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Removing oil spills with Elodea Featured science projectScience project video


Can the Elodea save our environment? Do Elodea plants help solve oil spill problems? If so, it would be a very cost effective, convenient, and natural way of keeping our environment clean. This science fair project was performed to determine if the Elodea plant can be used to remove oil spills in water. The experiment was done with gasoline, engine oil, corn oil and kerosene.


The Elodea plant will be able to remove oil from water.

Scientific Terms

Organic, density, sheen, photosynthesis, aquatic, ecosystem


Oil spill effects

Oil is an organic substance with a lower density than water. When oil is poured or spilled on water, the two substances do not mix together. The oil will form an even and thin layer floating over the surface of the water. This thin layer of oil over the surface of the water is called "sheen". In natural water bodies like lakes or the ocean, oil spills can spread over a large surface area and unless they are removed quickly, they can cause the death of aquatic plants and animals.

Sheen on the water surface prevents light and air from reaching plants and animals in the water. This prevents aquatic plants from performing photosynthesis to produce food and oxygen. Without photosynthesis, plants will not be able to grow or germinate and they will eventually die if the condition persists. Oil spills also encourage the growth of algae, which also adversely affect the growth of aquatic plants.


Elodea is an aquatic plant that is also known as waterweed. It is also often grown as an aquarium plant for decorative purposes, as it is attractive to look at. Elodea plants are a very important part of the ecosystem because they provide good habitats for small fish, amphibians and aquatic invertebrates. They are also a food source for some aquatic  animals, such as turtles, ducks and beavers.

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Complexity level:
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Time required:
1 hour to prepare, 7 days for observation
Material availability:
Easily found
Safety concerns:

Basic safety requirements