Aquatic ecosystems are so intriguing because of the mystery of what lies beneath. While deep, dark or muddy water can be scary (thanks to movies like Jaws, and legends like the Loch Ness Monster), clear water can be awe inspiring, especially when it’s teeming with life. But even the clearest water can sometimes obscure the magical world under its surface, so people have devised ways to experience life under the surface up close. The most popular underwater activities are SCUBA diving and snorkeling on coral reefs. But, you don’t need to take a trip to the Caribbean to experience life under water. You don’t even have to get wet! Here is one way you can do it close to home, and without emptying your pockets for expensive diving gear.
The “Looky Bucket” is fun, easy to make, and inexpensive. Like a giant pair of goggles, the bucket serves as a window into the water. The principle is that by flattening the refractive surface of the water with the clear-bottomed bucket, you can see below like you had dunked your head under and opened your eyes! Although you can buy kids “reef scopes”, online for fairly cheap, it’s just as easy to make one yourself using a 5-gallon bucket, a sheet of plexiglass, some caulk, and a jigsaw!
- Cut a 9 or 10 inch hole in the bottom of the bucket, leaving a small rim around the perimeter.
- Trace the bottom of the bucket onto a sheet of plexiglass.
- Using the jigsaw, cut on the inside of your traced line so that the circle fits inside the bucket overlapping the rim you left on the bottom. If you don’t have access to a jig saw, you can just cut the hole in the bottom of the bucket carefully with a sharp knife, and buy a pre-cut plexiglass disk at the correct diameter. (I’ve also heard you can just rubber band some cling wrap around the end of a PVC pipe, but the bucket offers you a sturdier device with a wider view.)
- Squeeze out some caulk around the rim inside the bottom of the bucket. Drop the plexiglass circle in, and seal it in with more caulk. A good seal is essential to the function of the looky bucket!
Once the caulk dries, you’re ready for some fish spying! Look off the edge of a dock in the lake, or go for a walk by the creek and tell us what you find! Get creative, and send us pictures of your looky buckets! Have a great summer!