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Sponges play key ecological roles, from cementing coral rubble in place for coral larvae settlement to acting as a food source for a myriad of organisms, and are a worthy organism for study. Although it makes more sense to perform most ecological experiments in the field, some experiments require a tank set up. The use of tanks can help determine which aspects of sponge biology drive ecological patterns; feeding trials, predation experiments, climate change studies and observations of cellular behavior are all questions better answered in a completely controlled environment. Within both the scientific and aquarist communities it is considered difficult to maintain sponges in a tank setting. In this Honors in the Major project I sought to understand which aspects of sponge biology are important for keeping sponges in captivity. My goal was to keep sponges alive in captivity for the sake of long-term experimentation. There are descriptions in the literature of the utilization of closed systems in laboratory settings, but in many studies, sponges were only kept alive for several weeks before they perished. Through the course of this project I have maintained live Halichondria corrugata samples for 13 weeks (at the time of publication). Sponge health has been assessed by comparing the growth of sponges in a lab to sponges at a dock site. I also replicated this tank system in a scaled down version to determine if the volume of water in a system matters for sponge growth. Observations in this closed system have yielded new observations about the species Halichondria corrugata, including the possible presence of photosynthetic microbial symbionts. The information gleaned from the many components of this project serves as a strong beginning for keeping sponges for extended periods of time in aquaria as well as more directions to pursue in studying the sponge, Halichondria corrugata.
Schmidt, A. L. (2016). Sponges in Captivity: Creating a Closed System in Which Sponges Can Thrive. Retrieved from http://purl.flvc.org/fsu/fd/FSU_libsubv1_scholarship_submission_1461351780