Introduction: Ocean in a Bottle

Picture of Ocean in a Bottle

An ocean in a bottle is fairly quick and simple to make. Since "quick & simple" is my middle name, this project was one of my favorites as a kid. Five minutes' work will yield an attractively hypnotic "ocean." It's also a fun use and a second chance for an old plastic bottle.

This is my first instructable--suggestions welcome. Onward--->

Step 1: Materials

Picture of Materials

What you'll need:

-->a plastic bottle {I'd recommend 1 liter or smaller for weight's sake}
-->food coloring
-->mineral oil (any oil will do, but this one is nice n' colorless; it can be procured at a drugstore for
a reasonable price)
-->water insoluble glue
-->a funnel {not pictured}

-->electrical or duct tape

Step 2: Adding the Water

Picture of Adding the Water

Once you have your materials, remove the label from the bottle. You may need scissors for this. Or not.

Next, fill the bottle about half way up with water and decide what color you want it to be. I was out of red and yellow, so I settled on a teal hue (two drops green, three blue). Add the food coloring and give the bottle a light swirl to mix.

Step 3: Oil Time

Picture of Oil Time

Here's where that funnel is going to come in handy.

Slowly fill the rest of the bottle with your oil. The funnel with prevent the oil from getting all over the outside of your bottle and rendering it hopelessly slippery (I know from experience). Come as close to the top as possible without spilling.

Step 4: Seal It!

Picture of Seal It!

Now to seal in the goodness.

Basically you're just going to screw on the cap as tight as you can. I put some glue on the threads of the bottle before closing as added insurance.

You can also wrap some electrical/duct tape around the cap as further protection against leaks if you feel so inclined.

Step 5: And Enjoy (plus Variations)

Picture of And Enjoy (plus Variations)

Ta-da! Rock, tilt, and shake the bottle to enjoy the fascinating, elegant wave patterns.


-->I used a fairly large plastic bottle for demonstration purposes, but a smaller and/or a glass bottle
would be fun to try this with.

-->You could color the oil instead of the water; I just don't remember how.

-->Maybe throw some glitter or something in there. Who would dare stop you?

Have a good time!


maximzodal (author)2017-02-13

You can also use turpentine in place of oil.

numenius (author)2009-02-06

My daughter is off school today (gas leak!) I think we'll make this today. What might stabilise the oil to prevent it becoming lots of little globules if shaken too hard? - or has anyone found what type of oil serves best?

sgsidekick (author)numenius2009-02-10

Excellent question, and one to which I wish I had the answer as well! I had one of the store bought variety on my desk one time and someone came up and shook it. As they were shaking it, they asked what happens if someone shakes it!!! Ijit! I told him he had to buy it from me then! It was never the same after that: the oil and water never completely separated, and the little bit of air mixed with the oil permanently as well. If you get an answer, let the rest of us know!!! Please!

sfung2 (author)sgsidekick2014-05-30

maybe you should leave the bottle there for a hour at least. i used veggie oil and it works for mine.

A.N4 (author)sfung22016-11-09

I recommend NOT using vegetable oil. It can spoil and turn rancid. We made an ant barrier for my mother's hummingbird feeder, and she filled it with olive oil the first time. Some few months later, ants invaded the feeder and investigation revealed that the oil went rancid, turning thick and gelationous... the ants could then walk right across it! After cleaning it up and refilling with mineral oil, it generally lasts at least a year before getting too full of miscellaneous debris and needing to be cleaned and refilled again, but the mineral oil remains liquid.

A.N4 (author)A.N42016-11-09

...of course, being sealed in a plastic bottle will keep air and microbes from getting to the vegetable oil and it might last a really long time if you're lucky. But unless you sterilize everything and work very carefully to keep it that way, there's no way to be sure.

Sandisk1duo (author)2009-01-09

use multiple types/layers of oil

byaaface (author)Sandisk1duo2009-02-16

I dunno if u could use more than 2 types since water oil don't mix due to density AND polarity... there's only polar (e.g. water) and non-polar (e.g. oil) the two that were both (non)polar they might just mix once u shook it up (even if they had different densities)... but like i said i dunno... :P

Sandisk1duo (author)byaaface2009-02-16

i've seen multiple layers of oil/other substances stacked...

For multiple layers you need:

#1: hydrophobic liquid that's less dense than water

#2: water

#3: hydrophobic liquid that's denser than water. This is the tricky one. I've seen tetrachloroethylene recommended for this purpose on DIY lava lamp websites, but it's also bad for you, so you would need to do this whole thing in a glass container AND make sure the container never breaks.

fire_weasel (author)Sandisk1duo2009-01-10

Good idea! I may have to try that...

Sandisk1duo (author)fire_weasel2009-01-10

only i don't really know what oils you could use...

or you cold use other liquid of different density, such as corn syrup, water, oil, vinegar, ect...

that too

atomiuk (author)2014-07-15

this guy stole this off a guy on youtube

phans (author)atomiuk2014-07-20

call the internet police. they will arrest him.

Cambenora (author)phans2015-05-19

Poor guy's gonna spend the next twelve years in Guantanamo Bay... ;-)

JuliaW4 (author)2015-04-05

I bought plastic fish/dolphins/sharks and put them in the bottle to swim around - it looks v cool!

Bban (author)2015-03-01

Nice build. Captain Morgan bottles work great because of the etched ship. I'm gonna try to make one of these with the ship inside. I challenge someone to make an instructable for that.

jhernández113 made it! (author)2015-01-12

It was just what I had in mind for my boyfriends month celebration gift, just I didn't know how to do it, great DIY Thanks for the help!

Beezeecade (author)2014-07-15

Ah, just came across this. I'll need to get some mineral oil and a decent sized bottle then, and some food coloring!!! Thanks for sharing! :)

rburns6 (author)Beezeecade2014-08-20

so basically you will have to get everything needed...

Beezeecade (author)rburns62014-08-31

Yes, lol. Still haven't gotten them yet. School's starting and I'm getting busy. XD

Minmin4225 (author)2014-08-02

You can also put on little toy dolphins and such to make it more interesting for the little ones!

kfredricks (author)2014-07-15

Thanks for sharing this. I am inspired! Great craft to make and sell.

mpabon (author)2014-07-14

Woah <3

Sausageonthegrill (author)2011-08-28


Air_Assassin (author)2011-01-08

Awesome and lolz at batman not requrired

space2046 (author)2010-12-25

I think you could color the oil by melting some crayon

deofthedead (author)2010-04-20

Ahh, I remember doing these with my mom back in grade school. It was so fun! I still have one of them. We put a bunch of little beads in it so they'd float, and I loved playing with it. Now, grown-up me wants to use the concept for something similar but entirely different... Filling little craft store apothecary bottles to wear with a ren-faire outfit as potions on my hip... *grins*

Running across this just makes me want to do it even more!

gflaco (author)2010-03-03

cool, I'll make one!
thanks! :-D

Deimos1 (author)2009-06-01

Cool idea. At first I was like "Uhh.. Oil doesn't Mix with water" But now I see what you were doing. Good job!

Robo329 (author)2009-05-17

How do you keep the color from leeching into the oil? Every time I make one of these, the color from the water messes with the color of the oil after several shakes. Is there a way to prevent this?

awsomerthanu (author)2009-04-14

can u use ink?

LemonLily (author)awsomerthanu2009-05-03

Anything is fine, I think. Just for colour.

GEEK1 (author)2009-05-02

You should make a miniature boat out of something that floats in water but sinks in the oil and put a weight on the bottom of the boat so it will be right side up.

estefistefis (author)2009-04-17

hey thanks! its useful

sdtacoma (author)2009-02-16

Thanks for the fun INS.

fire_weasel (author)sdtacoma2009-03-09

Looks good! Well done!

stoopynoonoo (author)2009-01-10

this is cool! you should have used the "water bottle funnel" ahahahahaha wait...that wouldn't work....xD

byaaface (author)stoopynoonoo2009-02-16

actually, if the densities were different enough it could...In SLO-MO!!! That would be AWESOME. But if u mean the construction wouldn't work then idk- if it was water and something u could do it underwater like in a bathtub...Actually come to think of it, i think I'm thinking of when u tape 2 bottles together and make whirly pools...dang it.

SarahMichelle (author)2009-01-31

Gift Idea!!!! TY TY TY!!!! :D

matador29b (author)2009-01-23

That's nice, but I had the experience that when you move the bottle a little too enthusiastically, you make thousands of tiny bubbles out of the oil, and that does not look cool, and it does not happen in my soap dispenser, how do you avoid that from happening (besides not moving the bottle at all)?

CrashMGD (author)2009-01-23


BethRay (author)2009-01-19

Ocean is a bottle is awesome!!! But, you can take it one step further and omit some of the mess if you use these coloring tablets I found in place of the food coloring.
Simply use a smaller water bottle, clear water and oil and add a few of these tablets. They color the water and fizz when they dissolve so that you get this kind of lava lamp effect and then when the fizzing stops it is your same ocean in a bottle! I used this experiment with my Kindergarten class and the tablets didn't stain the kids hands like food coloring does. They LOVED it!!!

cynvision (author)2009-01-13

The store-bought ocean things which are soap dispensers and water glasses have tiny toys in them. That's another thing to explore adding to the project.

=SMART= (author)2009-01-11

Awesome ! this would be a great present for kids !

Wesley666 (author)2009-01-10

These are fun especially if you can get boats or ducks or something that fits in the bottle, floats on water, but doesn't float on oil. Good Job and nice instructable

fire_weasel (author)Wesley6662009-01-10


Chicken2209 (author)2009-01-10

do you really need to glue the cap on for a seal, they're designed to be air tight

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