Rotifers can be found in many freshwater environments and in moist soil, where they inhabit the thin films of water that are formed around soil particles. The habitat of rotifers may include still water environments, such as lake bottoms, as well as flowing water environments, such as rivers or streams. Rotifers are also commonly found on mosses and lichens growing on tree trunks and rocks, in rain gutters and puddles, in soil or leaf litter, on mushrooms growing near dead trees, in tanks of sewage treatment plants.
The name “rotifer” is derived from the Latin word meaning “wheel-bearer”; this makes reference to the crown of cilia around the mouth of the rotifer. The rapid movement of the cilia in some species makes them appear to whirl like a wheel.