One month

The Swamp II – one month / March 2020

An overview of the Swamp at the end of the 4th week.

This also marks about 5 months since I started the jar in the first half of October 2019. It originally contained water from a very large freshwater (flowing) lake and from an old quarry, now a fishing pond (about 20yo ecosystem), as well as some algae. It was kept outside October to January, then brought in at room temperature (cca 23 C) on February 10th and given about 400 lumens 24h a day.

In February water level was about halfway, at the 3cm mark; can still be seen on the side of the jar by the line of algae that grew where the water line used to be. I added bottled water up to the top of the jar (6cm mark). The water was clear, with very little algae and no visible living organisms. Microscope inspection showed rotifers and small cilliates.

The Swamp as it came out of hibernation
February, 2020

A week later I seeded the jar with fresh (collected in the second week of February 2020) samples from the fishing pond (slime, dirt, water plants, algae) and plans that grew in a fresh water source that I found on the side of a hill.

Removed the rotting tree moss
and added algae and water plants

I have been giving it light and keeping it warm ever since. This is the situation in the Swamp after one month.

PLANT LIFE

There is one dominant macro species: some sort of water plant that seems to thrive without any soil. It has many parallel stems a couple of mm in circumference, each with leaves growing on all its length.

The water plant.
Growing happily and now rising above the surface
The large leaves provide a perfect surface for eggs
Good plant.

The most abundant of the algae is spirogyra, the very fine tubular algae with their spiral coil of chloroplasts that look like gelatinous mist in the water. I had also noticed segmented algae, somewhat thicker than spirogyra and without the coil, having neatly separated chambers filled with chloroplasts.

Spirogyra

These algae are long tubes, incredibly fine and stick together like hair, making for some very fine curling locks, as can be seen below. It also tends to occupy all the volume it is allowed, especially when grown in a somewhat controlled environment like my jar.

A curl or Spirogyra cca 2cm long
The other kind of algae growing in the jar – segmented and with no spiral

Something interesting I found – what appear to be parasitic algae (maybe some form of symbiosis?) growing on the leaves of the water plant. The algae are tubular, straight with no ramifications and contain chloroplasts.

Parasitic algae growing on the leaves of the water plant

Microscope inspection shows the pretty Coleochaetales with its cells disposed in a spiral as well as the desmid Cosmarium. I also spotted Merismopedia, neatly arranged in rows.

Coleochaetales
the desmid Cosmarium

The plants produce significant levels of oxygen, seen in the little bubbles that form among the water plants and algae.

Hanging in between the water plants I found little dark spheres about 1mm in diameter that, upon inspection, revealed to be sacks full of strange algae (?) composed of spherical beads:

A sack of what looks like algae
A sphere of algae

Of the larger living things, must first be mentioned the snails, the largest sporting a whopping 5 or 6mm diameter shell. Many baby snails around, they seem to be reproducing abundently. I have seen a group of 7 hatching.

Snails hatching
I believe this to be the same egg sack at an earlier stage of development

I’ve seen a few Oligochaeta, rather large in size (up to 5mm) and some larvae that looked somewhat similar to them and were of comparable size.

Water fleas have been a pleasant surprise – only noticed them a few days ago. Small and with an almost transparent shell, they move somewhat slower than the cyclopes, which are abundant and slightly larger in size, at about 1mm.

Cyclopes (cca 1mm)

One morning I found mosquitos and their larvae, but I quickly gassed and disposed of them (6 or 7 mosquitos, about 5 larvae). Pretty colours, yellow with black dots.

A mosquito that hatched in my jar
Eggs (?) on the dead mosquito’s wing after a few hours in the Swamp

Nematode worms of different sizes are also present, from the smaller, more agitated ones, to the larger, slower ones.

Still in the macro realm, I found an escape-pod from a colony of Bryozoa: it’s a fortified egg that survives dessiccation, travel and all sorts of rough environments. I am insulted.

A Bryozoa statoblast – armored escape pod
Bryozoa ststoblast

There are – and have been throughout the winter – cilliates and rotifers.

A very small cilliate

It is virtually impossible to collect the same sample again if one wishes to observe its evolution. As such I decided to place two cover glasses in the jar – one is (still) on the surface, and one is submerged. I am hoping to monitor the deposits that will form. Maybe I’ll try coating them with different nutrients to see how things develop on them.

Cover glass placed in the jar to collect deposits

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