Why is a pond called a pond and a lake called a lake? I have a
body of water that is 5 acres, 15 to 20 feet deep. How do I know what
to call it?
Ponds and lakes are very similar. Both are small bodies of
water, either natural or man-made, that are completely surrounded by
land. The primary difference between the two is their size. Simply
put, lakes are larger and ponds are smaller. However, there is no
standardization of lake sizes. Some sources claim lakes are bodies of
water larger than 2 acres. In Montana, the minimum water surface area
of a lake is 20 acres. But since the size of your body of water isn't
a clear indicator, here are a few more factors to consider:
- Generally, a lake is an area of open, relatively deep water
that is large enough to produce a wave-swept "washed" shoreline,
which can prevent vegetation from growing along the shore.
- Another difference can be seen in the water's temperature.
Lakes, because they are deeper, have a stratified temperature
structure that depends on the season. During summer months three
distinct layers develop: The top layer stays warm at around 65–75
degrees. The middle layer drops dramatically, usually to 45–65
degrees F. The bottom layer is the coldest, staying at around 39–45
degrees F. Ponds, on the other hand, have a more consistent
- If the water is deep enough that light does not penetrate to
the bottom, and photosynthesis is limited to the top layer, the body
of water is considered a lake.
- A pond is a body of water shallow enough to support rooted
plants. Many times plants grow all the way across a shallow pond.
There is little wave action and the bottom is usually covered with
mud. Plants can, and often do, grow along a pond's edge.
- Even in cold climates, most lakes are large enough so that
they don't freeze solid, unlike ponds.
- Finally, if the lake is large enough, it can affect the
surrounding climate, whereas ponds are usually affected by the
Based on the depth of your body of water—congratulations! It's a
lake. And, if you're looking to give your water body a name, we, the
editors at Infoplease.com, grant you full permission to name it after
—The Fact Monster