What's living in your pond?

This simple survey will allow you to do a mini health check on your pond, find out what is currently thriving under the surface and learn a bit more about what species you find.

About the Big Pond Dip

Pond dipping is something that childhood memories are made of. A pond is a veritable, underwater micro-safari – waiting to be discovered at the bottom of your garden, village plain or school quad.

So, why not relive those memories? Or get the whole family involved to create new memories for the next generation of freshwater wildlife enthusiasts?

Download the Big Pond Dip form to find out what’s living in your pond. And then check your results to see what you can do to make your pond even better for wildlife.


Download the Big Pond Dip form

What your Big Pond Dip score means

1 Score 1-5: your pond is not yet great for wildlife

It looks like your pond could be better. But first, are you sure you found all the animals in there? It might be worth having another look. Pay special attention to the edges and any areas where there might be dense cover for animals.

If the score is still low, here are some things you could do to help to improve the pond:

  • Make sure there’s plenty of dense underwater habitat: especially if you’ve got fish. Wildlife needs a thick tangled mass of plants under the water to provide lots of safe hiding and feeding places.
  • Improve the edges: let grasses from the lawn trail down into the water; if you’ve got rocks or stones on the edge, replace at least some of the them with grasses and other water plants that can trail into the water.
  • Try to create some really shallow areas just a few centimetres deep at the edge of the pond: this is where the greatest variety of animals live.
  • If your water is soupy and green, focus on the edge and floating plants: they aren’t so affected by pollution. You could try getting underwater plants like rigid hornwort and spiked water-milfoil to grow as they do tolerate some pollution.
  • If pollution is really a big problem – for example the pond has lots of filamentous algae – you might want to consider a complete clean water makeover starting again with uncontaminated rain water, and removing all the sources of nutrients from the pond (like sediment and planting baskets filled with soil).

2 Score 6-30: your pond is good but there are probably things you can do to improve it

Your pond has a good range of pond animals and you are obviously doing a lot of things right. But there are things you could do to make the pond even better:

  • Try to increase the area of really shallow water that’s just a few centimetres deep. Most ponds just don’t have enough.
  • Add wetland loving grasses to the margins of the pond: these will improve the edge habitat, creating the complex range of microhabitats that helps many different kinds of wildlife. The best species are the sweet grasses, marsh foxtail and creeping bent. Creeping bent may already be growing in your lawn. Other good plants include: Water Mint, Brooklime, Water-cress, Water-plantain and other plants like these that grow with their feet in the water at the water’s edge. You can grow taller marginals too, like Great Pond-sedge and Branched Bur-reed.
  • Increase the variety of native plants in your pond by collecting and growing on wild seeds from local sources. Once growing in the pond these plants will increase the complexity of the underwater habitat. Make sure you get plants from local sources – within 10 km is best – and be sure you’ve sought the permission of the landowner. Don’t collect plants on nature reserves.
  • If you think the water is clean enough, try adding stoneworts or other native submerged aquatic plants to make the open water a safer place for wildlife.

3 Score 31-68: your pond is brilliant!

You’ve got a really good pond which is supporting a great range of wildlife. You’re doing so well, why not extend your pond, make another pond or encourage a friend or neighbour to do what you’ve done?

Or perhaps you could make it even better:

  • Increase the complexity of the vegetation structure by planting a wider range of wild-collected native species in the pond.
  • Improve the pond edges: add more water grasses (like floating sweet grass, marsh foxtail and creeping bent), and bring in extra marginal low-growing plants that can flop into the water This will benefit a wide range of invertebrates, and your tadpoles and newtpoles too.
  • Make as much shallow water as you can: the greatest variety of pond wildlife lives in shallow water.
  • If your pond is clean enough, try stocking it with native wild-collected stoneworts to add to the underwater habitat. Remember if you’re collecting wild plants: always ask permission, and don’t collect plants on nature reserves. You must take care not to collect any part of specially protected species (although there are very few aquatics that fall into this category).

Creating ponds for wildlife

Whether you want to create a new pond or make an existing pond even better for wildlife, we have a wealth of free resources to help you.

Garden pond with plants in the foreground and sheds behind.
Garden pond advice hub

Use our step-by-step guide to create the best habitat for wildlife.

Find out more
Pond with vegetation and trees behind.
Pond creation toolkit

Factsheets to help landowners and managers create and manage countryside ponds.

Find out more
Cover of The Pond Book - Freshwater Habitats Trust
Buy the Pond Book

Get the most comprehensive guide available for the creation and management of clean water wildlife ponds.

Find out more