Closed ecosystems?
September 29, 2005 6:07 AM   Subscribe

Do closed ecosystems, those glass globes with algae and shrimp and a twig, work? I'd like to get one, but they're pricey, and I'd like to know if they actually, you know, live for longer than five minutes. Picture here.
posted by OmieWise to Science & Nature (13 answers total)
Inside each EcoSphere are active micro-organisms, bright red shrimp and algae, each existing in a clear "soup" of filtered sea water. Because the ecosphere is a self-sustaining ecosystem, you never have to feed the life within. Simply provide your EcoSphere with a source of indirect natural or artificial light and enjoy this aesthetic blend of art and science, beauty and balance.

Because the living resources within the EcoSphere utilize their resources without overpopulating or contaminating their environment, the EcoSphere requires no cleaning and only minimal care.

EcoSpheres have an average life expectancy of two years. However, it is not uncommon for shrimp populations to be thriving in systems as old as 7 years. EcoSpheres are available in either pod or spherical shapes, in a range of sizes. EcoSphere Associates can also custom design and install larger ecosystems for home and business use.
posted by Frasermoo at 6:11 AM on September 29, 2005

they appear to be bloody expensive for what they are.
posted by Frasermoo at 6:13 AM on September 29, 2005

Response by poster: Yeah, and I've read the catalog copy too, that's why I was hoping some one could tell me if they actually do stay alive.
posted by OmieWise at 6:16 AM on September 29, 2005

My wonderful EcoSphere died after 2 1/2 years just a week ago. My creatures were thriving. Unfortunately, a crack had developed (I believe it was from an imbalance in the system) and eventually burst.

But for those 2 1/2 years, it provided me with immense happiness. I tried naming my critters, but I couldn't tell them apart, so the shrimp, snails and algae had collective names :)

They are very durable. Mine survived two moves, hordes of cats and a near freeze (I kept it on my windowsil; The temperature took a significant plunge and I awoke to what I thought were dead creatures. After moving it to a warmer spot, all of my little friends started zipping merrily about after a half an hour or so!

I'll stop rambling about it. They are quite durable and loads of fun!
posted by zerokey at 6:18 AM on September 29, 2005

We have a few around the office, some more than a year old. They're still alive, even the sea-monkeys shrimp. I'm told you have to keep light low less the algae overwhelm, but other than that there's not much to do.
posted by Nelson at 6:18 AM on September 29, 2005

Umnn, I made these when I was in like 3rd grade with the rest of my class. I seem to recall quite a few of them holding out for a few weeks (the lifespan of the project). I'm fairly certain there are DIY guides out there for this sort of thing if you want to try it yourself for extremely cheap.
posted by onalark at 6:51 AM on September 29, 2005

In case you're interested, here are a few nifty closeup shots I've taken of the globe (first 4 images - the bobs)
posted by zerokey at 7:20 AM on September 29, 2005

An ex-girlfriend gave one of these to my parents as a gift. It was a brilliant idea and I've recommended it to others in similar situations. Last I heard, the system was going strong after two years.
posted by allen.spaulding at 7:20 AM on September 29, 2005

You can make these on your own with an empty two-litre bottle but they don't look nearly as pretty or last nearly as long.
posted by sciurus at 7:42 AM on September 29, 2005

Mine is still thriving after more than three years. Mine is one of the smaller ones about three inches accross and spherical. The limitation on the lifespan is that the little shrimpies don't breed. I'm satisfied with the purchase, it's kind of silly but it is satisfing seeing it still alive.

And zerokey, I'm sorry for your loss.

posted by Mr T at 9:36 AM on September 29, 2005

Please just don't get the units that have a betta or other small fish in them. I understand that they work, but often fish in these units can't swim more than an inch in any direction before hitting glass.

I'm no longer active in the aquaria realm, but I was an obsessive fishkeeper for a short while, and most people with an interest in it agree that those little biospheres are cruel to the fish that are living in them.

Basically, you could live in your shower if you had to you, but would you want to?
posted by WinnipegDragon at 10:21 AM on September 29, 2005

Plus, betta fish actually breathe air periodically so fresh air is important to them. And if anyone tells you that betta fish eat plant roots, they don't know what they're talking about. They might nibble at them in those systems, but it's because they are starving to death from lack of food.
posted by agregoli at 10:24 AM on September 29, 2005

sciurus: I found a few pages there that have some success, but it's really hit-or-miss it appears.

Does anyone know of a reasonably sure-fire formula?
posted by Kickstart70 at 12:14 PM on September 29, 2005

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