How to Make a Closed Aquatic Ecosystem

90,950

314

23

Intro: How to Make a Closed Aquatic Ecosystem

Do you want to create a self-sustaining aquatic ecosystem that will teach future generations about marine life and the environment around us?

Join us in creating an aquatic ecosystem in a half a gallon jar with a glass lid home for 3 Japanese Algae Shrimps with 2 Anacharis. This is an excellent project for school-aged children.

A closed ecological system will stay alive on its own without any outside input. The shrimp eat algae, and the algae and aquatic plants use the shrimps’ waste as food. Starting off with pond water is a great way to ensure that there will be ample algae and other beneficial microscopic organisms. Though it is not required for this project, the ecosystem will do better with a ventilation hole. This allows gas exchange with the outside environment. With proper ventilation, your ecosystem could live for a decade or longer!

Step 1: Gather Your Materials

  • Sealable Glass Jar with a rust-proof lid
  • Aquarium Gravel or Sand
  • Fresh Pond Water (or Algae pads if pond water is unavailable)
  • Leafy Plants for breeding and shelter. Some varieties popular with shrimp, found in local pet stores, include: Anacharis, Java Moss, Java Fern, Dwarf Anubias
  • Shrimp and/or snails. Ghost Shrimp, Cherry Shrimp, and Japanese Algae-eater make good choices.
  • Small aquarium net
  • Optional: moss ball, helps with breeding, provide additional shelter and trap phosphate in addition and/or substitute aquatic plants.
  • Power Drill
  • Glass drill bit
  • Eye protection

Note: If you don’t have access to pond water, use tap water instead and prepare the jar at least a day in advance to allow the water treatment to be completed. Shrimp need the algae from either the pond water or algae pads for nutrition before the plants produce their own.

Step 2: Drill Hole in Lid of Jar for Proper Aeration

CAUTION: Drilling through glass can be dangerous. Only an adult should use the drill. Use a glass drill bit and proper eye protection.

Step 3: Wash Jar

Step 4: Put 1 to 2 Inches of Gravel in the Bottom of the Jar, Enough to Anchor Your Plants.

Step 5: Collect Fresh Pond Water

Step 6: Fill Jar Halfway With Pond Water

NOTE: If you do not have pond water, use filtered or tap water and 1 or 2 algae pads depending on size of jar. Let sit uncovered for 24 hours to allow chlorine to evaporate.

Step 7: Float Bag With Shrimp And/or Snails in Jar for 15 to 30 Minutes.

This allows the temperature in the bag to equalize with water temperature in the jar, minimizing stress on the shrimp with a sudden change in temperature.

Step 8: Anchor Plants in Gravel

Step 9: Using the Net, Scoop the Shrimp Out of the Bag and Transfer Them to the Jar.

Step 10: Fill to About a Half-inch From the Top With Pond Water.

Do not leave too much airspace or you could get white deposits on the inside of the jar.

Step 11: Enjoy Your Ecosystem!

Keep indoors in indirect sunlight at room temperature and your ecosystem should last for several years.

NOTE: Keep out of direct sunlight to avoid algae overgrowth. You do not need to feed the shrimp since they eat the algae. It is unlikely that you will need to add water if you keep your aquatic indoors away from direct sunlight.

If you find algae overgrowth, try adding another shrimp or a few snails. In time, the ecosystem will come into a balanced state where the wastes of one organism are used as food by another organism. This is an excellent way to show children how our larger ecosystem recycles nutrients, with plants converting the carbon dioxide that we exhale into oxygen, and bacteria turning our wastes into soil nutrients for future generations of plants. Humans and animals, in turn, inhale oxygen and eat plants, taking those nutrients back into our tissues. It is quite beautiful how so much life can thrive by using the same molecules over and over again.

Share

Recommendations

  • Halloween Contest 2018

    Halloween Contest 2018
  • Side Dishes Challenge

    Side Dishes Challenge
  • Audio Contest 2018

    Audio Contest 2018

23 Discussions

0
None
isabellavillarroel

Question 5 months ago on Step 2

Hi. I saw your mesocosm and I wanted to know what it the size of the drill we need to use?

0
None
RebeccaL128

Tip 8 months ago on Step 3

use white vinegar instead of soap. soap leaves a residue, vinegar rinses clean

So excited to try this project!! Thanks for the tip on allowing water to evaporate the chlorine for 24 hrs. That will be super important in ANY fish/aquarium project we take on! Very cute! Also, love that it won't need much maintenance as a regular aquarium!!

1 reply
0
None
Rcl101brian.gilbert.7161

Reply 9 months ago

Actually, tap water does NOT get rid of harsh metals or other chemicals from the water, you should purify and or filter the water before adding it to your ecosystem or you can use bottled water. (make sure it doesn't contain added minerals. There are some types of water bottles that say that they have "added minerals for enhanced flavor" or something. Don't use that water because these extra minerals might not be all that great for the shrimp. Also, make sure you put the shrimp into water that suits them. Some fish will die in pond water because some shrimp live in salty sea water. If your shrimp live in salty sea water, then go to the beach and get some or buy it at a pet store.) Also, according to CaitlinW1 there is "a miniature filter for under $3 in the featured section here on instructables that would be perfect for this ecosystem". You can use that too.

0
None
mgoodman8

2 years ago

I built this and followed the directions exactly. I got a 3 quart jar (similar in shape to the one you used) I drilled a hole in the top, I got 4 ghost shrimp and I put in a small Anubis plant. I added a moss ball and I put water conditioner in the jar and let it sit for a day. For some reason my shrimp died about a day after I put them in. Does anyone know what could've caused this?

2 replies
0
None
Rcl101mgoodman8

Reply 9 months ago

Here are some probabilities: 1: Your container was too

small. 2: Your water did not have enough air. (Shrimps need air to breathe like
fish and humans so you should take a straw and blow bubbles into the water to
oxygenize it before adding the shrimp. You can also take a syringe, fill it
with air, and release the air into the water. You can Google other ways to oxygenize
tank water.) 3: Not enough algae 4: You added too many shrimp 5: Not enough
"decor" (Plants, rocks, hiding places) 6: Too much "decor"
(Not enough space to swim. Overcrowded tank. Too many plants and rocks.) 7:
Water poisoning (Too much chlorine. There might be other harmful ingredients in
the water even if it's not tap water. Sometimes pond water can be dirty or
polluted and you might not even notice it.) 8: Not enough sunlight or too much
of it. (Shrimp need sunlight but not too much of it. Also, too much sunlight
can result in too much algae which can crowd up the living space of the
shrimp.) 9: The shrimp were not healthy. If you need help setting up a tank for
shrimp, you can always Google vids on how to maintain water ecosystems or
shrimp. Sea monkeys are a time of laboratory-grown shrimp and videos on how to
maintain them are helpful too. Whenever taking care of any animal, no matter
how small, you should always make sure to gather information from many sites,
articles, and videos. It is best not rely on one article/video alone because
people can miss important details that can result in something ending wrong.

0
None
HatM1mgoodman8

Reply 2 years ago

You have to be sure the water is wither pond water, or the original fish tank water which you can top off with bottled water. If youre using saltwater creatures, you need a saltwater source like the ocean. Be sure not to stress out the shrimp. Meaning keep them covered in the dark to sleep for a while before transfer. Make sure the water is the same temperature or close. Otherwise, keep in a sunny place. Also dont wash your container w soap. If you did, boil the soap off of it anf try again.

0
None
RosalynC2

2 years ago

It looks amazing and easy to do. Can't wait to give it a try. Can I use water from a creek?

1 reply
0
None
Rcl101RosalynC2

Reply 9 months ago

Yep. As long as your shrimp, plants, and snails are freshwater organisms they should be ok.

0
None
Rcl101marvic2409

Reply 9 months ago

Also, since tap water does NOT get rid of harsh metals or other chemicals from the water, you should purify and or filter the water before adding it to your ecosystem or you can use bottled water. (make sure it doesn't contain added minerals. There are some types of water bottles that say that they have "added minerals for enhanced flavor" or something. Don't use that water because these extra minerals might not be all that great for the shrimp. Also, make sure you put the shrimp into water that suits them. Some fish will die in pond water because some shrimp live in salty sea water. If your shrimp live in salty sea water, then go to the beach and get some or buy it at a pet store.)

0
None
Rcl101marvic2409

Reply 9 months ago

. Here are some probabilities: 1: Your container was too
small. 2: Your water did not have enough air. (Shrimps need air to breathe like
fish and humans so you should take a straw and blow bubbles into the water to
oxygenize it before adding the shrimp. You can also take a syringe, fill it
with air, and release the air into the water. You can Google other ways to oxygenize
tank water.) 3: Not enough algae 4: You added too many shrimp 5: Not enough
"decor" (Plants, rocks, hiding places) 6: Too much "decor"
(Not enough space to swim. Overcrowded tank. Too many plants and rocks.) 7:
Water poisoning (Too much chlorine. There might be other harmful ingredients in
the water even if it's not tap water. Sometimes pond water can be dirty or
polluted and you might not even notice it.) 8: Not enough sunlight or too much
of it. (Shrimp need sunlight but not too much of it. Also, too much sunlight
can result in too much algae which can crowd up the living space of the
shrimp.) 9: The shrimp were not healthy. If you need help setting up a tank for
shrimp, you can always Google vids on how to maintain water ecosystems or
shrimp. Sea monkeys are a time of laboratory-grown shrimp and videos on how to
maintain them are helpful too. Whenever taking care of any animal, no matter
how small, you should always make sure to gather information from many sites,
articles, and videos. It is best not rely on one article/video alone because
people can miss important details that can result in something ending wrong.

0
None
chrysmcvay

1 year ago

Does the container have to be glass?

0
None
CarmelH4

1 year ago

Hello! I know this is a bit late, but do you know what would happen if you didn't make an air hole?? Thanks :)

0
None
marvic2409

2 years ago

My shrimp died one day after i put them in i followed all the instructions

0
None
CaitlinW1

3 years ago on Introduction

This looks like an amazing project unfortunately leaving tap water out for 24hrs doesn't get rid of harsh metals and other chemicals in the tap water, I would suggest getting a water conditioner and filter from a pet store (I remember seeing a miniature filter for under $3 in the featured section here on instructables that would be perfect for this ecosystem)

2 replies
0
None
HatM1CaitlinW1

Reply 2 years ago

The idea of an ecosystem is not to need a filter. Start with balanced chemic free water or pond water, and get small snails or shrimp to eat the muck. The concept of the experiment is to sustain an ecosystem without the use of outside sources. Which means it produces its own oxygen, filtration, etc in a totally sealed environment.

0
None
OrginalCanadianHatM1

Reply 2 years ago

However filtering the tap water of metals added artificially (intentionally or unintentionally) is no different than just using pond water.

He is not saying filter natural water but filter artificial water.

0
None
amberrayh

3 years ago on Introduction

This looks like a really fun project. Thanks for sharing! Do you do any testing of the pond water before you use it?