Protected Natural Area “Lagunas de Zempoala National Park”, habitat of Ambystoma altamirani. Huitzilac, Morelos. México

_th place in Biotope Aquarium Design Contest 2020

Volume:  160 l
Dimensions: 100 x 40 x 40 cm
List of fishes: Girardinichthys multiradiatus (Native species, wild, adult specimens; 3 males and 5 females), Ambystoma dumerelii and Ambystoma sp. (Captivity, adult specimens representing the endemic species of the habitat Ambystoma altamirani).
List of plants: Egeria densa (invasive exotic), Lemna sp., Azolla sp., And Eleocharis sp.
Description of decorations: The elements used in the aquarium (substrate, logs, rocks, some plants and organic matter) were collected from the natural habitat in a responsible way. Egeria densa was purchased from a retail aquarium.
Description of equipment: FLUVAL 205 external filter (680 L / H); inside with ceramic tubes for biological filtration, activated carbon for chemical filtration and sponge for mechanical filtration. FLUVAL Brand filter materials. For lighting, 3 fluorescent white light bulbs (32w, 6500 ° K each one) are used with a photoperiod of 6 hours a day and daylight influence of 2 hours in the morning. Because the water temperature in the natural habitat is low (12 ± 3 ° C), it is not necessary to use a thermostat in the aquarium, that is why it keeps at room temperature. For aesthetic purposes a black background is place in the aquarium.
Water parameters: 50% of the volume of aquarium water taken from the recreated biotope is used, so the physicochemical parameters of the aquarium and the biotope are very similar. For the physical-chemical analysis of water, both of them, the natural biotope and the aquarium, the reagent strips “Tetra Test Easy Strips 6 in 1” and “Tetra Test Ammonia Aquarium” are used. In addition, water samples are taken in a sterile bottle and subsequently analyzed with Hanna Instruments Brand, laboratory grade, reagents (samples interpreted with HACH DR-3900 spectrophotometer and Conductronic PC45). Ammonia nitrogen (N-NH3): 0.02 mg / L, Nitrites (NO2-): 0.03 mg / L, Nitrates (NO3): 0.03 mg / L, Total hardness (GH): 34, Chlorine: 0 mg / L, Alkalinity Total (KH): 31 mg/L, Phosphates (PO4-3): 0.25 mg / L, pH: 7.12, Temperature: 12 ± 2 ° C, Turbidity (NTU): 3 and SST: 5 mg / L.
Additional info: A strict biotope aquarium of the “Tonatiahua” lagoon (margin of the southwest side of the lagoon) is recreated. Specimens of Ambystoma dumerelii and Ambystoma sp. are used in the aquarium (legally acquired), since Ambystoma altamirani is classified as a threatened species in the “Official Mexican Standard NOM-059-SEMARNAT-2010 Environmental Protection-Native Mexican Species of Wild Flora and Fauna -Categories of risk and specifications for their inclusion, exclusion or change-List of species at risk”, while in the red list of threatened species of the IUCN it is classified as an endangered species. There is no, currently, form of legal use of the species within the country. Because axolotls are hunters and their natural diet is based on live foods, they are offered as diet worms (Eisenia foetida), Tubifex sp., Acociles (Cambarellus sp.) and fly larvae. A partial water change of 30% every 7 days is made, inside the aquarium


Description of the area surrounding the biotope: The Protected Natural Area “Lagunas de Zempoala National Park” is a transition zone between the Nearctic and Neotropical region of Mexico, that is located in the physiographic province of the Transverse Neovolcanic Axis; it is located, specifically, in the municipalities of Huitzilac and Cuernavaca (State of Morelos) and Ocuilan de Arteaga (State of Mexico). The geographical coordinates that comprise the park are found between the parallels 19 ° 01’30 “and 19 ° 06 ‘of North latitude and the meridians 99 ° 16’20” and 99 ° 21’ of West longitude. It has, approximately, 4790 hectares of surface and includes an altitude between 2700 and 3600 meters above sea level; the characteristic climate of the area is cold temperature and subhumid (Bonilla-Barbosa and Novelo-Retena, 1995). Is a typical cold temperate forest ecosystem made up of pine, fir, oak and pine-oak forests with floristic elements of Nearctic affinity (Quercus, Pinus, Arbutus, Arctosthaphylos, Castilleja and Penstemon). We can find subalpine grassland formed, mainly, by elements that grow in great abundance from the Poaceae family, the most notable genera are Festuca and Muhlenbergia, in addition to a rich diversity of aquatic vegetation that has allowed it to be one of the most important refuges for aquatic flora from Mexico.

The park is very close to the intersection of three important hydrographic systems in Mexico, which are: 1) The Lerma river basin, to the west, 2) The Mexico basin, to the northeast, and 3) The Balsas river basin, to the south. , a system to which the park belongs, which owes its name to the presence of seven lagoons that are fed by streams that descend from the mountains; these lagoons have names in the Nahuatl language: 1) Zempoala “twenty or many lagoons”, 2) Acoyotongo “water of the coyotito” and 3) Tonatiahua “mirror of the sun”, they are permanent lagoons. 4) Compile “pot of water” is temporary, and is fed by the Zempoala lagoon in the rainy season. 5) Acomantla “container with water” is currently dry due to natural factors. 6) Hueyapan “in the big water” and 7) Quila “water in the grass” are lagoons that are dry most of the year, because the water from the streams, that feed them, are piped to supply water to the surrounding communities. In addition, there is also a small spring called “La Joya de Atezcapan” (Peña-Pichardo, 2016).

“Tonatiahua” lagoon is located between the coordinates 19 ° 03’44.87 ’’ N 99 ° 18’57.89’’ W, at an altitude of 2,844 meters above sea level at the foot of Ocuilan and Los Alumbres hills. It is an endorheic basin, fed by a small stream, originating from the spring that descends to the west of Ocuilan hill. It has an area that ranges from 5.3 hectares, in the dry season to 6.1 hectares, in the rainy season, with a maximum length of 312.8 to 342.0 m in a west-east direction and 231.25 m in its widest part and 44.7 m in the narrowest. It has water throughout the year. With an average depth of 6.0 m during the year. It is surrounded by a mixture of humic andosol, lithosol and eutric regosol soils (Quiroz-Castelán et al., 2007).

Description of the underwater landscape of the biotope: Due to the “Tonatiahua” lagoon is surrounded by mountains, the water mirror can be seen with a green / blue hue; at certain intervals it is animated by the air waves that originate in the high part of the mountains. The edges of the lagoon are approximately 45 centimeters deep and a moderate amount of sediment, organic matter and leaf litter of plant species that make up the understory can be easily observed; in addition to the leaves of the trees (pine, oak and oyamel) that fall from great heights.

Further inland, Egeria densa is the dominant species and serves as a refuge for the fish Ilyodon whitei and G. multiradiatus, that we can generally observe swimming on the margins of the lagoon, in search of micro algae and invertebrates that are part of their natural diet. However, despite the visibility through the water column is good, it is very difficult to see an Ambystoma altamirani, who denotes its presence because when it is hunting its food, it alters the substrate, forming small “dust” spots.

Towards the center of the lagoon, you can see the exotic fish species, that were intentionally introduced for sport fishing purposes, (Ctecnopharyngodon idellus, Carassius auratus, Cyprinus carpio and Oncorhynchus mykiss), whom being larger, easily see as food to endemic aquatic species of the place.

Description of the parameters of the habitat: Ammoniacal nitrogen (N-NH3): 0.04 mg / L, Nitrites (NO2-): 0.08 mg / L, Nitrates (NO3-): 1.0 mg / L, Total hardness (GH): 36 mg/L, Chlorine: 0 mg / L, Alkalinity Total (KH): 33 mg/L, Phosphates (PO4-3): 0.28 mg / L, pH: 7.06, Temperature: 11 ± 2 ° C, Turbidity (NTU): 2 and SST: 1 mg / L.

List of fishes and invertebrates occurring in the nature biotope: As endemic species we can find the mountain jolote (Ambystoma altamirani) and the Cambarellus zempoalensis, the native fish are the split-tailed mexcalpique (Ilyodon whitei), Zempoala mexcalpique (Girardinichthys multiradiatus) and the Lerma carp (Notropis sallei); as introduced species are the guatopote (Heterandria bimaculata) and as exotic species are grass carp (Ctecnopharyngodon idellus). Golden carp (Carassius auratus), common carp (Cyprinus carpio), rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) were introduced intentionally for recreational fishing purposes.

List of plants found in the nature biotope: In the “Tonatiahua” lagoon the vegetation is represented mainly by Submerged Rooted Hydrophytes (Egeria densa, Potamogeton illinoensis, Potamogeton crispus and Myriophyllum heterophyllum), followed by the Emerged Rooted Hydrophytes (Scirpus californicus, Eleocharis densa, Polygonum amphibium and lastly Gliceria amphibium); Free Floating Hydrophytes represented in a very little quantity by Lemna aequinoctialis.

As dominant species of the deeper areas, Egeria densa stands out, which covers more than one hectare from the south beach to the central area of ​​the lake, associated with Potamogeton illinoensis, limiting in the east, west and south with emerging hydrophytes such as Scirpus californicus, Polygonum amphybium, Juncus arcticus, Carex hermannii and C. psilocarpa. However, in the rainy season (June to September) due to the fluctuation in the water level, Egeria densa is the exclusively dominant species (Bonilla-Barbosa and Novelo-Retena, 1995).

Threats to the ecology: Protected Natural Areas for decades have been fundamental spaces for the conservation of natural ecosystems and biodiversity on the planet; however, despite multiple efforts to protect them, they continue being affected by great and important problems that cause environmental deterioration and also those problems constantly threaten the stability of the ecosystems that they protect.

The Protected Natural Area “Lagunas de Zempoala National Park” shelter a great diversity of animal species ranging from mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles. Some endemic species of the place are the teporingo (Romerolagus diazzi), the axolotl (Ambystoma altamirani) and the mexcalpique (Girardinichthys multiradiatus). As plant species, forest specimens that form pine, oak and oyamel forests stand out, as well as species of aquatic plants, lichens and fungi.

Among the anthropogenic factors that negatively affect the park, the following ones can be mentioned:

1) Deforestation caused by illegal logging, forest fires and land extraction.

2) Extraction of water from the lagoons to supply the vital liquid to small towns in the states of Morelos, Mexico and Mexico City.

3) Poaching is the main factor in the loss of biodiversity within the area. According to the park’s management program, hunting is mainly for white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), squirrels, rabbits, and wild chicken (Dendrotyx macrorura); the last is endemic to Mexico and is listed in the “Official Mexican Standard NOM-059-SEMARNAT-2010 Environmental protection-Mexican native species of wild flora and fauna-Risk categories and specifications for their inclusion, exclusion or change-List of species in risk ”, under the category of special protection (Serafín-Castro, 2014).

4) The introduction of exotic species has been a problem of great magnitude in most of the protected natural areas; most of the fish species that inhabit the lakes are exotic and the displacement of native species by introduced species has become terribly common and increasingly difficult to deal with (Serafín-Castro, 2014).

Sources of information:

  1. Serafín-Castro, A. M. (2014). Analysis and proposals for improvement to the Management Program of the “Parque Nacional Lagunas de Zempoala” Protected Natural Area from the perspective of Environmental Sciences. Bachelor’s Thesis. Faculty of Urban and Regional Planning. UAEMex. Mexico.
  2. Bonilla-Barbosa, J. M. and B. Santamaría. (2013). Invasive alien and translocated aquatic plants in R. Mendoza and P. Koleff (Coords.). Invasive aquatic species in Mexico. National Commission for the Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity. Mexico.
  3. Bonilla, B. J. R. (1992). Flora and vascular aquatic vegetation of the Lagunas de Zempoala, Morelos, Mexico. Master’s Thesis. Science Faculty. UNAM. Mexico.
  4. Bonilla-Barbosa, J. R. and Novelo, R. A. (1995). Manual for the identification of aquatic plants of the Lagunas de Zempoala National Park, Mexico. IBUNAM notebooks. Institute of Biology. UNAM. Mexico.
  5. Peña-Pichardo, R. (2016). Proposals for the improvement and sustainable use of the Lagunas de Zempoala National Park. Bachelor’s Thesis. Faculty of Urban and Regional Planning. UAEMex. Mexico.
  6. Quiroz-Castelán, H., Eslava, O. M., Astudillo, I. M., Rodríguez, J. G. and Vargas, M. D. (2008). Space-time dynamics of oxygen-temperature in the Zempoala and Tonatiahua lakes. University certificate. University of Guanajuato. Mexico.
  7. Parque Nacional de Zempoala en crisis por tala ilegal:
  8. Personal study evidence at the Biotope:
  9. Tala clandestine en Ocuilan- En punto con Denise Maerker:

Comments of the members of the jury of Biotope Aquarium Design Contest 2020