Difference Between Ocean, Lakes and Rivers

A waterbody is the accumulation of water on the earth’s surface. The term usually refers to oceans, rivers and lakes. It is essential to understand the difference between different water bodies to know how they all work.

Oceans are large bodies of saltwater surrounding a continent. A river is a large flowing water body that empties itself into seas or oceans. Lakes are large water bodies that are surrounded by land on all sides.

Read on to explore the difference between an ocean, a river and a lake.

Difference Between Ocean, River and Lake

Following are the major difference between ocean, river and lake:

Ocean River Lake
These are huge water bodies covering 2/3rd of the earth’s surface. It is a flowing water body that ends up in a sea or an ocean. It is a stagnant water body.
The ocean is an abode to smaller water bodies. The river connects to a larger water body. The lake does not empty into any other water body.
Oceans are naturally formed. Rivers are naturally formed. Lakes can be natural or man-made.
It is a saltwater source. It is a freshwater source. It is a freshwater source.
A large variety of aquatic species are found here. For eg., octopus, sharks, giant squid, whales. The aquatic species found in rivers are comparatively lesser than those in oceans. For eg., crocodiles, fishes. The aquatic species in the lakes are even smaller such as ducks, fishes.

Also Read: Water for All

What Is an Ocean?

An ocean is a gigantic mass of water body covering 70% of the earth. There are five oceans in the world:

  • Pacific ocean
  • Atlantic ocean
  • Arctic ocean
  • Indian ocean
  • Antarctic ocean

Oceans are larger and deeper than the sea. The movement of currents in the oceans affects the weather throughout the world.

What Is a River?

Rivers are natural streams of free-flowing water. The Nile river in Africa and Amazon river in South America are the two largest rivers.

A river can originate from melting glacier, snow or a lake. The strong flow of a river can form a delta, e.g. Sunderban delta. It is formed due to weathering and erosion.

What Is a Lake?

Lake is a large water body of stagnant water, within an area. These can be natural, formed by glaciers or man-made, such as reservoirs.

Lakes vary greatly in size and depth. Their physical characteristics are affected by temperature, wind and light. The lake abounds in nitrogen and phosphorus that allows nutrient-rich plants to grow.

Also Read: Aquatic Ecosystem

To know more about the difference between the ocean, river and lake, keep visiting BYJU’S website or download BYJU’S app for further reference.

Frequently Asked Questions


Which is the smallest ocean in the world?

The smallest ocean on the planet earth is the Arctic ocean.


Which is the sea that is known to be the only sea without shores?

The only known sea without any shores is the Sargasso Sea.


What are tides? What causes tides in water bodies?

Tides are the fall and rise of the sea levels that are caused by a combination of the effects of gravitational forces that are exerted by the sun and the moon and the Earth’s rotation.


How do you differentiate between a sea and a lake?

Sea has a direct outlet to the ocean, whereas, lakes do not. Lakes may be above or below sea level. Lakes are man-made water bodies, whereas a sea is natural.


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