Ocean Layers DIY Experiment

Ocean Layers DIY Experiment

Get your scientific thinking caps on! We’re going to learn about ocean layers, also known as zones, with this easy experiment you can try at home!

The ocean has several layers. For our experiment, we’re focusing on three of those layers:

  • The Sunlight Zone
  • The Twilight Zone
  • The Midnight Zone

How can you tell these layers apart?

The Sunlight Zone has the most sunlight. The water is also warmer, due to the sun’s heat. This layer of the ocean reaches about 600 feet down.

Animals that like to live in this layer include: sea turtles, plankton, and blue whales.

The Twilight Zone is the middle layer of the ocean. The water is darker because of how little light filters down. It’s also colder because there is less sunlight for warmth. This layer reaches over 3,000 feet deep!

Animals that like to live in this layer include: horseshoe crabs, cuttlefish, and lobsters.

The Midnight Zone has no sunlight. The water is very cold and pitch black. Creatures in this zone often glow-in-the-dark to create their own light!

Animals that like to live in this layer include: anglerfish, giant squid, and gulper eels.

Now let’s make our own ocean in a bottle and see what these layers look like!

WHAT YOU NEED

Corn syrup

Water

Oil (I used coconut oil, but vegetable oil works well too)

Food coloring

A container with a lid

Spoon (for stirring)

Extra cups (for color mixing)

Step 1

Pour each liquid into its own cup. Depending on the size of your container, use ¼ cup to ½ cup per liquid (but exact measurements aren’t necessary).

For the corn syrup, add several drops of food coloring until it’s dark blue. This is the Midnight Zone of your ocean. There’s no light down here!

For the water, add one drop of food coloring to make it very light blue. This is the Twilight Zone of your ocean. There’s a little bit of light down here, but not much!

For the oil, do not add food coloring. This is your Sunlight Zone. There’s lots of light up here!

Step 2

Pour the corn syrup into the bottle. This is the densest layer. That means the corn syrup is the heaviest liquid and will always sink to the bottom!

Step 3

Pour the water into the bottle. The water is less dense than the corn syrup. This means that the water is lighter than the corn syrup. It will always sit on top of the corn syrup.

Step 4

Pour the oil into the bottle. The oil carries the LEAST density. That means it’s lighter than the corn syrup and the water. It will always float to the top!

Step 5

Make sure you put the lid on your jar nice and tight! Congratulations on completing your ocean zones!

Tip the bottle back and forth. Watch how the layers interact with each other like the tides of the ocean. No matter how much you shake the bottle, the corn syrup (The Midnight Zone) will always settle at the bottom, the water (The Twilight Zone) will always settle in the middle, and the oil (The Sunlight Zone) will always rise to the top!

Read More

If you’d like to learn more about ocean layers and the animals that live in them, or how to do more cool science experiments like this, check out these books from the library!

First Animal Encyclopedia: Seas and Oceans by Anna Claybourne

Journey into the Deep by Rebecca L. Johnson

Ocean Life by Carolyn Franklin

Explore Solids and Liquids with 25 Great Projects by Kathleen M. Reilly

Science Experiments That Fizz and Bubble by Jody Wheeler-Topper

References

Liquid Density: www.acs.org

Ocean Zones: weather.gov/jetstream/layers_ocean

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