Ocean Pods
Aquacultured Copepods for the Hobbyist
FAQORDERCONTACTLINKS

What are copepods?

I see stuff swimming in my tank. Are these copepods or amphipods?

Why buy copepods for my system?

I bought some Ocean Pods. How do I acclimate them?

How do I culture the copepods if I have a hungry fish?

What do I feed copepods?

How do I move copepods from my side culture into the main tank?


What are copepods?

Copepods are crustaceans which are found in freshwater and marine environments. The name copepod refers to "oar foot" because some of the planktonic species have tails that flare out like a paddle, much like my little mascot above. About 12,000 species have been described to date. Copepods have a variety of behaviors and preferred habitats. Some copepods will "hibernate" or encyst, much like brine shrimp (Artemia). Others are parasites, and can travel hundreds of miles by hitching a ride on migrating fish. Some species have a relatively short life cycle (a few weeks), while others can live a full year.

Copepods are a very diverse group of organisms, and I have found that the more you try to generalize their behavior or characteristics, the more diversity is discovered.

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I see stuff swimming in my tank. Are these copepods or amphipods?

Amphipods are larger, and readily visible to the naked eye. They look like giant commas, they like to hide in the macroalgae. Amphipods are good food for larger fish.

Copepods are smaller, and come in 12,000 varieties. 

Calanoid copepods have large, frilly antennae and like to stay up in the water column. Calanoid copepods generally get removed from home systems because they are very sensitive to strong currents and filtration.

Harpacticoid copepods are smaller, and will sit on the glass or live rock. These are the most common types of copepods found in reef tanks, because they spend part of their time up in the water column and part of the time on surfaces - meaning that they do not get sucked out by filtration. They are also a lot less sensitive to the buffeting from currents in reef tanks, because they have much shorter antennae and can cling to objects when in a strong current.

This picture illustrates the different types of crustaceans used as live feeds.

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Why buy copepods for my system?

Copepods are the second largest source of protein in the oceans, second only to krill. They are the natural food of many fish in the oceans, especially the early life stages.

Some fish will not eat non-living foods, and require live feeds such as copepods and mysids. Some good examples are: mandarin gobies, any seahorse species, scooter blennies, and early life stages of dottybacks, chromis, tangs, flame angels, etc. Owneres of these type of fish definitely need a consistent and reliable source of copepods for feeding. 

OCEAN PODS copepods are 100% aquacultured and safe to add to your system for feeding these species of fish.

Reef tank systems do better when there are a variety of natural organisms to maintain the ecological balance. The reason that "live rock" or "live sand" is such a great item is that it provides a foundation for healthy microorganisms that will allow the larger, more visible fish and invertebrates to thrive.

Over time, the population of the invertebrates from the live rock will naturally decline, as they are grazed by the corals, anemones, fish and shrimp in the tank.

OCEAN PODS copepods are a great way to boost your natural populations of copepods.

In addition, some copepods have some added benefits. They are "detritivores", meaning they will scavenge leftover fish food, fish poop, and bacteria in the tank. They can help control the water quality by eating the unused food which can eventually lead to bacteria overload in your tank.

OCEAN PODS copepods are detritivores and will stay in your tank, thriving and reproducing without any additional food.

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I bought some Ocean Pods. How do I acclimate them?

Not everyone needs to culture copepods. If your live rock just needs a little boost or you have a thriving refugium but have seen less and less of the "little white bugs" that inhabit it, just buy some 'pods and put them into your system to boost the population - no extra culturing is required.

ACCLIMATION PROCEDURES

Essential Live Feeds Copepods are shipped in a 4 oz. bottle at 28 ppt to 32 ppt salinity (1.022 to 1.025) with a little bit of food (this food will not harm your tank residents). Copepods will settle to the bottom during shipping, so if you open the bottle and don't see any, try shaking it up and holding it up to the light or pouring them into a clear jar or tupperware container (NOTE - make sure there is no soap residue on any of your culture containers - this upsets the 'pods).

You can add them directly to the tank after bringing them up to the temperature of the water, or you can get some water from your tank, and combine about 25% of the bottle of the copepods to this water, and check in 15 minutes to see how they are doing. If there is going to be an adverse reaction of the copepods, it will happen rather quickly, so you should know. (Of course, if there is something wrong enough with the water that it's killing harpacticoid copepods, then there's something very amiss with the system. These things live in highly variable environments and can withstand rapid salinity and temperature changes.)

Usually, if that first 25% make it, then just go ahead and add all the copepods to the tank water, and within a few weeks you will see a bloom. A bloom is easily detected at night by shining a flashlight on the side of the tank.

If you have a voracious eater (mandarin gobies and/or seahorses), you might want to consider setting up a culture.

Check out my TIPS FOR CULTURING COPEPODS.

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How do I culture the copepods if I have a hungry fish?

TIPS ON CULTURING COPEPODS

Not everyone needs to culture copepods. If your live rock just needs a little boost or you have a thriving refugium but have seen less and less of the "little white bugs" that inhabit it, just buy some 'pods and put them into your system to boost the population - no extra culturing is required. 

The following info, however, can help students and others (mandarin owners) who need to have a continuous culture for feeding, study or amusement.

These tips are provided in addition to a very comprehensive article written by Frank Marini for the Advanced Aquarist. Here are my additional bits of advice on the topic.

The trick with keeping the copepods going is to make small adjustments, and not do everything at once. For example, set up your culture with half the bottle (the copepods can continue to live in the bottle for quite a while - several months if treated right), so that if your original culture doesn't work, you have some to fall back on. 

Keep them in a tupperware container or a jar, with very little aeration until you start to see the numbers increase, and then split the culture, and continue to let the little guys thrive - work your way up to the larger system in Frank's article, if you need that many pods.

Good things to feed the critters are small bits of flake food, crushed up - but just a few flakes. BOYD'S VITA DIET FISH FOOD is a good complete diet. If using inert food and the water gets cloudy, you'll need to change it.

Other good things are live algaes such as isochrysis, or tetraselmis.

Add little food, to reduce the chance that bacteria will take over. When I say a little, I mean you can hardly see a tint in the water with the algae, and just a few grams of flake food at a time.

The females will be reproducing every other day for up to 20 days, so you should see a bloom of new adults in a couple of weeks. To see the copepods, the best way is to turn off all the lights, and shine a flashlight on the side of the culture container or your refugium. The copepods will be attracted to the light.

An easy way to collect them for transfer is wiping a sponge along the side of the container or sucking them up with a pipette after shining a light on the side of the container to attract them.

Pouring the culture water through a filter bag, or a coffee filter, is another method of catching and moving the copepods to your main tank or a fresh culture container.

Do a 10-20% water change every week to ensure the best survival of the pods. These copepods will thrive at 28 to 34 ppt (1.020 to 1.025).

Beware of crabs in your refugium - they have a habit of eating these little guys!

Try to keep them separate from rotifers - they can coexist with rotifers, but it will drive down the population levels of your copepods.
(All copepods are shipped from Essential Live Feeds without any rotifers.)

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What do I feed copepods?

IF YOU ARE ADDING THEM DIRECTLY TO YOUR TANK:

ESSENTIAL LIVE FEEDS COPEPODS are "detritivores", meaning they will scavenge leftover fish food, fish poop, and bacteria in the tank. They can help control the water quality by eating the unused food which can eventually lead to bacteria overload in your tank. OCEAN PODS copepods will stay in your tank, thriving and reproducing without any additional food.

IF YOU ARE CULTURING THEM:

See TIPS FOR CULTURING COPEPODS.

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How do I move copepods from my side culture into the main tank?

OCEAN PODS copepods come in a bottle that is ready to add directly to your tank. You should shake up the bottle before adding it to the tank, because the copepods sometimes settle to the bottom during shipping. ESSENTIAL LIVE FEEDS COPEPODS will stay in your tank, thriving and reproducing without any additional food.

IF YOU ARE CULTURING THEM:

An easy way to collect them for transfer is wiping a sponge along the side of the container or sucking them up with a pipette after shining a light on the side of the container to attract them.

Pouring the culture water through a filter bag, or a coffee filter, is another method of catching and moving the copepods to your main tank or a fresh culture container.

See more under TIPS FOR CULTURING COPEPODS.

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Ask the Expert: Dr. Adelaide Rhodes is a world recognized expert on copepods and will be happy to answer your questions about them. She can be reached by email at adelaide@essentiallivefeeds.com.
More information on other projects being developed by Adelaide can be found on other pages at the Essential Live Feeds website.