Tigriopus californicus, or as they’re more commonly known, Tiger Pods or Tigger Copepods, are large, primarily warm water copepods hailing from the Pacific coast of North America, as far south as Mexico and as far north as Alaska. Their electric orange color makes them not only an enticing food source for your reef habitat, but also an attractive addition to the overall tank.
Tiger Copepods are quickly becoming a staple in the reef enthusiast’s habitat, thanks to their uniqueness among other microplankton.
For copepods, they’re distinctly enormous. While most types of copepods are around 500 microns, Tiger Pods break the scale at upwards of 1300 microns, or a whopping 1.3 mm. Though size is one of the many virtues of this copepod, its also its drawback. Fish with noticeably small mouths(smaller seahorses, etc.), have trouble eating full grown adults. They will, however eat younger, juvenile, or nauplii copepods, along with Tisbe Pods. Their size is one of the very reasons they’re so popular: they’re fun to watch.
What’s so great about Tiger Pods, anyway?
Tiger Copepods are sort of like multi-vitamins for fish; they’re one of the most nutrient-dense live food sources on the market. Packed with protein and crude fat, they’re the perfect copepod to help your fish thrive and grow. As you may know, this is especially important for often-malnourished fish like Mandarin Gobies.
They get their vibrant orange hue from a high concentration of beta-carotene, the same nutrient that gives carrots their color. When you make them available as a food source in your reef, many of the fish that eat them will take on a fuller, brighter color.
As anyone who has tried to raise a finicky fish could tell you, finding a food source that it likes is key for healthy growth. Tiger Pods are, luckily, just the perfect go-to food.
They move all around the tank in sporadic, jerky leaps. Couple that with their size, even the notoriously picky fish like Mandarin Gobies, Scooter Blennies and Butterfly Fish can’t resist helping themselves to some.
They’re Great Colonizers, too!
Tiger Pods are the gift that keeps giving. Given the right conditions (their own tank, or a well-established reef or refugium with plenty of phytoplankton and rotifers), Tigriopus californicus will keep reproducing and reproducing indefinitely. A mature colony of copepods could quickly grow large enough to feed your whole aquarium.
And they don’t just reproduce. They reproduce fast. A single female lays up to 100 eggs in a single generation. When you compound that by a hundred of them, you can have a full colony in no time.
The best part about colonizing Tiger Pods has to be their hardiness. Naturally, their habitat ranges from colder northern waters to tropical southern waters. Tigriopus californicus can flourish in most water temperatures. However, Tiger Pods on sale for aquarium use are typically warm water copepods, and prefer reef-like temperatures.
Salinity typically isn’t much of an issue for Tigers either. Their natural habitat, the tide pools, can rapidly fluctuate in salinity due to rainfall and evaporation. Over time, Tiger Pods have developed a tolerance for a wide range of salinity.
Tiger Pods are Excellent Water Purifiers
Tiger Pods have to eat, too. On top of a quality supply of rotifers, they love to eat the excess waste in your aquarium. Anything from algae spores to fish waste, they’ll eat most any kind of detritus.
As such, they’re fantastic at keeping the water and the tank clean and clear of gunk. Let them loose and they’ll go right to work filtering all the nasties out of the water. Occasionally, they’ll even cling to the glass and pick off the algae.
Tiger Pods are rapid reproducers and hardy creatures; but because they’re too large to hide and so attractive to fish, there is a chance of a reef being too young to support a lasting colony. If you find your supply of Tiger Pods depleting too fast, there’s a simple fix.
Isolation culturing seems to work splendidly. To start an isolated colony, transfer a large group of copepods into a small container, like a plastic bin or a soda bottle. From there they can easily be cultured and target fed to your fish. To make them grow easier and faster, make sure they’re fed with live phytoplankton and live rotifers, and well aerated.
As the copepods begin to multiply, the water quality can become an issue, so be sure to keep a watchful eye on your culture vessel as well as your main tank, to ensure the health of your Tiger Pod culture. Tiger Copepods also culture rapidly in most refugiums as they will have reduced predation from fish and are tough enough to travel through most pumps unscathed and into one’s aquarium.
Always be sure to keep them supplied with fresh food. If uneaten phytoplankton or rotifers have been sitting at the bottom of the container for a few days, take some time to siphon it out and replace it with fresh water along with any waste that has accumulated.