Niskin bottle | Flanders Marine Institute

Flanders Marine Institute

Platform for marine research

Niskin bottle

A Niskin bottle is a plastic cylinder with stoppers at each end in order to seal the bottle completely. This device is used to take water samples at a desired depth without the danger of mixing with water from other depths. The water collected by Niskin bottles can be used for studying plankton or measuring the physical characteristics of the sea. Niskin bottles are often either set up in a series of individual bottles or they are set up in a carrousel of six bottles, together with a CTD instrument.

How does a Niskin bottle works?

The two stoppers at each end of the Niskin bottle, are held open by plastic cords attached to a release mechanism. In addition, the stoppers are connected by an elastic cord at the inside of the bottle. Attached to a cable, the open bottle(s) are lowered to a discreet depth in the water. When a small weight encircling the hydrographic line is released down the line, it strikes the release mechanism resulting in the two stoppers being pulled into the ends of the cylinder. As a result the water from that depth is trapped inside the Niskin bottle. When the Niskin bottles are grouped in a rosette, distinct weights can strike each individual release mechanism on the carrousel. In this way, water samples are collected from various water depths.  

Niskin bottle with indications. ©VLIZ


  Working of a weight in combination with the release machanism

  Water sampling


Usefulness of Niskin bottles

  • Niskin bottles are relatively simple devices to use in order to collect water samples within the water column at different depths.
  • Water samples can be used to study plankton.
  • physical parameters of the seawater can be measured.

Some studies:

  • Monitoring the continental shelf in the Belgian part of the North Sea and the Scheldt estuary:

Monitoring executed by the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences:

  • Monitoring of the seawater in the Belgian part of the North:

This monitoring is in the framework of the LifeWatch project.

Technical details

It is possilbe to assemble 6 Niskin bottles of 4 litres on the carrousel. Besides the carrousel, VLIZ has also Niskin bottles of 5 and 10 liter to the disposal.

Borrow Niskin bottles?

For more information about our rental service, please contact VLIZ

Use and conditions

Note: if you use Niskin bottles of VLIZ as a scientist, please refer to it in your publications as: 'This work was supported by data & infrastructure provided by the Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ)'.