Classroom Ecosystem - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 9 (permalink) Old 02-23-2014, 05:38 PM Thread Starter
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Exclamation Classroom Ecosystem

I am a fourth grade teacher looking for a way to demonstrate to students a properly functioning ecosystem. My desire is to have aquatic life (Sea Monkeys) as well as land decomposers (worms), producers (plants), and consumers (cricket?).

I am unable to find much information on the net to see if what I'm imagining is a fair and comfortable setup for the animals involved. I want it near maintenance-free. I plan to be fully responsible for these animals, however, and won't build it if I see it being too much upkeep.

Here is the setup I'm imagining:

Three soda bottles, one on top of the other. Brine shrimp (Sea Monkeys) on the bottom with water and a twig from our dead Ecosphere (we had it ten years). Above that will sit the coupler bottle, which will be attached to the top "earth" layer and will be home to the worm and perhaps the cricket.

My questions are:
Do Sea Monkeys *need* aerated water? I remember having them as a child in a plastic container that was not aerated. I understand a pump could be an addition, however this would introduce an unnatural setting to our ecosystem. My goal is to have a self-sufficient, self-contained ecosystem.

Is algae enough food for the Sea Monkeys? I understand how to maintain algae growth because of my success with our Ecosphere.

I know how to keep my worm alive, as they can feed on most any organic materials. However, will my cricket and worm live harmoniously and is a soda bottle going to provide a large enough space?

I want this to be as simple as possible. I'm the queen of over-thinking things, so if you have a better idea of how I can introduce aquatic life and land life which contains producers, consumers, and decomposers PLEASE let me know.

Oh, and I want this completed by Wednesday. (Yes, I procrastinate)

Thank you so much!!
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post #2 of 9 (permalink) Old 02-24-2014, 12:32 AM Thread Starter
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I see a lot of people have looked at this but no one has said anything. I am open to thoughts!! Any thoughts!
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post #3 of 9 (permalink) Old 02-24-2014, 01:30 AM
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You'll probably need a bigger space (or just a different shape) because it's hard to imagine having a water space for the sea monkeys and dry dirt for the worms and crickets so they don't drown in a soda bottle. If you don't want to take up very much space I'd suggest not using aquatic life because it complicates things so much more to have producers, decomposers, and consumers on dry land and then to have an aquatic feature as well.
I think the kids would be much more interested if you had a frog or something else that is farther up the food chain (have you guys done food chains yet?)

If you have or you're teaching them that soon you could get like a 5 or 10 gallon tank with a fluorescent light to mimic the sun (I believe that's the initial energy source or something for food chains) and grow some easy to grow plant in there that would take the energy and turn it into food and have crickets or something else that eats the plants (without decimating it) get the energy from the plant and then have a frog that would eat the crickets and get the energy from the plants without eating the plants because the crickets had it in them.

Hope this helps
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post #4 of 9 (permalink) Old 02-24-2014, 04:18 PM
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I think your idea is a reasonable one, but there are a few additional options you might consider.

Firstly, Sea Monkies/brine shrimp are actually brackish and/or salt-water dwelling organisms, and, as such, don't quite fully fit with your overall plan. I say this largely because I don't know if you intend to have the land section at all in contact with the water (I'm afraid I don't quite envision what you're doing with the soda bottles and the coupler,) but the salt will likely kill the plants and worm when it permeates the soil.

To answer your questions, though, aeration is not entirely required to keep brine shrimp, but only if you maintain a low population density. To the second question, brine shrimp are filter feeders and eat algae almost exclusively. They prefer green, single-celled algaes suspended in the water (think green-water algae,) but can also eat diatoms when forced to, though this is not optimal and has a noticeable effect on survivability.

As an alternative to brine shrimp, I might suggest daphnia (water fleas) instead. Some of them are pretty large (Daphnia magna,) they don't require aeration, they are also filter-feeders, and are fresh-water organisms. Of additional benefit, they can reporduce parthenogenically, so you can have offspring in the aquarium and you can discuss an interesting and relatively uncommon form of reproduction. Also, you're more likely to see them in proximity to worms and crickets. You can get them from purveyors of aquatic testing organisms or from local bodies of water (though probably not at this time of the year.)

In terms of the survival of the worm and cricket, it really depends on how long you intend to keep them thus. More space is always better, particularly when you want a system to be self-sustaining, but I imagine that the bottles could provide them with a tolerable living condition for several weeks with observation. I don't see the cricket bothering the worm or vice-versa.
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post #5 of 9 (permalink) Old 02-24-2014, 06:01 PM
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You may find this helpful:

for a smaller volume, snails would probably be a better animal than sea monkeys.

Last edited by Aplomado; 02-24-2014 at 06:02 PM. Reason: more
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post #6 of 9 (permalink) Old 02-24-2014, 06:29 PM
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I think there would be a issue with the saltwater for the sea monkeys and land animals
i think a 10 gallon with land/water split , this could be done with a baffle or a ramped gravel
and maybe ghost shrimp in the water and maybe a red bellyed frog for the land part or a small salamander / newt.
and the key to any eco system is plants that have access to the land and the water
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post #7 of 9 (permalink) Old 02-26-2014, 03:02 AM
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Instead of brine shrimp, use amphipods or freshwater crustaceans/shrimp. I've found gammarus shrimp to be good indicators of a healthy ecosystem.
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post #8 of 9 (permalink) Old 03-02-2014, 01:44 AM
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Check this out...

They developed that right here in Madison, Wisconsin.
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post #9 of 9 (permalink) Old 03-02-2014, 01:54 AM
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I love that you are doing this for your kids! I am also an elementary teacher. I wonder if ghost shrimp wouldn't be a better choice than the brine shrimp?? Freshwater as opposed to salt...

I did closed ecosystems with my classes about 15 years ago. We used ghost shrimp and worked better than expected and a couple of the systems lasted more than a year.
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