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Lake Vs Pond: Do You Know The Difference?

Have you looked at a body of water and pondered just what is it?


Dr. Beccy Corkill


Dr. Beccy Corkill

Custom Content Manager

Beccy is a custom content producer who holds a PhD in Biological Science, a Master’s in Parasites and Disease Vectors, and a Bachelor’s in Human Biology and Forensic Science.

Custom Content Manager

A man jumps into the water from the pier. Soft focus. Background image.

The differences have many people scratching their heads. 

Image credit: Andrey_Kl/ 

Have you ever looked at a body of water and thought: is this a pleasant pond or a luscious lake? Just exactly what is the difference?

Well, it all depends on who you are asking. If you are asking from a regulation point of view, there really is no difference between a lake and pond, they are both surface waters that are subjected to the same quality standards. However, if you are to ask a limnologist (someone who studies freshwater), then they may argue that there definitely is a difference.


What are the similarities between ponds and lakes?

First of all, what do the two bodies of water have in common? In simplistic terms, they are both inland bodies of water that can host living creatures. Both of them are part of a lentic ecosystem, which means that they contain still water.

However, the main difference in classification comes from the depth and surface area of the body of water. Typically, lakes have a greater surface area and are deeper than ponds.

What is a pond?

A pond can be defined as a body of water in which light penetrates all the way to the bottom, allowing all of the water to be part of the photic zone. This zone is when the rate of photosynthesis is greater than the rate of respiration by phytoplankton. Ponds are able to support a diverse range of plants that can grow on the bottom and surface.

Due to the size of a pond, the temperature throughout can be more uniform. If the pond has waves (not all do) they are typically smaller and uniform, which helps the fauna and flora of the pond flourish.

What is a Lake?

Lakes are deeper bodies of water, so sunlight may not be able to reach the bottom. These areas are regions of darkness that can lie beneath a photic zone, called the aphotic zone. This can mean that the water is so deep that plants may not be able to grow. Therefore, it can be unofficially characterized as a lake if it has a small shoreline that is surrounded by vegetation.

Another characterizing point is the water temperature. In lakes, this can also vary, compared to a pond, due to the different depths throughout. This allows lakes to have stratified temperatures throughout the summer waters, compared to the more consistent temperature of ponds.  

Due to the difference in depths, lakes can also have more waves compared to ponds. The life that can be found in lakes also is vaster compared to ponds. The same aquatic creatures and plants that can be found in ponds can also be found in lakes. Lakes can also be home to additional creatures like otters, snakes, alligators and…. Nessie (a complete joke, of course, as science has proven).

What are the differences between a lake and a pond?

Although there is no official characterization, compared to ponds, lakes tend to be larger and deeper with more varying temperatures.


All “explainer” articles are confirmed by fact checkers to be correct at time of publishing. Text, images, and links may be edited, removed, or added to at a later date to keep information current.


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