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Reef Nutrition



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Tigger-Pods® are attractive large red copepods, Tigriopus californicus. They swim upwards with a stimulating, jerky swimming motion which is attractive to both fish and people. Finicky fish love them!

Tigger-Pods are perfect for culturing and restocking reeftanks & refugiums, as well as an excellent feed for fish, including mandarins and pipefish. They breed rapidly producing hundreds of eggs per female.


Increasing Bio-Diversity
Restocking of Reef Refugiums


Copepods are relatively easy to care for and maintain. They feed primarily on brown microalgae and can be fed products such as Phyto-Feast. They can also feed on green algae such as Nannochloropsis and Tetraselmis, however most of these algae will pass right through their digestive tracts and not provide any nutrition.

Copepods can live in your main tank, your refugium, or in a separate dedicated system. In your main tank they will be eaten and depleted by your fish and corals. In your refugium they will thrive since there are no predators. Pods from your refugium can be periodically harvest and fed to your main tank.

Copepods like to hide so they will prefer an environment with nooks and crannies. In your main tank they will hide in your live rock and gravel. In your refugium they will hide in your macroalgae and other plants.


If you are going to keep them in the bottles for an extended period, remove the lid to increase oxygen in the water and put them in a refrigerator between 34 and 40 F. At this temperature they will go into hibernation and require very little oxygen or food. Alternatively, store the bottle in a cool place with the lid removed and feed them 3 drops of Phyto-Feast every 2-3 days


Add 5 drops of Phyto-Feast daily for each gallon of water in your refugium. (i.e. a 25 gallon refugium should get 125 drops. 1 teaspoon = 76 drops).


Culture vessel. This can be anything such as a 5 or 10 gallon aquarium, Tupperware container, etc. that holds water. Deep containers or carboys are not suggested.
Culture water. You will need some freshly mixed clean seawater, or you can use a natural seawater product such as Catalina water. Do not use water from an existing aquarium or culture as this will contaminate your attempt to start a new culture of copepods. A specific gravity of 1.020 to 1.025 for this strain of copepod is suggested.
Small air pump, air stone, and airline tubing.
Cover to keep dust and contaminants out and evaporation down.
A food source, such as Phyto-Feast phytoplankton.

Fill your container half to two-thirds full with the clean seawater. Attach the airline and air stone to the air pump. Put the air stone in the culture vessel, and plug in the air pump. Make sure you use a drip loop and check valve to keep water from getting into your pump and electrical outlet. Add a small amount of Phyto-Feast to lightly color the culture water. Do not add too much, or the water will foul. Add your new copepod culture, put the lid on, and you are done!

Over the next few weeks, your copepods will reproduce. It may seem at first that they aren't reproducing as fast as you would like, but once they get to a certain population level you will see an "explosion" of copepods in your culture vessel. Feed with Phyto-Feast as necessary to keep the water lightly tinted, and monitor water quality. Crashes from overfeeding that leads to high ammonia and nitrite are possible, water changes can help if the water quality declines too much.

To harvest your copepods, a plankton collector/strainer of some sort is very helpful. You can siphon yourcopepods through the collector, insuring that when you feed them to your aquarium you are only addingcopepods, not culture water. Make sure you do not dip your strainer in the copepod culture, and then in your aquarium, and then back in your culture vessel without cleaning it first. Likewise, keep siphon tubing and other equipment you use on your culture separate from equipment you use in your aquariums or larval tanks to avoid contamination. While you can always buy another batch of Tigger-Pods should your culture crash, you can avoid that frustration by not sharing equipment between different systems!


Tigger-Pods are wonderful little creatures, full of energy, fun to watch, and great food for your reef tank. When you receive your shipment, there are some steps you can take that will help ensure their health and survival.

Upon arrival, you may notice the Tigger-Pods aren't very active. This is normal when cold shipped or cold stored. As the bottles warm up, the Tigger-Pods(TM) will become more active. It is not uncommon to have a few of the oldest copepods to die from old age. We pack the bottle with all stages of life, but only count the adults. On average, we pack at least 10% more in every bottle to account for any DOA.

Open bottle cap and remove the inside liner. Let the bottle stand at room temp for 2 hours to allow the temperature to rise. The Tigger-Pods can be poured directly into your refugium and/or main tank. They can live several weeks in the bottle, as long as they are fed and the bottle is open to the air.

Tigger-Pods feed on microalgae and we recommend feeding them with Phyto-Feast. Phyto-Feast can be dosed directly into both your refugium and main tank. The recommended feeding rate is 1 to 5 drops per gallon each day, depending on the bio-density of your reef tank.


Tigger-Pods can be stored in a "warm" (40 F +) refrigerator to slow down their metabolic processes, which will increase store shelf life.


On the contrary, Tigger-Pods (Tigriopus californicus) LOVE warm water and will thrive in your reef tank. They are native to the west coast of North America. They range from the cold waters of Washington state to the very warm waters of Mexico.

They can live semi-dormant for many weeks when stored in a refrigerator. Warmer water speeds up their metabolism and reproductive rate. Tigger-Pods will reproduce very well in your sump or refugium, especially if they are fed with products that contain large amounts of brown algae. They can also feed a bit on green algae, but it is much harder for them to digest. Phyto-Feast is primarily brown algae and is an excellent feed for all types of copepods. It will typically take 20-35 days to see a significant population spike because of their slow life cycle (laying eggs, hatching, growing to a noticeable size). More information is available in the Tigger-Pod FAQ below.


While it is true Tigriopus californicus come from the west coast of North America, they have a vast reported range from the tip of Baja California (Mexico) to Alaska. That is just the reported range on paper; it doesn't mean they are not found outside of that range. People have reported seeing them further down the Pacific West Coast, as far south as Honduras.


They do not live in the open ocean - they live in the warm upper splash zone tide pools. They are not adapted to survive in the kind of environment that the open ocean typically provides. Anyone who has spent any time tide-pooling in the upper splash zones of the coast of California can tell you the upper pools can experience extended periods (days to weeks) of daily highs in the mid to high 90's (°F) during summer.

Also, see "Habitat characters of Tigriopus californicus (Copepoda: Harpacticoida)" from the Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom where copepod populations were found at water temperatures of 6–33°C (42F to 92F).


It is a myth that all Tigriopus californicus do not do well in warm conditions originates from mis-interpretation of a research study of Canadian populations. In these samples from much colder water, it was found that 2-5% more males than females were produced when cultured above 75°F. Such a slight departure from a 50:50 sex ratio will have a negligible effect on the breeding success of a population. Furthermore, although this temperature effect may occur in the cold–water adapted strains collected for that trial, no similar studies are reported of populations from warmer waters. Reed Mariculture's Tigger-Pods were originally collected in California, over a 1,000 miles further south. Our Tigriopus californicus have been cultured successfully at near reef temps (mid 70's to 80's during the summer) for several years now.


Tigger-Pods are significantly larger than most copepods that come in with live rock. Most such pods are between 300-500 microns, while Tigger-Pods are 1000-1500 microns. It's difficult to find microplankton in this size range, so Tigger-Pods can be a valuable addition to your reef system.


Tigger-pods will typically not thrive in your main tank for three reasons:

there is no place for them to hide, and they are such attractive food that they get eaten quickly and disappear
there is not enough food (microalgae) for them
it takes 20-30 days from when their eggs are laid until they mature into breeding adults ready to start laying eggs, so the chances that they can persist long enough to breed under these conditions is practically zero.
The best way to culture Tigger-Pods is to put them in your sump or refugium where they are safe, or culture them in a separate tank. Either way, give them lots of microalgae (like Phyto-Feast) to feed on.


The bottom line is that Tigger-Pods (Tigriopus californicus) are a very good species of copepod to have in your reef system. They are a highly adaptable species that thrive at cold temperatures, reef system temperatures, and intermediate temperatures. They are also very good feed organisms (easy to capture and a good nutritional profile), and will culture well when given the right conditions and food.

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