2 Gallon Jarrarium / Planted Jar

Published July 10, 2018

I set up a 2 gallon planted jar on July 12, 2016. The inhabitants are about 6 or 7 red cherry shrimp and a few pond snails.

2 gallon planted jar

2 gallon planted jar (15 September 2016)

The last update was on 10 July 2018. Jump to Updates.


This is my first planted jar. Prior to this, I had a 20 gallon Walstad tank that I had to sell last month because we moved. I also sold the 10 gallon shrimp Walstad tank.


This is our setup:

  • 2 Gallon Jar: 2 gallon Anchor Hocking jar from Walmart - about $12
  • Substrate: 1" layer of Miracle-Gro Organic Choice Potting Mix capped with 1" layer of Black Diamond Blasting Sand
  • Light: One 8W LED daylight bulb {5000K}
  • Lava Rocks: A few lava rocks
  • Air Stone: None
  • Filter: No filter
  • Heater: No heater
  • Plants: Low-light stem and floater plants, and Java moss
  • Livestock: Red cherry shrimp, Nerite snail, pond snails

Keep the soil ready

Wash the jar and make sure that it is clean. Do NOT clean with soap. You will put 1" Miracle-Gro Organic Choice Potting Mix at the bottom. You may remove the wood chunks if you want to. I did not remove the wood chunks in my jar.

Wash the sand

Wash the sand thoroughly. I used Black Diamond Blasting Sand (medium grade) and it was a little oily.

Keep the plants ready

I had a bunch of plants from my previous two planted tanks. This was the plant list:

  • Floating plants: Amazon Frogbit, duckweed
  • Rooted plants: Anacharis narrowleaf, Ludwigia repens, Moneywort, Rotala Rotundafolia, Crypt Wendtii
  • Rhizome plants: Java Windelov Fern
  • Moss: Java moss, Marmimo moss ball, Subwassertang

Add the soil and sand

Add 1" Miracle-Gro soil to the jar. Press the soil gently so that it lets out the air. Then, add 1" black sand. You can create sloping effects for aesthetic purposes.

Add a little water

Add water up to 0.5" very slowly. Make sure it doesn't disturb the soil.

Add the plants and lava rocks

Add the plants according to your aquascape design. Keep the stem plants and crypt in the back and middle. The moss ball stays in the middle or can be moved to the front. The Java fern windelov is attached to a rock and stays in the foreground. I also have a bunch of lava rocks spread throughout. Lava rocks are very porous and micro organisms grow on them, which can be a food source for the shrimp. Lava rocks are also great for Java moss to attach onto. Another great thing about my lava rocks is that they were taken from the old aquarium, so they already have beneficial bacteria and thereby help cycle the jar much faster.

Fill the jar with water

If everything looks good, fill the rest of the jar with water. Fill it slowly. If the water disturbs the sand or soil and you see it kicking up, do not worry. It usually takes overnight for the water to clear.

Add snails

Add a few pond snails. They are good for eating the decomposing leaves and other things. I will replace these with Malaysian trumpet snails at some point.

Add shrimp

After 10 days, I added my red cherry shrimp from their temporary residence (a 3 gallon bucket) into the jar. They immediately got to work, and overnight their color changed from transparent to bright red. I guess living in the bucket for 3 weeks wasn't something they liked.


This is my first time setting up a dirted jarrarium. I was able to cycle mine very quickly because I used media (lava rock) from my old tanks. Your results may not be the same as mine.

The End

Sadly, I decided to tear down this 2 year old Walstad jar for various reasons mentioned in the July 2018 update. I will redo it using Eco-Complete as the single substrate and regularly add root tabs made with Oscmocote Plus pellets. Please watch out for my next blog post.


10 July 2018: Last month, the last of my red cherry shrimps died. They actually started dying off around April and May. I guess a few generations of in-breeding caused their population depletion. I had initially bought these red cherry shrimp in late 2014.

There's also hair algae growth in the middle of the jar and all the algae growth seems to have been caused by the presence of subwassertang. In the last 4 years, wherever there's subwassertang, algae eventually forms. I don't know why that happens.

The bottom looks a little messy with soil that's come up and mixed with the black sand. When I do the rare water changes, the brown tannins spread throughout the jar. While dirted tanks have been great, there is a shelf life to the nutrients.

I recently saw an October 2016 video in which Diana Walstad said that she does water changes now and uses filters for circulation. I'm a little disappointed with what I believed was a "no filter, no water change". When I tear down this jar and redo it in a few days, I'll just use Eco-Complete as substrate and regularly add root tabs (Osmocote Plus in size 00 gel capsules). It's less messy and I already have a 2g jar with Eco-Complete and a few endler-guppy hybrids. I do weekly water changes on it and the water is clear.

11 September 2016: I topped the jar with water+Prime. I also threw away more guppy grass that had its roots growing all the way into the substrate.

5 September 2016: I gave away a few accessories and plants (guppy grass and duckweed) to a local hobbyist.

23 July 2016: The shrimp are very happy to be in a natural surrounding. Even though their temporary house, a 3 gallon bucket, had a lot of plants, they are obviously more at home with a real planted tank.

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Last Updated: July 10, 2018. ย ย ย  This post was originally written on July 25, 2016.