How To Make A DIY Biosphere

A biosphere is easy to make and it’s a great way to see just how fragile our environment is — if the balance of producers, consumers, and decomposers is off by even a little bit then your biosphere will collapse.

You’ll need:

  • 1 ghost shrimp
  • 1-2 small snails
  • 1 bushel of elodia
  • Green algae from a nearby body of water
  • 1 Mason Jar
  • Aquarium gravel

Here are the instructions from the video:

A biosphere is an environment containing living organisms that’s self sustaining and completely sealed, nothing can get in or out except sunlight. Technically the Earth is a biosphere because it supports all living beings on our planet with only the light from the sun, nothing ever has to come and give us fresh water or more air. We’re going to scale that down a bit and create a biosphere that will be home to some small aquatic animals.

I made laminated labels to put inside my biospheres.

First, you’ll need to visit the pet store and pick up a few things to live in your biosphere. To make one biosphere like mine, you’ll need a ghost shrimp, a couple of small snails or one big snail, and a bundle of elodia, a hardy aquatic plant. Your biosphere will need thousands more animals than you can get at the pet store, but you can get the rest of them by collecting some algae and a water sample from a nearby body of water. With a little help, I got mine from the Ohio River.

Get your shrimp’s new home ready by cleaning the mason jars and putting a small layer of gravel on the bottom.

Next, put a couple of strands of elodia and a chunk of green algae in the jar, these will provide oxygen and recycle the carbon dioxide made by the animals. Once your plants are in, add a little water to the jar.

Now that your jar is full of producers, we can add some consumers. I put my snails in first. The small snails are worthy of their title, but they’ll keep the jar clean by eating algae that grows on the glass. The snails are hermaphrodites and will multiply very quickly but the shrimp will keep them in check by eating many of their eggs. In one of my jars, I’m using a blue mystery snail, also known as an Apple snail. Apple snails are one of the biggest types of freshwater snails on earth. Once the snails are in, the shrimp go in too. Leave about two inches of air at the top of your jar and seal it shut for good.

These self contained ecosystems are fun to watch and can sometimes last for years. In a day or so you should see the algae start to bubble with oxygen for the animals to breathe. Russian scientists have discovered that 8 cubic meters of green algae can produce enough oxygen for one human, which means there is a chance the space ship that takes humans to Mars could work using the same principle as your biosphere. Pretty cool.

Music: Herbie’s Buddy by Buddy Collette & Herbie Mann [iTunes]

A Pages template to make labels for your own biosphere: Biosphere Labels