Will Shrimp Eat Copepods?

Copepods have almost become a staple of marine aquarium

systems, serving as (1) algivorous and detritivorous members of the clean-up

crew and (2) providing a self-supplying, nutritious live food source for the

most finicky corals and small reef fishes. Their presence absolutely makes a

captive system function much more like a natural one.

Given the desirability of copepods, it is understandable why

some keepers might be concerned about them getting preyed on by other aquarium

animals. Still, this is one of the reasons that copepods are so desirable! They

are about as natural and wholesome a food as you could add. So if any aquarium

eats them, coral, mandarin fish, shrimp or whatever, it’s a good thing!

Now, in the case of shrimp consuming copepods, the former

will be able catch the latter so seldom that one, two, or even a bunch of

shrimp could never significantly impact a healthy pod population. Shrimp simply

are not equipped to catch or eat something so small. Most shrimp species could

barely even pick up a pod with their relatively large pinchers.

Don’t believe us? Just try to capture a copepod with a small

pipette. Whether the pod is on the glass, swimming in the water column, etc.,

they are fast, reactive, flighty and incredibly elusive. Sure, so are their

predators. But there is a really big difference between a mandarin (which has a

mouth that is specially adapted to sucking up pods) and a shrimp, whose

pinchers are designed for grabbing/holding/shredding much larger objects.

Catching a little pod with those things is like catching a fly with chopsticks:

Possible, though exceedingly difficult.

But this is all beside the real point. Our biggest

imperative as keepers of marine animals is to provide the best nutrition for

them as possible. So when our fish and inverts eat pods, which are incredibly

nutritious, we should be glad! And if it seems they’re not getting enough pods

(i.e. the pod population dwindles down), we should take measure to boost the

existing numbers. So, if you ever observe your shrimp catching a copepod, cheer

it on! And then maybe add another jar of pods, install a refugium and dose some

phyto to make many more!