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You can also build your own ecosphere quite easily. Before I go into how to build one, I must explain a few things so you can better understand your ecosphere and know how to build one.

First, there are five parts to the kind of ecosphere you will be building. These same five parts, or spheres, can be found on earth also. The earth contains two other spheres, but that's a bit off track....

  • Lithosphere: This is the 'earthy' part of the ecosphere and contains things like minerals and nutrients. Think soil.
  • Hydrosphere: This is a fancy name for the water part. Approximately two-thirds of the earth is covered in water, this is also a good amount for your ecosphere.
  • Atmosphere: This the air in the ecosphere, things like oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, etc.
  • Pyrrosphere: This is the fire of the ecosphere. This part gets a bit weird. On earth (and in our soon to be built ecosphere) the fire is from the sun. The sun provides light and heat, which in turn produces currents in both our atmosphere and hydropshere.
  • Biosphere: This is the life part of the ecosphere, plants and animals and such.

Ok, if you are still a bit shakey on any of that biology, go read some other nodes or /msg me. Assuming you are ok, we will move on to a semi-complete materials list.

  • A gallon glass jar. I suppose other sizes could be used, there is nothing really set in stone here. I used a pickle jar, the economy size kind. The glass must be clear, with no labels attached, and it must have a metal lid.
  • Plants and animals: I got my plants from a small creek by my house, the variety depends on what you want and what you think will work well. Animals vary, I have seen snails, tadpoles, and guppies all do well. Remember this is not a big jar, so nothing too big.
  • Soil: Once again, mine came from the creek. You could use stuff form your yard, whatever. The key with this, as with everything is what you think will work well. You want about a quarter of the jar soil, but that is not real exact, I have seen more and less do equally well. As a starting point I used about 700 g of soil or so.
  • Wax and something to heat the wax with. The wax is used to seal the jar. I suppose this step is optional, but for a true ecosphere it should be sealed. Plus it cuts down on the temptations to open it up.
  • Other tools and such: A notebook is a good idea to keep track of amounts and to make observations in. Weigh or measure everything you put in it. It doesn't really matter how, but if you decide to build another because your first one died you'll want to know exact amounts. Things like buckets and shovels are great for collecting plants, soil, and water.


If you don't access to a small creek, river, lake, whatever, try the pet store. You can buy snail, guppies, and various plants for relatively cheap.

Tap water or creek water is up to you. I have even seen half and half used.

Do not trespass or break state/federal laws while collecting things. I and the manangement here is not responsible for any laws you break, so don't be stupid.


Remember the idea here is that it will be a self-sustaining ecosphere i.e. you can't add more plants if the fish look hungry, so plan accordingly. All five of the spheres must be present for it to live. Try and get a good balance of everything. I have already given a few things to go off of, but mostly use some common sense. Measure things before you put them in the ecosphere. I know we aren't in school, but it does help later on. Basicly the making is just a gut-feeling kind of thing.

For those that want a true ecosphere, now is the time to seal it. Heat some wax and poor a little around the inside edge of the lid and tighten the lid on. Then take some more wax and mold it around where the lid and the jar meet. You may want to put a date on the top of the jar as to when you sealed it. You may be able to impress friends later with how long it has lived.

Next you have to pick a good location for it. You need light, but whether you want real or artificial, or how much is up to you. Too much and the plants will over take things, too little and the animals will have no plants to eat. You may find out you want to move it to more or less light, again a gut-instinct kind of thing.

Remember that notebook I told you to get? Well now is the time for it. Write down what is in your ecosphere, how much, and where you got it from. Trust me, you won't remember later. Weekly or bi-weekly write down what the ecosphere looks like and what you think is causing the changes. If you move the ecosphere to different light, mention this.

Watch and enjoy! Try not to open it. The temptation is there, but try to just watch. Opening it adds different amounts of gases to the air, making it not a true ecosphere. Feel free to name your animals and other things like that.

More notes-

Your ecosphere will die. Sorry, but it will. I have seen ecosphere live anywhere from two years to two days. It just depends. When it dies, try and figure out why and make changes accordingly if you decide to build a new one. When you open the ecosphere up, notice the smell and look at the plants and animals, and see what you can figure out.

All of my information came from my personal experiences in my advanced biology class and class discusssions. I have built four ecospheres, with varing degrees of success. Good notes make it much easier to build a more successful ecosphere the next time. If you have any questions, think I need to add something, or just want to tell me how you ecosphere is doing please feel free to /msg me. Good luck!

"If the EcoSphere® represents our planet on a small scale, the shrimp might represent the human race. Thus, EcoSphere can show that the human race is in constant jeopardy of extinction. We can learn, through the EcoSphere, the importance of maintaining the delicate balance with our environment."

The EcoSphere resulted from technology developed by scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory while researching self-contained communities for astronauts to live in during long-term space flights. Today, EcoSpheres are sold by EcoSphere Associates, Inc, a family-owned and operated business located in Tucson, Arizona (I've seen them in shops, but they don't look very healthy there so I think it's better to get them directly from the source). If you ask them nicely and give them lots of money, they'll make you a custom microcosm up to 39 inches in diameter.

Someone gave me one of these for Christmas. I keep it in my office. It's oddly soothing to watch the shrimp go about their business, which seems to consist mostly of eating things I can't see. This particular species of shrimp was apparently chosen for its lack of aggression. They don't seem to interact much with each other, although clearly they've been doing things while I haven't been looking. Lots of young shrimp, each about a millimeter long, have appeared over the last week or so. They now outnumber the adults by at least three to one.

The average life expectancy of an EcoSphere is two to three years, but the life expectancy of the shrimp used in the spheres is five years. The oldest EcoSpheres with living shrimp still in them are over ten years old. Some systems without shrimp are still alive after 18 years.


While they're alive, the shrimp feed on the algae, bacteria, and diatoms that grow in the water. The gravel and gorgonia provide surface area for the microorganisms to live on. The microorganisms feed on shrimp excrement and on the shrimp themselves, when the shrimp inevitably die.

EcoSphere Care:

  • An EcoSphere needs light, but not in excessive amounts. Six to twelve hours per day, with an intensity suitable for reading from low indirect window light, should suffice. Too much light will cause rapid algae growth, which will raise the pH of the water and kill the shrimp.
  • Keep your EcoSphere at temperatures between 60 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. The shrimp, like you, don't enjoy being too cold or too warm.
  • Don't keep it near a window.
  • Do not handle the EcoSphere excessively or keep it near anything (such as a television or a stereo or a light fixture) that will generate heat.
  • Do not shake it, drop it, or otherwise treat it roughly.
  • If there's too much algae (a green EcoSphere is not necessarily a healthy EcoSphere), keep it someplace darker for a while. Don't let it go without light for more than about 60 hours, though.

Things you might see:

  • Film or spots on the inside of the glass: this is made by diatoms, and is no cause for alarm.
  • Condensation on the inside of the glass: an EcoSphere is like a little greenhouse. The condensation means it's warmer inside the sphere than outside.
  • Exoskeletons: the shrimp periodically shed their skins.
  • A gradual shift in the algae population. Older EcoSpheres tend to have more blue-green algae, as the green algae eventually uses up certain nutrients that it needs to thrive.
  • Baby shrimp! This is apparently rare, but it does happen. I have proof in my office. Watch this space for the dismaying conclusion to this epic tale of ecological doom!


  • March 10, 2003: One of the adults is belly-up on the gravel this morning. I am curious to see how long it will take to be recycled.
  • March 12, 2003: Two more dead adults this morning. There's only one adult left. There are still plenty of live babies.
  • March 14, 2003: The last of the adults is dead. Some of the babies may be dead too. It's hard to tell if those little floating scraps are exoskeletons or corpses.
  • March 18, 2003: All the shrimp are dead. They went a lot faster than I thought they would. The water is all cloudy. Yuck.

For more information: www.eco-sphere.com

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