Pond sample question

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SuiGenerisBrewing
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Pond sample question

#1 Post by SuiGenerisBrewing » Thu Sep 29, 2022 4:50 pm

This is going to be a long-ish post, but the TLDR is I was hoping someone would have a good resource they'd be willing to share on how to maintain a small aquarium with a *diverse* range of freshwater algae and protists, or alternatively, if someone knows of a source where a similar "prepared" sample can be purchased.

Long version:
I am a microbiology prof whose main teaching duty is an undergraduate micro lab course. For years I have been teaching microscopy in this course using fresh water organisms which, until 3 years ago, came from an experimental pond here on campus. This was an excellent resource which have a great diversity of algae (filamentous, colonial, single-celled, diatoms, etc), protists (vorticella, paramecium, mastigoes, eugleia, etc), and a range of bacteria as well. Unfortunately, the faculty member who maintained this pond retired at the start of the pandemic, and the pond left along with her. Since then I have been using "wild" samples from local ponds and other sources, often "enriching" them by adding small amounts of fertilizer (for the algae) and crushed grains (to grow bacteria for the protists). The success of this has been mixed - with this all-but-failing this year thanks to drought-like conditions in our area that dried up most of the good sources. But our biggest issue has been with organism density - even in good years the density of organisms has been very low compared to the density from the experimental pond. Diversity is also fairly limited in comparison. The former is an issue as we only have limited time in the lab, so students don't have a lot of time to hunt for the odd rare organism. The latter is an issue as I have to grade this stuff, and after the 73rd cymbella things start to get a tad dry.

I would like to buy a small/cheap aquarium for my office at work, in which I'd like to grow and maintain a diverse population of algae and protists (essentially have my own mini-pond). I've been looking for resources to help me do this successfully, and have not been impressed with what I have found. Does anyone know of a good resource for creating and maintaining this type of an environment that they consider trustworthy?

Alternatively, does anyone know of a company that sells "kits" of dormant organisms that can be rehydrated on-demand, or otherwise sell these sorts of samples.

I have time to do this right - 364 days to be exact...

Thanks

Bryan

Dubious
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Re: Pond sample question

#2 Post by Dubious » Thu Sep 29, 2022 6:04 pm

Have you checked out Carolina Biological Supply?

https://www.carolina.com/living-organis ... d%3A100001

Sure Squintsalot
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Re: Pond sample question

#3 Post by Sure Squintsalot » Fri Sep 30, 2022 1:10 am

I have a bird bath in the back yard that supplies me with more organisms than you can shake a stick at. Turns out that birds use it to wash parasites off their bodies, poop in it, use it for mouthwash, you name it and a bird has done it in a bird bath. Add to that the sheer variety of birds, from hawks and sparrows, to thrashers and doves that use this thing and I end up with a festering cauldron of the scariest things I've ever seen through an eyepiece.

Greg Howald
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Re: Pond sample question

#4 Post by Greg Howald » Fri Sep 30, 2022 1:32 am

I had my own aquarium setup for three years and did very well with it.
Then in June I switched over to plant life and got away from pond stuff.
Things were going well. I bought a bag of planting mix to use with different experiments with plants using a hydroponic system. Last week I examined a drop of water from the hydrponic system using 20x magnification, and there they all were. Algae, rotifers, diatoms, paramecium, and others. The source of those things was the potting mix. So now I have the best of both worlds. All the plant research available with the pond life along for the ride.
Given a chance those things will thrive being fed by the plant life, the grow light, the hydrponic plant food formula, and the circulating pump.

SuiGenerisBrewing
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Re: Pond sample question

#5 Post by SuiGenerisBrewing » Fri Sep 30, 2022 12:47 pm

Sure Squintsalot wrote:
Fri Sep 30, 2022 1:10 am
I have a bird bath in the back yard that supplies me with more organisms than you can shake a stick at. Turns out that birds use it to wash parasites off their bodies, poop in it, use it for mouthwash, you name it and a bird has done it in a bird bath. Add to that the sheer variety of birds, from hawks and sparrows, to thrashers and doves that use this thing and I end up with a festering cauldron of the scariest things I've ever seen through an eyepiece.
We used my bird bath as a source in the past. It's OK, but the diversity wasn't great.
Dubious wrote:
Thu Sep 29, 2022 6:04 pm
Have you checked out Carolina Biological Supply?

https://www.carolina.com/living-organis ... d%3A100001
That looks promising...one of their pond kits may be a great way to start an on-going aquarium...or even just to buy yearly for use in the lab. Thanks!

DWSmith
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Joined: Sun Nov 06, 2022 12:07 pm

Re: Pond sample question

#6 Post by DWSmith » Mon Dec 05, 2022 4:20 pm

Werner Nachtigall in his book Exploring with the Microscope covers his use of micro-aquariums (page 117 in my copy). He uses very simple setups; small jars, no pumps nor filters. He keeps several of them.

I went overboard and used about a gallon sized terrarium jar and lid. I put in some marbles, a couple of small fish, 2 plants, and 3 snails in it ... and of course water. I use a desk lamp over it. After 2 weeks it's doing well. I'll start looking at the water under the microscope soon.

I also have a 1/2 acre pond close to my back door but this time of year the ice makes it unavailable most of the time.

Good luck to you!

Martin Parnham
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Re: Pond sample question

#7 Post by Martin Parnham » Mon Dec 05, 2022 6:45 pm

Hi - For a while I maintained a reasonably successful indoor 'pond' in a large glass vase on an east facing windowsill. I was conscious of trying to avoid solute accumulation. As the water evaporated I topped up with rain water. In addition every couple of weeks I removed about a fifth of the old water and replaced it with fresh rain water. At the same time I added a couple of drops of liquid plant fertilizer and a few porridge oats. I was trying to simulate the water throughput of an outdoor pool. I kept it oxygenated using a small USB air pump (Ebay). Small as it was I had to put a kink in the outlet pipe to reduces bubble flow to avoid frothing. Eventually I met with some 'domestic resistance' to a pot of 'manky green water' bubbling away in the house! I made a small outdoor pool which is now pretty well stocked with various beasts.

Martin

SuiGenerisBrewing
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Re: Pond sample question

#8 Post by SuiGenerisBrewing » Wed Dec 07, 2022 12:46 pm

DWSmith wrote:
Mon Dec 05, 2022 4:20 pm
Werner Nachtigall in his book Exploring with the Microscope covers his use of micro-aquariums (page 117 in my copy). He uses very simple setups; small jars, no pumps nor filters. He keeps several of them.

I went overboard and used about a gallon sized terrarium jar and lid. I put in some marbles, a couple of small fish, 2 plants, and 3 snails in it ... and of course water. I use a desk lamp over it. After 2 weeks it's doing well. I'll start looking at the water under the microscope soon.

I also have a 1/2 acre pond close to my back door but this time of year the ice makes it unavailable most of the time.

Good luck to you!
I think I'm going to give this a go in the spring, once the ponds unfreeze. Worst case scenario is my office stinks a little more than usual :mrgreen:

Phill Brown
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Re: Pond sample question

#9 Post by Phill Brown » Wed Dec 07, 2022 4:13 pm

A takeaway tub with moss in the bottom, top up with any standing rainwater.
Considering how much is in a single drop ½" water in the bottom sloshed around should offer up plenty of variety.
Avoid direct sunlight for moss.

ddy5
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Location: Maryland, USA

Re: Pond sample question

#10 Post by ddy5 » Sat Dec 10, 2022 2:19 pm

Interesting comments about the bird baths. This summer I found a collecting site that had the most interesting diversity of protozoans and rotifers I've ever encountered. It was a short stretch of lake shoreline distinguished by small, fluffy bird feathers on or near the water. Samples with no evidence of bird activity, even just from 10 meters to either side of that site, had a much lower quantity and diversity of microorganisms.

Combined with the bird bath observations, that suggests we just need to harness the power of bird poop to enrich our pond samples or small aquaria. Does anyone know how to do that (short of visiting a poultry farm)?

Cheers, David

Dennis
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Re: Pond sample question

#11 Post by Dennis » Sat Dec 10, 2022 2:53 pm

David,
Nothing in the bird poop. It is on their feathers.
Water from a lake, pond or creek has whatever a birdbath has and much more and it is not the birds that need to bring anything to it.
I am not a expert BTW. Also what is in the birdbath you can also get from moss or even dirt.

Poop could feed bacteria which the protists would then eat but there is so much other plant algae and rotting plant material that it would not be needed in a lake.
You have to get algae and decaying plant material in your water sample.
I guess this is all my opinions really.

charlie g
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Re: Pond sample question

#12 Post by charlie g » Mon Dec 12, 2022 4:59 am

Hi Bryan, please in this forum look up my posts on stable long term indoor, and outdoor freshwater habitats...with the numerous stable niche habitats. charlie guevara/ charlie g

kwesi
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Re: Pond sample question

#13 Post by kwesi » Mon Jan 23, 2023 2:53 am

DWSmith wrote:
Mon Dec 05, 2022 4:20 pm
I'll start looking at the water under the microscope soon.
How is the mini aquarium going so far? Any interesting specimens? I'm looking into starting one myself and would be interested to hear how this setup has turned out.

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