Build a column

The Winogradsky Column: an enclosed self sustaining microbial system.


Mud or soil

Paper towels, finely shredded

Calcium sulfate (Gypsum or plaster of paris, craft or garden stores)

Calcium carbonate (garden lime or crushed limestone, garden stores)

Clean, clear plastic bottle with cap

water-either from the place you got the mud or distilled (not tap!) water for soils

Window or lamp


1.  Mix 2 parts paper towels to 1 part calcium sulfate and 1 part calcium carbonate in the bottom of the bottle.

2.  Add mud to fill the bottle about 25% of the way up and enough water to mix all the components.

3.  Add more mud in on top of the bottom layer until the bottle is ~75 % full.

4.  Fill the bottle with water to just below the neck and loosely cap.

5.  Place the bottle in a window that receives sunlight or by a lamp.  If using a lamp, make sure that the bottle is not so close that it gets hot.

6.  Growth should develop in 2-4 weeks and continue to change over 6-8 weeks before becoming stable.  Add water if necessary and the column should remain stable for years.

For a copy of these instructions in PDF format along with some additional information on how the column works, click here.


  1. I was wondering how much CaCO3 and CaCO3 towards the column?

  2. Hello, thanks for contacting me and finding the site. You need relatively little CaCO3, for a 1 L bottle, 0.1-0.5 g of CaCO3 is enough. If you want to experiment, you could set bottles up with the same source and different amounts of CaCO3 to see if there is an effect.

  3. Is it supposed to cap tight the columns?

  4. I would not make the cap perfectly tight. Sometimes you can get gas pressure build up. If you leave it loose, you may need to add water (distilled preferably) over time.

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