1. Freshwater ecosystems have a higher percentage of threatened and extinct species than terrestrial or marine realms, but remain under-represented in conservation research and actions arguably as a consequence of less popularity and promotion. 2. Cover images of conservation journals were used as a proxy of exposure and potential promotion opportunities provided for different ecosystems and species. To examine whether articles related to cover images received more attention, citations and Altmetric scores of cover-featured articles were compared with non-featured ones within the same host journal issue. 3. Freshwater ecosystems (10.4%) were featured less often than marine (15.2%) or terrestrial (74.4%) ecosystems on covers of 18 conservation journals from 1997 to 2016. All 15 most featured species are from terrestrial or marine ecosystems. 4. In addition, cover-featured studies showed higher citations and Altmetric scores than non-featured ones within the same host journal issue, indicating that cover-featured articles received more attention. Further investigations are needed to examine the relationship (i.e. whether there is a true causality) between being featured on the cover, and citations and Altmetric scores received by articles, as well as potentially resulting in greater conservation efforts. Nevertheless, we believe that providing exposure opportunities is likely to better inform the public about the continuing degradation of freshwater ecosystems and its impacts on human well-being, including economic loss and danger to public health. Journal editors can contribute by balancing their selection of featured ecosystems and species when opportunities arise. 5. Increasing exposure opportunities for freshwater ecosystems through various channels seems a promising approach to raise public awareness and appreciation of freshwater biodiversity. Scientists can play an active role and form an alliance with journal editors, conservation organizations, and media, to increase momentum in society for fresh waters to be experienced as essential ecosystems and prevent further degradation of freshwater habitats and biodiversity loss.