I have kept my ecosphere jar alive for almost half a year so I thought it was time to share how I created one! We did this with our unschooling group and it is so much fun!
What you will need:
- a jar and lid (we used one that is half a litre and one that is one litre)
- a natural pond
- bucket and shovel
- small net
- magnifier (optional)
- print out (below)
The how is pretty simple:
- Shovel some sediment and soil into the bottom of your jar.
- Add water from the pond. It will be very murky – this will settle over a couple of days.
- Add a few plants like hornwort, duckweed, water grass. Algae will typically naturally grow and establish itself from soil and rocks added.
- Find a couple of freshwater snails or small crustaceans to add. Hint: look under leaves in the water.
Note: Fish, larger animals and insects will not survive in a closed ecosystem like this. The reason for this is they have too high of a bio-load. Basically, their waste creates too much bi-products that the ecosystem cannot process.
- Seal it up and watch life unfold! Our jars have sea monkeys and the snails reproduced!
So what is a ecosphere?
Also called a biosphere, a self-sustaining ecosphere is a miniature ecosystem that does not need external resources.
Basically all your ecosphere needs from outside the jar is a little sunlight. Indirect light near a window is best in my experience.
How does it work?
The plants and algae produce oxygen as a product of photosynthesis. The snails and other living animals breathe in the oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide and their waste contains nitrogen – both of which the plants need. The snails also eat algae and keep the ecosphere clean.
Bacteria and other microorganisms eat the snail waste, decaying plants and help the plants too with carbon dioxide & inorganic nutrients that they produce as waste. The water continues to cycle inside the closed system through condensation.
The mini ecosystem goes through a settling period – also known as ecological succession. This is a phenomena where essentially the ecosphere balances itself. For example the plants will grow less with less carbon dioxide. The ecosystem will reach an equilibrium when the bio-load equals the same input and output.
If you create one, please tag me on instagram! I’d love to see your ecospheres!