How do I Acclimate my Copepods?

How do I Acclimate my Copepods?

Hobbyists are often told to carefully acclimate new additions to their aquarium. Fish and inverts such as snails and shrimp need to be acclimate (corals do not), but what about copepods? Are you supposed to drip acclimate them or float them? Do they even need to be acclimated at all? Whether you just got your first shipment of copepods or you want to make sure your second shipment is added the correct way, you are in the right place. Here, you will find everything you need to know about adding copepods to your aquarium including acclamation. Put on your reefing cap, and let's dive in (pun intended).

As you may or may not know, copepods are some of the toughest invertebrates. They would have to be to be one of the most common organisms in most bodies of water. They can endure extreme conditions unlike few other marine organisms. It would make sense to not acclimate copepods. While not acclimating your copepods won't cause a lot of deaths, acclimating them can be beneficial. Acclimating your copepods before adding the aquarium can help reduce stress, which may increase fertility, which is important to speed up the increase in population.

Is it really worth it, though? Sure, some copepods are going to die or get eaten, but most will survive. Before we settle with that, let's look at another factor. When copepods are first added to an aquarium, they tend to be quickly picked off. When you add corals and fish, there is usually nothing to prey on them. If they are a little disoriented, it doesn't matter that much because nothing is going to prey on them (not that you shouldn't acclimate your fish). Copepods, on the other hand, have lots of things to prey on them. From fish to corals to larger inverts, almost everything in the aquarium wants to eat the copepods to some degree. For this reason, it is best that the copepods are as prepared as possible.

What's more, is that large female copepods, especially ones with eggs, are more susceptible to predation. Fish are unlikely to go after seemingly invisible copepods, but they will go after the large ones. Females with eggs are particularly important, possibly the most important. By acclimating your copepods, you can maximize the amount that establish themselves in the aquarium. This will result in a faster growing copepod population, which is always a good thing.

How to acclimate copepods?

So, what can you do? How do you acclimate copepods to a reef aquarium? Unlike fish or large inverts, copepods cannot be separated from the water that they are in. It's impossible. However, there is no need to because the copepods are kept in copepod only systems, so there is no way for pests or disease to enter your aquarium from the water the copepods are in. Instead of trying to separate the copepods from the water (because that is absolutely ridiculous), treat it as if you are acclimating the water as a whole. Ensure that whatever you do, all of the water from the jar makes it into the aquarium.  

To acclimate copepods, you can either drip acclimate them or add small amounts of water every 5-10 minutes. Do this until the original water the copepods were in is diluted by a factor of 4-5x. You can also float the copepods for ten minutes before acclimating for extra peace of mind.

You don't have to acclimate your copepods. A lot of hobbyists don't, but it is certainly something you can do to maximize your copepods population and to get the most out of what you paid for.

Other things to do when adding copepods to your aquarium

Acclimating the copepods is only a small part of adding them to your aquarium. There are a few other things you need to do and consider as well. Probably the most important factor is when you add the copepods. Unless you are adding the copepods to be nothing more than a treat (which is totally valid), do not add them during the day when the fish are active and awake. Always add copepods at night. Unlike acclimating, adding your copepods at night is an absolute must. Otherwise, few will be able to seed your aquarium. Another thing that is almost as important is removing your filter socks and filter pads and turning off the pumps. In order to give the copepods the best chance at seeding the tank, you should remove anything that may pull them out of the water. Remove your filter sock, filter pad, or foam blocks for 24 hours. Along with that, turn off all of your pumps, skimmers, media reactors, UV sterilizers, and anything else along those lines for 30 minutes to an hour.

What about where to add to copepods? Generally, you should add 40-60% of the copepods to your refugium and the rest to the display. If you have a large aquarium display add more there. If your display is smaller, add more to the refugium. Don't take this as a set rule or anything. If you feel more copepods need to go in a specific location, by all means. They are your copepods after all. However, following this guideline might be best for seeding a tank. If you want to go a step further, you can use a turkey baster or even a syringe to put the copepods directly on to the rocks and sand bed. This is not necessary, but it will ensure that a higher amount of the copepods make it to the rocks.

Here's an easy to digest list of things you can do in order when adding copepods to your aquarium. Remember not every item is crucial, but certainly something you can do.
  1. Float copepods for ten minutes.
  2. Pour copepods into a larger container and acclimate them using a drip acclamation system or add small portion of water every 5-10 minutes. Do this until the original water has been diluted with tank water by a factor of 4-5x.
  3. Once the tank has gone to sleep (lights are off and  fish are not active), remove any mechanical filtration (filter sock, foam block, filter pad, carbon, GFO, etc.)
  4. Turn off all pumps, skimmers, UV sterilizers, media reactors, power-heads, and all other similar equipment.
  5. Add 40-60% of the copepods to the refugium depending on how large the display is. Add more copepods to the refugium for smaller displays and less for larger displays.
  6. Add the remaining copepods to the display.
  7. Use a turkey baster or syringe to blow the copepods directly on the rocks.
  8. Keep pumps, skimmers, power-heads, etc. off for 30 minutes to an hour.
  9. Put your mechanical filtration back in after 24 hours.

That is everything you need to know when it comes to acclimating your copepods and adding them to your aquarium. Yes, there are some extra steps that you don't absolutely have to do. However, taking every step to save as many copepods as possible will get you the greatest return on the money you spent on them. Also, don't forget to dose some high quality phytoplankton such as OceanMagik to give your copepods some food. Checkout these copepod and phyto combo packs for added convenience. Doing all these things will make your aquarium explode with copepods. That way you can feed that mandarin, feed your corals, keep the tank clean of detritus and algae, or achieve whatever goal you want with your copepods!

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