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NFC: Green Water / Infusoria Cultivation



Here is the article as requested on the NFC Chat tonight

Gay

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Green Water & Infusoria Cultivation
"Infusoria" is a generic term for the microscopic and near microscopic
life found in water.  Examples are protozoa, rotifers, vorticella,
Euglena and unicellular algae feeders, etc.  Infusoria and the organisms
found in green water are probably the first food taken by baby fish
after the absorption of the egg sac. 
Whilst some of the coloring in so called green water is indeed algae
most is caused by microscopic organisms mainly of the Euglena genus.
While each individual is of minuscule proportions they are present in
such  unimaginable numbers that the water appears green due to the
chlorophyll in their bodies.  The requirements for green water are a pH
greater than 6.0, plenty of light, temperature, organic matter and
carbon dioxide plus of course a lack of predators that feed on the
organisms.  Light is the most important as without it the organisms will
be unable to produce the chlorophyll, next in importance comes the
organic matter.  The more there are of these two factors, light and
organic matter then the more the organisms will reproduce and the
greener the water will be.  Spores of the organisms responsible for
green water are present in most if not all standing bodies of water. 
The term Infusoria in its strictest sense applies only to single celled
animals (protozoa), they are also known as Ciliate from the cilia
(hairs) on their body which they use to propel themselves through the
water.  However as far as we are concerned the term Infusoria applies
not only to the protozoa but to all the other bacteria and multicelled
organisms (rotifers and vorticella) that exist in water and damp places.
These vary from the microscopic in size to those that can be seen with
the naked eye such as Paramecium and even larger organisms that actually
feed on the smaller infusorians.  There are a tremendous variety of
these organisms (rotifers and vorticella).  
Rotifers is a phylum (class?) so there are probably thousands of
species.  They are probably not as diverse as bacteria however.  They
are higher level organisms than single cell organisms and feed on
protozoa or water borne algae or any organic particles which they can
capture.  They are easily visible under low power with a microscope and
the largest should be visible as specks to the naked eye. 
Rotifers come in a variety of shapes but share a physical characteristic
which is used to give them their name.  Rotifer refers to wheel like
appendages which have cilia which seem to rotate as they sweep particles
into their mouth orifice. Rotifers are generally classified according to
their method of movement: free swimming, crawling, hopping or attached
although many are not constrained to that single mode.  They are
extremely widespread but each type of rotifer is adapted to a
specialized environment.  A rotifer found wild in the temperate zones
probably can not adapt to life in the tropical environment of a heated
aquarium however a tropical rotifer, say from the Amazon might be more
suited. 
Rotifers reproduce via eggs and are capable of producing different types
of eggs according to seasonal temperature changes similar to daphnia.
Rotifers, especially those which prefer to stay close to plant surfaces
and in such hiding places could survive easily in an aquarium with fish
where the larger free swimming daphnia can not.  Rotifers can be feed on
boiled rice, just a few grains now and then and they stay very clean and
odorless.  Rotifers are much smaller than freshwater Hydra and they use
cilia, not the stinging tentacles of the Hydra.
Vorticella are somewhat smaller in general than rotifers and have a
simpler anatomy than rotifers judging from the few pictures I looked at.
They also have cilia which appeared primarily to be for locomotion.
Pure cultures of various infusorians, specific species of microscopic
animals, can be obtained from Biological Supply Houses and the culture
instruction supplied should be followed to maintain and keep the culture
pure.  Most aquarists will in fact want a mixed culture which will
provide animals of different sizes to suit the mouth sizes of all the
fry in a tank.  Such a culture is easy to set up and start.  
While it is most probable that infusorians are already present in the
fry tank the problem is that there are so few Infusoria that they can
not support a batch of fry.  It is better to be sure and add some water
that is known to contain infusorians to the fry tank.  Therefore, you
must cultivate them.  It turns out that the trick is to keep the
Infusoria on the exponential part of the population growth curve, which
you do by (1) keeping water clean and (2) feeding them.   What a concept
and cultivation is simple.  Simply add some of the starter culture
water, some organic feed and stand the culture container in a good light
source, a window sill.  Within a few days the water will go green and be
ready for use.  A good Infusoria culture will appear cloudy and may be
slightly offensive in smell.  That's Infusoria growing.  Check with a
magnifying glass for the presence of Infusoria, normally seen as small
white moving spots.  A thriving culture can be maintained over a long
period of time but it is advisable to set up fresh cultures at regular
intervals by seeding from an established culture to avoid the odd
disaster and have a source at all times.
The water from a vase of flowers is full of Infusoria.  Infusoria are
already in your tank, the sponge filter in your tank will also cultivate
Infusoria.  Fry will pick at it.  Water from stagnant ponds in which
algae or a profusion of aquatic plants are growing.  Tap water to which
you have added a hand full of wilted lettuce and left in the sun for a
few days.  These are all good sources for starter cultures.  The best
medium for starting the culture is dried lettuce.  Lay the leaves in the
sun until the leaves are dry and crisp, these are then crushed and
stored in sealed containers for use latter.  Simply sprinkle a covering
of crushed leaves onto the surface of the culture were they will absorb
the water and sink.  The water should be examined under a low power
microscope or high power hand magnifying glass when the larger Infusoria
should be visible.  
This starter culture water along with food is then added to the culture
containers and fed until the culture is thriving.  Many different
materials have been used to successfully feed and raise Infusoria
cultures such as the widely advocated banana skin, rotting lettuce
leaves, milk, died peas, boiled hay, raw potato, a few rabbit droppings,
and powdered cereals.  The boiling of any vegetable used as food is
recommended as boiling breaks down the tissues of the plant and it will
decompose faster.
The easiest and most consistent method for culturing Green Water and
Infusoria is as follows:
Obtain seven one half gallon to one gallon jars to use as algae culture
containers.  Sit these algae culture jugs on a South facing window sill
to get the maximum amount of light.  An air pump with a manifold to
split off seven air lines for circulation in the algae culture jugs.
This is critical so that algae doesn't grow on the sides of the jars and
block the sun light.  Obtain from a fish tank or tap water enough water
to fill the algae culture containers.  Water from an established
aquarium housing fish that would normally be discarded after a partial
water change, provided it isn't acidic and soft is the best water.
Alkaline water with a pH greater than 6.0 works best.  A simple formula
for raising the pH and alkalinity of water is to add 1 level teaspoon of
sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) to 20 gallons of water in order to
raise it 0.1 on the pH scale.  Now to the water, to be used in the algae
culture containers add a soluble garden fertilizer (Miracle Grow) at the
rate of one tablespoon per gallon.  This fertilized water is used in the
algae culture jugs and this system is then seeded with green water as
follows:
1)	Seeded algae culture jug #1 with green water;
2)	Two days later seed algae culture jug #2 with green water;
3)	Two days later seed algae culture jug #3 with green water
As so forth - you get the picture.  When algae culture jug #1has turned
bright green, about 7 to 14 days, pour it into the Infusoria culture
tank as food for the little guys.  Refill the jug with the water
fertilizer mixture and seed it with some green water from algae culture
jug #2 which should be about to turn bright green.  This is repeated
with each of the algae culture jugs as they turn bright green.  As you
might be able to tell,  this will provide about one half gallon to one
gallon of fresh green water every two days.
Now,  a few words of warning:
1)	Clean and sterilize everything after use to prevent fungus
infection.  One part bleach to nineteen parts water makes a good
sterilizing solution.
2)	Empty and re-start each jug as it turns bright green even if you
don't need it as food.  This will keep the cycle going.  If you don't do
this,  you end up with everything out of sync. and a big dark green mess
to boot.
Gram flour obtainable from any Indian food shop or market seems to be a
cheap, good maintenance food.  Gram flour is made from ground Chick
Peas, Pigeon peas or Garbanzos beans.  In India these are called Chana
Dall (Dall means Pea).  So Chana flour is the same as Gram Flour.  Besan
is another name for Gram flour.  It should be easy enough to buy dried
peas and a mortar and pestle, and grind a week's worth when you need it.
Whole wheat flour, which GRAHAM crackers are made from, is occasionally
refereed to as GRAHAM flour. 
A Gram flour liquor made up of four tablespoons Gram flour mixed into a
smooth paste in one half cup of water then made up to a pint ( litter)
with water and stirred well.  A few drops of this liquor are added to
the Infusoria culture daily with great success.  The unused portion can
be stored and use at a later time as required. 
You can feed Infusoria cultures LiquiFry for egg layers.  Go easy at
first, just 3 to 5 drops per quart as a start.  Then wait and see.
These buggers are visible to the eye so it's easy to check if they
reproduce.  Water clearing?  Add a couple of drops of LiquiFry for egg
layers. 
When you feed the Infusoria culture with a couple of drops of milk
you'll see a clouding of Infusoria at the surface within hours.  I don't
mean the milk clouding but the Infusoria reproducing; i.e. rotifers can
be seen as tiny dots in the water.  
One method of culturing Infusoria uses a one gallon clear plastic
bottle; two teaspoons of sugar, one fourth to one third of a quarter
ounce (7gram) packet of Fleischmann's Rapid Rise yeast; enough chopped
up lettuce to cover the surface (add more lettuce as it decomposes).
Cover container and set in the sun.  Keep outside or plan to be single,
if you're married.  It stays white, but is more opaque than just yeast
and sugar in water.  It smells foul, but the liquor is rich in yeast,
Infusoria, and other critters.  Filter some of the mess through a coffee
filter and feed a couple of ounces, just enough to begin to cloud the
water.  Use a bubble wand to keep water moving.  Just add more water and
a little lettuce from time to time to the one gallon plastic bottle to
keep it going.
The main problem that occurs is the presence of too much organic matter
causing pollution and the offensive odor.  A thriving culture should be
fairly clear and odor free.  If the culture goes bad it'll be dirty and
start smelling.  Let your nose be the judge as well as the color of the
culture as while the best cultures will be high on carbon dioxide
content it is very easy to tip the balance from thriving culture to a
jar of smelly polluted muck.  The Gram flour liquor feed is the most
successful in avoiding this problem. 
The addition of a few snails will help break down the organic matter and
assist in keeping the Infusoria cultures going as well as provide a
rough guide as to water quality.  The large Ampullaria snail is also
know as the Infusoria Snail as it consumes large quantities of plant
matter which is only partly digested and the snails droppings contain
organic matter which is available to the Infusoria.  All aquatic snails
perform this function but several smaller snails will be required to
perform the function of one large Ampullaria.  Simply feed the snails
flake foods or boiled spinach or dandelion leaves.  If all the snails
start to leave the water then the bacteria are not converting the
ammonia to nitrites and then nitrate quickly enough.  If this occurs the
best method is to pour off two thirds of the culture and top up with
aquarium water.  Sometimes adding strong aeration will also aid the
bacteria in their conversion process and prevent fouling.
Infusoria is not of great importance to the live bearer enthusiast as
Mother Nature has ensured that live bearer fry can eat larger foods than
Infusoria from birth.  It can be used for the fry of the very small
species to supplement the various other foods they can take to good
effect and should not therefore be disregarded.  Egg layer fry do need
Infusoria and some of the species have such small mouths that only the
smallest Infusoria can be eaten, if this is not provided the fry
literally starve to death which probably accounts for the loss of more
fry than any other cause.  Even those aquarists feeding Infusoria make
the common mistake of only adding water containing Infusoria two or
three times a day.  Infusoria should be present at all times and the
simplest way of doing this is as follows.
From the culture container siphon out a pint or quart of the greenest
Infusoria culture for use and top up the original culture with water
form the tap or from an aquarium.  Place or suspend the pint or quart
jar above the fry tank.  Take a length of air line tubing  and place one
end in the pint container and start it as a siphon.  Using an air line
clamp restrict the flow of the siphon to about one drop every minute or
two.  Direct this output into the fry tank.  In this way a constant
supply of Infusoria will be supplied to the fry who will soon identify
were the Infusoria are entering the tank and will feed as they require.
By observing the container you will soon be able to judge how long a
container will last.  Also the bellies of the fry should be full all the
time and if they are not then increase the flow of Infusoria.  Larger
containers can be used to regulate the period between each feeding set
up.  One other point to bear in mind is that although Infusoria do
better in alkaline water some fry are raised in soft acid water and the
addition of hard alkaline water to the fry tank can be harmful.  While
twice daily partial water changes with the correct water can alleviate
this it is probably simpler to set up a few cultures in water the same
as the fry will be raised in. 
For out door cultivation set up a kiddie wading pool.  Simply pour some
old tank water in, top up with tap water and add some organic matter
such as a few rabbit droppings, dried or wilted lettuce leafs, a few
wheat grains or throw in a few tablespoons of dry dog food.  Wait a
month.  Result:  All the green water you can use.  A few tablespoons of
dry dog food, a couple of rabbit droppings or a dried lettuce leaf
should be added once a week 
------------------------------------------------------------------
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