( A Small City Lot Version Of The Mike Andre Critter Farm (April 06 Micscape))

by Robert Hilton, USA




Recently I open up the Mic-UK website and I was heading towards the archive section when I ran across Mike Andre's article Critter Farming and I was hooked! I have been heading to a bog in the back of the city park for years collecting specimens. And all the time I was thinking how nice it would be to have a closer specimen source without running the gauntlet of the undesired who seem to permeate city parks.

Not only could I have a convenient specimen pool for the warm season but Mike went one step further and threw in a clincher, he made his specimen farm accessible all year long. What a beautiful idea, I sent Mike a thank you email about the idea and I also want to thank him publicly in this article. What a simple, yet elegant concept! A horse tank like dad use to have on the farm back during depression years as I was growing up.

And Mike has done an excellent job on the article, I think that he deserves the covetted "Cyclops Award!"

My only problem with the idea is that I live in a mobile home court and my lot is not very big, this is probably a problem common with most city dwellers and they might want to tailor my version of Mike's Critter Farm to fit the resources that they have at their disposal. I imagine that most conditions can be utilized by an industrious microscopist.

My main concern in the court is vandalism, I have no way of protecting the pan against vandalism or theft and the best solution that I have is placing the critter farm in the small walk way between the home and the shed. Here it will be partially concealed. Also I could run the de-icer cable into the shed to the AC main.

I went to a local farm store to see what they had and I found what would be a nice setup for me here in the court.

I found an eight quart feeding pan that measures 15" (1875mm) wide and 5" (125mm) high. The cost of the pan was about $5 and I also found a 200 watt immersion heater for bird baths and small watering pans for $30. Hey, I'm on a roll! I now have the makings of a $35 personal source for aquatic microscopic life all year long at my back door.

Yep, and I will be introducing goldfish to the critter pan to help keep down the pesky mosquito population which was another of Mike's ideas.

I "bedded" the pan down beside the shed and I scrounged up two, one gallon plastic milk containers for specimen collecting and refill water containers if needed. I also have a small bucket and dipper which I plan on using for collecting the rich bog floor soil and organic debris.

The bog that I am collecting from is what I term an annual bog. A woodland bog is usually a spring bog which dries up about mid summer here. While an annual bog, such as the one at the park, contains water all year round and it is only a couple of feet deep which I would consider it a true pond.

This bog is surrounded by trees and is in a partial shaded condition so being in the shadow of the shed should not alter the habitat very much from the accessibility to light point of view.

At this point in time I want to mention that this whole set-up is an experiment, I do not know if I will have my own year round constant source of critters or not. But "the voyage there is half the fun!" So I want to encourage everyone to try to tailor Mike's idea to fit their particular set-up and let us know how it turns out!

Today the rain stopped and the sun was peeping through the clouds off and on, I finally gave in and went to the bog and collected the sediment and water specimens which I brought home. I had just enough sediment to thoroughly cover the bottom of the pan to the heigth of about 1 inch (25mm). I put about one and a half gallons of water in to fill the tank to about an inch and a half (30mm) from the top of the pan and saved the rest for topping the pan off later.

NOTE: At least 50% of the sediment specimen was black, submersed leaves which should help to give the pan plenty of biomass.

So that is my report for now, you have reports of both Mike's Critter Farm and my Cyclops Critter Farm. Feel free to experiment with an all year source of critters for your microlab and be sure to let us know how you turned out!

All comments to the author Robert Edwin Hilton are welcomed.


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Published in the May 2006 edition of Micscape Magazine.

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