Top 10 rock-pooling tips

Carcinus maenas Shore Crab in rock pool hiding under seaweed

We often get asked what our top tips for successful rock-pooling are, so we asked our expert team to put their thinking caps on:

1. Keep safe. Check the tide times and always try to go out on a falling tide. Wear suitable clothing and footwear and take a drink and a snack. Make sure somebody knows where you are.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA2. Walk carefully. Seaweeds and wet rocks are slippery, in addition a quiet approach to a rock-pool will not disturb the creatures you are trying to find.

3. Be patient. Try not to cast a shadow or splash the water, the animals are alert to changes around them and will freeze or flee if disturbed. Spend a few minutes at the edge of the pool, out of the water, looking for movement.

4. Look for rock pools with a variety of rocks, ledges, stones and seaweed cover. There are lots of interesting things to look at, even if you don’t find crabs, fish, starfish, etc. Seaweeds, limpets, sea anemones, dog whelks and barnacles don’t move (much) so are easier to find.Fucus vesiculosus paired bladders

5. Don’t lift boulders which are too heavy, you could damage yourself and whatever is living or hiding underneath them. As a guide don’t lift objects bigger than a football, or your head! Always replace rocks where you found them, and the same way up.

6. Use your hands, not a net (which can damage claws and legs) and a white container such as a tray or small bucket filled with seawater.

7. Don’t keep animals and seaweeds in a bucket for too long , they will become stressed as the oxygen is depleted and as the temperature rises.

8. Don’t put too many animals together in a bucket, they may fight or eat each other. Better to observe them one at a time and then release them to the pool they came from. Don’t take animals away from the shore.

Pagurus bernhardus showing claws9. Always handle the creatures carefully (crabs at their widest point) and putting them back in the same pool afterwards, remember you are entering their home so treat it with respect.

10. Have fun and take a camera!

Many thanks to John Bell, Jane Pottas and Peter Turton for their lists, and also to Jane for the fabulous pictures.  Why not join them on one of our Scarborough South Bay rock-pooling trips and put these tips to the test!



  1. Good rockpool tips. May I suggest that No.8 could be worded ‘release them to the pool they came from’? *Imagines dozens of crabs released in the same tiny pool*…!
    I’d also offer tip that pools nearer low water tend to have more and bigger stuff, though appreciate that seashore visitors may not have luxury of choosing an Equinoxial Spring low tide for their ad hoc holiday scavenging!

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