There are a number of different types of plants, animals, algae and microbes inside each Bio-Sphere. The tiny lilylike plants floating on the surface of the water are called "Chain of Stars" and are amongst the smallest plants in the world. They provide a safe haven and habitat for the small invertebrates as well as food for the snails. In fact, you may see snails, hanging upside down to graze on their thin roots which grow down into the water. The Chain of Stars rarely flowers so it reproduces vegetatively (not by seeds).
Each of the little leaves is a separate plant! This plant is placed in the Bio-Sphere primarily as a food source for the animals during its initial development and may disappear later on. The large twisting plant with many "needle-like" branches and leaves is called Hornwort. Hornwort, which floats in the water beneath the surface, is harvested from the Florida swamplands.
If there were moving water in your Bio-Sphere, the hornwort would develop roots to anchor it in place. Whorls of rigid, dark-green, leaves are covered with soft thorns that provide protectionfor small creatures. The animals do not usually eat the hornwort (it doesn't taste good), however it does provide a good portion of the oxygen the animals need to live and absorbs carbon dioxide and nutrients that are created by the animals as waste.
There are a variety of snails in your Bio-Sphere including the ramshorn, pond and trumpet snails (try to pick them out!). The ramshorn snail,with the tall sniraling shell, is hermaphroditic (both male and female) and may have babies even if it is alone in your Bio-Sphere. If you lobk closely, you might see small spherical eggs it lays on the glass.
The honey-colored dots inside are unborn baby snails. The pond snails (a more common species of snail) may lay their eggs on the glass as well. However, the pond snail's eggs are smaller than the ramshorn~s and are almost colorless and completely translucent. The trumpet snail has a long pointed shell that looks like a trumpet. These peculiar snails, unlike the pond and ramshorn, don't lay eggs; they have live young which they carry around in their mouths until they form their own shells. The mother then spits them out and they are on their own!
Both the pond snail and the ramshorn snail graze on algae and the roots of the Chain of Stars and may be seen pruning dead leaves off both plants. They are the window cleaners and gardeners of the Bio-Sphere!
The baby Irumpet snails almost exclusively feeds on algae growing on the glass, while the adults spend most of their time scavenging in the detritus (dead plant and animal matter on the bottom). The most visibly active members of the biospheric community are the small shrimp-like amphipods seen darting wildly about. They tend to be most active at dusk and night, swinging from branch to branch like monkeys in the jungle. To get them to swim, gently tip the Bio-Sphere so that the plants move.
Amphipods have an endless appetite, feeding on almost everything in the Bio-Sphere from microscopic algae to detritus (dead plant and animal matter) or the roots of the Chain of Stars. During the molting season, amphipods shed their skin-like exoskeleton (an external bone-like framework that holds them together) and grow a new one; you may see empty amphipod shells floating around for a few days until they are broken down by microbes. The amphipods will replicate at a rapid rate (about every four weeks). The females carry their eggs for up to a week even after they have hatched.
In addition to the larger animals, there is a vast population of little critters (tiny invertebrates) inside the Bio-Sphere including Daphnia, Ostracods and Copepods. Some of these little critters are difficult to see with the naked eye, but if you focus on the opposite side of the sphere, you may see them as little specs of "dust" (or try looking at your Bio-Sphere through a magnifying glass).
Though seldom seen, these creatures are important to the process of lite going on inside. There are also small worms that live exclusively in the soil and many microscopic organisms living in the water that help with waste recycling.
In nature these tiny animals form an important part of the food web" providing prey to larger predatory species of invertebrates (animals without backbones) and fish. If you shine a light through the Bio-Sphere, you might see small transparent animals called Daphnia swimming clumsily along. They flap the flat fins on their sides like paddles to move through the water. If you look really closely, you might see tiny circular pouches filled with eggs inside their translucent abdomens.
Ostracods, with their "ringed" shell, resemble tiny mussels. In fact they are sometimes called mussel shrimp or seed shrimp. The small eyelashes tha~ extend infront of them are actually antennae that they use to navigate the huge (from their perspective) world they live in. Small claw-like extensions on the bottom are used to rake microbes or extremely fine detritus suspended in the water into its hungry mouth. Ostracods are visible to the naked eye as small dark gray or brown dots moving in a straight line along the side of the glass as they scurry, using tiny legs, busily along.
The Cyclops Copepods (named after the mythical one-eyed monster), can likewise be extremely small; even as small as a pinhead. Copepods carry "egg masses" that look like bunches of grapes slung over their backs as they swim along wobbling back and forth like drunken sailors. They are primarily "filter feeders" which means that they eat microscopic algae and microbes floating in the water or the debris on the bottom. Don't be alarmed if you don't immediately see these small invertebrates because they are always there, working behind the scenes in your Bio-Sphere !