Water boatmen feed on plant matter and the algae in ponds. They are, however, capable of living in polluted pond environments with little plant matter to feed on. Since water boatmen spend most of their time below the water, only surfacing for oxygen, floating pollution is not a significant threat.
They use their short front legs to scoop food up into their mouths. Their much longer hind legs, meanwhile, are used for propulsion.
Water boatmen are often confused with backswimmers, owing to their similar appearance. However, backswimmers, which move around on their backs as their name suggests, feed on other insects, tadpoles and even small fish.