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!