Sealed 1g Wetland Park Bio-jar - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 38 (permalink) Old 09-07-2019, 02:00 AM Thread Starter
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Hello Everyone,

9 years ago I found myself with a 1 gallon glass jar. I had an idea to go create a little ecosystem so I went to a lake and filled it with some soil, water and uprooted some plants and threw them in. I closed the air-tight lid and kept it out of direct sunlight so it wouldn't grow algae or get too hot and the plants, and little water daphnia and other critters just kept going...and going...and going... The plants and life was still active 6 years later. It was a dynamic little ecosystem too, with blooms of different kinds of algae followed by population booms of this or that. I neglected it one summer and all the plants died and I ended my little experiment with it.

I decided to create another one a few weeks ago and ordered 2 glass one gallon jars. I decided to put a little thought into it this time with the goal of the life lasting even longer. Here is the plan I came up with. Don't judge too harshly, I created the little diagram plan of it for my facebook friends. Take anything I say not as me stating something as fact, but a wanna-be ecologist thinking out loud with his limited knowledge. :-).

It's a "Wetland Park" Bio-Jar (technically called a Closed Ecological System or CES). A microcosm of a small wetland park in my home county. Follow this thread and let's see what happens!
Font Hill Wetland Park

The Wetland Park:







I already adjusted a few things in my plan above, like the muriate of potash (potassium chloride being bad I later read so I didn't use that). Couldn't' find Potassium Nitrate anywhere, so I just dosed the jar to 50ppm with the idea that the plants I will place in their will soak up and save what they can the rest will just wait around until the plants need it. I also decided against the gravel cap (later wanted to add sand as well) as I realized that with just inert clay and sand water daphnia and other organisms that feed from various organic matter on the floor would be hard pressed finding good food. So I left the floor some weird mix of lake soil and remnants of clay pieces I didn't feel like removing.

Some pics:
Jar, and behind it my holding container of Anubias nana, Anacharis, Lemon Bacopa and some moss balls. Part of me wants to only add the Anubias Nana because that's the plan. Another part of wants to throw a little of everything in and let the "best plant win".


Dolomite:






Free tadpole snails from Petco:


This was it yesterday after I thought I was done.


Here it is after I finished my work on it today. I took out 50% of the lake's soil, and replaced it with some kind of rich potting soil. I figure that all the microorganisms are also plentiful in the 50% of the remaining soil and they can multiply into the potting soil I added. Not sure if that was a good idea. I guess the theory is the potting soil would be better for the plant and the microbes can take advantage of it too.

I also added about a cup's worth of Fluval Stratum and 50ppm of Flourish Potassium (since I couldn't find potassium nitrate). Oh, there's also like 7 flourish root tabs in there too. Experiment #1: nutrient toxicity?



Tomorrow, or when the water clears enough, it's very cloudy right now, I will add the plants. I'm leaning towards Two anubias nana (small). A couple stems of anacharis and a couple of lemon bacopa along with a hefty serving of moss balls. I'm torn though, I know adding more will deplete the nutrients quicker, but on the other hand adding one small plant seems boring! Maybe I'll split the difference. :-)

Last edited by nothreat33; 09-10-2019 at 12:07 PM. Reason: i think too mcuh
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post #2 of 38 (permalink) Old 09-07-2019, 03:58 AM
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I love experiments. Let's see where this goes!

Interested in meeting Planted Tank/Fish enthusiasts in the Green Bay and Sturgeon Bay, WI, areas. Inspired by what others do, no matter how big/small/complicated/simple it is.
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post #3 of 38 (permalink) Old 09-07-2019, 01:27 PM Thread Starter
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Water as cleared just a bit.

A consideration and possible problem: Due to plant respiration and the closed nature of the system I think I need a long term solution to regulate pH.

I'm wondering about N2 gas that would normally off-gass as well, and what effect that would have if allowed to build up in the water because plants can't utilize N2. I guess the population of Nitrogen-fixing bacteria would increase to match the "food supply" of N2 and create ammonia, which could then be used by plants. (there has to be Nitrogen-fixing Bacteria I would assume...right? that mud has to have loads of different stuff in it).

Nitrogen Retention: A study of 69 Danish Lakes found that burial in the soil only accounted for 23% of Nitrogen loss, while the other 77% is largely thought to disappear through denitrification and N2 release into the atmosphere. So theoretically, besides Nitrogen that is in the air space at the top the rest can always be used and/or recycled.

I haven't looked too much into supply Potassium, or how natural it is in lake soil. I focused on Fluval Stratum, root tabs, and rich potting soil. But I will try to find out if that's something I need more of. If I do, I will try to find some crushed granite. The information I found online told me that was a good natural source of potassium that is released very slowly, exactly what I'm looking for.

I'm not sure I can add a good long term source of Phosphorus. maybe wood chips or something, something not yet broken down into soil, but will break down in time releasing nutrients.

After my last post last night. I also took 200ml sample of water containing some water daphnia (hope I got them) from my small plant holding container and added them to the jar.

Also found out the official name is "Closed Ecological System". And ordered a few books:

Ecological Microcosms


Ecology of Shallow Lakes


Enough Googleing about it, time to sit down and read it. Ecology of the Planted Aquarium

Last edited by nothreat33; 09-07-2019 at 07:22 PM.
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post #4 of 38 (permalink) Old 09-08-2019, 03:04 AM Thread Starter
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I was thinking about suspending an air plant in the air space within the jar. I wonder what would happen.

I'm also thinking about the best methods to slow release nutrients. For Potassium, I think the slowest release of that is granite dust, or granite pieces. And for phosphate it would be rock phosphate or phosphorite. Both release potassium and phosphorus very slowly. They don't make good fertilizers for this reason but for my application, taking a really long time to make the nutrients available to plants is pretty much what I'm looking for.

I didn't have a lot of time to look into either of these possible nutrient sources today, I'll try to dig a little deeper tomorrow.

What I really need to do is become intimately aware of the nitrogen cycle, phosphorus cycle and potassium cycles in ecosystems because I can put in as much of them as I want but it can't be toxic and it has to be balanced, because technically, none of it is escaping the system, it's simply going from a status of available to unavailable to certain organisms. I guess what I'm trying to say is, my focus should be slightly shifted away from "how much nutrients can I fit in here" to "how to put in the correct amount of nutrients to support the amount of life (biomass) I want, and then in a balanced way to sustain that life."
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post #5 of 38 (permalink) Old 09-08-2019, 12:21 PM Thread Starter
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I was thinking about something this morning. Maybe my reasoning in choice of plant is wrong. I chose the Anubias Nana because it's slow growing with the thought it wont exhaust it's resources quickly. Which is true it wouldn't. But the plant also has few and large leaves that don't shed often. And I'm while slow growing, I don't know the resource requirements of those large leaves. If resources become scarce, they could lose them, and that might be deadly for the plant if it only has a few.

Compare that with something like Anacharis a fast growing stem plant. While it would be fast growing if the resources are present (and they would be at first) it has many very small leaves. With the Anacharis having more leaves it can potentially shed them if resources get scarce to adapt to the conditions of the tank. That shedding would make available food for water daphnia and the tadpole snails and eventually return those nutrients to the soil to start the process again. I think a faster cycle like this in this small ecosystem is more beneficial than the above scenario with the Anubias, shedding rarely and perhaps losing large leave(s) at once.

That was something I overlooked about my original Bio-Jar actually, the perpetual shedding and re-growth of those tiny leaves provided food for the daphnia (no snails in that one). I wont get that with the anubias' few leaves that hardly ever fall off and become food. With that fast cycle of shedding and growth new food is produced for water organisms. Including a plant like Anacharis I believe is definitely ideal.

The frequent nutrient recycling of the stem plant shedding it's tiny leaves is exactly what I saw happening in my original bio-Jar with a similar stem plant. It created a quicker nutrient cycle and made it seem like the plant was just the same all the time -in balance.

I could have one heavy root feeder, one heavy water feeder. Soil is also rich in nutrients, so rich I probably don't need to dose the water for the water column feeder plant because of leeching (though I did dose 50ppm of Potassium). The decay of leaves from both of those plants will become food for snails and daphnia, bacteria will also do their work making that waste available to the plants once again.

In my original Bio-Jar detritus did build up to a 1/4 inch after 4 years. You can see it in the picture below. I need to plant my Anubias elevated so that the Rhizome does not become submerged in it and die. I don't want that to be the reason for the plant's death. I'll ask about a heavy root feeder that has no Rhizome in the plant's section of this forum.

Here is the only picture I have of my old Bio-Jar at 4 years old.
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post #6 of 38 (permalink) Old 09-08-2019, 12:43 PM
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I am going to reply before fully reading. Please don't be afraid to open the jar if that is what the living things need.

I will now read the thread after a cup of coffee.

Cheers

Style: Organic soil, sand, gravel, plants, moss, algae, snails, shrimp, small fish
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post #7 of 38 (permalink) Old 09-08-2019, 12:55 PM Thread Starter
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Thank you for taking the time to read my thread!

Last edited by nothreat33; 09-08-2019 at 03:44 PM.
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post #8 of 38 (permalink) Old 09-08-2019, 03:58 PM
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I wouldn't keep the jar sealed. Not allowing for air exchange is, like it or not, borderline cruel - even for snails. Probably don't have to keep it open all the time but every once in a while should be on your to-do list. That's up to you, of course, but be prepared for people to chime in telling you it's cruel. It's on par with sealed biodomes containing Halocaridina rubra.

Most Tillandsia (air plants) need air flow/exchange, so they won't do well in a constantly humid, no flow environment.

Just about any plant with a decent root system (that gets planted) will feed heavily from roots if given the chance. Stem plants like Bacopa/Rotala/Hedyotis and others like Cryptocoryne. Would be interesting to see how Crypts grow and develop in a setup like that.


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post #9 of 38 (permalink) Old 09-08-2019, 04:58 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by somewhatshocked View Post
I wouldn't keep the jar sealed. Not allowing for air exchange is, like it or not, borderline cruel - even for snails.
Do you happen to know more about what the problems involving air exchange? What in the air exactly? N2, methane, O2, CO2? If there's a problem there I'd like to try to solve it by adding something to deal with it in the air space without opening it.

It was difficult to find information on gas exchange.

What about crypts makes you interested in how'd they'd do?
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post #10 of 38 (permalink) Old 09-08-2019, 05:23 PM
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Not trying to debate anyone or shame you or anything like that. I'm saying that because you can't account for everything that goes into air exchange. It's pretty tough to know what's released, what dissolves, etc. in a container like that. And because it's up to us as hobbyists to replenish water on a regular basis because it's not being naturally replenished. Various dissolved solids are being used up and never get replaced. Water hardness will likely change over time.

Cryptocoryne are prone to melting when something in their environment changes. Temperature, water hardness, lighting, occasionally from being uprooted and replanted, changes in CO2. Mine are generally hardy but sometimes they'll straight-up melt and it's interesting to watch them redevelop. And that's just in tanks with regular water changes, decent flow, a ready supply of nutrients, lighting, all that.


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post #11 of 38 (permalink) Old 09-08-2019, 05:35 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by somewhatshocked View Post
Not trying to debate anyone or shame you or anything like that.
I dont feel debated or shamed. I know some people will have an issue concerning the ethics of what I'm doing, even if it is with snails. No worries.

I'm hoping the books I ordered will have more detailed information on gas exchange.
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post #12 of 38 (permalink) Old 09-08-2019, 06:24 PM
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This is pretty spiffy! When I saw the picture of the park I immediately said "hey, I know that place". Then I read that its Font Hill and I was like "yep, I do know that place!" Font Hill is literally just over a mile from my house I am moving to next week.

I don't have any experience in doing what you are doing. But if it were me, I would pick the hardiest plant possible, especially a temperate plant and not a tropical one. The reason being that you want something that is used to coming back from the dead after a winter. What goes on in that jar is going to be a roller coaster for any plants from lots of nutrients to none and then back to lots.

I would hesitate to go with a floating plant simply because they are used to LOTS of CO2 which by necessity will go away after a while. But if you do decide to go with a floating plant, again go with one from a temperate climate not tropical.

I imagine that a snail would not do well in this kind of environment because anything that big will likely use up a lot of O2 and convert it CO2. Normally a non-issue but in a sealed environment I do not know that 1 gallon is enough space to grow enough plants to sustain a snail. Again I have nothing to back this up but my own gut feeling. /shrug

Good luck and let us know how it goes!
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post #13 of 38 (permalink) Old 09-09-2019, 01:05 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by minorhero View Post
This is pretty spiffy! When I saw the picture of the park I immediately said "hey, I know that place". Then I read that its Font Hill and I was like "yep, I do know that place!" Font Hill is literally just over a mile from my house I am moving to next week.

I don't have any experience in doing what you are doing. But if it were me, I would pick the hardiest plant possible, especially a temperate plant and not a tropical one. The reason being that you want something that is used to coming back from the dead after a winter. What goes on in that jar is going to be a roller coaster for any plants from lots of nutrients to none and then back to lots.

I would hesitate to go with a floating plant simply because they are used to LOTS of CO2 which by necessity will go away after a while. But if you do decide to go with a floating plant, again go with one from a temperate climate not tropical.

I imagine that a snail would not do well in this kind of environment because anything that big will likely use up a lot of O2 and convert it CO2. Normally a non-issue but in a sealed environment I do not know that 1 gallon is enough space to grow enough plants to sustain a snail. Again I have nothing to back this up but my own gut feeling. /shrug

Good luck and let us know how it goes!
That's crazy! We probably even went to the same High School! I didn't do extensive research or anything but Anubias plants are pretty hardy and slow growing. I plan on keeping this jar in doors and controlling light to be very low. Most the CO2/O2 cycle will come from the plants and the microbes in the soil from what I've gathered. A user DaveKS recommended getting a plant that would grow outside into the airspace to oxygenate the air for the snails as they do not breathe underwater.
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post #14 of 38 (permalink) Old 09-10-2019, 01:49 AM Thread Starter
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After a lot more reading I've come to the conclusion that a major challenge is going to be keeping the soil aerobic. This can only be done if the soil layer on the bottom is very thin because there is essentially going to be little to no water agitation. Even 1.5 inches of soil as Diana Walstad might suggest would create anaerobic conditions with no water movement. A scientific study concluded that:
Quote:
"Respiration by microorganisms decomposing organic matter in pond soil consumes oxygen faster than it can penetrate the soil mass, and only the surface layer is aerobic."
This partly why her tanks require water flow. In regards to the solution being only a thin layer of soil....the problem with that is a very thin layer of soil wont be adequate to supply the nutrients to plants and food to organisms long term (I'm talking years). In this ecosystem the soil is going to be the strong base to many food chains and nutrient/biological cycles. It's probably the most important aspect to get right. Firstly, I need as much as I can get in there. Secondly, it needs to be GOOD soil, ,as in, healthy bacteria populations, rich in nutrients for the plants, and is rich in organic matter for microorganisms (and likewise bacteria as well). Plentiful healthy soil is the base or backbone, or most important aspect of this sealed ecosystem, every organism in the jar depends on the quality of the soil to be healthy and survive long term. It all starts there, so I'm going to spend a little time making sure I give the soil a good amount of thought.

For soil quality:
I can get it from a rich source containing diverse bacterial populations and organic nutrients and matter: (wetland pond) CHECK
I can pump nutrients into it, with things like root tabs (comparatively fast nutrient release), sticks/leaves (comparatively slower), as well as things like rock phosphate for Phosphorus, and granite for Potassium (for much much slower release). CHECK
But the problem of soil oxygenation is something I'd like to try to solve to the best of my abilities (that's what makes it fun right?)

I can only think of two ideas: Firstly, is simply to use a thin layer of soil. But this means my system wont last as long, which is the goal. So I wont do this method.

Secondly, and this will be combined with the third option for best results is multiple soil/water layers combined with deep heavy rooting plants. Unfortunately, this is also the hardest to implement as I haven't even figured out how to find a medium capable of not letting soil through but allowing roots through it. If I can find a medium that allows that I think I can figure out the rest.

If anyone has any ideas for material that might work let me know pleaseeee


Last edited by nothreat33; 09-10-2019 at 12:41 PM. Reason: i think too mcuh
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post #15 of 38 (permalink) Old 09-10-2019, 11:53 AM Thread Starter
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So here's what I learned yesterday:

Limnology is the study of lakes. And that
Quote:
In limnology, allochthonous sources of carbon or nutrients come from outside the aquatic system (such as plant and soil material). Carbon sources from within the system, such as algae and the microbial breakdown of aquatic particulate organic carbon, are autochthonous. In aquatic food webs, the portion of biomass derived from allochthonous material is then named "allochthony".[2] In streams and small lakes, allochthonous sources of carbon are dominant while in large lakes and the ocean, autochthonous sources dominate."
I should look into this "autochthonous" more, it will surely be helpful. As in "autochthonous sources of nutrients in small lakes and ponds"

While I knew the basic principle, of gas in liquid having to do with it's concentration and pressure in the air above I didn't know the name. Stumbled across it while trying to solve the problem of getting O2 to dissolve into the air space in the jar for the snails to breathe. Henry's law is a gas law that states that the amount of dissolved gas in a liquid is proportional to its partial pressure above the liquid. I ended up finding out a much easier solution thanks to the suggestion of @DaveKS. As he said the easiest solution is to add a plant that is emerged. I am going with a floating plant, specifically duckweed because it is also a nitrogen fixer.

I want to prevent denitrification as it simply impoverishes the soil of useable nitrogen. A nitrogen fixer will take any N2, consume it, and upon death reintroduce that nitrogen in a useable form for plants. With a nitrogen fixer, I wont "run out" of nitrogen because of the effects of denitrification. Nitrogen will only run out if it's unavailable due to it being used in plant/animal biomass.

I kept thinking of solutions to oxygenate my soil using layers and that medium that wont allow soil to go through but will allow roots to go through it. As weird as it sounds I think pantyhose would work as that medium. As for the new plan for water/soil layering I came up with this:



Last edited by nothreat33; 09-10-2019 at 12:03 PM. Reason: i think too mcuh
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