Species group: Freshwater Invertebrates
Other common names: Tadpole Shrimp
Scientific name: Triops longicaudatus
Folks who, as children, were disappointed to discover that “Sea Monkeys” did not live up to the hype may pass over the recently introduced “Hatch Your Own Dinosaur” Kits – but this would be a mistake! Triops, crustaceans that pre-date the dinosaurs by eons, are active, sizable, and fascinating, and offer a peek into life in ancient “pre-fish” seas.
The species most commonly offered for sale is native to most of North and South America, and has been introduced to Japan and numerous South Pacific islands. Triops inhabit vernal (temporary) pools in a wide array of habitats.
Appearance / health:
The 1-4 cm (0.4 – 1.6 in) body is tadpole-like in shape, and also brings to mind a mini horseshoe crab. Triops are gray to yellowish-brown in color and show flashes of pink to red (hemoglobin circulating through the body). Sixty or so hair-like structures beat food particles towards the mouth.
Adapted to harsh environments, Triops are very resilient. Low iodine and/or calcium levels may cause difficulties in shedding the exoskeleton, but this is rare if a proper diet is provided. They cannot survive pH levels below 6. Longevity ranges from 30-70 days, occasionally to 3 months.
Behavior / temperament:
Triops are active by day, constantly grubbing about the bottom for food. They remain still at night unless food is introduced.
A 1-2 gallon aquarium is ideal for a Triops colony; they can also be reared in smaller or larger enclosures. Bottled spring water or chlorine/chloramine-free tap water may also be used. Their oxygen requirements are very low, but an undergravel or sponge filter will be useful to maintain water quality in larger tanks. Weekly partial water changes will suffice for unfiltered enclosures. Substrate is not necessary, but Triops will dig into sand and gravel, looking for food, in a most amusing fashion.
Triops should be maintained at 22-31 C (72-86 F) and pH 7-9.
Tropical fish food flakes can form the bulk of the diet. Triops will also eagerly accept yeast, dry cat food, frozen?freeze-dried fish foods and bits of shrimp, fish and carrot…and they love mosquito larvae.
Triops may breed sexually or asexually. Packets of 10-100 eggs are deposited every few days. Eggs rarely hatch unless they are dried out for at least 2 weeks…and may then remain viable for at least 10 years! Freezing the eggs for 2 weeks may increase the hatch rate. Triops eggs are available online, and are generally supplied with accurate hatching instructions.
Written by Frank Indiviglio