The Secret Things Living in Your Aquarium - Lake Harding Association

The Secret Things Living in Your Aquarium

The Secret Things Living in Your Aquarium

By Micah Moen 100 Comments March 26, 2020


When you first start looking through a microscope
at microorganisms, it’s very obvious that each little cell is its own thing. But then, as time goes on, and you start to
understand their relationships and their dependence on each other, and also everything’s dependence
on them, each microbe starts to feel like a piece of some much broader, even global
organism. And of course, species of all kinds and sizes
have their ecological impacts. And this actually becomes much more obvious
when you make that ecosystem less global by, say, putting it in a little box. And you might have seen one of these boxes
recently…maybe in your home, or at a restaurant, or the doctor’s office. We are talking, of course, about aquariums. This tank is just one of those tanks at a
mall aquarium store. It’s got some reefs and some fishes swimming
around, living in full display for people passing by. But just give it a moment…just a few seconds. And there. That is the disembodied hand of an aquarium
shop worker who probably went to work expecting the usual aquarium shop business, until James,
our master of microscopes, came in and asked if he could please have some water from the
tank. Science is always a team effort, and fortunately,
this shop worker was a willing collaborator, searching around for biofilm and other bits
from the tank in response to various requests thrown his way. Of course, there are plenty of macroscopic
animals in the aquarium to admire. Have you ever wanted to see what a starfish
looks like when you’re really up close? Yeah. I mean, of course you have. But the real focus of this expedition wasn’t
the fishes or the large invertebrates that we can clearly see with our own eyes. What we want to see is what else is in that tank. This question is actually pretty important
for any aquarium you might want to set up at home. Sure, you might be most excited about the
fish. But fish waste is full of ammonia, which can
accumulate to toxic levels if left unchecked. In nature, microbes play an essential role
in the nitrogen cycle, including taking extremely stable atmospheric nitrogen and turning it
into nutrients like these Trichodesmium do, or by consuming nitrogenous waste. To make sure that aquatic ecosystems have
the same cleaning abilities built in, people install bio filters that contain nitrogen-consuming
bacteria in their aquariums. It’s sort of like building wastewater treatment
into the artificial ecological neighborhood. And beyond the basic care of keeping tanks,
scientists have been studying the microbial composition of aquariums to explore all sorts
of questions. One group collected tank water from seven
Rhode Island pet shops to examine the diversity of microbial communities between them, finding
potential sources of pathogens that might require further study. Another group observed that freshwater aquarium
bio filters are dominated more by ammonia-oxidizing archaea than they are by bacteria. There are, of course, also large aquariums. Like very large. So large you have to drive out to visit them
so you can stand in awe. And yes, scientists have been studying the
microbiomes of these large tanks too. This includes a study of the Ocean Voyager
exhibit in Georgia, one of the largest aquariums in the United States, where 14 months of tracking
the microbial community of the exhibit revealed a surprising dynamic and changing community
despite the relative stability of the water itself. Just for reference, the Ocean Voyager exhibit
contains about 6.3 million gallons of artificial seawater, and it houses very cool, odd animals
including the blacktip reef shark, the longcomb sawfish, and the porcupine ray. In contrast, the mall aquarium has a lot less
water in it, and the fish are not quite as varied. But fortunately, we don’t need millions
of gallons of water to find fascinating ecological diversity We just need a microscope. So we were pretty impatient to see what was
in that carefully obtained, mall tank water. One of the first organisms that caught our
attention was foraminifera, this kind of conch shell-looking thing. Foraminifera, or forams for short,
are protists, and they can be found living all over the ocean, both in terms of depth
and geographical location. There are around 4,000 species of forams around
the world, of which we found only a handful in this sample. Their shells come in different shapes and
are made up of different material depending on what species they are. Now forams may look innocuous, but they’ve
been around for over 500 million years. And with all those forams living and dying
over that long period, their shells have built up on the deep ocean floor, accumulating to
the point where in death, they’re practically a geological entity. In turn, the chemical composition of their
shells has helped us better understand how our oceans and climate have changed over millions
of years. But while we were watching our new foram friends,
something else came along. You can see it here, that long, thin line
snaking between the magnified sand grains. It looks like a worm, but we think it’s
actually a Tracheloraphis, and I do not know if we’re pronouncing that correctly, a mysterious
single-celled organism. It’s difficult to find a lot of information
on Tracheloraphis, probably because it’s been difficult to culture in a lab for further
study. Even filming it turned out to be a challenge. The slide we were watching it on had too much
sand and debris in it for us to get a good recording. So we tried moving it over to a new slide,
taking off the coverslip and using a micropipette to grab it. Except that once we removed the coverslip,
that little guy just disappeared! It took 3 hours to find it and prepare it
in this sample, but it was worth it for this close up view of just how weird this unicellular
organism is. What else did we find? An amoeba spreading against microbial fauna
as its own internal crystals sparkle, like an opening in tree branches that give way
to a galaxy. There also long cyanobacteria stalks, the
idling dinoflagellates, the stunning trichodesmium filaments, and this ciliate who seemed to
not quite know what it wanted to be doing. I know that feel, buddy. And all of this from some scoops taken from
a mall aquarium…all of these organisms make those clear boxes of glass not just a storage
tank for some pretty fish, but a living ecosystem with millions of organisms all depending on
each other to turn the basics of chemistry into the majesty of life. Thank you for coming on this journey with
us as we explore the unseen world that surrounds us. And if you like this show, who you really
want to thank are these people whose names are on the screen right now, our patrons on
Patreon who make it possible for us to search through grains of sand for hours so that we
can get a good picture of a weird micobe. Thank you for indulging with us and allowing
us to indulge in this curiosity. If you want to see more from our Master of
Microscopes James, check out Jam & Germs on Instagram And if you want to see more from us, you can
find us at youtube.com/microcosmos

100 Comments found

User

ApoTroll

It sounds like you are trying in a very cringy way to do a extra 'professional documentary voice' with a lot of whispering? Can you please try to speak normal/clearly and not in a whispering/fake-ASMR way? I know you can do that, since you are speaking normally in other videos and in parts in this video aswell.

I know you have put quite a lot of effort into producing this and hope this doesn't like overly harsh criticism. Personally for me this takes away a lot from the overall experience.

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User

Chris Mayer

Fascinating, as always fascinating! 👍

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User

WizzardOfPaws

Always fascinating!

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User

GaslitWorld f. Melissa B

My goodness, you have such a soothing voice. Am a I learning or being hypnotized. "You will love microbes. When I countdown . . . Thanks for doing this so well.

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User

YamiPoyo

At 5:54 whats that really tiny oval shaped thing swimming about ?

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User

It's a plane

Hi, I am searching for a nice microscope. Can anyone recommend me a good one for under 300$? This microscopic world fascinates me.

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User

Leo Turetsky

Do you think that corals are called… reefs? Who did this to you?

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Y Ury

Cool wish I could see what’s in my fish thanks

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User

Ale Zúñiga

You could literally spend an entire life looking at water droplet after water droplet under a microscope and it would never get boring

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User

Leo Hultén

I love seeing the little copepods in my freshwater tanks and knowing that they are giants of the microcosmos, and that the smaller inhabitants are in there even if I don't know who they are <3

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User

tsopmocful

That ciliate at the end reminded me of when we purposely spun ourselves around as kids just to feel dizzy.

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Rolf Mützelburg

Corona episode when?

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User

Supersonic Tumbleweed

James and Hank scoop a droplet from a tank,
They want to see what peering in can give,
What secrets big might there be hidden in,
What could there be that's not in river bank?

And there he is: mysterious, quick and long;
Maybe staring back from the grain of sand?
Maybe he's aware of his keeper's hand?
If not then why did he decide to go…

— eh sorry I'm too lazy apparently to keep writing this. I love the video though!

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User

Muonium

It's ironic that the beauty of animal life that can be seen easily by the unaided eye is so much more brilliant and flashy and colorful in seawater, but the reverse seems true to a certain extent at the single cell microorganism level.

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User

Truth Bombz

This is the best channel I've come across in quite some time, such high quality and so interesting !

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Matthew Cupelli

That ciliate is how I feel in quarantine

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User

Rynne

Cool! Aquariums are what reignited my interest in microorganisms. Also, props to James for his microscope skills. I bet it's hard to keep the little guys in the shot, but he does it and well.

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User

Stephanie Luff

Oh, I know there's stuff growing in my tank 🤣

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User

Peter Gray

Tracheoloraphis, a member of the Karyorelicteans, can be found at over 1 mm in length. (Source: Wikipedia). They are considered Meiofauna. This ends our Scientific Vocabulary Corner.

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User

Thaddeus Lehman

Nitrobacter et al lol

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User

Evil Sharkey

My cat loves watching that silly ciliate at the end! She almost never pays attention to the TV, but that little guy got her attention!

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User

RASHO IE'TOLAN

Would love to see a video on bioluminescent plankton 🤩

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User

Alex Mercer

I know this section isn't a place to make requests, but, it would be awesome if we could see the corona virus under a microscope. It would be very interesting to see what it looks like and how it moves, functions, etc.

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User

R2's Trail Adventures

That last little fella was just stir crazy from being in quarantine

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Automated_Response85

7:29 Go home buddy. You've had wayy too much to drink tonight..

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Adyen Lichtwachter

7:28 effects of quarantine

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User

Iroxinping

What?……..cute OK

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User

Nick

Im curious about the setup these people have. Its not trivial to have such a clean camera image on a scope!

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User

McBoogle

At 3:10, you can see the Fibonacci spiral in that organism. Neato.

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User

1000 Rats

I love Ciliates, they always seem to be doing some sort of…..something lol

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User

Aaron Yu

that Ciliate is a LOT of us being cooped up during our respective shelter at homes 🤪

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User

Irun S

WE WANT BLOOD! By that I mean please show organisms inside (and on) our bodies, including organisms in the blood.

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User

Mason M

Freshwater next!
Then collab with King of DIY and Life in Jars, then we'll turn you into another aquarium channel!
It's all going according to plan, muhuhaha! >:D

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User

Roy Varley

JttM always makes me smile. This one was no exception especially since I'm having a serious think about setting up an aquarium… again… This time though, I'll be armed not only with fishy knowledge but also with a strong inclination to put smears of some of the goopy stuff from the bio-filter under a microscope. Way to explode the pleasure factor from a water filled glass box!! 😍

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User

bestape

Can you film some covid-19 or is it too small? I know it's a macabre request but that's sometimes the nature of life-saving science. Maybe something related to it that's not so dangerous. I don't know. It's just that the microcosmos is a big part of humanity's experience right now. Not in a good way, unlike this terrific channel.

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Epic Terry

If were making a fish tank should we take water from a river or pond? Or are these organisms bad

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User

razzle dazzle

zoomy cilliate

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User

Dsince _1991

please make more on that godly single cell slithering microbe…….he seem very clever and intelligent and dynamic from his movements and style.

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User

Dan King

Me: Sees foram on picture. (I'm a palaeoceanographer and work with forams!!!!)
Immediately clicks

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User

Sabellafella

Hey I can't even explain how fascinated I am of these videos. For a while I was hoping you'd post some stuff from the aquarium hobby. I have my degree in marine biology and my entire life revolves around aquatic animals. Dont know the proper way to contract you guys but There's tons of crustaceans I can send over including unidentified parasitic pest for a few types of marine animals. Your quality in your videos Is absolutely incredible, and I nor any of my buddy's can achieve such videos like yours. Would be amazing to see something come together. Thank you!

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User

Arya .N.

You don't need million of gallon of water to see biodiversity you just need four thousand dollars microscope

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User

W.U. E. :o Oswald is my fake name.

That ciliate seems to be excited to be on youtube

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Antonina Osnos

I've been watching the microbes from my fish tank since I was a kid, but never knew that they have color. Seems that my microscope is outdated 🙂

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User

Kay Halliday

THANK YOU .Another brilliant video. I keep aquariums and a microscope. Always inspiring

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Alec Walker

Do the coronavirus next

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Eline Brouwer

this ciliate embodies the average person on COVID-19 quarantine XD

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Janne G

Hank's Microcosmos voice is my favourite thing

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pietro focardi

these videos are very beautiful, can i know which microscope do you use?

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James Lofgreen

This is super surprising…I have these things in my aquarium. Surprising because I didn't know I owned an aquarium

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Toaster Oven

Can you guys make a short guide on preparing slides, i found an old microscope in my attic that works and i would love to try to get a look at some of this stuff but i cant figure out the proscess of making slides

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speak to bird

Wonderful good job.

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Daniel Bernardo Hernández Barrera

Top tier video with those foraminiferans!

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Vipul Kapoor

Can you put on screen definitions of terms like archea and protists? We non biologists have to look them up.

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Gino Giotto

Love your channel, will you make a video about Archea? 🙂

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User

Rick Seiden

The Forams look like little loaves of Challah bread.

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User

3 AM Paranormale e Horror

I NEED to see different expired food under that bad boy…like…Milk and uhm…soymilk !

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User

Michael Olson

I just wanted to say I was binge watching these videos and didn't realize it was Hank Green until he said Phagocytosis and I had a sudden flashback to him chiding me for laughing at that word in a Sci-Show video.

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User

Belias Phyre

Dude, you caught a Tracheloraphis on camera?! Awesome!

…I have no idea what that is, but it's cool.

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User

TheEngineGal

Holy shit that long skinny one was awesome! It was like a plesiosaur of the microcosmos.

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User

AlexMeow bleufeline

Awkward moment when you unknowingly drink and eat and breathe more organisms than there are animals in a zoo, in a single instance.

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User

Kkkk Bbbb

HANK: PLEASE READ:
Would you like me to send in a couple clean snake sheddings for a new video.

Fyi: would be sending a regular phenotype from a wild caught specimen (caught 11 years ago so no bugs/parasites bugs etc)
1. Wild/normal pheno type
2.Red, Amelanistic ( Red Albino)
3. Red Hypomelanostic + Albino.
We call em' Hybinos.
4. Darkened Wild type. (Possibly Axanthic/Anerythristic)

Also important to note these are Bull snakes which have Keeled scales.. which means each scale has a lateral oriented keel (like bottom of some boats but not that extreme of protrusion)

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User

Eric VandenAvond

You should take a look at the larval stages of mollusks and crustaceans. They look very strange.

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Rick Bailey

I always thought 'dinoflatulates' were dinosaur farts…

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Gwonk Reefkeeping

Wow!! I just made a video about this with my aquarium a couple of weeks ago. Good job!

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John Blyth - Composer, writer

Always over too soon. But thanks!

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User

otakuman706

Man I love this channel.
Reminds me again and again why I love microbiology, and why it was my focus in studies.
Though just watching these videos can be a bit more…. almost meditative, especially compared to doing a lot of actual lab work and whatnot lol

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User

Pooba

About time we talked about the weird shit living in aquariums.

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alucientes

Bueeful

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User

ypcomchic

It would be cool to see the disease Ich that some people get in their tanks.

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tangerine BETA

can you chill out with the theatrics, please?

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Adrian Silesian

Thumb down for not using a normal measurements

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User

HeyItsGranny

Thank you patrons on patreon you are doing gods work

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User

Achmad Faridz

Finding foram fossils in sedimentary rocks is not rare. They tell us geologist about environment, depth, age even ecosystem in the past. It's still amazed me that even most of them are small, you can find some bigger than a coin.

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User

Kurtlane

Foraminifera are amazing critters. They are ameba-like protists, single cell with many nuclei. They make their own phylum, so they are genetically quite removed from everyone else. They have shells, made either from chitin or calcium carbonate or sand particles glued together.

Most live on sea floor or in sea water. Some live in soil.

The largest foraminifera are 20 cm (8 in) in length! For a single cell that's huge!

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uesdto signin

please make video about face mite

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Alfalfa Male

Whispery Hank is best Hank.

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Ali Zein

This channel is pure gold, true gem

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Mauro césar

Speed up 400x
Show microbe standing still doing nothing

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gordon gillard

Rare earth this u bro!?

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The hornwort of hornwort

At first I thought this was the secret history living inside your aquarium.

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Tea Master

Why couldn’t school be this interesting

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John Kotz

Thank you for the wisdom I have received.

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Haleos

These videos are so good to sleep to or to relax to. Its so peaceful

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Shawna W

Brilliant video! I'm just as curious about the tiny bits you can see moving around the [already] single celled critters you're talking about, they must be absolutely minuscule and I wanna know, what the heck are they? Some even had what looked like legs like little aphids 😀 Fascinating!!

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User

EvilSandwich

Can someone please edit that clip of the ciliate to give it flashing colors and rave music?

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Emilio Zamudio

Where can I find you guy's music? I would love to listen to it by itself

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Sean Draco

It took 3.8 billion years for life to get to the point that it can spread life across space. So let's embrace our knowledge and strive for a logical and efficient civilization because life's waited long enough. Honestly this current global issue makes it obvious our current design isn't robust enough. Also frankly we must do better because with the time left we maybe the only chance earth life gets at essentially immortality.

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Bruce IDW

How do these organisms get into the aquariums? They’re filled with tapwater treated with salt, dechlorinated etc. Do they come in on the fish? Dust in the air? If i leave a 10 gallon tank filled with tapwater in my house near a window, will creatures like these just show up?

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Mark Kaidy

Nice! thank you for keeping music low as to not compete with your narration…very enjoyable.

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Akeem Mohammed

Someone send this to Corey from Aquarium Co-Op!

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Vic Vas

I'm just like that Ciliate all day around the house not knowing what to do with this damn quarantine!! damn you COVID 19!!!!

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Brian Salinas

“Fish” > “Fishes” 🐠

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Lirei Taichen

I dont have an aquarium.

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Wessel Driessen

I had no idea all this wonder could be found in my tank, especially considering I don't even own an aquarium!

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Scrumptious Red Beans

Can you look at microbes that live in cheese or kimchi

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Anders Schmich

Maybe i'm just a nerd, but honestly one of my favorite parts of having a salt water aquarium is just all the fascinating micro-fauna.

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SnoopyDoo

A single cell organism with a sophisticated computer in its nucleus and millions of nano machines running around in the cytoplasm causing the cell to perform acts that clearly are being directed like swimming around objects. This stuff never evolved into existence. A supreme creator designed it to operate this way.

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Keegan MacLean

Please do reef systems 😍

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CHILL FROST

The ciliate like is my nephew powered by chocolate.

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The_Biblioklept

Do the cells of the oomycete look like anti oloids or oloids from makers muse's videos?

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