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How to make an ecosystem in a bottle

Making an ecosystem in a bottle is a science experiment that allows you to study the delicate balance of nature and how an ecosystem thrives or fails. It shrinks the scope of nature down to a small area and makes it easier to observe. Bottle ecosystems are also called terrariums, and some can survive for many years. They include plants, dirt, and moisture -- the basic necessities for life to survive--inside the bottle.

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  1. Rinse out a large clear-plastic bottle and peel the label off. Cut off the top of the bottle right before the neck starts to taper towards the cap. Save the top and the cap to use on the completed ecosystem.

  2. Place 10 cm (4 inches) of potting soil in the bottom of the bottle. Lightly tap the bottom of the bottle so the soil settles, but do not pack it in.

  3. Plant seeds in the soil. Plant four to six bean seeds 2.5 cm (1 inch) deep, close to the sides of the bottle, or select another kind of seed and plant to the depth indicated on the seed packet. Beans are a hardy seed which will grow easily. Sprinkle two pinches of grass seed on top of the soil and lightly cover them with the dirt.

  4. Sprinkle water on to the soil until it is damp all the way to the bottom but not soaking wet.

  5. Screw the cap onto the cut-off top of the bottle. Place it upside down into the opening and seal the edges with clear tape.

  6. Place in a warm, partly sunny spot. The ecosystem will not require watering again.

  7. Tip

    Place a snail or a worm into your ecosystem to see how it affects plant survival.

    You can use a jar with a lid instead of a bottle.

    You can start with seedlings instead of seeds.

    Keep a daily log of what occurs in the ecosystem.

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Things You'll Need

  • 2 litre (70 fl oz) plastic bottle
  • Scissors
  • Potting soil
  • Seeds
  • Tape

About the Author

Jenny Harrington has been a freelance writer since 2006. Her published articles have appeared in various print and online publications. Previously, she owned her own business, selling handmade items online, wholesale and at crafts fairs. Harrington's specialties include small business information, crafting, decorating and gardening.

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