Care and Feeding
Copepods are relatively easy to care for
and maintain. They feed primarily on brown microalgae and can be fed
products such as Phyto-Feast. They can also feed on green algae such
as Nannochloropsis and Tetraselmis, however most of these algae will
pass right through their digestive tracts and not provide any nutrition.
Copepods can live in your main tank,
your refugium, or in a separate dedicated system. In your main tank they
will be eaten and depleted by your fish and corals. In
your refugium they will thrive since there are no predators. Pods from
your refugium can be periodically harvest and fed to your main tank.
Copepods like to hide so they will prefer
an environment with nooks and crannies. In your main tank they will hide
in your live rock and gravel. In your refugium they will hide in your
macroalgae and other plants.
Directions for Feeding while in the 6 oz bottle
If you are going to keep them in the
bottles for an extended period, remove the lid to increase oxygen in the
water and put them in a refrigerator between 34 and 40 F. At this
temperature they will go into hibernation and require very little oxygen
or food. Alternatively, store the bottle in a cool place with the lid
removed and feed them 3 drops of Phyto-Feast® every 2-3 days
Directions for Feeding in a refugium
Add 5 drops of Phyto-Feast® daily for each
gallon of water in your refugium. (i.e. a 25 gallon refugium should get
125 drops. 1 teaspoon = 76 drops).
What you will need for Culturing in a Stand Alone Container
- Culture vessel. This can be anything such as a 5 or
10 gallon aquarium, Tupperware container, etc. that holds water. Deep
containers or carboys are not suggested.
- Culture water. You will need some freshly mixed
clean seawater, or you can use a natural seawater product such as
Catalina water. Do not use water from an existing aquarium or culture as
this will contaminate your attempt to start a new culture of copepods. A
specific gravity of 1.020 to 1.025 for this strain of copepod is
- Small air pump, air stone, and airline tubing.
- Cover to keep dust and contaminants out and evaporation down.
- A food source, such as Phyto-Feast phytoplankton.
Directions for Culturing in a Stand Alone Container
Fill your container half to two-thirds full
with the clean seawater. Attach the airline and air stone to the air
pump. Put the air stone in the culture vessel, and plug in the air pump.
Make sure you use a drip loop and check valve to keep water from
getting into your pump and electrical outlet. Add a small amount of
Phyto-Feast to lightly color the culture water. Do not add too much, or
the water will foul. Add your new copepod culture, put the lid on, and
you are done!
Over the next few weeks, your copepods will
reproduce. It may seem at first that they aren't reproducing as fast as
you would like, but once they get to a certain population level you
will see an "explosion" of copepods in your culture vessel. Feed with
Phyto-Feast as necessary to keep the water lightly tinted, and monitor
water quality. Crashes from overfeeding that leads to high ammonia and
nitrite are possible, water changes can help if the water quality
declines too much.
To harvest your copepods, a plankton
collector/strainer of some sort is very helpful. You can siphon
yourcopepods through the collector, insuring that when you feed them to
your aquarium you are only addingcopepods, not culture water. Make sure
you do not dip your strainer in the copepod culture, and then in your
aquarium, and then back in your culture vessel without cleaning it
first. Likewise, keep siphon tubing and other equipment you use on your
culture separate from equipment you use in your aquariums or larval
tanks to avoid contamination. While you can always buy another batch of
Tigger-Pods should your culture crash, you can avoid that frustration by
not sharing equipment between different systems!
Receiving your Tigger-Pods
Tigger-Pods are wonderful little creatures,
full of energy, fun to watch, and great food for your reef tank. When
you receive your shipment, there are some steps you can take that will
help ensure their health and survival.
Upon arrival, you may notice the
Tigger-Pods aren't very active. This is normal when cold shipped or cold
stored. As the bottles warm up, the Tigger-Pods(TM) will become more
active. It is not uncommon to have a few of the oldest copepods to die
from old age. We pack the bottle with all stages of life, but only count
the adults. On average, we pack at least 10% more in every bottle to
account for any DOA.
Open bottle cap and remove the inside
liner. Let the bottle stand at room temp for 2 hours to allow the
temperature to rise. The Tigger-Pods can be poured directly into
your refugium and/or main tank. They can live several weeks in the
bottle, as long as they are fed and the bottle is open to the air.
Tigger-Pods feed on microalgae and we recommend feeding them with Phyto-Feast.
Phyto-Feast can be dosed directly into both your refugium and main
tank. The recommended feeding rate is 1 to 5 drops per gallon each day,
depending on the bio-density of your reef tank.
Longer Term Storage
Tigger-Pods can be stored in a "warm" (40 F
+) refrigerator to slow down their metabolic processes, which will
increase store shelf life.
MYTH: Tigger-Pods are a cold water copepod species and will quickly die in a reef system
On the contrary, Tigger-Pods (Tigriopus
californicus) LOVE warm water and will thrive in your reef tank. They
are native to the west coast of North America. They range from the cold
waters of Washington state to the very warm waters of Mexico.
They can live semi-dormant for many weeks
when stored in a refrigerator. Warmer water speeds up their metabolism
and reproductive rate. Tigger-Pods will reproduce very well in your
sump or refugium, especially if they are fed with products that contain
large amounts of brown algae. They can also feed a bit on green algae,
but it is much harder for them to digest. Phyto-Feast is primarily
brown algae and is an excellent feed for all types of copepods. It will
typically take 20-35 days to see a significant population spike because
of their slow life cycle (laying eggs, hatching, growing to a
noticeable size). More information is available in the Tigger-Pod FAQ
While it is true Tigriopus californicus
come from the west coast of North America, they have a vast reported
range from the tip of Baja California (Mexico) to Alaska. That is just
the reported range on paper; it doesn't mean they are not found outside
of that range. People have reported seeing them further down the Pacific
West Coast, as far south as Honduras.
Climate / Temperature
They do not live in the open ocean - they
live in the warm upper splash zone tide pools. They are not adapted
to survive in the kind of environment that the open ocean typically
provides. Anyone who has spent any time tide-pooling in the upper
splash zones of the coast of California can tell you the upper pools
can experience extended periods (days to weeks) of daily highs in the
mid to high 90's (°F) during summer.
Also, see "Habitat characters of Tigriopus californicus (Copepoda: Harpacticoida)" from the Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom where copepod populations were found at water temperatures of 6–33°C (42F to 92F).
Reproduction Above 74°F
It is a myth that all Tigriopus californicus
do not do well in warm conditions originates from mis-interpretation of
a research study of Canadian populations. In these samples from
much colder water, it was found that 2-5% more males than females were
produced when cultured above 75°F. Such a slight departure from a
50:50 sex ratio will have a negligible effect on the breeding success of
a population. Furthermore, although this temperature effect may occur
in the cold–water adapted strains collected for that trial, no
similar studies are reported of populations from warmer waters. Reed
Mariculture's Tigger-Pods were originally collected in California, over a
1,000 miles further south. Our Tigriopus californicus have been cultured successfully at near reef temps (mid 70's to 80's during the summer) for several years now.
Tigger-Pods are significantly larger than
most copepods that come in with live rock. Most such pods are
between 300-500 microns, while Tigger-Pods are 1000-1500 microns. It's
difficult to find microplankton in this size range, so Tigger-Pods can
be a valuable addition to your reef system.
Tigger-pods will typically not thrive in your main tank for three reasons:
- there is no place for them to hide, and they are such attractive food that they get eaten quickly and disappear
- there is not enough food (microalgae) for them
- it takes 20-30 days from when their eggs are laid until
they mature into breeding adults ready to start laying eggs, so the
chances that they can persist long enough to breed under these
conditions is practically zero.
The best way to culture Tigger-Pods is to put them in your sump or refugium where they are safe, or culture them in a separate tank. Either way, give them lots of microalgae (like Phyto-Feast) to feed on.
The bottom line is that Tigger-Pods (Tigriopus californicus)
are a very good species of copepod to have in your reef system. They
are a highly adaptable species that thrive at cold temperatures, reef
system temperatures, and intermediate temperatures. They are also very
good feed organisms (easy to capture and a good nutritional profile),
and will culture well when given the right conditions and food.