Types Of Copepods Common In A Reef Tank

There are many types of copepods that you should have in your reef tank. These copepods are a very nutritional food source for finicky fish and some fish really only eat these crustaceans.

I focus my efforts on one specific type of copepod for my home reef tank but you can use just about any of them as they are all very nutritional.

Types of Copepods

There are thousands of different types of copepods but in this article we will focus on the main copepods used in reef aquariums.

Copepods do more in your reef tank than just provide food for your fish and inverts. They also benefit your reef tank as part of your clean up crew. Copepods feed on waste such as old food, macroalgae and other detritus.

Tisbe Pods

Tisbe pods are a great source of nutrition for fish and other marine life. Tisbe pods are especially great for fish like green mandarins, pipefish, some wrasses and so many more. I culture this specific copepod for my finicky fish. My pipefish and mandarin love this food crustacean.

Adult tisbe pods crawl around on the live rock, sand, and glass feeding on nuisance algae and detritus. A juvenile tisbe pod will float through the water column (plankton) and feed on phytoplankton. This is why it is important to dose phytoplankton in your reef tank.

Tisbe PodMicroscope picture of a tisbe pod. Image Source: ResearchGate

Tiger Pods – Tigriopus Copepods

Tigriopus Copepods also known as tiger pods or tig pods are another great copepod for your reef tank. These large red copepods are loaded with omega-3 and fatty acids which are beneficial to fish and inverts.

Fish especially love tigriopus copepods because of their jerking motion they perform while swimming through the water column.

A female tigriopus copepods will lay hundreds of eggs adding to your planktonic food source and clean up crew.

Microscope view of a Tigriopus pod. Image Source: Wiki.com

Apocalypse Pods

Apocalypse pods are medium in size and a nutritional feast for your fish and inverts. Apocalypse pods are filled with fatty acids and protein making a great snack for fish and coral.

Astaxanthin which is found in apocalypse pods will brighten the colors of your fish and coral.

Apocalypse pods lay eggs more often than tisbe pods and tiger pods adding to your clean up crew every 5 days.

Microscopic picture of an Apocalypse pod. Image Source: Intrafish.com

Adding Copepods In Your Reef Tank

Adding copepods should be done when the lights are out. This allows the copepod culture to settle and find a place to hide from fish. You want this to happen so that they can start working and reproducing.

I suggest adding your copepods in your sump or refugium at night to allow them a place to breed. Your sump contains places for the pods to breed. They will make their way into your display tank eventually and feed your fish and coral.

Be sure to dose your sump with a live phytoplankton and keep consistent with your dosing. This will ensure the successful seed of your live copepods and continue their growth.

What Do Copepods Eat

Copepods eat phytoplankton, algae film, detritus, waste fish food, fish poop and so much more. They are an essential part of your clean up crew in your reef tank while also allowing your fish to hunt for their food.

Culturing Copepods – How To

I enjoy culturing copepods for my reef aquarium. My fish and coral love the hunt and it is really cool to watch. That is why I keep a culture of tisbe and tiger pods going at all times.

I have learned that culturing tisbe, tiger and apocolypse pods is very easy to do. If you treat them bad they survive. This is how you do it:

What You Need:

  1. Water Jug With Lid And Spigot This will allow you to drill a hole (or not) to allow an airline to be placed. I keep mine open without the lid though I have used the lid before. Works fine either way. I prefer this jug here as it is the best option for these little crustaceans.
  2. Rigid Airline Tubing I like to use rigid airline connected to a soft line. This allows proper placement to the bottom of the water jug.
  3. Air Pump This will give your small culture ecosystem oxygen. Remember not to pump too much air so be sure to buy a valve also to regulate the airflow.
  4. Flow Valve This will control the amount of air going into your culture.
  5. Reef Salt I prefer Fritz as it has all of the elements needed to successfully culture your copepods.

How To Start Your Culture:

Step 1. Fill your water jug with saltwater. I prefer a salinity of 20 to 25 ppt.

Step 2. Drill 2 holes in the lid of your water jug. This should be used to place your rigid airline tubing. This allows oxygen into the water.

Step 3. Connect your air pump to your airline tubing and place a check valve and flow valve on the line.

Step 4. Turn on the air pump and turn the dial on the flow valve until you have a bubble every second flowing to the top of the water.

Step 5. Let your water adjust to room temperature for a couple of days. You don’t want to use cold water but you don’t want to use extremely hot water either. The room temperature is adequate and what I prefer.

Step 6. Add your copepods to the water after floating and acclimating them for a few hours. Be sure to purchase your copepods from a reliable source after you set up your culture vessel. This will prevent them from dying while you wait for the temperature to settle.

Step 7. Dose phytoplankton for your copepods to eat. Add half a cup of phytoplankton weekly. I like to also add a clean filter sock or filter floss so that they have something to attach to other than the sides of the water jug. They probably appreciate the extra effort on my part. I only add phytoplankton once per week in small amounts. Over time the ecosystem will build its own waste. Add half a cup of phytoplankton weekly.

After you have completed all of the steps above you just wait. These little copepods will reproduce and you will have a mini ecosystem will millions of them ready for your reef tank. Keep the vessel live for several months so that you can add more copepods to your reef tank every week. This will ensure that your tank is well seeded and you won’t have to worry about the culture anymore. They will reproduce in your tank, sump or refugium.

If you have an all in one tank then I do advise keeping the culture going indefinitely so you never run out.


By now you have the information to start your own copepod culture to feed your fish and coral. Copepods are a great clean up crew and I feel an essential part of any reef aquarium. Which copepods will you use for yours?

Affiliate Notice

PetsOfWater.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.