What Do Animals Eat?

What Do Plankton Eat?

Posted In: Miscellaneous.

They are 4 types of plankton & the most common is the phytoplankton. Phytoplankton, just like plants on land, make their own food by using the sun and a process call photosynthesis. Other plankton that do not make their own food will consume phytoplankton or other bigger sized plankton and they are called zooplankton.

Lets learn more about a plankton’s diet

4 common types of plankton4 examples of phytoplankton; coccolithophores, dinoflagellates, green algae & diatoms. Illustration by Robert Simmon, NASA Earth.

Plankton is actually the term for a variety of zoological creatures that can include the jellyfish, for example, at the large end of the scale. There are four different types of plankton that can be referred to as phytoplankton, bacterioplankton, mycoplankton and zooplankton. One feeds on the other and leads to a cycle called the biological pump. Many of these are microscopic in nature, and they are usually found in the area of the sea. These provide life to many different species of animals that live in the ocean.


These are the most common members of the plankton family and they make their own food. Plankton of this sort has to have energy from the sun to survive and they use a process call photosynthesis to make the food they need. They live closer to the top of the ocean and provide the basis for the food chain in the ocean. Minerals are also a source of food such as silicic acid, nitrate and phosphate.

Bacterioplankton and mycoplankton

Bacterioplankton includes both archaea and bacteria that consume organic material that has been left behind by other organisms. They can also survive by chemosynthesis and photosynthesis. Processes such as remineralisation are features of this type of plankton. Mycoplankton are fungi & fungus like organisms, which also are significant in nutrient cycling, as bacterioplankton. Both of these plankton are food for zooplankton.


This group is comprised of crustaceans, arthropods and other animals that feed on telonemia and other plankton. This can include krill, man o’ wars, jellyfish, arrow worms, juvenile fish and others. These feed on phytoplankton, bacterioplankton and other zooplankton. They too also provide food for the higher food chain in the sea.

Cycle of life in the food chain

Basically the chain of life for food starts with the phytoplankton, then goes to the bacterioplankton, and finishes with the zooplankton. Phytoplankton feeds the most in this particular food chain. The zooplankton feed on the other two. Plankton as a whole is responsible for most of the oceanic food chain. So each one will feed the other and in one case, will feed on the others. Each provides food for the other.