Tabletop Biosphere: NJ Pond in a Jar

Geek Culture

The geeklings and I finally ventured out to create the tabletop biosphere as featured in the recent issue of Make magazine, as well as their very recent "Weekend Projects" video podcast. It is too good not to try. After our spring outing and nature lesson, the big jar was begging for something better. This was a great project that combined the outdoors, physical activity, and a biology lesson, along with a lesson about of the delicate balance that exists all around us.

Recreating nature in a tank in various forms are some of the more vivid geekkid memories I have. My 4-year-old is showing all signs of needing similar thrills and begged, BEGGED me to take him to the local pond to collect our "creatures" when I suggested it. (Relentless, he is, as only a 4-year-old can be. Even my 8-year-old was won over.)

Our own spin on Make’s ingredient list involved recreating New Jersey pond life and procuring as little as possible from the store. We ditched the shrimps and bottled up some budding native bladderwort and duckweed, two minnows, several native snails, a small lamprey (what luck!), along with the typical amphipods, ostracods, copepods, and other crustacea. We even managed to snag a (seemingly) newly hatched giant water bug! An interesting creature that can grow up to 4 inches. This little critter is currently breathing by way of an air bubble it keeps under its abdomen.Njbiosphere2_2Njbiosphere2_2

We did use the aquarium salt and dechlorinator to supplement our efforts. It will be interesting to see how this goes. The geeklings and I came up with a host of problems that might throw our NJ Pond Biosphere experiment out of whack:

  • Is there enough variety to balance the carbon dioxide/oxygen mix?
  • Will the water bug grow and eat the fish?
  • Will the fish devour our tiny invertebrates and thus unbalance our ecosystem?
  • Will the fish die of hunger or oxygen deprivation?
  • Will the bladderwort grow and choke the environment like the weed it is?

So many questions. Such looming disaster! But it will be fun waiting for the answers and the outcome regardless.

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