If you have access to a nearby pond or stream, it’s the perfect time for a pond dipping adventure! Going pond dipping is a bit like carrying out a scientific experiment. Make some predictions as to what you might find and go exploring! Adventure awaits!

Here are some tips for fun and safe exploration:

  1. Dress for success- wear clothes and shoes that can get wet & dirty. Rain boots or waders are ideal.
  2. Grab your gear- bring a container to fill with pond water (to keep critters comfortable while inspecting), and a net and a magnifying glass if you have them.
  3. Before you begin your quest for water insects, tadpoles, and tiny fish, safety comes first. Keep these tips in mind:
    • Always go pond dipping with a responsible adult.
    • Be extra careful by the water’s edge- it can be slippery!
    • Don’t lean too far over the water- you might lose your balance. Try kneeling or belly-dipping from a dock instead.
    • Before stepping into a pond (with appropriate gear), use a long stick to check its depth- it may be deeper than it looks!
    • Move away from the water’s edge to examine your finds.
    • Amphibians have especially sensitive skin- resist touching the critters you catch.
    • Always wash your hands with warm soapy water when you’re finished.
  1. Now you’re ready to start dipping! If you have a net, hold it tightly and sweep it across the surface of the water in a figure eight pattern. If you do not have a net, scoop up some water and pond muck with a bucket or container. Try different parts of the pond, like in the weeds or gooey mud.
  2. Examine what you’ve caught- some creatures may be quite small, so you may want to use a magnifying glass.
  3. Be a real naturalist or nature detective! Draw your discoveries or take a photo of your finds. Record how many different creatures you observed and write about the wonderful world of underwater wildlife.
  4. Don’t forget to examine any aquatic plants you may collect as well!
  5. Remember to put all of your new friends back into their home where you found them. Don’t forget to look up to spot birds, dragonflies, and other insects flying by too!

Did you correctly predict what types of wildlife you would find? Did you find any of the following?:

  • Frogspawn (eggs)
  • Tadpoles
  • Frogs
  • Water boatmen
  • Pond skaters
  • Whirligig beetles
  • Pond snails
  • Damselflies & Dragonflies
  • Salamanders or Newts
  • Fish fry
  • Anything else?

Many of the critters you might find are hard to identify. If you’d like help figuring out what you’ve discovered, check out this guide to aquatic invertebrates of Minnesota.

The Minnesota Zoo would love to see examples of how you used this activity at home! Please share pictures or comments via email at [email protected], and take less than 5 minutes of time to provide us feedback by completing this short survey.