Last season, QUEST TV went on a field trip to the Maker Faire to see some of the wacky do-it-yourself things coming out of people’s garage work shops. This season, we took Quest Radio Editor Andrea Kissack out to the Make Magazine Test Lab to tinker and experiment with some of our favorite DIY science projects.

We started with a Table-Top Biosphere, or as MAKE called it, a “Tabletop Shrimp Support Module” or TSSM. The whole idea is to create an entirely self-sustaining aquatic ecosystem within a completely sealed jam jar. If you do it right, your freshwater shrimp “aquanaut” will be able to survive for months without your ever needing to feed it or even open the jar. The ecological balance you create supplies all the air, filtering and food for all the creatures within the jar to survive in perfect harmony. If only the real world was this easy.

Producer’s Notes – MAKE it at Home: Table-Top Biosphere 13 March,2016Chris Bauer
  • cathleen

    Hi KQED,

    I am interested in the description/list of how to make the Table-Top Biosphere. Where is the list? or are the directions in the video?

    Thanks, Cathleen

    PS the fresh water shrimp, Syncaris pacifica, is listed by both the Federal Gov. and the State of California as endangered. I DO NOT think you should be advocating folks use a freshwater shrimp as an animal in the biosphere! It might encourage folks “to take” from the wild!!

  • Chris R.

    So the video podcast tells you to visit this webpage & this webpage tells you to watch the video podcast. I guess I’m stuck here in a loop for the rest of my life with no Table-Top Biosphere. List please?

  • Kyle B

    I too came in search of this mysterious list, alas with no avail.

  • Ricardo
  • Thank you Ricardo – that’s a much more direct link than what we had above.

  • Aaron

    The shrimp looks to me like a freshwater ghost shrimp – certainly not endangered, they are usually sold at pet stores as feeders for large fish. You can get them for less than a dollar a piece.

    If you had a large enough set up, you could get a few and they might breed, and you could see several generations of them.

  • I made a short video about my BioJar. Also found some links to other ecosphere sites and lesson plans for teachers. What a fun project. My jar is still going after 8 months.

  • Important note about this project: you really need to follow the instructions closely. It’s not the same as just throwing some species in a jar! I’d say that the only variation you should tempt yourself with is using a larger jar. Cheers, Martin

  • Editor’s Note: For those reading at home, Martin John Brown (in the comments above) contributed the original Table-top Biosphere instructions to MAKE – we could not have done it without him. Go check out for more of Martin’s work and writings.

  • Pingback: CTDL 148: A home-made biosphere()

  • Andrew


    I tried to view the pdf file “” but got the message:

    “The file is damaged and could not be repaired”.

    Is there another link which I could use to access the same instructions? Thanks.


Chris Bauer

Chris Bauer is a Freelance Media Producer with over 20 years experience working in broadcast television; producing sports, history, technology, science, environment and adventure related programming. He is a two-time winner of the international Society of Environmental Journalists Award for Outstanding Television Story and has received multiple Northern California Emmy Awards. Some of his Quest stories have been featured in the San Francisco Ocean Film Festival, Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival, United Nations Association Film Festival, the BLUE Ocean Film Festival and the Environmental Film Festival in Washington DC. A 5th generation Bay Area resident and a graduate of St. Mary's College of California, his hobbies include canoeing, snowboarding, wood-working and trying to play the ukulele. He and his family live in Alameda, CA.

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