View Full Version : I got me an EcoSphere® and it's rilly rilly cool!

09-02-2003, 03:12 PM
It has a piece of sea fan (gorgonia), some threads of bright green algae, a little pile of white gravel, three or four little empty stripey snail-type shells, and four freaky-cool little shrimps. They change color! Sometimes they have a bunch of red speckles, but most of the time they are an almost transparent orange-pink. If you look really close you can see them using their ittybitty claws to stuff food in their mouths. The food is s'posedly another kind of algae plus some nice tasty bacterias.

I got a cheapo timer for my desk lamp so it'll get light on weedays and holidays too.

Cube life is better with sealife to look at! And really, how can you go wrong with a product endorsed by Carl Sagan (http://www.eco-sphere.com/sagan_review.htm)?

Aren't you all terribly jealous now? [/smug]

09-02-2003, 04:51 PM
I had one of the smaller ones a couple years ago. Unfortunately, it didn't last all that long. Just a few months. It came with a few smalls snails they disappeared pretty quickly. Pretty sure they were eaten. They are fun while they last though. Just make sure you don't give it too much light.

09-02-2003, 05:13 PM
This one has a 6-month guarantee that at least one shrimp will stay alive, so long as I don't crack the glass or "exceed the temperature or light limits" (which are clearly spelled out and pretty easy to keep within). If it gets too much light, there's supposed to be visibly too much algae before the shrimps will be affected. If the shrimps all die after the six months, I can get it "recharged" for $40.

Yes, they're expensive shrimps, but they're the only critters I'm allowed to have in my cube -- open aquariums or beakers of brine shrimp or what-have-you aren't OK... :(

And the hamsters in my computer refuse to talk to me.

09-02-2003, 05:21 PM
I've always thought those were pretty unspeakably cool, but I'm a cheap bastard so I have (with varying degrees of success) made my own out of various jars and plants and animals.

That said, if you use a small prolific animal (like, say, shrimp) and a similarly small prolific plant (like, say, algae) you can mix and match without much concern and, if you avoided contamination and didn't kill everything via climatic shock, the little buggers will adjust. The main concern is having a well sealed jar. The bigger the jar the more you can get away with.

Last one I built was from a one gallon, squarish, lever topped mason jar type thing. It had Elodea and some sort of centimeter long shrimp that were the cheapest thing they sold at the pet store (they're sold as food for other fish, apparently). Boiled the crap out of everything non-living, filled the jar with distilled water, added some mineral/pH balancing stuff, let it all come to room temperature and mixed 'em together and clamped on the lid. I gave it to my mom, who put it outside on her porch. The Elodea died either from overgrazing or outcompetition by the algae that bloomed in the morning sunlight, but you could still spot clean patches on the glass from time to time, so I assume the shrimp were still going. It shattered when if fell below freezing that winter, so that was the end of that.

I have a 5 gallon water cooler jug waiting for my initiative to build up to actually doing the math to try to get a somewhat balanced biosphere/foodweb/etc. so I can put something interesting in it... like, say, fish.

09-02-2003, 05:31 PM
Yaaaa, okay, but, like, did your shrimps change color?

Mine are still cooler. Plus they're in this, like, sphere.

Seriously, I thought about doing what you describe, 1010011010, as I am also a cheap bastard, but I wanted to avoid at all costs making an experiment that did not work. For some reason one of my recurring bad dream themes, when suffering from feelings of inferiority and not having kept up with responsibilities -- and not having the I-missed-class-all-semester-and-now-have-to-take-the-exam dream -- is the finding-my-neglected-and-now-extremely-skanky-and-full-of-dead-fish-aquarium dream. I've never even had an aquarium to neglect, possibly in part due to this dream.

09-02-2003, 08:09 PM
You could see stuff travelling through their digestive tract, if that counts for anything.

Anyway, part of the idea is that you have snails, minature catfish, or shrimp to clean the glass. I never had any of the ones with fish last for more than four months (which is still pretty impressive, IMO), but because it's in an airtight container, any skankiness that may have developed wasn't apparent. Since none of them represented more than $10 in materials, I didn't have any qualms about either chucking the whole thing or just dumping the contents and washing the jar. Also probably why I never bothered to work out a good foodweb or biomass balance or worried much about keeping them out of drafts or too much light.

Also consider that the inspiration for the hobby was a HS biology teacher that would have her classes make these things at the beginning of the year (she supplied the elodea and the snails, you just had to bring in an airtight container and could buy some fish or something more interesting if you wanted- most did)... there were always a few that would make it the entire school year, but most of them were obviously on their way to collapsed within a month.

Anyway, seeing wall length lab bench packed with neatly lined up jars of floating fuzzy fish does a bit to desensitize one to the animal costs of failure. I'm glad the jars have to be airtight to have a chance of working.

In any event, I wish your really cool spherical shrimphouse a long life.

09-02-2003, 10:01 PM
My sister once brought home some barnacles is seawater. Eventually the buildup of methane or other gasses popped the lid a good six feet in the air. The barnacles died not long after.

09-02-2003, 10:59 PM
That's just too cool. I wonder if they ship 'em overseas?

09-03-2003, 10:43 AM
Oopsie, I screwed up Carl Sagan's link. Here it is all better. (http://www.eco-sphere.com/sagan_review.html)

green_bladder, I think they might. They specify in the handbook it comes with that the replacement and recharge policies are only good for U.S. addresses, but not that they don't ship to them. The shipping might be pretty expensive, since the spheres can't be without light for more than 60 hours.

You can also buy these things from a few gadget-type companies for less expensive than the prices listed on the company's own website.

09-03-2003, 10:56 AM
Actually I just got one for my birthday a while back. It is a neat little item and quite amusing at times. All my little shrimp have names and my co-workers are all jealous....:D

09-03-2003, 11:10 AM
Thanks, emilyforce. I've dropped them an email so we'll see what happens. It's got me pretty excited - little friends in a bowl :D

09-03-2003, 11:12 AM
I have had mine for about 2 years now. No issues. In fact I think they have been breeding. Every so often I find a, what i think, is a new one. A lot smaller than the others.

Truely enjoyable to watch here in Dilbert world.

While there are many places to get them. This place is where I got mine.


09-03-2003, 11:30 AM
Oh and BTW - For those of you that are interested in building your own. These shrimp can be purchased from here http://oceanrider.com/products.asp?Categories_ID=1

They just cool to have in a small aquarium. I used to order them when I had seahorses.

09-04-2003, 06:44 PM
I sent an email to the EcoSphere people to ask them what species the groovy color-changing shrimps are... and they tell me it's a trade secret!

Sooo I have supersecret mysterioso undercover JamesBond chameleon shrimps. And YOU DON'T! Neener neener!

Well OK, maybe Meatros does.

09-04-2003, 08:28 PM
Halocaridina rubra.
Hawaiian Red Shrimp.

09-04-2003, 08:34 PM
Nuh UH. They're SEEEEcret.

Really? You have any links to info on 'em? I want to read more.

09-04-2003, 08:42 PM
Opae Ula (http://groups.google.com/groups?hl=en&lr=&ie=UTF-8&oe=utf-8&safe=off&frame=right&th=c745b35f19d1d8df&seekm=1033981521-sch%40mochi.lava.net#link1)

This is the best source of information I've found on them.

Wonko The Sane
09-04-2003, 10:16 PM
Hey TripleSix- Now I want to try making my own sealed ecosystem. Thanks for the ideas!

09-04-2003, 11:37 PM
Originally posted by 1010011010
Opae Ula (http://groups.google.com/groups?hl=en&lr=&ie=UTF-8&oe=utf-8&safe=off&frame=right&th=c745b35f19d1d8df&seekm=1033981521-sch%40mochi.lava.net#link1)

This is the best source of information I've found on them. Huh. Interesting. One of those Hawaiian folks thinks the color changes are a result of stress, but mine very clearly change color in response to light and heat (the more of either, the paler they go, and they can change in 30-120 seconds from looking like happy ruddy little cooked lobsters to almost completely transparent). Are you sure these are the same ones? Are my li'l guys gettin' all stressed out every time I turn on the desk lamp?

It's so hard to get a sense of scale... my critters are about, oh, 1/4 of an inch or so.

09-05-2003, 12:33 PM
Emily the shrimp you have in your ecosphere are most likely the Halocaridina rubra. Mine change colors all the time. It could be a social type of thing as well. Seahorses do the same thing. I used to freak out when I went to look at my seahorses and they were all pale almost like they were sick. Then after a few minutes they would be normal looking again.

Did some reasearch and talked to a few folks and it turns out that is part of the way they communicate. Go figure.

My link earlier for the purch place on these little guys was to the big menu. This one is the direct tot the shrimp link.


You can get 100 of these shrimp for $20.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to: cecil@straightdope.com

Send comments about this website to: webmaster@straightdope.com

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Copyright © 2018 STM Reader, LLC.