How to Grow Copepods

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Grow Copepods
Grow Copepods (Image: wikimedia commons)

Copepods are a type of crustacean which can live in both fresh and ocean water. The miniscule creatures are an important source of dietary protein for many forms of aquatic life, particularly when they are young. Several species of newly hatched fish fry will not eat plant material, and are compelled to seek a source of live food, such as krill and copepods, making it difficult to breed them in captivity. If you have gobies, seahorses, dot backs, or tangs and their ilk in your aquarium, copepod cultivation can make a significant contribution to your established aquaculture.

Things You'll Need

  • Copepods
  • Phytoplankton (optional)
  • Established fish aquarium
  • Aquarium water
  • Flashlight

Locate a source of copepods to add to your aquarium. Copepods are sold in many aquarium shops, pet stores or over the Internet. If you are keeping your copepods in a separate aquarium, you will need to purchase a supply of phytoplankton they can utilize as a food source. You will also need to ensure the conditions of the copepod tank mimic that of the fish tank in terms of temperature, salinity, airflow and lighting.

Remove some water from your aquarium, and add it to the copepod colony, replacing approximately 25 percent of the package fluid.

Wait for 15 to 20 minutes to allow the contents to reach the same temperature as the water in the aquarium. Then add the contents to your aquarium.

Add just enough phytoplankton to tint the water light green. As the copepods digest the phytoplankton, the water will clear up.

Shine a flashlight on the side of the aquarium each night for the next 2 weeks. If everything went well, you should be able to observe the development and growth of a population of copepods. You can generally observe populations forming on the tank walls, or you will see the copepods themselves as they are naturally attracted toward the light.

Consider setting up a separate copepod container and releasing them gradually into the aquarium. If you have a tank full of insatiable eaters, they may demolish your copepod population faster than they can reproduce. That being said, under normal conditions, a new group of adult copepods should emerge from within the existing population every 2 weeks. They can then be moved from the holding tank into the larger aquarium by simply scooping them out and transferring the liquid.

Change 10 to 20 percent of the aquarium water every week to give your copepods the highest odds for survival over an extended period of time. As detrivores, they eat anything from fish excrement to tank bacteria to uneaten fish flakes. Their activities can help to keep the level of tank bacteria low, but this does not mean you can neglect tank cleaning, otherwise you risk unbalancing the entire ecosystem.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you suspect your copepods are not getting enough nourishment from the sources that are readily available in the tank, periodically add a bit of phytoplankton to the water.
  • Copepods and brine shrimp cannot be raised in the same tank.

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