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Ecosystem in a Bottle

Making an ecosystem in a bottle is fun way

to learn about how plants and animals interact with
their surrounding environment. You can monitor
your ecosystem and record any changes that you
notice on a daily basis. To create your own bottle
ecosystem, you can try making a simple plant-based
ecosystem, a more complex plant and water
ecosystem, or an aquatic bottle ecosystem.
How to build an ecosystem in a bottle video
Creating a Complex Plant Ecosystem

1 . Cut one 2 quart (2 liter) bottle just above the

- Ask your teacher to help you cut the bottle.
Use a utility knife and cut a 2 quart (2 liter)
clear plastic bottle, just about an inch (2.5
cm) above the base.
- The plastic near the bottom is usually quite
thick and as a result, you may not be able to
cut it with scissors.
- You can discard the small base of the bottle
because it will not be needed.
- Place the top of the bottle with the cap to the
side, for later use.
2. Cut a second 2 quart (2 liter) bottle just below the top.
- Make sure you have adult supervision.
- Take a second 2 quart bottle and cut all the way around the bottle just below the neck.
- You can use scissors or a utility knife to cut the bottle.#*Keep both pieces from this
- The base of this bottle will form the base of your ecosystem and the top will be used to
as a cap to seal the ecosystem shut.
3. Drill a hole in the lid from the first bottle.
- Ask an adult to help with drilling the hole into the cap.
- Remove the lid from the first bottle that you cut.
- Place the lid on a cutting board and then use a pair of pliers or a small handheld vice to
hold the cap in place.
- Carefully drill a small hole through the center of the bottle
- Make sure to wear safety glasses when using the drill.
4. Place a string or wick through the hole.
- Next, push a thick cotton string or long wick through the hole.
- Wicks can be purchased from your local craft supply store.
Ecosystem in a Bottle
- The wick or string should be about 3-4 inches (7-10 cm) #*Screw the lid back onto the
- Set this piece aside for later use.
5. Pour water into the base bottle.
- Now you will need the base portion of bottle.
- Fill the bottom of the bottle with water.
- You may need to experiment a little to find the exact measurement of water.
- If you have too much water the cap will be submerged and if you don't have enough
water the wick will not be able to reach the water
6. Turn the other bottle upside down and place it inside the base bottle.
- Make sure the string is submerged in the water, but the cap should not be touching the
- This string will collect water and help keep the soil above moist. This is how your seeds
will get water once they have been planted.
7. #Add soil to the bottle.
- Now, pour 3-4 inches (8-10 cm) of topsoil into the bottle.
- Make sure that the string or wick is buried in the soil.
8. Plant a few seeds.
- You can plant a variety of different seeds in your ecosystem.
- For instance, you could try green beans, basil, mint, oregano, peppers etc. Read the
instructions provided on the seed packet to know exactly how deep to plant the seeds.
Most will only be about an inch (2.5 cm) deep.
9. Space the seeds out and record where you put each type of plant. This way you can monitor
their growth.
10. Water the seeds.
- Once you have finished planting your seeds, you should water them in order to help
them grow.
- They will receive water from the base of the ecosystem, but it is a good idea to give them
a bit of water at the start.
11. Seal the ecosystem by taping the additional top onto the bottle.
- Take the remaining bottle top and place it on top of your ecosystem.
- Tape around the edge to seal it in place.
- You should also make sure that the lid is sealed on tightly
12. Place the ecosystem in the sun.
- Now that you have sealed your ecosystem, you should place it in a sunny spot.
- Record any changes that take place on a daily basis

Making an Aquatic Ecosystem

1. Fill the bottle ¾ of the way with water.
- Use a 2 quart (2 liter) plastic bottle and fill it ¾ of the way with water.
- You can either use water from a local pond or stream, or from the tap.
- Pond or stream water is preferable because you will also get small microorganisms that
may be present in the water.
Ecosystem in a Bottle
2. If you have to use tap water, make sure that you let it sit in an open container for at least 24
hours before using in your ecosystem.
- The chlorine present in tap water may kill any animal or plant species that you add to
your ecosystem.
- Letting the water sit for 24 hours gives the chlorine time to dissipate from the water.
3. Add pebbles.
4. Next, add 1-2 inches (2.5-5 cm) of tiny rocks or pebbles.
- You should always wash any rocks prior to adding them to your ecosystem.
- This will help remove any contaminants.
- Add aquarium soil on top of pebbles
5. At this stage you could also add one dead leaf.
- This will provide a food source for any microorganisms in the water.
6. Insert aquatic plants.
- You can buy aquatic plants from your local pet supply store.
- When you add the plants to your ecosystem, make sure to separate them and add them
- Alternatively, you could pick water plants from a local pond.
7. Place snails in the bottle.
- You can also purchase small freshwater snails at your local pet supply store.
Alternatively, you may be able to find water snails from a local pond.
- Make sure the snails are small enough to fit through the opening of the bottle.
8. Wait 24 hours before putting the lid onto the ecosystem.
- Once you have placed everything into your ecosystem, you should wait approximately
24 hours before sealing it closed.
- This will allow your ecosystem to settle.
- After 24 hours you can screw the cap onto the top of the bottle.
9. Place the ecosystem in a sunny spot.
- Situate your aquatic ecosystem in a sunny spot.
- The bottle should receive indirect sunlight throughout the day.
- Record any changes that take place on a daily basis