Reef Aquarium Copepods
What are Copepods?Article by Vince Rado
Copepods are small, aquatic crustaceans that live in fresh or saltwater environments. They can be free swimming in the water column or live on bottom surfaces. Most copepods have a relatively short life span but can reproduce quickly and exist in huge populations. They are one of the most common and numerous forms of life on the planet, and it is estimated that there are nearly 75,000 species worldwide living in every conceivable aquatic habitat.
Why should I have them in my Aquarium?
Copepods are a major component of marine zooplankton and play a significant role in the oceanic food chain. These small, shrimp-like animals consume vast quantities of phytoplankton and in turn are eaten by a variety of fish, corals, and invertebrates, including larval stages. Many marine species are dependent on copepods as food at one point or another in their life cycle. This means that these nearly unseen and innumerable creatures are vitally important to the overall health of almost all marine ecosystems. In short, Copepods are an important energy source for reefs. Aquarists try to supply that energy using frozen or preserved diets, but dead plankton is not as nutritious as live plankton and food particles that are not eaten foul water quality and add to nutrient levels. Non-living food items do not swim naturally and may not trigger feeding responses.
Copepods can also be grown outside of the aquarium system in a refugium or culture vessel, and then harvested to feed the aquarium. Pod culture can be tricky; some are easier then others, but with some simple equipment and a little dedication pod cultures are achievable.
The Future of Live Aquarium Foods
The implications for the use of live copepods in aquariums and aquaculture are enormous. Now that they will be readily available to the aquarist and aquaculturist, what will we see in the years ahead? Many species of newly aqua-cultured fish and successful feeding of invertebrates dependent on zooplankton is the most likely result. Long live the pods!
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