Freshwater Ecosystems

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In this activity, learners create a freshwater ecosystem in a large plastic bottle. Learners cut and prepare bottles, then fill with water, aquatic plants, snails and fish. Learners observe their mini-ecosystem over time to see what changes--such as the color of the water, the water temperature, plant growth, and behavior and/or population of the snails or fish. The activity serves as a model for larger freshwater ecosystems such as ponds, lakes, rivers, streams, wetlands, reservoirs and groundwater.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Learning Time:
1 to 7 days

Estimated Materials Cost:
$10 - $20 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 8 - 18

Resource Types:
Activity, Model, Simulation


Materials List (per group of students)

  • dip net
  • dechlorinated or spring water
  • large aquarium containing guppies, snails, Elodea and Duckweed
  • small containers for offspring
  • hammer
  • nail
  • 2 colorless, rinsed 20-liter soda bottles
  • markers
  • scissors
  • masking tape
  • sand
  • 3 Elodea plants
  • scoop of duckweed
  • thermometers
  • 2 water snails
  • 16-oz clear cup
  • 2 guppies
  • fish food
  • magnifying lenses
  • student journals and writing tools


  • Earth and Space Science
    • Earth Structure
      • Oceans and Water
  • Life Sciences
    • Diversity of Life
      • Plants
      • Animals
    • Ecology
      • Ecosystems
      • Populations
      • Biodiversity
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Asking Questions
      • Conducting Investigations
      • Gathering Data
      • Formulating Explanations
      • Communicating Results


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • read
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves teamwork and communication skills
  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Components that are part of this resource:

Includes alignment to state and/or national standards:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


Source Collection

  • Science After School Consumer's Guide


  • All rights reserved, State of New Jersey, 2006

Funding Source:

  • No Child Left Behind Act of 2001