Cave Environment --Infrared Photosynthesis - Bookshelf 6G

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Cave Environment - Infrared Photosynthesis - Bookshelf 6G

Note: this project is not going to be a marine tank, but the general concept, an aquarium covered to exclude light and create a very dark environment, might be of interest for reef aquarium ideas. So I post it here. Depending upon my final livestock choices, setup will be either brackish or freshwater.

I've been working on a few different projects testing out Cyanobacteria as display organisms. While Cyanobacteria are usually viewed as pests in aquariums, they have fascinating biology and ecology as well as compelling features for model ecosystem culture. Some Cyanobacteria have extreme desiccation tolerance and can spring back to action if watered after long periods of drying out. They also produce their own food with light energy and Cyanobacteria species have distinct colors, textures and morphologies. Cyanobacteria are keystone species in unique microbial ecosystems, such as stromatolites and desert biocrusts.

Here is a vertical garden piece I made along with a few others in a series. It grows the Cyanobacteria, Tolypolthrix and Anabaena on a clay panel along with mini Ferns, Peperomia, Mosses and a Liverwort...

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Certain Cyanobacteria are especially interesting as extremophiles, organisms that live and grow at extreme temperatures, pH, salinity or other conditions that would kill most living things. I recently learned about a newly described extremophile ecosystem supported by Cyanobacteria photosynthesizing with the very small amounts of natural light that penetrate deep within caves. These conditions are not only dimly lit, but due to the differential absorption and reflection of light wavelengths from limestone surfaces, they have light mainly in the far-red and near-infrared spectrums (700nm-800nm). The upper end of this range is invisible to human eyes and has hundreds of times less energy than light in the visible spectrum, but the cave Cyanobacteria are nevertheless able to use it as an energy source for photosynthesis and very slow growth. This is amazing!

Among other adaptations, these Cyanobacteria make use of chlorophyll f and chlorophyll d, photosynthetic pigments able to absorb this long-wavelength light. Plants do not have these forms of chlorophyll. Chlorphyll f was discovered recently, in 2010, in another special microbial habitat, the stromatolites of Shark Bay, Australia...

https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/science.1191127

There are just a few articles published to date on the cave Cyanobacteria, but here's the one I downloaded and read to learn more about the topic...

https://ami-journals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1462-2920.14774

23-I-24-Cave-Environment-II.jpg


The common Cyanobacteria that you can purchase as live cultures or find growing wild are less likely to produce chlorophyll f and chlorophyll d and grow in cave conditions. My plan is to build this terrarium/paludarium setup as a representation of the environment to stand on its own, then add cave Cyanobacteria if I am able to lawfully and ethically source them from somewhere. Maybe I can write some emails and find a cave biology researcher who will take interest if I explain the project. If I do manage to find any kind of promising Cyanobacteria it will be a real challenge to get them to grow at all. But again, I am as interested in just creating the environment and working through some of the visual scaping and layout ideas for this different kind of setup. I also have a couple of cave livestock ideas—more on these later—among animals available in the trade.

I got the project enclosure, a Lifegard Aquatics 6-gallon tank, and set it up on this shelf...

23-I-24-Cave-Environment-III.jpg


I really like bookshelf aquariums. You can make something rather expansive, but with a relatively compact, lightweight and affordable format. That 36" light is not for the setup; I just put it there for a view of the aquarium. For the project I am going to build a strip with a driver, heat sink and these 1-watt, 740nm star LEDs...

23-I-24-Cave-Environment-IV.jpg


I haven't wired them up and turned them on yet, but these LEDs do not shine with a strictly 740nm light. They instead produce a range of far-red (including some deep-red visible light) and infrared light with 740nm as the spectrum peak wavelength.

I have some more electronics and other components to add and I'll explain those as I get them organized. My layout concept is to just use a sand bed covered with about 1" of water and with an arrangement of partially submerged limestone aquascaping rocks . I will not attempt to build rock features like the characteristic forms that develop in caves, but just assemble the stones and sand in a pleasing scape for the bookshelf tank format and with varied, moist rock surfaces for potential Cyanobacteria and livestock inhabitants. I think Seiryu stone will look really nice like this...

Seiryu Stone

Thanks for reading! Updates on the way pretty soon.
 
www.dinkinsaquaticgardens.com
Tidal Gardens
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Wow, that's impressive, love the research that went into building the tank!!


Thank you so much! I hope to have more progress and updates on the way soon. Do you two have current tank projects?

To explain the display concept further, I intend to leave the last 5" of the enclosure open and illuminated with a regular mini white LED to create a cave opening environment with some pieces of limestone and mini plants that might be found there, such as Liverworts or Asplenium ferns. Some of the semi-aquatic Mosses in the aquascaping trade would work especially nice for this area. This arrangement will make the setup a little more interesting to look at while also creating the kind of gradient of visible light transitioning to infrared described in that article.

23-I-24-Cave-Environment-I.jpg



(I hope that above image complies with the concept of Fair Use as an educational depiction of copyrighted material. Please let me know/remove if otherwise. [Source: https://ami-journals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1462-2920.14774])
 
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Rounding up some more hardware tonight...

I'm going to organize a microcontroller with LCD display and other components on this wall bracket system I've used for a few other projects, including this phytoplankton lamp setup...

1A31CD05-9C3D-45FE-B52C-2EC6A3CE1159.JPG


I intend to configure this stackable board with built-in screen as well as plug connections for a temp + humidity and light sensor breakouts...

26-I-23-Cave-Environment-II.jpg


I'll have to experiment some more with the micro controller or ask for help somewhere because I was unable to get the compiler to recognize it. I'll figure it out eventually. I will also design and cut out parts for an enclosure + bracket to house the controller and other components together on the wall. Lots of little jobs to do!

The breakouts will both go inside the enclosure. I'll probably seal the light sensor inside of a small glass jar to keep humidity out and extend its life. This particular light sensor should be a good match for this project because it can detect several ranges of wavelength of visible light as well as infrared.

I'm going to position this mini controllable 3W LED over the daylight cave opening area of the display...

26-I-23-Cave-Environment-I.jpg


This little light has its own integrated driver, so all you have to do is send it power and signal.

I've used this kind of ultrasonic fogger in a few other projects. It is just a fogger membrane thingy with PCB, a short length of pipe as a mini water reservoir and a bulkhead for passing through the enclosure top. I'm not going to wire it with a timer or anything, but instead just fill it up and run it manually. This thing isn't really essential, but it will moisten the rock surfaces to encourage potential Cyanobacteria growth and the fog mist will also "look cool" in the setup...

26-I-23-Cave-Environment-III.jpg
 
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I've built a strip with the 740nm LEDs. Of course the instructions packed with the driver/converter are pretty confusing, so I haven't really been able to figure out the current adjustment. I should be able to get three times this much light intensity with the maximum specified current. I'll experiment some more and figure it out.

You can see the visible deep red light here, but supposedly there's a good deal more invisible IR light. It will be interesting to get this on top of the enclosure with the light sensor inside.

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resize-30-I-23-DIY-LED-II.jpg
 
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I assembled a temporary light-proof cover to go over the dark portion of the tank. This is just paper foam-core material, but I will use it to design a permanent cover in black acrylic or ABS sheet. In addition to a narrow transparent strip on top lining up with the light fixture, I will also have to cut ports for the sensors, a fan wire, an air line and the ultrasonic fogger.

As mentioned previously, the area at the left end of the tank will remain open and illuminated with a white mini LED. I will extend the cave limestone hardscape into that area and also plant a few mini plants there.

30-I-23-Cave-Environment-I.jpg


View inside from the open end with 740nm lamp plugged in.

30-I-23-Cave-Environment-II.jpg
 
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AquaCave

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