3 Ecospheres

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    3 Ecospheres from MAKE magazine's "recipe." Using 2 L jars. These were sealed up one week ago and seem to be doing fine. The econaughts, shrimp, are quite lively and the water is clear. Usually kept on a windowsill, they got to go on a field trip for the picture.

    asmalldharma, Damien Eversmann, and 5 other people added this photo to their favorites.

    1. cephalopodcast 82 months ago | reply

      Econaughts? Sounds grim. Like they already face an uncertain future. :)

    2. Sparks Research Group 82 months ago | reply

      Their fate is sealed.


    3. mjb2000 81 months ago | reply

      wow, those 2-L jars are awesome!

    4. Sparks Research Group 81 months ago | reply

      Thanks! I'm happy to report the water still looks clear and the econaughts seem to be doing fine. One has molted. Getting steady sunlight, without overheating, is a worry...we are using a windowsill or a nearby counter.

    5. Sparks Research Group 78 months ago | reply

      Econaught #3 R.I.P.

      Looks like one of the little critters is no longer alive. It's not moving, no longer translucent, and the snails are all over its body.

      This one had been the slowest of the the 3 for the last couple of weeks, so I am not too surprised. The other econaughts in their biospheres are doing quite well and look healthy and happy (for shrimp.) There does not seem to be any other visible difference between the 3 biospheres.

      4 months.

    6. mjb2000 77 months ago | reply

      4 months is quite impressive. you are doing great! i'm so glad to hear the update and feel a bit validated about the design. i know that some other people have had near instant failures but it didn't sound like they were following all the directions.

      looks like you started with a good healthy surplus of vascular plants, which i've come to believe is key. can you describe the light and temperature conditions your ecospheres are experiencing?

    7. mjb2000 77 months ago | reply

      ps- on a less technical note your results are a nice demonstration of how ecological and chemical cycles really do keep us all alive. it's something that's easy to forget. thanks for helping us remember, econaut #3.

    8. Sparks Research Group 77 months ago | reply

      Great to hear from you mjb2000-

      The temperature and sunlight are less than ideal.

      In the morning I put them out on the window sill (double pain) and put them on the counter in the eve. They probably spend a good 12 hours in 65 F temp, and sunlight is getting less this time of year. I do not use artificial light, but the normal room lights, CFL's. All three biospheres get the same treatment.

      So I am thinking about keeping them warmer and giving them more light, as well as possibly replacing the econaut. Currently the snails are 'processing' the body.

    9. mjb2000 77 months ago | reply

      interesting - thanks for the details. i'm not sure if you should change anything -- you're doing good. i've only had one amano shrimp get to four months, though I've had several get to 3. the plant/snail systems without the shrimp can easily go on for years.

      i'm musing on why yours are consistently successful. sounds like your jars get abundant light, especially during the day. that would keep your photosynthesis going and dissolved oxygen relatively high. also perhaps your reliance on natural light means you don't have to have a light bulb a few feet away, which can really heat things up, which might be bad. my jars were always above 70F, and sometimes hit 80F. perhaps a lower temperature means less stress and a slightly lower metabolism. i'm just guessing here. it could be that nothing went wrong at all - perhaps your shrimp #3 was just old!

      enjoy your creations! mjb

    10. Sparks Research Group 76 months ago | reply

      Econaut #2 left this earth last week. He/She lasted 6 months and a week in the system. Thanks to #2 for furthering our understanding and appreciation for the systems that keep us alive.

      That leaves Econaut #1. He/She seems to be in good shape, "happily" cavorting around in its little jar.

      All the Econauts were bought from the same tank at the same time and sealed with pretty much the same amount of stuff. They've gotten the same amount of light and heat. I believe Econaut #1 is the one in the last jar on the far right of the picture.

    11. mjb2000 75 months ago | reply

      God speed, Econaut #2. Thank you for your time here.

      I am really pleased that the Sparks Research systems have been so successful. Some informal experiments I did suggest that once you pass the 1 month mark, you are really in a cycling system. But 6 months suggests not just survival, but real health and vitality for the econaut. It sounds like your system wasn't one of "mutual parasitism" but rather a real symbiosis. Maybe you should go into government. :)

    12. Sparks Research Group 75 months ago | reply

      Ha! As long as I'm not the one living in the jar!

      ...oh, wait...

      This is a very good experiment, and quite beautiful too. I still have the other jars going and am wondering about letting them go on, or dropping another shrimp in there. Anyone want to suggest something?

    13. Damien Eversmann 69 months ago | reply

      So... it's been 6 months since any comments were posted. I just came across this again today and was wondering what the status is. Were new econauts added? When did the final original econaut pass (if ever)?

    14. Sparks Research Group 68 months ago | reply

      Sorry for the late update. The last econaut, #3, perished sometime in mid-August. So that means it lasted easily 13 months.

      I did not add any new shrimp to the old jars, but kept them in the same condition as the remaining shrimp (on the windowsill unless it got too hot.)

      The older jars have changed quite a bit.

      It seems that at after a shrimp dies the hornwort starts to die off, with much of the dead stuff collecting on the bottom of the jar. The older jars have 3/4 less hornwort than at their peak.

      Next a new plant appeared. It is grows in long light green strands, about the same as one's hair. I had not noticed them before in the jar. It has almost filled the older jars.

      The jar's water becomes occluded,.

      The oldest jar has less of the strandy plant and is less occluded, so perhaps it is achieving a new balance.

      All jars seem to have the same number of snails (quite a few).

      All-in-all a great experiment!

    15. Sparks Research Group 68 months ago | reply

      ...and I still have the jars on the sill. As mjb2000 notes, this could go on for years...

      So I am not sure what to do. I really liked having the shrimp around.

      Some things I would do differently, if I could, would be to have the biospheres bigger. I like that they use natural light and that it might effect their situation. I would also have them in a place I could enjoy them easier.

      I think they are really nice to look at, and I don't have to clean them every week like my aquarium!

    16. mjb2000 68 months ago | reply

      Thanks so much for the update... I'm gonna write a little thing on my blog about it. (http://bottleworld.net)

      The activity you noted after the shrimp dies are understandable. The "new plant" that appears is an algae. The cloudiness in the water is probably algae too. That suggests strongly that (as designed) while the shrimp was alive it was eating algae, preventing them from taking over the bottle.

      Snails seem to be a lot more tolerant of the high-algae (and low-oxygen) condition. Maybe you should just put the system in a windowsill and kind of ignore it for a year. Anyway, this version of the ecosphere is an unqualified success. Thanks so much!

    17. Marek Mahut 63 months ago | reply

      What was the difference between your ecospheres?

    18. Chicks with Ticks 21 months ago | reply

      I am fascinated and want the recipe.....OMG OMG OMG please!!

    19. mjb2000 21 months ago | reply

      @Chicks with Ticks... the recipe is available for free, just google "tabletop biosphere" and get the PDF from MAKE #10. Or wait, here's a link science.kqed.org/quest/files/imp/wp_aquanaut.pdf . . It is very important to NOT alter the recipe, in particular do NOT be tempted to add more animals or more sludge than the recipe suggests. One lesson of the project It takes a LOT of plants to support even one shrimp and a few snails. A bigger jar (and therefore more water) is probably ok. Good luck!

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