Landcare Research - Manaaki Whenua

Landcare-Research -Manaaki Whenua

Guide to New Zealand's freshwater invertebrates

Water fleas ( Cladocera : Cladocera )

Diagnostic features

Cladocerans are often referred to as water fleas and they are commonly used in the aquarium trade as fish food. They are small (less than 5mm) crustaceans, most of which can swim in a jerking motion using their antennae. Most of the body is enclosed within a transparrent covering (the “carapace”).

Typical habitats

Cladocerans are primarily inhabitants of still waters, or rivers downstream of lake/pond outlets. They can be common in water troughs, and some species can be abundant in sewage treatment ponds.


They are filter feeders (feeding on plankton) but some can also scrape biofilms off submerged surfaces.

Indicator value

Cladocerans are indicative of pond-like habitats, possibly upstream of your sampling site. They have moderate to low tolerance values of 5 (hard bottom sites) and 0.7 (soft bottom sites).