For more information about planted aquariums, Natural Aquariums recommends "The Simple Guide to Planted Aquariums" by Terry Barber and Rhonda Wilson.
Pond Life "This inexpensive guide is one of the most useful books I've ever owned and my favorite beginners guide to pond life. I can't even say how many copies I've gone through and given away." - Rhonda Wilson

"Nature Aquarium World 2" The second Nature Aquarium World book from Takashi Amano. Mr. Amano's aquariums and photography make him the most celebrated planted aquarist in the world today.

Christel Kasselmann's "Aquarium Plants" is the most complete encylopedia of aquarium plants to date. A must have book for the aquatic plant enthusiast.

Freshwater Invertebrates

True Bugs


There are about 4500 species of true bugs.

Most true bugs have 2 pairs of wings, though some can be wingless. The fore wings are partly horny at the front and covered with soft membrane in the back. When the bug is at rest the fore wings are held flat over the back and cover the hind wings. The membranous tips of the fore wings overlap in this position.

True Bugs have mouth parts made for piercing and sucking, sometimes, plants, other insects or blood. Their mouths are set up with 2 pairs of needle like tubes, one pair does the piercing the other takes care of the sucking.

Some aquatic true bugs fly, and often live under water swimming diving or clinging to water plants and debris. Others types cling to the water surface.

Bug nymphs look like small wingless adults and go through 5 molts to reach adulthood. Nymphs can have either 1 or no appendages at the end of their abdomen. The wing buds of nymphs enlarge with each molt. Both the nymphs and adults can be active predators.

Back Swimmers


The Back Swimmer looks very similar to the Water Boatman with a few important differences. While the Water Boatman swims right side up, the Back Swimmer swims upside down. And where the Water Boatman eats mostly plants and debris the Back Swimmer is predacious.

The animal has a keeled back and paddle like legs, the hind legs , like those of the Water Boatman are longest. They come to the surface to rest and replenish their air supply by sticking the tip of their abdomen out of the water. They also hold air next to their bodies giving them a silvery look.

There are about 35 species of Back Swimmer, 20 in North America. Back Swimmers are vicious predators and eat animals much larger than themselves with their toxic saliva they can deliver a painful bite. Nymphs are similar to adults and molt into their wings.

Giant Water Bug


The Giant Water Bug is the largest of the True Bugs, reaching up to 4 inches in length. In addition to living in the water they can also fly and are attracted to lights.

These animals are distributed throughout North and South America, South Africa, Australia and India. There are about 25 species in North America.

Giant Water Bugs are highly predatory animals feeding on other insects, tadpoles and small fish. They clasp their victims in their front claws and secrete poison into them as they bite. They can and will bite humans too, which can be very painful.

There are some of these animals in waters local to where I live. They are usually found under rocks. On several occasions I've seen the males with eggs on their backs. I do occasionally keep one or two individually in goldfish bowls. They will attack another of their own kind if placed in the same container. They will also pretty much eat anything else they can catch.

Water Boatman


Water Boatman are slender insects, about 1/8 to 5/8 inches long. They have long flattened hind legs which they use along with their middle legs as oars for swimming. The animals have no gills and must often take air at the surface which surrounds their body giving it a silvery look under water. While submerged they must cling to rocks or weeds to stay close to the bottom. The adults are strong fliers.

These animals form the largest family of water bugs and are found all over the world. Over 100 species are in North America. They feed on diatoms, filamentous algae or decaying plant and animal matter. They are eaten by some fish and predacious aquatic insects. Nymphs are similar to adults with wing buds developing with each molt finally becoming full wings.

Water Scorpion


The Water Scorpion is a long thin, very unique looking animal. It's look is reminiscent of a land insect, the Walking Stick. They are very interesting to keep in a small tank or bowl. About 12 species are in North America.

The animal has long breathing tubes extending from the end of their abdomen which they rest on the water surface while they hold on to a plant or twig under water, waiting for prey to come by. Watching it feed is quite interesting. I've watched them eat mosquito larva in captivity. They grab the prey, hold it with their front legs and seem to suck the juices out of the victim, until it's body is limp and shriveled.

Water Skaters


Water Skater, Pond Skater and Water Strider, are all names given to these animals. They are slender dark animals and have very long middle and hind legs they use to skate across the surface of the water. The middle legs are used as oars while the hind are the rudders. The body is covered with thick velvety waterproof hair that keeps it from being trapped in water.

The Water Skater is found in all sorts of water bodies from ponds to streams world wide. About 30 species are found in North America

These are semi aquatic, fast moving, predacious animals that hold their victim in their front legs as they feed. They eat other insects including Back Swimmers and emerging Midges. Nymphs look like adults without wings which they eventually molt into.

Water Treaders are similar animals but smaller. Often green, the animals live in thick vegetation feedign on other animals near the surface. There are 3 species in North America.

Water Measurers have long thin bodies and very long legs. There are about 6 species in North America

Hydra | Moss Animals | Leeches, Worms, and Planaria
Arthropods | Crustaceans | Small Crustaceans | Insects | True Bugs | Flies
Mollusks | Snails | Ramshorn Snails | Pond Snails | Malayan Livebearing Snails | Clams