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How to Keep Triops

By: Dr Gareth Evans - Updated: 28 Dec 2012 | comments*Discuss
How To Keep Triops

Triops – also known as Tadpole or Shield Shrimps – have got to be some of the oddest living things on the planet, not least because these ancient crustaceans evolved long before the dinosaurs. Fossils of the European Triops cancriformis have been found in 220 million year-old rocks – and they look just the same today, unchanged in all that time!

Triops species are found across the globe and their eggs have an amazing ability to survive in a dry and dormant state for years, allowing them to inhabit small puddles and temporary ponds – biding their time in suspended animation and only bursting into life when the rains come.

They aren’t very long lived pets, but they do breed very freely in captivity, so if you’re looking for something distinctly different, then these aquatic “living fossils” could be just the thing.

Getting Started

A variety of outlets stock Triops kits – toy shops as well as pet stores – and there are plenty of sources online and by mail order which will sell you the eggs alone, so obtaining them is simple enough.

You’ll need a suitable container to act as your new pets’ aquarium. Kits normally come with a small plastic tank, which are fine initially, but if you manage to successfully hatch a fair few Triops, it is likely to become too small fairly quickly. An aquarium makes a good home, but perhaps the cheapest and easiest solution is to buy a clear plastic food container – a 4 or 5 litre one will comfortably accommodate two or three fully adult Triops.

Hatching Your Pets

Hatching your new pets is very straightforward and the kits come with very clear instructions. Fill your tank to a depth of a few inches – using bottled or spring water, not tap water as the animals are very sensitive to chlorine – and sprinkle your eggs into the water.

The most commonly kept species – Triops longicaudatus – comes from America and needs and to be kept at a temperature of between 20 to 25C (68 – 77F). Since it also requires exposure to light, the simplest way to achieve both is to stand the tank under a desk lamp, which will successfully keep conditions right for the growing Triops.

If everything goes according to plan, your Triops should hatch in about 24 hours and, in the case of Triops longicaudatus , will grow rapidly from a barely visible speck to around a quarter of an inch (6mm) in a week or so.

Although this species seldom lives for much more than a month, their incredible growth rate means the adults can be two-and-a-half inches (6cm) long by the time they die and the good news is, if they’ve lived that long, they’ll have laid lots of eggs! Dry these out, leave them for a little while and you can start hatching a new generation all over again.

Food and Feeding

For the first three days, the young Triops will be nourished by the small edible particles that the suppliers package along with the eggs, so there’s no need to feed them anything – and doing so could actually harm them.

From then on, you will need to begin feeding your new pets and most kits come with some suitable food, often in pellet form, which will need to be crushed before you add it to the water. Any good brand of fish flakes will also be ideal if you exhaust your supplies. However, don’t overdo things – Triops are surprisingly easy to kill with kindness; put too much in the water and excessive bacterial growth will be encouraged; this combined with the decomposition products of the decaying food can cause serious problems for Triops.

Feed your pets just a few crumbs per animal, adjusting how much you give them according to how much is left untouched. Getting it right is a bit of a balancing act – feed them too little and they’ll often start to eat each other – but fortunately Triops are not picky and eat pretty much anything edible, so it can be worth adding a few sprigs of a cheap water-weed to the tank. It gives them something to graze on whenever they feel hungry and will also do a little to help keep the tank oxygenated and the water clean, since it takes up some of the nitrogenous waste from the Triops as it grows.

Simple to care for and fairly undemanding in their needs, these active crustaceans make an ideal introduction to keeping unusual pets and even young children can safely enjoy looking after them with a spot of adult supervision. There really is nothing quite like Triops – a Triassic survivor in every sense of the word!

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