Ecosphere Self-Contained Saltwater Ecosystem

The EcoSphere Self-Contained Saltwater Ecosystem is a complete, self-contained and self-sustaining miniature world!

Ecosphere in HandThe Original EcoSphere is the most advanced sealed saltwater microcosmic world, harboring shrimp, algae and bacteria in a balanced, symbiotic environment. Requiring no feeding, The Original EcoSphere is easy to care for, and serves as an incredible learning tool that can provide powerful insights about life on our own planet... and provide a glimpse of the life sustaining technology that may shape the way we design and restore ecosystems. But, an Ecosphere is much more than a scientific breakthrough. It is a work of art, a living treasure to own or give to someone special. Each EcoSphere is carefully crafted to achieve an aesthetic, meditative beauty that can soothe any environment including home, classroom or office.


Ecosphere Closeup ViewThe Inside Story:
Inside each EcoSphere are active micro-organisms, bright red shrimp and algae, each existing in a clear "soup" of filtered sea water. Because the EcoSphere is a self-sustaining ecosystem, you never have to feed the life within. Simply provide your EcoSphere with a source of indirect natural or artificial light and enjoy this aesthetic blend of art and science, beauty and balance.

Because the living resources within the EcoSphere utilize their resources without overpopulating or contaminating their environment, the EcoSphere requires no cleaning and only minimal care. EcoSpheres have an average life expectancy of two years. However, it is not uncommon for shrimp populations to be thriving in systems as old as 7 years. Older units can be "recharged." EcoSpheres are available in either pod or spherical shapes, in a range of sizes. 

A Glimpse Into the Future:
The EcoSphere is the result of technology developed by scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. NASA was researching self-contained communities for space explorers to live in during long-term space flights. Out of this research came the EcoSphere - an ecosystem of animal and plant life in perfect balance.

About Your New EcoSphere:
Please notice the amount of green algae in your EcoSphere. This initial quantity is the inoculant required to produce sufficient oxygen for the shrimp. Do not allow the algae to grow more than this or the chemical balance will change. You can control the growth of algae by controlling the light level. If the algae begins to grow, more than the initial amount as when you first received your Ecosphere, lower the light by shading it or putting the sphere in a darker area. Never put the EcoSphere in front of a window. In the event you notice the algae level is greatly reduced you can grow more by increasing the light level. However, make sure your sphere is NEVER placed in direct sunlight. It will take approximately one or two months for more algae to form, and it is not threatening to the system to lose its visible algae. Keep in mind that the EcoSphere is not a plant and should not be given high light levels to keep it green. A very green EcoSphere is not necessarily a healthy one.

How Ecospheres Work

How Your EcoSphere Works:
The EcoSphere is a display of a working ecological system. While it is beautiful to view, it also demonstrates the delicate balance of a closed ecosystem like the Earth. Contained within the completely sealed glass is a small variety of shrimp, algae, and microorganisms living in a filtered sea water environment.

The EcoSphere contains some of the same essential elements that are found on our planet. The Earth is represented by the gravel at the bottom with water filling two-thirds of the system while air fills the balance of the space. Fire is the light, which streams in each day. Finally, life: the algae, shrimp and microbes that float and swim in the water.

The EcoSphere's biological cycle represents a simple version of Earth's' own ecosystem. Light together with carbon dioxide in the water enable the algae to produce oxygen by photosynthesis. The shrimp breathe the oxygen in the water while nibbling on the algae and bacteria. The bacteria break down the animal waste into nutrients, which the algae utilize. The shrimp and bacteria also give off carbon dioxide, which the algae again use to produce oxygen. And so the cycle renews itself.

EcoSphere PodWhat is in the EcoSphere?
Along with the shrimp there are algae and filtered sea water. The EcoSphere also contains gorgonia and gravel as a part of the working ecosystem. Gorgonia, the non-living branch like material, and the gravel are surface area in the ecosystem. The gorgonia and gravel are also a hiding place for microorganisms - a place where they can not be eaten by the shrimp. All other areas in the water are accessible by the animals. By having more surface area for the bacteria to grow on the eco-system has the ability to break down more of the waste materials.

What is a Closed Eco-System?
A closed eco-system is a group of organisms placed in any sealed container along with nutrients to sustain and regenerate life. Water is the most essential item in the system, for without it nothing lives. There are numerous microorganisms inside that keep reproducing and dying, each time they give off and take in oxygen and carbon dioxide. The key component is energy in the form of light. With light energy, chemicals are changed into nutrients and are then available to the higher organisms.

The nature of all closed ecosystems is to wind down. Eventually the major chemical building blocks get "locked up" and are no longer available to the microorganisms. There is no weather inside the EcoSphere to pull these chemicals apart from each other. However, on Earth this action takes place in the oceans and on land continuously. Replenishing is done by the weather always mixing and returning nutrients back by the actions of wind and rain.

Guidelines for EcoSphere Care:
The EcoSphere requires almost no care. However, here are few simple DO'S and DON'TS:

  • Ecosphere Shrimp Closeup ViewDO notice how much algae is in the EcoSphere when you receive it. The health of the animals inside the sphere is dependent on the water chemistry. This chemistry is affected by algae and microorganism growth. If you allow more than this amount of algae to grow you will raise the pH of the water. This higher pH will kill the shrimp. If you are not providing enough light you can also harm the system. That is why you should look closely at the amount of green fiber algae. This is a good gauge as to how much visible algae should be in the system.
  • DO keep your EcoSphere at temperatures between 60 degrees Fahrenheit (15C) and 85 degrees Fahrenheit (25C). Temperatures above 85 degrees put excess stress on the shrimp in the EcoSphere. Temperatures below 60 degrees slowdown the metabolism of the shrimp. Do not let the temperatures flux erratically from 60 degrees to 85 degrees. The temperature needs to be consistent. Sudden changes can affect the life of the system.
  • DO provide artificial light or indirect sunlight for your EcoSphere for at least 6 to 12 hours per day. The intensity can be suitable for plants needing low levels of light. One of the following sources is recommended:
    • Ceiling mounted fluorescent lamps
    • Indirect window sunlight
  • DO NOT let your EcoSphere get too hot or too cold. We may think the temperature is fine but an Ecosphere can warm up and cool down as easily as a glass of water. So a rule of thumb, be aware of the temperature of the room.
  • DO NOT handle the EcoSphere excessively, the sphere will pick up heat from your body.
  • DO NOT leave the EcoSphere in direct sunlight. It is a tiny greenhouse and direct sunlight can overheat it regardless of room temperatures.
  • DO NOT let it go for more than 60 hours without light (if algae growth looks fine). This is a rule of thumb. If your EcoSphere has received light for several days, it will be well "charged" with oxygen and may be able to survive longer without light, but why take chances? If you have an algae bloom (the algae grows at a rapid rate) it may be necessary to place the unit in a dark area, such as a cupboard or closet. The unit can be left there for extended periods: sometimes as long as 3 weeks. If you need to do this check on the unit daily to see if the algae growth has seceded. Over a period of time, like 3-5 months, there will be some growth but it should not harm the unit.
  • DO NOT shake it, drop it, or otherwise treat it roughly. Remember it is someone's home.
  • DO NOT place your EcoSphere on televisions, stereo equipment, fireplace mantles, or near heating radiators and vents.

Ecosphere CleaningCleaning Your EcoSphere:
From time to time you may wish to clean any organic film that may have formed on the inside of the glass due to too high light levels. Some of the microorganisms, which are of nutritional value to the shrimp, are capable of creating a thin film on the inside of the glass.

NOTE: THERE ARE TWO MAGNETS WITH YOUR ECOSPHERE. We have included a cleaner magnet INSIDE YOUR ECOSPHERE to clean the INSIDE glass of the sphere. We have also furnished you with a second OUTER magnet to attract the cleaner magnet on the inside bottom of your EcoSphere. To get both magnets together gently bring the outer magnet near the gravel at the bottom so it can attract the smaller inside magnet. It can look like a piece of gravel on the bottom. Once you have both magnets attracted to each other you can proceed to move it on the surface of the glass, it is not necessary to clean the entire surface at one time. Cleaning the inside glass will allow the animals to eat the organisms and keep the glass quite clear.

The inside magnet has two sides; black and off-white. The off-white side has an abrasive texture to assist in cleaning the glass. The off-white side needs to face the glass for best results. If you lose your magnet any refrigerator magnet will do. You will not harm the unit by moving it as you clean it.


How Long Will They Live?
The average life of the small sphere and small pod is 2-3 years. The other units tend to last longer because they have more shrimp. The life expectancy of these shrimp is known to exceed 5 years. We do not know how long your EcoSphere will live due to different light and temperature conditions throughout the country; and we do not know the exact age of the shrimp when we make an EcoSphere. The oldest EcoSphere we know of is now over 14 years old and the one remaining shrimp still going strong. Some systems without shrimp are still living even after 25 years. As long as there is one shrimp alive in the EcoSphere, it is a functioning unit.


Ecosphere Pair of ShrimpDo the Animals and Plants Reproduce?
Until the Spring of 1985, no one was able to verify reproduction by the shrimp in the EcoSphere. Reproduction has occurred in some systems, although this is very rare. The purpose of the unit is not reproduction. It is how to sustain life in a balanced ecosystem. The shrimp automatically know that if they reproduce, they will over-populate their environment.

The algae and the bacteria in the EcoSphere reproduce continuously! In fact, as time goes by, you can expect changes in the algae population in your EcoSphere.

The oldest EcoSpheres sooner or later end up with blue-green algae as the main type of organism. By this time, the green algae has used up certain nutrients in the salt water and remaining nutrients have been compounded with other chemicals and cannot be used further by the green algae. The blue-green algae can exist quite well on the remaining chemical compounds and continues to produce enough oxygen for the shrimp. In this way, the EcoSphere goes through transitions. They may start out quite clear, change to a slightly cloudy cast and then become quite clear again.

The Gas Cycle:
The plants make oxygen only when there is light. When it is dark, the animals, the bacteria and the plants all consume oxygen while none is being produced. Oxygen is stored in the EcoSphere in the air and in the water during the day. There must be enough air and water to store the oxygen. Therefore, it would not work to put too many plants and animals in the EcoSphere because they would run out of oxygen at night. If you compare the ratio of living material to air and water in the EcoSphere with Earth's ratio, you will see that, when you consider the vast sizes of Earth's oceans and atmosphere, the biological density in the EcoSphere is very high.

What if One or More of the Shrimp Die?
The age of each shrimp is not known, therefore it is not unusual for some of the shrimp in the EcoSphere to die. If you are losing shrimp in a short period of time, this usually indicates that your EcoSphere is receiving too much light or that it has been too hot or cold (exposure to dramatic temperature changes). As long as there is one shrimp alive in the system, it is a functioning unit. 

The pale translucent shrimp-like images you may see lying on the bottom now and then are not dead shrimp, but exoskeletons that have been shed. Shrimp are crustaceans that have their skeletons on the outside rather than on the inside. As the shrimp grows, it forms a new soft skeleton under its old one and then sheds the old one, just as snakes and lizards shed their skins. After the old exoskeleton has been shed, the new one expands and hardens. It has been observed that a shrimp may molt once or twice a month in a normal environment. If a shrimp dies, the others will eat it, quickly returning the nutrients back to the system. The bacteria in the EcoSphere will also decompose it within a day or so.
EcoSphere Come in All Shapes and Sizes

What do the Shrimp Eat?
The shrimp eat the algae and bacteria. If you watch them closely, you will see them feeding on the algae, picking algae and bacteria off the walls of the sphere. Even if the green algae is no longer visible to you, there are still plenty of other algae and bacteria which are not visible to the naked eye for the shrimp to eat. The shrimp also eat the shed exoskeletons. Nothing goes to waste in the EcoSphere.

What to Look For in Your EcoSphere:
The algae is constantly growing, dying and being eaten by the shrimp and bacteria. As time goes on, it is likely that you will notice gradual changes in the composition of the algae. It may appear darker after a period of time. This is one of the changes. IF YOU NOTICE THE ALGAE GROWING RAPIDLY, YOU HAVE YOUR ECOSPHERE IN AN AREA WHERE THE LIGHT IS TOO BRIGHT. THIS WILL RAISE THE pH AND CAUSE THE SHRIMP TO PERISH. Some of the older EcoSpheres in our laboratory have lost all their visible algae. These systems have lived for years because they contain heavy populations of single-celled algae, which can't be seen by the naked eye.

Why Do I See Condensation Inside?
For the same reason that condensation forms on the outside of a cold drink. If it is warmer inside the EcoSphere than outside, water will condense on the cooler walls of the EcoSphere. Condensation forms on the inside of the glass periodically. It may appear that you are losing water but enough condensation will give that effect. If you think you are losing water, check the seal on the bottom of the unit. If there appears to be water or salt crystals forming you probably have a leak. In this case call our office for further assistance.

How Were EcoSpheres Discovered?
The EcoSphere was originally discovered by two scientists, the late Dr. Joe Hanson and the late Dr. Clair Folsome. NASA became interested in these systems during the early 1980s. First, this tiny model of the Earth could add information to NASA's Mission to Planet Earth program aimed at studying Earth's biosphere. Secondly, it could help NASA's research on human life support systems directed toward the construction of space stations for exploring our solar system.

EcoSpheres have been produced for many years now, and although atypical, we have had people contact us with EcoSpheres that have survived over 25 years and are still going strong! Today, the EcoSphere is sold world-wide and is still one of the greatest ecological teaching tools created by NASA technology.

Available Shapes and Sizes:

Pictures with Names:

Sizes Available and Average Number of Shrimp:

EcoSphere Sphere Shape

* Small ~ 4.0" diameter ~ 2 to 4 Shrimp

* Medium ~ 5.25" diameter ~ 6 to 9 Shrimp

* Large ~ 6.5" diameter ~ 10 to 13 Shrimp

* Extra Large ~ 9.0" diameter ~ 28 to 40 Shrimp

EcoSphere SPHERE
EcoSphere Pod Shape

* Small ~ 5.25" tall ~ 2 to 4 Shrimp

* Large ~ 7.5"tall ~ 6 to 9 Shrimp

EcoSphere POD

Shipping/Bulk Discount?
If you plan on ordering 3 or more EcoSpheres going to the same address on the same date, be sure to contact us about a shipping discount. Please call us at 1-888-513-2784 for a quotation.

VERY IMPORTANT Delivery Instructions:

  • Your EcoSphere MUST ship to an address where someone will absolutely be available from 8am to 6pm to receive and sign for the item. EcoSpheres cannot be left at the door!
  • Ecospheres are only delivered on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
  • Someone must be available 8am to 6pm to receive the EcoSphere. For this reason, many folks choose to have their EcoSpheres shipped to a business address. Some orders will be held if the weather does not permit the safe shipment of your live Ecosphere. To select your delivery date, simply click on the "Add to Cart" button below and choose a specific date from the dates offered. If you do not see a date earlier than those listed then that specific date is no longer available. While we cannot make any guarantees, we will do our best to accommodate. Unfortunately, we cannot arrange for an exact time for the EcoSphere to arrive.

No shipping to Alaska/Hawaii. 35% restocking fee on returns within 30 days. Shipping/Handling is not refunded.

EcoSphere Small SPHERE $72.95
EcoSphere Medium SPHERE $165.95
EcoSphere Large SPHERE $224.95
EcoSphere Extra-Large SPHERE $498.95
EcoSphere Small POD $72.95
EcoSphere Large POD $165.95
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