I find that one of the most fascinating aspects of keeping a reef aquarium is the immense diversity of organisms that grow and thrive in your reef tank. This extreme biodiversity really helps a tank to thrive. Bacteria, algae, small crustaceans, tiny starfish and worms are all present in a reef tank and can play an important role in keeping your fish and corals happy and healthy.
Copepods are a group of tiny crustaceans that live in just about every body of water on our planet; there are a number of different species which can be found in freshwater, saltwater and even wet terrestrial environments like swamps and bogs.
Copepods consume organic waste and are an excellent natural food source for fish. Many hobbyists specifically focus on maintaining a healthy copepod population to help feed finicky fish like mandarin gobies and scooter blennies. Copepods typically find their way into your tank as hitchikers via live rock, frags, and macro-algae.
You can also introduce these beneficial copepods into your aquarium to help increase the diversity of species and boost populations. Here at MD we offer two different species of live aqua-cultured copepods from Algagen that are proven to thrive in reef tank conditions. We have the Tisbe and Apocyclops.
When introducing live copepods into your tank; it is best to feed your fish first and pour them into the tank at night time. Try to release them as close to the substrate as possible. A feeding tube or PVC pipe will work great for this.
This way the copepods have a chance to settle into the substrate and begin reproducing instead of getting immediately consumed by the various other animals in your tank. The larvae inside the bottles are super tiny and very difficult to see with the human eye but rest assured, after about 1-2 weeks you will see a noticeable increase in the larger adult pods inside your tank. Algagen recommends that you add one 8oz bottle of copepods for every 2’ of tank. So a 4ft long tank should get two 8oz bottles to establish a healthy population.
Having an isolated refugium really helps to maintain a stable population of pods because it offers a safe haven for these little guys to populate and grow. The Copepod reproductive cycle does include a free floating larval stage so be cautious when employing a UV sterilizer which can kill the delicate larvae.
You can see adult copepods running around your sand bed and rockwork. They are typically more noticeable in the nighttime hours and resemble little fleas or bugs crawling inside your tank.
-Take Care and Happy ReefKeeping!