Best Jars for an Enclosed Self-sustaining Water Ecosystem

By Tank Needs / January 15, 2020

Tank Needs (this blog!) is not only about traditional aquariums. I am also passionate about the so-called jarrariums and self sustaining water ecosystems. And this is what we’re going to talk about today, specifically the best jars for creating an enclosed water ecosphere.

Probably the most important element when starting to work on a jarrarium, is the jar itself. After trying several types, I realized that some are better than others for this job.

And in today’s article, I will share with you how to choose the best jar for your upcoming jarrarium, but also a bunch of options that you can order online in order to make it as easy as possible to start your new project.

Please note: We get commissions for purchases made through links in this article, and no extra costs for you.

List of the best jars for jarrariums (to buy online)

If you don’t care about reading all the details that I have to share with you, check out the jars below and just pick the one that seems best for your upcoming project.

(Have in mind that its capacity is probably the most important factor to consider)

JarCapacityStore Link
IDEALUX Glass Jar
48 oz / 1.4 litersCheck price
Wide Mouth Mason Jar
64 oz / 1.9 litersCheck price
Square Jar with Blue Lid
67.5 oz / 2 litersCheck price
Clear Glass Jar
169 oz / 5 litersCheck price
Glass Beverage Dispenser
2 gallon / 7.5 liters
(easy water
change!)
Check price
Glass Barrel Jar
2.5 gallon / 9 litersCheck price
Montana Glass Jar
2.5 gallon / 9 litersCheck price

In-depth look at the recommended jars

IDEALUX Glass Jar

If you’re just starting or if you don’t have a lot of room for your jarrarium, this small jar might be the perfect choice. It offers a capacity of just 48 oz / 1.4 liters – so you won’t be able to do a lot with it, but it’s better than nothing and even better for starting up.

I actually have a similarly-sized sealed ecosphere with 2 shrimps ready to celebrate its first birthday, so you do have options.

Have in mind that this is taller than most jars, so you will have to go with plants that grow high (I personally prefer wider jars, to be honest).

The lid is also bamboo-made (with a silicone ring for perfect sealing), but this also means that lighting it from the top – if you need that – will be impossible.

Click here to check the price now

Wide Mouth Mason Jar

Now this is your classic pickle jar and a perfect choice for a water ecosystem. It is large enough to give you some room to play with the design, but not huge to become a problem storage-wise.

You are getting 64 oz / 1.9 liters in terms of capacity, which I consider enough for most jarrariums.

It has a wide mouth (4″) and is clean and simple – which is exactly what you want. The only potential con is the plastic lid which makes lighting from the top a bit more difficult, but not a deal breaker in my books.

Click here to check the price now

Square Jar with Blue Lid

I will start by saying that this is my favorite type of jar when it comes to sealing: I don’t think it can get better than this! Plus, in this case, the blue jar gives it some extra glam and will make everything look better when you fill it up (and even if you add light from the top).

It is still on the smaller size at 67.5 oz / 2 liters – but it still offers a bit of room to play and aquascape a bit, even add a snail or a couple of shrimp.

Click here to check the price now

Clear Glass Jar

We’re now moving to what I consider a decently-sized jar for a self sustaining ecosystem: 169 oz / 5 liters.

A regular jar with no bells and whistles, but with a perfect lid that seals as good as possible, offering enough room for plants and decorations, as well as some tiny animals (snails and shrimp).

Click here to check the price now

Glass Beverage Dispenser

Now, I must admit that I am really satisfied with this find: this jar that’s made for lemonade or other beverages is perfect for a water ecosystem!

I say this because of the spigot that makes water replacements a breeze. It will influence a bit the way you design the jar – the substrate mostly, but it’s as easy as it gets to change water.

It is also large enough to give you a lot of room to play: at 2 gallon / 7.5 liters is large enough to consider adding micro fish or even one Betta (even though most would say that it’s still not enough water).

Click here to check the price now

Glass Barrel Jar

This is not the easiest jar to look through, but it can definitely hold a lot of life, thanks to its 2.5 gallon / 9 liters capacity.

It is easy to carry around and gives you a lot of room to play, but apart from the fact that the glass and its design will make it a bit difficult to look through, the lid is not my favorite either. But it gets the job done, and that’s all that matters in the end!

Click here to check the price now

Montana Glass Jar

Another really large jar of 2.5 gallon / 9 liters, but which is now easier to look through and perfect in my opinion for those who are not afraid of giving it a go with a large jar.

It can definitely accommodate more life than all the others, including animals – from snails to shrimp, and maybe even a couple of tiny fish or a Betta.

Click here to check the price now

How to choose the best jar for a water ecosystem

I’ve seen a bunch of self sustaining water ecosystem and jarrariums made in very fancy looking jars. The problem is that, long term, most of these fancy jars of bowls or bottles don’t work well.

Old cookie jars with nice designs, whiskey bottles or any sort of jar that doesn’t have a very clear glass to see through will be poor choices.

If you want to do maintenance, you’ll have a tough time doing so. If you’re doing no maintenance, the algae growth and the darker colors will make it impossible to see inside.

Also, the smaller the container is, the more difficult it will be for you to accommodate plants and potential life like invertebrates or snails. Plants will grow quickly, filling your special container fast and unpleasant to the eye.

Finally, make sure that the mouth of the jar is wide enough to allow you to put your hand through it with ease. If you are planning to do any sort of maintenance on your jar, it’s going to be very difficult otherwise!

This is why I always recommend getting a pretty basic jar: easy to maintain, easy to see through, easy to seal or unseal if you need to do it. Think long term here and remember that any bells and whistles will most likely turn ugly in a few to several months (and give you headaches).

Best size for your next water ecosystem

My tiny java moss jar running since 2016!

The best part about creating jarrariums – be them self sustaining or not – is that you can choose any size – from the smallest available to humongous jars – depending on what you want to achieve.

I have had great success with tiny self-sustaining containers (maybe 5 ml of water or less) and a tiny bit of algae or moss ball. But generally, the larger the container, the more you can achieve.

Jarrarium animals – yes or no?

If you want your container to have some sort of variety of plants and maybe animal life like shrimps or snails, you will need a minimum of 2 liters (68oz).

Based on my own experience, anything between 2 – 5 liters (68 – 169 oz) gives you a lot of room to play in terms of decorations, adding plants and shrimp or even snails.

IF you want to add fish to your jarrarium or water ecosphere (whatever you want to call it), you will generally need a larger jar – 5 to 10 liter is recommended (1.3 to 2.6 gallons) but even so, you won’t be able to add a ton of fish.

For such a size, consider adding one single Betta or a few mini fish like the Rasbora Maculata or Microrasbora Kobutai.

These tiny fish can live well in a jar, but many people would still consider the container too small for them. Even more, you can’t think of having a self-sustaining jar in this case, as you will need to constantly feed your fish and change water regularly, as you would do with an aquarium.

Self sustaining or not?

There’s a lot of life in my shrimp / snail jarrarium

I love the idea of creating self sustaining ecoshperes and jars, but the truth is that anything with life in it will require some sort of maintenance in most cases.

If you want to build a self sustaining jar, start with plants only. You will have a lot of success by adding any type of plant that doesn’t require CO2 or special conditions.

Plants like any type of Anubias, Vallisnerias, Egeria (beware its rapid growth!) or Java Moss will do really well in any sort of jars. There are other plants that can thrive in a self-sustaining jar, but these are tested by myself and never fail.

Adding living beings to your aquarium makes the self-sustaining part a bit more complicated.

The easiest livestock to add are shrimp (hardy ones like the Red Cherry Shrimps) or Snails – anything else and it’s virtually impossible to have a self sustaining jar

Out of the two, Snails are actually considered poop factories. Combine that with the fact that most snails multiply like crazy, and you’ll get very dirty water really soon.

This is why I believe that the only real route for having a self sustaining ecosystem with livestock is by adding a few shrimp only. I have managed to achieve that with one of my jars (which is going almost 12 months strong with no casualties and two happy shrimp inhabitants)… but anything else would be difficult to say the least.

However, if you don’t mind doing regular water changes (from once a week to once a month) and also feed your animals living in the jar, you have a lot more options.

IMPORTANT: If you decide to add animals to your aquarium, make sure that you have a proper water temperature at all times!

So in the end, it’s a matter of preferences and how involved you want to be with the maintenance of your jar. But I would recommend beginners to start with a plants-only jar, and upgrade later on after a few to several months if they feel the need to do so.

Judging on the fact that I now have 8 water ecoshperes (with 1 more planned), you will probably not stop at 1 jar only. Either way, future articles will detail more in-depth the creation process of both self-sustaining and maintenance-requiring jarrariums.

Wrapping up

You probably have now all the details that you need for building your own jarrarium, as well as great jars to start with. If you have additional comments, don’t hesitate to share them with me by commenting below!

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