How to Build an Ecosystem
Ecosystems form naturally in the outside world as a collection of plants, animals and other organisms that all interact with each other in some way. Though ecosystems are all around us, many people like to experiment and create their own – whether it’s just for a science project or personal pleasure, people experiment with building their own ecosystems all the time.
Ecosystems come in all shapes and sizes – they can be massive or they can be tiny – it all depends on the life and different interactions going on inside them. In general, there are two types of ecosystems – those in water and those on land. In the tips and suggestions below, we’ll look at how to build an ecosystem on dry land. An ecosystem built on dry land is known as a “vivarium”.
You’ll need a few basic supplies to get started with your dry land ecosystem, many of which you may have lying around or could pluck from your yard. Here’s the list:
- Small fish tank (a large jar works if you don’t have a tank)
- Rocks of varying sizes
- Non-flowering plants
In addition to the items on the list above, you’re going to want to add some insects and bugs into the mix. The type of insect really depends on what you’re able to get your hands on – pill bugs, ants and spiders are all good choices.
Laying the Foundation
Your first step in building the dry ecosystem is to add the smaller pieces of gravel to the bottom of the tank or jar. The gravel will provide drainage options for the fluids and moisture that collect in your ecosystem, ultimately helping to prevent disease and the formation of a toxic climate full of mold and other toxins.
Next, add in a layer of garden soil between a half and 1 inch high. Make sure that the soil is dry and spread it evenly along the bottom of the tank or jar. Add the rest of your larger rocks on top of the soil.
Add plants that are non-flowering into the soil within your ecosystem. Make sure the species of plants don’t grow too large, otherwise they’ll take over the tank or jar and not leave room for anything else. Eventually, you’ll want to place the ecosystem where it is getting some sun for the plants, but not placed directly in the sunlight.
Now it’s time to add some more life to your budding ecosystem. Collect worms, ants, spiders, pill bugs and whatever other insects you can catch in your yard and add them into your ecosystem. All these bugs serve a purpose to balance the ecosystem and will help to promote and sustain life inside.
Keep an Ecosystem Journal
You should ultimately measure the success of your ecosystem based on whether or not it’s able to sustain life for an extended period of time. If all your plants and bugs die within a week or two, clearly something went wrong inside your ecosystem that wouldn’t have happened outside in nature.
To best keep track of the different variables, you should keep a journal. Record the daily temperature at the same time each day and take note of any bugs or plants that have died. You may find that one variable or two are causing the whole ecosystem to become imbalanced.