Iowa’s Aquatic Life

Plants, animals, and other life forms have adapted to live and reproduce in aquatic habitats. Iowa’s waters are home to thousands of plant and animal species. This section provides a brief introduction to the different types found in our waters.

  • Iowa’s Nature Series – Aquatic EnvironmentsFrom the ephemeral pool of a prairie pothole to the giant pools of the mighty Mississippi, Iowa’s lands are defined by their diverse, and critically important aquatic ecosystems. 


Aquatic plants are essential in aquatic ecosystems. They provide oxygen, food, shelter, and protect shorelines and stream banks from eroding. They have a variety of adaptations to living in, on or near water and are divided into several groups.



Invertebrates are the least conspicuous, but most abundant, animal group. They range in size from microscopic to larger than a baseball. Invertebrates found in Iowa waters range from freshwater sponges to worms and crustaceans (scuds, copepods, and crayfish), mollusks (mussels and snails), arachnids (spiders, ticks, and mites), and insects.


  • Iowa’s Nature Series – VertebratesFrom city sewers to pristine prairies, the reptiles, amphibians, birds, mammals, fish, and lamprey found within Iowa’s borders are as diverse and fascinating as the people found there.


Amphibians and Reptiles

  • Iowa HerpNetOnline field guide to amphibians and reptiles found in Iowa



Activities listed below are from the Aquatic WILD guide and relevant to Iowa. Activities with supplemental information are linked below. Use the supplemental information in conjunction with the Aquatic WILD activity.