Ponds vs. Lakes: What’s the Difference?

Thursday, November 29

Have you ever wondered what the difference is between a pond and a lake?

They are both bodies of water, contain living creatures and look very similar– so what is the difference?

Ponds and lakes are both inland bodies of freshwater that contain living creatures. To help determine the difference, both the depth and surface area must be considered. Lakes are normally much deeper than ponds and have a larger surface area. All the water in a pond is in the photic zone, meaning they are shallow enough to allow sunlight to penetrate all the way to the bottom. This allows for many plants to grow at the bottom of ponds as well as on their surface. However, sunlight cannot penetrate to the bottom of all areas of lakes. Lakes have aphotic zones, which are deep areas of water that receive no sunlight, preventing plants from growing.

Some ponds and lakes are easy to identify while others are harder to determine. The differences mentioned above may seem distinct, but determining whether a body of water is a pond or lake is almost arbitrary. There is no precise, scientific difference between the two. What may be considered a lake in one area may be considered a pond in another. For example, sunlight does not always penetrate all areas of ponds, especially in mid-summer when they have increased algae growth. The increased amount of algae could prevent sunlight from penetrating to the bottom. Some ponds also have large surface areas which could potentially categorize them as lakes.

In general, ponds have smaller waves than lakes. Waves smaller than 12 inches in height would generally be considered small. Water throughout ponds also tends to be more uniform in temperature, unlike water in lakes which can have a variety of water temperature depending on the depth.

Although no distinct line can be drawn between ponds and lakes, they are both homes to many living creatures and enjoyed recreationally by people. Living creatures in both ponds and lakes rely on healthy water in order to survive and thrive. Want to learn more about the lakes in Koscisuko County? Click here.