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The Differences Between Freshwater And Saltwater Scuba Diving

The Difference Between Freshwater And Saltwater Scuba Diving?

A lot of scuba divers have always wondered about the difference between diving in freshwater and saltwater.

Although freshwater is usually the only option to divers in most countries, some may even prefer it.

This means that saltwater diving is not exactly common among divers but let’s look into their differences.

In this article, we will be discussing all the differences between saltwater and freshwater scuba diving.

Is Scuba Diving In Saltwater Different From Freshwater?

Yes, but it is important to note that freshwater scuba diving is not the same as saltwater diving in so many ways before you explore any.

From temperature, visibility, marine life, buoyancy, currents, and even dive types; there are big differences.

Now, let’s look at some differences between freshwater and saltwater scuba diving:

1. Temperature

Freshwater diving tends to feel colder than saltwater diving, even though the temperature outdoors might be pretty warm, freshwater can feel chilly when scuba diving.

Well, this has to do with the salinity of the water, the presence of salt in marine water makes it denser, and saltwater will retain heat longer.

So it’s pretty important to equip yourself with the right gear when scuba diving in freshwater or saltwater.

2. Visibility

The visibility in saltwater is clearer compared to freshwater, yes, both glasses of water contain different particles which might hinder visibility, but it is still relatively clearer in saltwater.

The bottom of freshwater is muddy as compared to the sandy bottom of saltwater, when disturbed mud can affect visibility to a greater degree than when sand is disturbed. 

Also, freshwater has fewer currents compared to saltwater which makes particles take much longer to settle. 

So try not to kick roughly with your fins when diving in freshwater to avoid disturbing the bottom.

3. Aquatic Life

When comparing aquatic lives, they differ greatly in freshwater and saltwater. 

Saltwater has a greater variety of animals and plants, but freshwater has some unique aquatic animals and plants.

Generally, animals in saltwater are more diverse than in freshwater and appear to be more curious and welcoming to divers, avoid provoking them though, the lives in freshwater are less spirited and are sometimes smaller than their saltwater peers. 

However, saltwater has more poisonous animals so the chance of a fatal encounter is more likely.

4. Buoyancy

Buoyancy varies in saltwater and freshwater, a body’s buoyancy will determine if it will float or sink in any water body. 

The concentration of dissolved salts in saltwater makes it denser than in freshwater, so divers are more buoyant in saltwater as opposed to freshwater, this implies that it is easier to float in saltwater.

However, to have control of your buoyancy, more weight is needed to dive in saltwater, while fewer weights are needed for freshwater diving.

The amount of weight you might need is subject to some factors such as your body mass and the kind of tank you want to carry when diving.

It is helpful to get your buoyancy right to allow you to float without much need for your hands making you save air and energy.

5. Current

Another important difference between freshwater and saltwater is the currents. 

Current is the direction and movement of water and the strength of a current can determine the ease of your diving.

Generally, currents are predictable and mild in freshwater, the currents are usually caused by bottom sediments or wind. 

Apart from rivers and large lakes, remote freshwater bodies are not exposed to tides and this makes the water still. 

Saltwater diving, on the other hand, can be challenging because it is affected by the state of the weather, tide, water density, and other factors.

Currents can increase your chances of spotting many cool things underwater, as they can bring in a lot of algae and entice some aquatic creatures.

6. Dive Type

Finally, the type of dive is different in freshwater diving and saltwater diving.

Saltwater dives are generally done from boats, and research is carried out to know the ideal spot and day to dive to ensure the safety of divers.

However, freshwater dives are mostly, if not always, done from the shore where you have to walk into the water, you’ll need to wear dive boots too.

Diving in freshwater requires some extra effort in your dive, as you will have to swim out to a point where you decline. 

But, you can do this whichever way you prefer; effortlessly or with difficulty with your BCD inflated.


Though quite different, freshwater diving and saltwater diving are both fun in their ways.

What should matter is what you look forward to exploring, which of them excites you.

Most of us are may not have direct access to saltwater bodies, as we live in landlocked areas, but, that shouldn’t take away the fun. 

Get valuable information on your preferred dive site and remember to gear up properly.

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