Art Activity Video: Nudibranchs

Create art inspired by the tiny dancers of the ocean!

Activity best for children age 3 and up

Nudibranch is the name for a type of soft bodied animal, called a mollusk, you find in the warmer, shallow ocean waters of tidepools and coral reefs. Its name means “Naked Lung.” They are a lot like the slugs you might find in the garden… but much prettier! They come in every possible color and are often patterned in stripes and polka dots. Nudibranchs can be as small as a quarter, or the size of a grown man’s shoe. These lovely creatures mostly crawl like a snail along the bottom of tidepools leaving a sticky trail, but at times can briefly “dance” through the water when they really want to move. 

Get ready to dive into the deep blue sea and create art inspired by the “tiny dancers of the ocean,” the nudibranchs!

Materials you’ll need:

White paper

Paper plate

Water based markers

Crayons or oil pastels

Paintbrush or Q-tip



Cup and Water

Photos of Nudibranchs (see end of blog post or refer to video)


Fold and cut the paper plate in half. With a crayon, draw a half circle under the textured flute of the plate.  On one end of the plate, draw the horns, or rhinophores that the animal uses to taste and feel its prey. On the other end, draw the branchs that she uses to breathe oxygen. Along the outer curved edge of the plate (her back) draw in the cerata “Nudi” uses to sting her prey before she eats them. (You can draw a mouth, but “Nudi” doesn’t have eyes!)

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Color your Nudibranch with water based markers and crayon. Use a damp brush or q tip to create watercolor effects on your paper. You can use a paper towel to blot your brush or nudibranch if it gets too soaked with water!

Tip: Use yellow and black crayons instead of markers where you would want those colors. Yellow marker can get muddy easily, and Black marker muddies every  other color. Let the “Nudis” inspire your child’s choices of color. Pick three or four out they want, and limit the palette!

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While the “Nudis” dry, Create the tidepool where she will swim in with her friends! Use black, pinks and yellow crayon for the rocky, sandy tide pool bottom. Make sure it is hilly, as tidepools are not flat. Use crayons in “ocean colors” like greens, blues and purples, for the swirling tide pool water. Break and peel your choices to lay on their sides and create wave patterns of the water and uneven tide pool bottom.

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Now use your water based markers in ocean colors to create some additional waves. Try laying your marker on its side to create thick lines. The angle you have your marker to the paper changes the thickness of the line! Make hills of rock for the tide pool bottom with the back of crayons in greens, pinks and yellows (all the colors of stone underwater). You can also use a black or purple marker to make the rocky bottom of the tide pool pop out from the water around it.

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Just as you use your damp paintbrush or Q-tip to create a watercolor effect on your nudibranch, do the same for your tide pool! Glue one or more nudibranchs on your background for a collage effect!

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Nudibranch Fun Facts

Do you know where a Nudibranch’s lungs are?

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On its bottom! Those branch-like parts on this Nudibranch’s backside allow for this creature to access oxygen directly from sea water. “Nudi” doesn’t need a nose either!

If Nudi doesn’t need a nose.. how does it smell?

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The “Nudi” family of mollusks have “Rhinophores.” These are the little horns on the top of its head. They help Nudibranch to smell, taste and feel around the environment for prey.

How do these animals protect themselves and hunt

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Both of these Nudibranchs have “Cerata.” These are plumes that cover its back, called a “Mantle.” Sometimes they look like pipes or feathers. They help her digest food and sting predators when she is attacked! She gets the poison for her sting by eating poisonous animals like anemones, corals, or even other Nudibranchs!

Additional Nudibranch Images