How it All Started

My journey into tank ownership all started with a self-sustaining ecosystem. I saw a self-sustaining ecosystem on Amazon. It sounded really cool and looked really cool, until you realize how expensive they are. You can see one here (all links open in new tab). I really wanted something on my new desk, so I researched how to make my own. I found this website and this video and created my own mason jar ecosystem. I used two little ghost shrimps and a conical snail. I used an old dechlorinator from our old fish tank to treat the water.

Mason Jar

  • mason jar = free
  • shrimps = $.39 each
  • snail = free
  • plants (I don’t remember species) = $3.99
  • gravel (GloFish aquarium gravel pink) = $5.99
  • algae thins (Top Fin) = $3.99
  • top fin fish net = $3.39
  • TOTAL = $18.14

The only problem was that I couldn’t get any pond algae and the system failed. I tried twice before I decided to move the system into a larger tank. So back to the pet store I went. I only go to Petsmart because they treat their animals much better than other pet stores.

Originally I was afraid my plants hadn’t been producing enough oxygen, so in addition to live plants, I also got an air stone. An air stone is a little thing, that comes in a lot of shapes, that connects to a pipe, that connects to an air pump and produces little bubbles. I also needed a new dechlorinator as mine had expired and a bacteria supplement to help keep the tank clean. I purchased suction cups to keep the piping against the sides of the tank. I bought 4 shrimps because they are known to be very delicate and die easily.

  • half gallon plastic tank = $4.99
  • air stone = $.99
  • 8ft of aquarium piping = $2.49
  • air pump (Top Fin) = $8.99
  • suction cups = $.97
  • money wort (plant x3) = $2.79
  • dechlorinator (Top Fin) = $3.99
  • bacteria supplement (Top Fin) = $3.99
  • shrimps = $.39 (x4)
  • real shell decorations (all living things decorative hermit crab shells) = $4.99
  • TOTAL = $36.34

So now I had a real tank, kind of. It was little and cute. I liked watching the little shrimps playing around together in the tank. Soon though, my plants started dying, and algae started growing all over. I tried to keep up with it, but it was impossible. I put the tank in more direct light, hoping to save the rest of the plants. My only hope was to get a snail to eat the algae. So, once again, back to the pet store for me. I purchased a golden mystery snail.

  • snail = $2.79

So the snail turned out to be a girl. I never in a billion years would have thought that having a snail would be so fun! I loved watching her move around and eat with her little mouth. I’ll write a whole blog dedicated to her and why you should get a snail!


The snail was awesome, she ate the dead plant matter, cleaned up the algae and was super cute and fun to watch. The downside? Almost overnight, she ate everything. All the plants, dead or alive, were eaten. The amount of poop was insane. I had to suction it out with a straw everyday. She tripled in size because of it. With no plants filtering anything the algae took on a whole new level. The tank was cloudy and gross, a shrimp had died, and I knew there was no recovering it. So back to the freaking pet store I went. All this happened within a 6 week period.

It was time for a real tank.

To be continued….