top of page

Tide pools

Tide pools are found in intertidal zones, which are the areas where the ocean meets the land. Tide pools are pockets of water that get trapped in rocky ledges when the tide goes out. These pools are usually only a few inches deep but house many marine creatures. 

The animals that live in tide pools have to endure some harsh conditions. When the tide is out, the tide pools are exposed to the heat of the sun and predators like birds. When the tide comes in, the animals living in the rock crevices have to endure crashing waves and foraging fish.  Therefore, many tide pool inhabitants cling tightly to the rocks for protection.


The level of the ocean rises up and sinks down during the day in what is called high tide and low tide. Organisms that live in the high tide zone remain uncovered by ocean water during low tides and then get flooded during high tides, which brings in food for the creatures in the pools. The animals that live here are hardy because they have to endure the pounding waves and water that warms in the sun. Barnacles, mussels, limpets, and hermit crabs tend to live in this zone. 

The low tide zone is usually submerged by seawater. This zone has a wider range of life. There are various seaweeds, crabs, anemones, abalones, mussels, and fish.

tide pool zones.jpg
High tide zone
Low tide zone

Exploring tide pools:

Tide pools are a really fun place to explore because of the wide variety of animals concentrated in small areas. Tide pools are best seen during low tide when they are at their most exposed. Keep in mind:

  • Wear shoes with good traction and step on bare rocks without algae on them to avoid slipping.

  • Don't pick up rocks because animals may be living under them that could be harmed.

  • Leave animals where you found them.

  • Take a bag with you to collect any trash you find to leave the tide pool healthy.

Animals that live in tide pools:


Barnacles produce one of the strongest glues known to exist. It is a quick curing cement that allows them to attach to a surface (rocks, piers, boats, and even whales). They like to live in places with a lot of water movement. Barnacles enclose themselves in calcium plates shaped like a cone. They have feather-like legs that they stick out to comb the water for microscopic food particles. When tides go out barnacles close up to hold in moisture. 



Anemones attach to a hard surface by its base. It has many tentacles with stinging cells on them which helps them capture prey. Anemones can reproduce by duplicating itself and then splitting in two, creating two identical looking copies. Anemones close in on themselves when feeling threatened. The photo shows three anemones that are partially closed, and two more in the shade on the right which are still completely open.

Hermit crab:

Hermit crabs have a hard exoskeleton on the front of their body, but their tail is soft and must be protected. They cannot make their own shells, so they select empty shells of other animals, and change them out as they grow. If a hermit crab finds a shell that is the wrong size, it sometimes waits until other hermit crabs join. They then line up by size from smallest to biggest, and then quickly swap shells with their neighbors.


Sea urchin:
Sea urchins are spiny slow moving animals that eat mostly algae and seaweed. Humans eat them, as do sea otters, starfish, and wolf eels. When sea otters are not around to keep urchin's population down, sea urchins eat the bases of seaweed (kelp) and destroy kelp forests and the ecosystems they support.

Threats to Tide Pools

Climate change is a threat to the plants and animals in tide pools. Not all the organisms that live in tide pools can adapt to warmer water or air temperatures. Populations of species that live in tide pools with colder weather have already begun declining because they cannot survive in the warming water.

Tide pools are also sensitive to pollution. Trash, oil spills, sewage spills, and chemical runoff are damaging to tide pool biomes.

How you can help tide pools

The biggest thing you can do to protect tide pools is to help with beach clean ups to keep trash out of tide pools. 

bottom of page