Date of Award

Spring 5-15-2014

Document Type


First Advisor

Caroline Solomon

Second Advisor

Daniel Lundberg


Typical pet turtle tank setups do not utilize the complete nutrient cycle seen in a functional natural ecosystem. This dysfunction results in waste and nutrient buildup, which is currently managed by water changes and regular tank cleaning. This type of maintenance can be costly and time-consuming -- not to mention unpleasant and hazardous to the aquarium owner's health. This study tested the effectiveness of using plants as part of a proposed ecological tank design to minimize waste buildup by utilizing nutrients. Wastewater from a dirty turtle tank was transferred to a tank setup containing three plants (Experimental Batch 1), while the dirty turtle tank received clean water (Experimental Batch 2). Water samples were collected from each tank over a period of approximately two weeks and each tank's concentration of phosphorus and nitrogen were measured. NH4+ analysis showed that the rate of turtle N buildup equals about 4.5 times as much as plant N use. PO43- analysis results showed that the rate of turtle P buildup is about 0.2642 uM per day, however plant P use did not show a significant trend. Further studies on plant P use and forms of N should be carried out to explore this anomaly. Results from this study and further studies of this kind can be used to estimate and standardize the amount of plant mass needed to create a self-sustainable cycle in a 40-gallon tank. Turtle owners can use this information to improve the water quality, using an ecologically friendly design. In future studies, researchers can test further additions to create a complete ecological tank design - including organic filter sponges, a worm compost farm, and a complete garden situated above the tank - against typical mechanical filtration systems to compare quality of life for the turtles.



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