10 Tide Pooling Tips

View Marine Life Safely and Ecologically

Going on vacation along a rocky shore? Visiting a tide pool is a great way to see and learn about a wide variety of marine life. It may not seem like there's much in a tide pool from a distance, but take a moment to look closely at a tide pool and you're sure to meet lots of interesting creatures.

Exploring the intertidal zone is a great activity, but you should tide pool with the safety of you, your family, and the marine environment in mind. These tips will help you have a fun, safe and educational tide pooling experience. 

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Check the Tides

Boy in a Tide Pool at Low Tide
Chris Aschenbrener/Moment Open/Getty Images

Step number one is to check the tides. The best time for tide pooling is low tide, or as close to it as possible. You can check the tides usually in the local paper, or online using a tide predictor.

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Bring a Book

Hands holding book
Johner Images / Getty Images

In many areas where there are tide pools, you'll find pocket-sized marine life field guides at the local bookstore or souvenir shops. Bringing one of these along will help you identify any critters you find and learn about them. If you buy a field guide online, make sure you get one specific to the region you'll be visiting (e.g., Northeastern Atlantic vs. North Pacific).

A great activity for kids is match up the animals and plants they find to identification pictures in a field guide! You can also talk about what challenges the animal may face and how it adapts to those challenges.

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Wear Sturdy Shoes or Boots

tide pool, rubber boots
Connie Spinardi / Getty Images

Going barefoot isn't usually the best choice for a tide pool. Many tide pools have piles of slippery seaweed and scratchy critters like barnacles, snail and mussel shells. Wear sturdy shoes that you don't mind getting wet, such as sports sandals, old sneakers, or rubber rain boots.

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Beware of Slippery Seaweed

Seaweed at Shore
Simon Marlow/EyeEm/Getty Images

As mentioned above, tide pool rocks are often covered with slippery seaweed. Walk safely by placing your feet on bare rocks or sand (if there is any). Encourage kids to "walk like a crab" by using both hands and feet and staying low to the ground.

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Return Animals Exactly Where You Found Them

Limpets in Tide pool, Baja Mexico
Danita Delimont / Gallo Images / Getty Images

Some animals live in a very small area their entire lives. The limpet, for example, uses its radula to scrape a small hole in a rock, and this is where it lives. Some limpets return to that exact spot each day. So if you move an organism far from its home, it may never find its way back. So if you do touch an animal, do it gently, with wet hands, and then put it back right where you found it.

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Don't Remove Attached Animals

Pacific Blood Star

Minette Layne / Flickr

Follow the "body language" of the animals you see. Do not pull an attached animal like a limpet, barnacle, or sea anemone off a rock. Often you can learn more by watching an animal in its place, but if you do try to touch an animal, don't pick it up if it appears stuck and resists you.

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Explore From the Sidelines When Possible

Boy Looks At Tide Pools
Teresa Short / Getty Images

Instead of tramping through every tide pool you see, explore from the edge if possible and resist the temptation to pick up every organism you find. This will minimize your impact on the habitat and the animals that live there. Popular tide pool spots are visited by thousands of people each year, which can severely impact the marine life that lives there.

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Leave No Rock Overturned

Exploring a tidepool in British Columbia
Lucidio Studio, Inc. / Getty Images

Tide pool animals often hide under rocks, so one way to find them (other than just observing a tide pool and watching them move around) is to gently lift a rock up and see what's underneath. Always put the rock back where you found it. If you flip it over entirely, you could kill marine life living on its upper or lower side.

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Marine Animals Don't Belong in Your Bathtub

Young girl looking into fishnet at beach
Steve Sparrow / Getty Images

Don't bring any plants or animals home. Many of them are very sensitive to the salinity and other particulars of their habitat. It also may be illegal — many areas require a permit for collecting marine life.

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Bring a Bag

Young woman collecting trash on beach
Klaus Vedfelt / Getty Images

Bring a grocery bag with you to bring your trash home. Even better, pick up some trash that others have left behind. Litter can hurt marine life if they become entangled or accidentally swallow it.

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Your Citation
Kennedy, Jennifer. "10 Tide Pooling Tips." ThoughtCo, Aug. 26, 2020, thoughtco.com/tide-pooling-tips-2292050. Kennedy, Jennifer. (2020, August 26). 10 Tide Pooling Tips. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/tide-pooling-tips-2292050 Kennedy, Jennifer. "10 Tide Pooling Tips." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/tide-pooling-tips-2292050 (accessed June 9, 2023).