Pods for finicky fish - Part 1

You heard it when you first got into the hobby - pods.  Little tiny crustacean things in your tank and reefers far and wide unanimously agree copepods are critical to the health and success of home aquaria including some delicate fish species like mandarin gobies, seahorses and various species of corals.

Tell me if this sounds familiar....

You love the look of a mandarin goby so much you decide you want one - that's great!

Not far into your research you realize these fish are finicky eaters due to their nearly exclusive preference for live foods like copepods.  So you decide you're going to try to grow pods either in your display tank or your sump and a few days later, your prized fish dies.  --- sound familiar?

What may have happened was the mandarin starved to death.

The truth of the matter is mandarin gobies are well reputed for decimating pod populations.  Their constant scavenging means they can quickly reduce a sizeable pod population to scraps in record timing.  Growing pods in your display tank and/or sump is simply not good enough for delicate species like mandarins because there likely won't ever be enough pods to sustain a healthy mandarin.

Here's 3 important factors for WHY...

  1. Predators
  2. Breeding opportunity
  3. Lack of food

While there will always be a small copepod population in a home reef system, the dynamic environmental changes along with predation by other coral and fish will ensure that population remains small.

Sure you can eliminate predators by using a refugium in your sump, but the small section designated for that purpose will not be large enough to grow a pod population big enough to sustain a mandarin goby.  Another breeding factor is the amount of time it takes for pod eggs to hatch and become reproductive capable adults.  The ever so popular tisbe biminiensis takes 12 days to reach adulthood, while the immensely popular tigriopus californicus takes 28 days to reach adulthood.  A starving mandarin may perish in a fraction of the time it takes to get a single batch of tisbe biminiensis eggs to reach adulthood.

This brings us to our third point, lack of food.  The staple copepods diet is phytoplankton.  If attempting to culture pods in a refugium, any phytoplankton food introduced to the "fuge" will simply wash away.

The simple truth is; the best way to obtain pods is to either through purchase or grow them in a separate environment conducive to breeding, free of predation with a consistent food supply.

For those looking for a quick and convenient way, Mike's Phyto Tis'be A Pod! and Red Trigger Pods are a quick and simple solution.
For those serious about taking on the added challenge of copepod rearing, grab a 5 gallon bucket, an air pump and a YouTube video and start practicing.

Whichever method you choose, having an ample supply of pods on hand before buying finicky eaters will help ensure their survivability.