Friday, August 6, 2010

Comprehending Copepods

What are copepods, arthripods, phytoplankton, and why should you care? Well, I got a scooter blenny after only 2 months so I needed a crash course. Turns out, you shouldn't get one of these guys unless your tank is 1 year old or more. Why? Because it thrives mainly on copepods, which only grows in a substantial enough population to feed a scooter blenny in a closed aquarium after a year. Oops.

Copepods are tiny, flea-sized crustaceans that form the zooplankton component of plankton. Plankton is comprised of tiny animals and photosynthetic algae (like diatom, the main source of food for a copepod) and makes up a large percentage of the ocean's food whales. I've never quite understood this. How does the ocean's smallest sustain the ocean's largest?

Anyway, in your aquarium, they get introduced on the live rock, feed on the algae that grows in your tank (that's why you don't want your tank "too" clean) and, over time, reproduce enough to add to your fish's diet.

Of course, they would quickly be wiped out in your aquarium. This is where refugiums come in. With some live rock, substrate, and macroalgae, you can create a small, "safehouse", for these guys to grow at a faster rate. Luckily, copepods and arthripods can be cultured and purchased at your LFS (local fish shop). You add them to your tank or refugium to get it going more quickly (or in my case, feed poor Scooter). And you can even add a pinch of phytoplankton to feed the copepods (I prefer this at your own risk...can we say algal bloom?).

So a dash of this (refugium), a pinch of that (copepods), and a drop of this (phytoplankton) and...whallah! I now have a very visible population of copepods in my aquarium. It took, oh, a few days. I'm skeptical. I've never been that successful with this hobby, and I always thought less was more in the marine aquarium hobby. I'm keeping my fingers crossed. A heterologous cloud of moving, little white specks are swimming, bobbing and swirling around my tank. And, upon closer inspection, I have confirmed, it's not dust, and no, it's not bubbles. And apparently, this is a good thing.

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