Water Quality and pH Levels in Aquatic Ecosystems

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In this fun and in depth hands-on experiment, learners test various liquid samples (distilled water, lemon juice, vinegar, and baking soda mixed with water) to determine their pH levels and identify each sample as either acid, base or neutral chemical. Then, over the course of several weeks, learners perform a number of tests and observe the affects of pH level on plants. The wrap up section of this activity discusses acid rain and its dramatic impact on aquatic animals, and tips for going further.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Learning Time:
1 to 4 weeks

Estimated Materials Cost:
$5 - $10 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 11 - 18

Resource Type:
Experiment/Lab Activity


Materials List (per group of students)

  • four 3-5 oz. clear plastic cups or 50 mL test tubes
  • distilled water (13.5 tbsp.)
  • lemon juice (3.5 tbsp.)
  • baking soda solution (1 tsp baking soda/3.5 tbsp. water)
  • vinegar
  • pH wide range tablets
  • pH color chart
  • 3 small plastic-coated plates or Petri dishes
  • 24 corn seeds, radish seeds or lima beans
  • vinegar solution (1 cup vinegar/1 cup water)
  • baking soda solution (1 cup baking soda/1 cup water)
  • 1-liter water sample (rainwater, tap water or local pond or lake water)
  • paper towel sheets
  • 1-gallon clear plastic storage bags
  • rule (cm)
  • permanent marker
  • student journals and writing tools


  • Earth and Space Science
    • Earth Structure
      • Oceans and Water
  • Life Sciences
    • Diversity of Life
      • Plants
      • Animals
    • Ecology
      • Ecosystems
      • Human Impact
    • Human Senses and Perception
      • Smell
  • Physical Sciences
    • Chemistry
      • Acids and Bases
      • Chemistry of Life
      • Solutions
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations
      • Gathering Data
      • Formulating Explanations
      • Communicating Results


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • see color
  • read
  • smell
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves teamwork and communication skills
  • Uses STEM to solve real-world problems
  • 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