Pond dipping: how to pond dip, what you’ll need and where to do it

Little boy holding a net and standing by a marshy pond
Grab your net and discover an underwater world... (Photo: iStock.com/GrabillCreative)

Ponds have a huge variety of amazing little creatures just waiting to be discovered. So nets and magnifying glasses at the ready! Let’s go pond dipping.

Pond dipping kit – what you need

  • Net (don’t worry if you don’t have one – follow our top tips (below) and make your own)
  • Light-coloured shallow tray or plastic container
  • Plastic spoons
  • Magnifying glass to get a closer look
  • ID sheets and notebook to record your finds
  • A phone or camera (so you can take photos)

Where to go pond dipping

If you happen to have a garden with a pond, great! But if not, there’s bound to be a pond in a park or other green space not too far away. Some parks and nature reserves have special pond dipping platforms, so have a look online to see if there’s one near you.

You could even build a frog pond in your garden. Then you can check back in a few weeks to see which creatures have moved in.

How to pond dip

First, scoop some pond water into your container so the little creatures will be happy swimming around in it. Lie on your tummy or kneel by the side of the pond and sweep your net slowly through the water – a figure of eight shape works best. Make sure you don’t stir up the mud at the bottom as that will make it hard to see anything.

Then take your net out and carefully turn it inside out so the creatures you’ve caught drop into the container. You can then use your spoon to scoop them up and get a closer look. But don’t touch them as you might hurt them.

What to look for

Pond skater
Keep your eyes peeled for creatures like pond skaters (Photo: iStock.com/-AZ-)

Counting a creature’s legs can help you identify it. Leeches and bright red bloodworms don’t have any legs. Water beetles, backswimmers and pond skaters have six legs; water spiders and water mites have eight legs; and some creatures, such as the water louse, have loads of legs! Our pond dipping guide has pictures to help you identify your finds, as well as lots of other dipping tips and ideas.

Don’t forget to look for creatures flying over the surface of the pond too, such as colourful dragonflies and damselflies – take along our dragonflies and damselflies ID.

Make your own pond dipping net

You just need: an old pair of tights, a wire coat hanger, a strong stick, a stapler, and some strong sticky tape.

1. Bend the coat hanger into a circle to make the rim of the net.

2. Wrap the waistband of the tights over the wire and use the stapler to attach it.

3. Cut off most of the legs of the tights and tie the bits that are left together.

4. Finally, wind the hook bit of the coat hanger around the end of the stick and secure it with the tape. Make sure it’s firmly attached as you don’t want it to fall off in the water!

Play it safe

Make sure you take a grown up along.

Don’t lean too far out over the pond as you might fall in!

Don’t enter the water if you drop something – the pond may be deeper than it looks.

Pond water contains bacteria so put a sticking plaster over any cuts or grazes, and make sure you wash your hands or use sanitising gel after you’ve finished.

We’d love to hear all about what you found on your pond dipping adventure and see some pictures, so post on our Facebook page, or on Instagram or Twitter using #NatureDetectives.

And if you want more ideas like this through the post, why not become a Nature Detective?

Share your pond dipping tips!

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