Build-Your-Own Aquatic Macroinvertebrate Touch Tank

Not everyone can access a stream to discover aquatic life, but the stream can come to them! Stroud Water Research Center is making this possible through a experiential learning tool: the aquatic macroinvertebrate touch tank. 

Stroud Center’s Education Department designed the touch tank to allow observers to see freshwater macroinvertebrates move freely through creek water in a simulated stream environment. Participants use tools such as petri dishes and plastic spoons to handle the macroinvertebrates. They can observe and identify the insects while discovering how they indicate water quality and support a healthy freshwater ecosystem.

The well-being of the animals is also key to the tank’s design, which includes the providing of natural habitat and ways to maintain temperature and oxygen levels. At the conclusion of an education program, the animals are to be safely returned to the stream or river where they were found.

Using accessible, low-cost supplies, educators can build their own traveling touch tanks for both indoor and outdoor classrooms, community events, conferences, educator professional development, and more.

A crane fly larva hiding in aquatic plants in the touch tank.

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A soft paintbrush helps separate aquatic macroinvertebrates in the touch tank.

The Stroud Center gratefully acknowledges the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection for supporting the touch tank’s development and use through the Environmental Education Grants Program. While some of the Stroud Center’s work is funded by grants, we also rely on the generous support of donors. You can support innovative work like this by donating today.