Lawrence River in Canada and the Great Lakes in North America.
11. Amazon River Dolphin
|Scientific Name||Inia Geoffrensis|
|Common Name||Amazon River Dolphin|
|Diet||Squids, crabs, fish, mollusks, clams|
The Amazon river dolphin, also known as the boot, is a freshwater dolphin that is found in the rivers of the Amazon basin. It is pink in color and can grow to be up to 8 feet long.
The amazon river dolphin is an apex predator and feeds on fish, crabs, and other small aquatic creatures.
There are an estimated 3,000-5,000 amazon river dolphins living in the wild. The amazon river dolphin is classified as vulnerable by the IUCN red list due to habitat loss and pollution.
12. Arctic char
|Scientific Name||Salvelinus Alpinus|
|Common Name||Arctic Char|
|Diet||Insect larvae, clams, shrimps, small fish|
The arctic char is a freshwater fish that is found in the cold waters of the Arctic.
The arctic char is dark green in color and can grow to be up to 3 feet long. It feeds on smaller fish, crustaceans, and insects.
There are an estimated 20-25 million arctic char living in the wild. The arctic char is classified as least concern by the IUCN red list.
How Many Freshwater Animals Are Out There?
There are more than 100,000 species of plants and animals that live in freshwater ecosystems. This includes rivers, lakes, streams, and wetlands. Many of these species are threatened or endangered.
What Are the Most Common Freshwater Animals?
Some of the most common freshwater animals include fish, amphibians, reptiles, and mammals. Common fish include bass, trout, and catfish. Amphibians include frogs and salamanders. Reptiles include turtles and crocodiles. Mammals include beavers, otters, and muskrats.
What Is the Largest Freshwater Animal?
The largest freshwater animal is the Amazon river dolphin. It can grow to be up to 9 feet long and weigh up to 400 pounds.
What Is the Smallest Freshwater Animal?
The smallest freshwater animal is the dwarf goby. It only grows to be about 0.4 inches long.