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Finding, Raising and Tending to

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NEVER USE FAUCET, TAP OR CHLORINATED WATER in your cultures! Use bottled spring water or distilled water only. Most grocery stores carry both.

If you enjoy finding, filming and identifying microscopic creatures, fresh water cultures will keep you supplied for days and sometimes weeks. The sources for protozoa are many.

Recommended Supplies

A decent compound microscope or trinocular microscope to aid in filming
(See Microscope Recommendations and Magnification)
Microscope video camera
Glass slides and cover slips
Glass quart jars without lids
Long 10ml pipettes to collect samples from the culture
A small glass dish to hold a small sample of the culture
Paper towels
Microscope video camera to aid in identification

Quick Cultures

A quick and easy water collection unit is an empty, dry plastic water bottle. Screw the cap on loosely to allow oxygen to enter. The cap may be tightened for a few hours while traveling.

Quick Cultures

A handful of grass, pulled roots and all, collected away from animal feces is a good culture starting medium. Results within hours.

Hay is another. Don't overcrowd the container. Results can be observed within hours.

A tablespoon of soil is a quick starter. You'll find invertebrates and tiny amoebas within hours after adding distilled or spring water. Soil is comprised of lots of organic matter and dirt (sand and grit). See Tips and Tricks on removing grit from the culture.

Moss is another good starter. invertebrates such as tardigrades (water bears, moss piglets), nematodes and rotifers will be evident within hours of soaking with spring water. Just a few pieces of moss will do. Results within hours.

Non-polluted freshwater ponds and lakes provide instant population. Make sure to get a little nutrient-rich bottom muck with the water along with a little aquatic vegetation.

Bird baths are a great source for rotifers, nematodes and other microbes and invertebrates.

Shallow rain water drainage ditches with standing water are a great source for Euglena and other flagellates. Make sure to get a little bottom muck when collecting.

Each sample you collect should go into a separate culture container

Growing and Tending to Protozoa Cultures

Quart jars such as Ball canning jars are perfect for culturing microscopic organisms. 600ml or 1000ml beakers work well, too. They provide room for whatever small sample you drag in from the backyard. No lid is necessary for your culture containers.

Add Some Air

A cheap aqaurium pump and tubing will keep oxygen levels ideal for culture longevity. Bubbles should be gentle.

Feeding the Culture

Cultures containing organic material don't need feeding. A little bottom much and aquatic vegetation from the source is ideal.

When Things go Bad

When viewing samples from the culture under the microscope, look for swarms of bacteria. They are unmistakable at 40X and higher viewing power.

If there are swarms of bacteria under the cover slip or if the culture smells bad, it's time to start over with clean containers and new material. Containers can be cleaned with hot soapy water or putting them in the dishwasher.


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Copyright 2017 Steve Cunningham, Baltimore, MD