Freshwater vs. Saltwater Diving


When you hear the phrase “scuba diving,” the ocean quickly comes to mind. Freshwater diving is often overlooked even though it can provide much of the same thrill and enjoyment, if not more. There are plenty of freshwater locations to explore. For example, did you know that Florida has more springs than anywhere else in the nation?

Saltwater and freshwater diving are like two sides of the same coin, each offering a similar yet distinct underwater experience. While everyone is welcome to snorkel, whether it be over a vibrant coral reef or in a crystal clear spring, if you wish to immerse yourself in the beautiful scenery more fully, scuba diving will do it! Let's take a deeper look into the similarities and differences between saltwater scuba diving and freshwater scuba diving. 

Before Diving

Regardless of which type of water you dive into, you need to have the right equipment, training, and certifications. Contrary to popular belief, freshwater can vary tremendously in visibility, temperature, and currents depending on where you dive. The same thing can be said for the ocean. So whether you are diving in clear or murky waters, make sure you follow safety protocols, examine your gear, and conduct pre-dive checks with your dive buddy. 

Before stepping into freshwater, you may want to leave some weights ashore. Saltwater is denser than freshwater, so your buoyancy will differ in each. You'll find your buoyancy lower in freshwater making it much easier to descend. That means that you won’t need as much weight in freshwater. 

While Diving 

You can expect to see two entirely different ecosystems when diving in either body of water. Sure, when freshwater diving you won’t see vibrant corals but you do get to see some beautiful rock formations that aren’t commonly found in the ocean. Also, certain freshwater spots can be just as bustling as a coral reef in the ocean, brimming with aquatic wildlife. Some common species you may spot are blue tilapia, snook, and gars. If you’re lucky (at the right place at the right time) you may catch a glimpse of a river otter or manatee swimming by. 

Speaking of manatees, if you wish to see these lovely sea cows you should definitely stop by Blue Spring State Park. Slightly North of Orlando, this park is well known for being the winter home of the Florida Manatees. Additionally, the 72-degree water can be enjoyed all year round. And its name rings something true, the Blue Spring has crystal clear waters that allow you to see the fish and sandy bottom, even from the surface. 

There are multiple freshwater diving locations like lakes, rivers, and even abandoned quarries; but, springs tend to be a majority favorite for their clear waters, inhabitants, and cavern diving. For instance, have you heard of the Blue Grotto Dive Resort in Williston, Florida? It is home to Florida’s largest accessible underwater cavern. Cavern and cave diving can provide a thrill for some divers but a definite fear factor for others. Remember to only explore caves and caverns if you are properly trained, certified, and with an appropriate dive buddy. What are some cool things you may see while cave diving? Well, haloclines are commonly found in limestone caves. It’s an aquatic phenomenon where freshwater and saltwater meet. Saltwater is denser than freshwater which separates the two, creating an optical illusion of another layer of water.

After Diving 

After a saltwater dive, it is recommended to rinse your gear with freshwater. The salt from the ocean can be very corrosive to diving equipment. Freshwater scuba diving also demands diligent rinsing of gear post-dive. While freshwater lacks the corrosive properties of salt, it presents its own set of challenges. Sand, debris, and bacteria can easily cling to your equipment during a freshwater dive. Rinsing off these contaminants not only maintains the cleanliness of your gear but also prevents potential damage and preserves its performance for future dives. Therefore, regardless of whether you're diving in saltwater or freshwater, thorough rinsing of your equipment is a must to maintain its integrity and longevity.

More Florida Freshwater Gems

Devil’s Den — This ancient underground spring features a submerged cavern adorned with beautiful rock formations and an abundance of marine life. Divers can explore hidden passageways and marvel at the natural wonders concealed within the depths. Certifications are required. 

Ginnie Springs — The crystal-clear waters allow divers to admire the stunning limestone formations and submerged caves. It's home to diverse marine life, including fish and turtles. Additionally, the spring's constant temperature makes diving comfortable year-round, while its accessibility and amenities make it a popular destination for divers of all levels. 

Rainbow River — This pristine river teems with life, from playful manatees to graceful turtles, making it a haven for underwater photographers and nature enthusiasts alike. Exploring its winding channels and lush vegetation reveals a hidden paradise beneath the surface.

In addition to these renowned dive sites, Florida is home to countless other freshwater treasures waiting to be discovered. Don’t limit your diving experience to solely the ocean. Whether diving in crystal clear springs, spring-fed lakes, winding rivers, or submerged caves, the world has plenty of freshwater diving opportunities. Happy diving! 


What is freshwater diving?

Freshwater diving involves exploring underwater environments such as lakes, rivers, springs, and quarries, as opposed to diving in saltwater bodies like oceans.

How does freshwater diving differ from saltwater diving?

Freshwater diving may involve differences in buoyancy due to differences in water density and may require adjustments in equipment and dive planning. In most cases, diving both requires similar characteristics

What are common freshwater dive sites?

Popular freshwater dive sites include the Rainbow River, Ginnie Springs, and Blue Spring.

Can I encounter marine life while freshwater diving?

Yes, freshwater environments support diverse aquatic life, including fish, turtles, manatees, otters, and various invertebrates.

Is visibility good in freshwater diving?

Visibility when freshwater diving varies depending on location, weather conditions, and water quality. Some sites offer excellent visibility, while others may have reduced visibility due to sediment or algae.

Do I need special certification for freshwater diving?

While basic scuba diving certification is sufficient for many freshwater dive sites, specialized training may be required for certain environments, such as cave diving.

Can I dive in freshwater if I have only dived in saltwater before?

Yes, many divers transition from saltwater to freshwater diving with proper training and guidance.