365 Nature – Day 223

In 2016 I’m doing a 365 Nature project. Learn more about the project and see all the 365 Nature posts.

Yesterday evening I attended a workshop to build a wetlands in a bottle. The idea is simple, to recreate a miniature wetlands in a glass container, and the practice was just as simple. We first put down a layer of topsoil, topped with a layer of gravel. In this we put plants, the instructor provided us with two, Sagittaria subulata and Ludwigia repens. Then we added some water from Lake Washington, topped it off with tap water and then they were done. The instructor must have sensed my inner bug dork and added a snail to mine. I named it Gary.

There’s a little more to consider, like inoculating it with water from a wetlands, and placement in the house, but otherwise my wetlands is ready to go. The snail has already been traveling around the glass and we’re having fun watching it. In the brief presentation the instructor introduced some aquatic species that we may find in our wetlands, fascinating invertebrates like Cyclops sp., Daphnia sp., or the really neat Hydra sp, in addition to snails and flatworms.

I had previously dabbled in terrariums and I’d made a fishbowl terrarium that I intended to use for wood lice or snails. Of course once I had finished it, I couldn’t find a wood louse to save my life and it sat forgotten on my desk. The other one I tried to grow a fern in and that failed miserably and I now have a shriveled, brown dead plant in a terrarium instead.

The possibilities of a wetland on my desk kept me up last night. It’s an ideal way to watch the small invertebrates that would be otherwise impossible to see and observe. Once I get my wetland populated with plants, it can be an entirely self sustaining ecosystem, requiring an occasional top-off of water. I’m really excited to get water samples from wetlands and release it into my jar wetlands to see what I can find. I hope to learn a lot more about our aquatic invertebrates, and this is the perfect way to do it.

I was so excited, this morning I went to Goodwill looking for more glass containers and brought two larger ones home along with a smaller one for my daughter, who now wants her own wetlands. I also had the extremely good luck of finding a pack of test tubes at Goodwill and put them in my bag when I went back to the arboretum for a walk. I visited the ponds at the wetlands looking for little plants, but mostly I filled several tubes with water from the lake. I could see with my bare eye little invertebrates swimming around.

This afternoon we plan to make two more wetlands to watch and maybe tomorrow we can visit the lake and see if we can find some more snails. They’re not only interesting to watch, they keep the glass clean.

Kelly Brenner
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