Reviewed by Louise Totton
According to my boyfriend, I am an absolute nightmare to buy presents for. It is currently around 20 days until Christmas day, and I know for a fact he is sat, with beads of sweat dripping off his forehead, wondering what on Earth he can come up with this year. Apparently, when I want something, I just go out and buy it, so I suppose the key here to find that special something, is to find something that your special someone didn’t know they wanted – something they probably didn’t even know existed. Sadly for him, he missed the boat here, because I was sent something to review that I had never heard of, but once I was made aware of, I found completely fascinating and couldn’t wait to receive. It would have been a perfect gift, the solution to his problem. Only he had never heard of it either, so it was never even on his radar.
The thing that I was sent to review was an EcoSphere – in a nutshell, a perfect miniature of an entirely sealed and self-contained world, capable of supporting life using only sunlight. The EcoSphere started out life as the result of NASA experiments and innovation. As it is a completely self-contained ecosystem, much like the Earth, NASA scientists were able to use it as a simplistic model of our planet to inform research into the Earth’s biosphere.
My EcoSphere arrived in the post, well packed in a cardboard box. Also contained in the box was packing materials and a heat pad to keep the EcoSphere at an optimal temperature. The EcoSphere is a flat-bottomed glass sphere which is completely sealed. It already contains the full ecosystem and you do not need to add water or food, or to activate it in any way. I was sent a small EcoSphere, which is 10cm in diameter although there are several sizes available to suit all budgets and spaces. It is available in both a traditional sphere shape and a ‘pod’ shape.
My Ecosphere was around three quarters full of filtered sea water and also contained gravel and small shells as well as gorgonian (branch). These elements provide surface area for algae and bacteria to grow and hide – all important aspects of a working ecosystem. The sphere also contains the ‘main event’ – the shrimp. In our case, there are five shrimp, although I believe that numbers can vary slightly.
Once the EcoSphere has arrived, it is important to remove it from its box and place it in the right position. Somewhere that it will get 4-12 hours of light per day, but not in direct sunlight. Somewhere warm and not draughty but not near a direct heat source. I picked the dresser in the lounge. I have the say that the EcoSphere is actually a beautiful and rather unusual ornament in the lounge, as well as being incredibly interesting to a science and nature fan. The perfectly smooth crystal ball shape is sleek, and the gorgonian gives it a modern, minimalist look and provides a bit of interest.
As soon as the kids saw it (they’re nine and six), they wanted to know what it was and what it did. We have now named all five of our shrimp, and they are thus far proving to be the lowest maintenance pets ever! The spherical shape means that even though the shrimp are small, they are magnified when viewed head-on, which gives the children a lovely opportunity to get a closer look at them. They have also given us a fantastic opportunity to talk about how an ecosystem works, how interfering with nature can upset the balance of something that works perfectly without interference, and of course, looking after the world we live in and how delectate life is.
Pretty much the only maintenance that is required is maintaining the temperature of the room the EcoSphere is placed in and controlling the amount of light it gets. If it gets too much light, the algae can start to take over. In this case, you need to reduce the light amount and use the magnet provided to clean the inside of the EcoSphere.
It also came with a useful and comprehensive instruction guide to help you to care for your new little world as well as some very interesting information as to how and why it works. The shrimp have an average life expectancy of two to three years, although there are some EcoSpheres out there with living shrimp in them ten years on.
I think this is an absolutely fabulous little product – it perfectly marries up something beautiful with something that is genuinely interesting, and I think will provide interest on a long-term basis. It is also a completely different gift to give – possibly something for someone who genuinely does seem to have everything already! I am delighted with mine, as are the kids, and I hope we are able to continue to look after it for many years to come.
RRP: from £99 (base costs extra)
For more information or to buy visit www.ecospheres.co.uk.