What Do You Feed Copepods in a Refugium?

What Do You Feed Copepods in a Refugium?

Copepods are good. The more, the better. That’s why you want to produce as many as possible. And as fast as you culture them, your corals and small reef fish will eat them! For sure, due to the heavy predation that typically occurs in a reef tank (a single mandarin can eat hundreds of adult copepods every single day!), you will have to make some effort to maintain large pod populations.

Maintaining consistently high copepod densities requires (1) constantly replenishing the population with fresh stock from outside the tank (i.e. regularly buying them) or (2) building and sustaining a large, stable population inside the system. For most aquarists, the second option is preferable as (1) it is less expensive over time and (2) there is an uninterrupted food supply for the species that depend upon them. In many cases, it is necessary to bolster the population with a bag or two of new pods from time to time. But one can keep a pretty reliable availability of pods present at all times when using a refugium.

The most wonderful thing about copepods is that (at least as adults) they survive by eating unwanted stuff like film algae and detritus. As such, they may be the most important members of your clean-up crew! However, the juveniles have significantly different eating habits. This is because they live a planktonic lifestyle during the larval stages (yes, even the harpacticoids which live on the bottom as adults). It’s important to remember that even though you’ll see the adults concentrated in the fuge, the microscopic larvae are freely drifting everywhere! While living in the plankton, and developing rapidly, they consume phytoplankton.

Some phyto is naturally produced in your tank, but is rapidly consumed by corals, clams, etc. or is removed/killed by the filter system, sterilizer, etc. Thus, in order to support naturally high populations of young pods (as well as keep your corals, clams, etc. well nourished), it is advisable to regularly dose live phyto. In supporting a large population of copepod larvae, you’ll always have a sure supply of big, fat, healthy adult copepods!
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