|from www.abundantearth.com, instructions for a commercial version of the microcosm which is stocked with shrimp:
Please notice the amount of green algae in your EcoSphere. This initial quantity is the inoculant required to produce sufficient oxygen for the shrimp. Do not allow the algae to grow more than this or the chemical balance will change. You can control the growth of algae by controlling the light level. If the algae begins to grow, more than the initial amount as when you first received your Ecosphere, lower the light by shading it or putting the sphere in a darker area. Never put the EcoSphere in front of a window. In the event you notice the algae level is greatly reduced you can grow more by increasing the light level. However, make sure your sphere is not in direct sunlight. It will take approximately one or two months for more algae to form, and it is not threatening to the system to lose its visible algae. Keep in mind that the EcoSphere is not a plant and should not be given high light levels to keep it green. A very green EcoSphere is not necessarily a healthy one.
The nature of all closed ecosystems is to wind down. Eventually the major chemical building blocks get "locked up" and are no longer available to the microorganisms. There is no weather inside the EcoSphere to pull these chemicals apart from each other. However, on Earth this action takes place in the oceans and on land continuously. Replenishing is done by the weather always mixing and returning nutrients back by the actions of wind and rain.
The health of the animals inside the sphere is dependent on the water chemistry. This chemistry is affected by algae and microorganism growth. If you allow more than this amount of algae to grow you will raise the pH of the water. This higher pH will kill the shrimp. If you are not providing enough light you can also harm the system. That is why you should look closely at the amount of green fiber algae. This is a good gauge as to how much visible algae should be in the system.
DO keep your EcoSphere at temperatures between 60 degrees Fahrenheit (15C) and 85 degrees Fahrenheit (25C). Temperatures above 85 degrees put excess stress on the shrimp in the EcoSphere. Temperatures below 60 degrees slowdown the metabolism of the shrimp. Do not let the temperatures flux erratically from 60 degrees to 85 degrees. The temperature needs to be consistent. Sudden changes can affect the life of the system.
DO provide artificial light or indirect sunlight for your EcoSphere for at least 6 to 12 hours per day. The intensity can be suitable for plants needing low levels of light. One of the following sources is recommended:
DO NOT let your EcoSphere get too hot or too cold. We may think the temperature is fine but an Ecosphere can warm up and cool down as easily as a glass of water. So a rule of thumb, be aware of the temperature of the room.
DO NOT handle the EcoSphere excessively, the sphere will pick up heat from your body.
DO NOT leave the EcoSphere in direct sunlight. It is a tiny greenhouse and direct sunlight can overheat it regardless of room temperatures.
DO NOT let it go for more than 60 hours without light (if algae growth looks fine). This is a rule of thumb. If your EcoSphere has received light for several days, it will be well "charged" with oxygen and may be able to survive longer without light, but why take chances? If you have an algae bloom (the algae grows at a rapid rate) it may be necessary to place the unit in a dark area, such as a cupboard or closet. The unit can be left there for extended periods: sometimes as long as 3 weeks. If you need to do this check on the unit daily to see if the algae growth has seceded. Over a period of time, like 3-5 months, there will be some growth but it should not harm the unit.
DO NOT shake it, drop it, or otherwise treat it roughly. Remember it is someone's home.
DO NOT place your EcoSphere on televisions, stereo equipment, fireplace mantles, or near heating radiators and vents.
The average life of the small sphere and small pod is 2-3 years. The other units tend to last longer because they have more shrimp. The life expectancy of these shrimp is known to exceed 5 years. We do not know how long your EcoSphere will live due to different light and temperature conditions throughout the country; and we do not know the exact age of the shrimp when we make an EcoSphere. The oldest EcoSphere we know of is now over 14 years old and the one remaining shrimp still going strong. Some systems without shrimp are still living even after 18 years. As long as there is one shrimp alive in the EcoSphere, it is a functioning unit.
The algae and the bacteria in the EcoSphere reproduce continuously! In fact, as time goes by, you can expect changes in the algae population in your EcoSphere.
The oldest EcoSpheres sooner or later end up with blue-green algae as the main type of organism. By this time, the green algae has used up certain nutrients in the salt water and remaining nutrients have been compounded with other chemicals and cannot be used further by the green algae. The blue-green algae can exist quite well on the remaining chemical compounds and continues to produce enough oxygen for the shrimp. In this way, the EcoSphere goes through transitions. They may start out quite clear, change to a slightly cloudy cast and then become quite clear again.
The Gas Cycle
The plants make oxygen only when there is light. When it is dark, the animals, the bacteria and the plants all consume oxygen while none is being produced. Oxygen is stored in the EcoSphere in the air and in the water during the day. There must be enough air and water to store the oxygen. Therefore, it would not work to put too many plants and animals in the EcoSphere because they would run out of oxygen at night. If you compare the ratio of living material to air and water in the EcoSphere with Earth's ratio, you will see that, when you consider the vast sizes of Earth's oceans and atmosphere, the biological density in the EcoSphere is very high.
What to Look For
The algae is constantly growing, dying and being eaten by the shrimp and bacteria. As time goes on, it is likely that you will notice gradual changes in the composition of the algae. It may appear darker after a period of time. This is one of the changes. IF YOU NOTICE THE ALGAE GROWING RAPIDLY, YOU HAVE YOUR ECOSPHERE IN AN AREA WHERE THE LIGHT IS TOO BRIGHT. THIS WILL RAISE THE pH AND CAUSE THE SHRIMP TO PERISH. Some of the older EcoSpheres in our laboratory have lost all their visible algae. These systems have lived for years because they contain heavy populations of single-celled algae, which can't be seen by the naked eye.