Can You Add Animals (Fish, Shrimp or Snails) in a Jarrarium?

I love jarrariums and I have created over a dozen over the past several years. Simple ones with just plans, jarrariums with animals living happily inside and even self sustaining jarrariums – I’ve done them all!

And today I am here to help you make the most out of yours and give you all the tips you need to know successfully adding animals to your jarrarium.

You can definitely add animals to your jarrarium! You can add shrimp, snails and even fish to your jarrarium, as well as various other invertebrates. As long as your ecosystem is cycled and you have enough plants, the animals will adapt and live well there.

Just like it’s the case of regular aquariums and freshwater tanks, you do need to take various things into account before adding live animals in your jarrarium and even before deciding what animals are best suited for your ecosystem.

How to properly add live animals to your jarrarium

Let’s check out all the steps that you need to take before adding animals to your jarrarium, in order to make sure they will survive and thrive.

1. Let it cycle!

The most important part is to let the jarrarium cycle – let the water sit with plants and soil and water for at least a couple of weeks, so that the beneficial bacteria take over and are able to keep the water parameters under control.

Even if you plan to create a self sustaining / sealed jarrarium, it’s best to leave it unsealed for this period of time, then perform a 20% water change and seal it afterwards.

2. The jarrarium size is essential

You can’t just add a dozen guppies (which will also multiply like crazy) in a 65oz jar. You must always consider the amount of water in your jarrarium and adapt the amount and type of livestock you add.

I already wrote an article recommending the best jars for a jarrarium – make sure to read it here.

mini jarrarium
My very first self-sustaining mini jarrarium

Jarrariums are generally on the smaller side and therefore they are not really suitable for most fish out there. This doesn’t mean you can’t add them, so here are my recommendations on what type of animals to add to a jarrarium depending on its size:

for very small jarrariums (under 2liters/65oz) I don’t recommend adding any livestock. If you have a lot of plant life though, you can add 1-2 shrimp (Red Cherry Shrimp or a larger Bamboo Shrimp)

for small jarrariums (2-5 liters/65oz-1.3gallon) you can easily add shrimp of any kind. You can also add snails, but they multiply like crazy and are poop factories so you might have to clean it often.

I still don’t recommend adding fish in small jarrariums, but the reality is that one male Betta would still do well. It will also help keeping the snail population under control – but might also feast on the shrimp also.

Alternately, you can add a bunch of small fish like the Microrasbora Galaxy, Microrasbora Kubotai or such. They are beautiful for sure and their small size makes the a bit more appropriate for such low amounts of water.

But in reality, the fish won’t really thrive so try to only consider snails and shrimp at this stage.

for larger jarrariums (5l / 1.3gallons and above) you already have a lot more freedom. You can add various types of fish, as well as snails and shrimp.

Don’t add too many fish though – try to keep the numbers as low as possible, otherwise the balance of the water will be quickly destroyed. One Betta, a couple guppies or a set of Microrasboras should be all that you add right now.

I know that many aquarists consider it cruel to have fish in smaller amounts of water. But having in mind that Betta fish especially are held in much smaller “aquariums” (like simple glasses of water in pet stores), 5liters or more is already a ton for them.

I have had Bettas and other types of fish in smaller aquariums and they lived happy lives without a doubt. As long as the water quality is perfect, they have enough plant life around and are fed properly, all things will be ok.

3. You must add plants!

Most jarrariums – especially the self-sustaining ones – will only have plants inside. These are essential for keeping the water balance under control and they become even more important if animal life is going to be present.

So try to add as many low maintenance plants as possible. Go for slow growing plants like Anubias Nana, Moss balls, Cryptocoryne and such.

Fast growing plants will fill up the jar quickly and will make life difficult for fish (if you have any). They are also not suitable for sealed jarrariums.

But do try to have as much plant life as possible, because these will be the main element in your water ecosystem, keeping the water in tip top shape.

4. Filters, heaters and light

Due to their small size and odd shapes, most jarrariums are to be created without plans to add any sort of external filtration and not even heaters and light.

If you have the possibility to add these – do it! They will make your life (and the life of everything in the jar) a lot easier, especially the filter and heaters.

But generally, jarrariums are made without any of these. The truth is that plants don’t need a filter to survive. As long as you have many of those, they will keep the water clean for any animals living there.

Do make sure that the temperature in the aquarium is always safe for your livestock. Plants can handle slightly lower temperatures and so will Bettas, so consider water temperatures of at leasdt 71.5 degrees Fahrenheit / 22 Celsius.

At this temperature, snails and shrimp and Bettas and most other fish will do just well, although going a few degrees higher is ideal.

What animals to put in your ecosphere / jarrarium?

small jarrarium with shrimp

I have to repeat that you should always adapt the type and especially the number of animals you put inside your jarrarium to its size.

Also take future population booms into mind (especially when dealing with shrimp and snails).

The best animals for a jarrarium are hardy shrimp like Red Cherry Shrimp, Amano Shrimp and Ghost Shrimp, regular snails (Ramshorn, Malaysian Trumpet Snails or any of the “pest snails”) and hardy fish like Bettas, Guppies or Danios. I also like the Microrasboras a lot.

Basically, any fish that is small enough and hardy enough can be a good fit for the jarrarium.

Do have in mind that guppies will quickly fill up a jar if you have both males and females in your jar. So will snails which can become an even greater problem. Shrimp will multiply a lot too, but they won’t really mess up the water parameters.

Therefore, I suggest planning ahead based on the size and trying to only add shrimp and fish that won’t multiply. A mixture of red cherry shrimp and 5-6 Microrasboras in a 1.5 gallon or above jar will be just great, for example.

If you make other choices and the population starts to explode – especially if it’s fish that we’re talking about, you should remove them as soon as possible otherwise they risk ruining the entire balance of your ecosystem.

Animals and sealed/self sustained jarrarium

I am an even bigger fan of self-sustaining jarrariums and I managed to create a few. But all of my self-sustaining jarrariums had plants only (and whatever copepods and friendly worms made their way in).

When it comes to live animals in a jarrarium – especially fish, things are really difficult. For the small size of a jarrarium, fish won’t be able to survive on their own for too long without external feeding.

I did try and manage to keep a single guppy alive in a 1.5 gallon jar for about 3 months (starting soon after birth) but the copepod population was almost entirely gone after this time and it was obvious that the fish was not doing well.

I had better success with self-sustaining jarrariums featuring shrimp, though. In a small jarrarium with 2 RCS, they lasted for at least 12 months before they both suddenly died.

I personally believe that this was caused by the water getting too warm as I decided to put it on the windowsill to get extra algae growth for the shrimp. It was not in direct sunlight, but just a few days after putting it there, the shrimp unfortunately died.

I also have a larger, 1.5 gallon jar (the one with the Guppy) where lots of Red Cherry Shrimp and snails live. It’s not entirely self-sustaining, as I do feed them a bit once per week and I make partial water changes every 3-4 months, but it’s as self-sustaining as it gets.

However, truly sealed water ecosystems with animals – that’s something I didn’t manage to create so far, so I will say that it’s extremely difficult to do – if not impossible.

Should you do water changes in your jarrarium?

If you only have plants in your jarrarium, changing the water is not necessary. I have sealed jars that are a couple of years old and they do perfectly fine.

However, when animal life is involved, there might be a need for some sort of water changing. However, it will be a lot less often than you might think.

In my jarrariums that also have life, I change the water ever 1-4 months. As long as they are not overpopulated but have lots of plants, the water parameters won’t change too much.

However, a lot of debris will build up on the soil (especially if you have snails), so I prefer cleaning that up every now and then to improve the aspect of the jar. But I still think that I could go for even longer amounts of time without a water change.


Adding live animals to your jarrarium complicates things a little bit, but as you learned in today’s article, it’s not impossible to have them – even in smaller jars.

As long as you pay close attention to the water parameters, keep the water clean and the jar heavily planted, everything should be OK.

We might not be able to get truly self sustaining jarrarium with fish and shrimp, but they will generally be very low maintenance if all things are done correctly and following my instructions above.

If you have additional advice or questions regarding livestock in jarrariums, don’t hesitate to comment below.

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