How to culture Reef Nutrition Tigger-Pods® - Live, large, red Tigriopus californicus copepods
We recommend at least 2 culture vessels in case one has issues. The vessels can be a 5 or 10 gallon aquarium, Tupperware container, etc. that holds water. Deep containers or carboys are not recommended.
We use BTAC salt in our systems. Do not use water from an existing aquarium or culture as this will contaminate your attempt to start a new culture of copepods. A specific gravity of 1.020 to 1.025 for this species of copepod is ideal.
Small air pump, air stone, and airline tubing. You can also use rigid airline without an air stone. Very light aeration is adequate.
No heater is required. This species is very hardy. Try to avoid culture temperature exceeding 85°F. Optimal temperature range is 60°F to 85°F.
We recommend a small, direct light source like a simple dome, shop lamp: 12 hours on / 12 hours off
Phyto-Feast® is a blend of 6 different species of phytoplankton. We use the same algae to feed our cultures.
We don't use substrate in our cultures, but some people will have crushed gravel or sand and reef rock in their systems. We recommend that all substrate added is sterile and void of life so that you don't get any competing organisms in the culture.
Fill your container half to two-thirds with clean saltwater. Add the air source to the culture and run it very low (2-3 bubbles per second is ideal). Make sure you use a drip loop and check valve to keep water from getting into your pump and electrical outlet.
Add a small amount of Phyto-Feast (1-2mls) to some culture water and stir until homogenized. Then gently pour the diluted algae in so that you can see it lightly color the culture tank. Do not add too much, or the water will foul. After you've acclimated your copepods to temperature, pour them in and you are all set!
Over the next few weeks, your copepods will reproduce. It may seem at first that they aren't reproducing as fast as you would like, but once they get to a certain population level you will see an "explosion" of copepods in your culture vessel.
On a daily or every other day basis, feed small amounts of Phyto-Feast necessary to keep the water lightly tinted, and monitor water quality. Crashes from overfeeding that leads to high ammonia and nitrite are possible, water changes can help if the water quality declines too much. Water changes can be performed when harvesting (see below).
You will see "mulm" accumulate on the bottom of the culture after a week or so. The mulm consists of bacteria, organic waste, copepod molts and the copepod nauplii (babies). The nauplii prefer to be on the bottom of the tank feeding on algae and organic waste, so when siphoning this out, try to screen it first and put them back in the culture. It's ok to return some of the mulm to the tank. It's also a good idea to add a small amount of mulm to a new culture since it contains helpful bacteria.
Add reverse-osmosis or distilled water to the culture as evaporation occurs. It's a good idea to make a mark on the culture with tape or a sharpie to keep track of the original water level.
To harvest your copepods, a plankton collector/strainer of some sort is very helpful. A 90 microns sieve will catch all sizes, while 300 will help to separate out the juveniles and adults from the larval stages. You can siphon your copepods through the collector, insuring that when you feed them to your aquarium you are only adding copepods, not culture water. Discard the culture water and add new, clean saltwater to the culture to bring it back to the original level. You are essentially doing a water change when you siphon out the copepods.
Make sure you do not dip your strainer in the copepod culture, and then in your aquarium, and then back in your culture vessel without cleaning it first. Likewise, keep siphon tubing and other equipment you use on your culture separate from equipment you use in your aquariums or larval tanks to avoid contamination. While you can always buy another batch of Tigger-Pods should your culture crash, you can avoid that frustration by not sharing equipment between different systems.
You can also scoop the Tigger-Pods with a brine shrimp net but keep in mind that you will need to do a water change on the system as waste accumulates. Scooping can also stir up waste from the bottom, so do it carefully.
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