When we moved out of OKC and gave up all the tanks, I missed them—so for my birthday in 2000, I got a little ecosphere egg with five little shrimp in it. And a twiggy branch. It’s a sealed system. It’s got algae, bacteria, and some tiny, tiny shrimp that live in a balanced system. It needs to be kept reasonably warm, never hot, given light, but not direct sunlight. And they’re active little things.
Eventually, of course, we did get fish tanks. And a 5000 gallon pond. But I’ve always taken care of that little egg, kept it from getting too cold or too hot. And stable. They appreciate not being moved about or disturbed too much. We lost three of the shrimp the first year, but the two remaining soldiered on. I lost one of the two a couple of years ago. The egg survived the 8 day winter blackout. But alas, the last shrimp died this spring. Aged sixteen years at least. Pretty good for a shrimp about as long as a cigarette end is wide. Pretty good for an artificial contained ecosystem.
Irony is, my college roomie and I palled around with the son of one of the German rocket scientists. His project was space station life support. We kept fish tanks. So we used to talk a lot on how to sustain a sealed system with scats (a fish that eats algae) and light. Balance was a pita. But the scats were just too large, and balancing their eating with the resources light could produce was a little too hard. We all graduated and went our ways.
But when I saw this egg back-when, I was absolutely intrigued.
Well, they had a sale on them. So I got myself another egg. Four shrimp in this one. And a twig. And some sand. I’ve set them at my work station (I’ll have to move them to a warmer spot come winter). There’s a spot of green algae that’s popped up. But that’s not what they eat. I saw one of the smaller ones on the glass without the normal white coating on his little front claws—at which they’re ordinarily busy. But he began waving his claws over the glass, and collecting white onto his forelimbs, bacteria, which are too small to see until he masses them together. Then he’ll go perch on his twig with the others. I don’t know their species well enough to know whether he eats the bacteria or whether they provide something that he absorbs. But he’s certainly industrious about it. Because he’s a crustacean, his shell is probably too hard to absorb directly, but possibly they exude something he likes.
I’ll have to find out his species and do some research.
Anyway, the egg is thriving. Getting sixteen years out of one is uncommon, and pretty well a record: the old ones Ecoglobe has on their premises are a year younger. Most demise in 5, probably due to people not taking care of them or moving them about too much.