The Benefits of Tisbe Pods in a Saltwater Aquarium

Why Choose Tisbe Pods?

The copepod market is a big one. With multiple types of live copepods for sale, what makes Tisbe Pods so great? Why should you choose a Tisbe culture over, say, an Acartia Tonsa?

Tisbe Pods are the reefer’s go-to food for a reason. For one thing, they’re a superb food for picky, hard-to-feed fish, especially those with decidedly small mouths, like seahorses and pipefish.

While larger copepods can be tricky to swallow and digest, Tisbe Copepods are gentle on the majority of reef fish. In nature, in fact, small copepods like Tisbes are essentially the backbone of the food chain. Believe it or not, the nutritional content of Tisbe Pods is generally regarded as being even better than poorly raised larger pods & brine shrimp.

Larger copepods have been known to occasionally be incompatible with larvae and small fish since they could latch on to them. Since Tisbe Pods measure in at less than a millimeter in length, they’ll be a much easier food for even the most timid & young fish.

Just as well, Tisbe Pods are an all-purpose food source. While many copepods, like Tiger Copepods, are better for some fish than others, Tisbes work well for a wide spectrum of fish and water organisms, from Mandarin Gobies to Coral.

Tisbe Pods serve different roles at different stages of growth. While the adult Tisbes (who tend to stay down on the substrate) are great for everday feeding, young nauplii Tisbe Pods tend to enter the water column, where they’ll end up being a tasty treat for filter feeders and fish larvae.

Many reefing enthusiasts highly recommend Tisbe Pods to first-time cultivators for overall ease and the wide range of fish that snack on them.


But do they Colonize?

Tisbe-biminiensis-copepodsTisbe Pods happen to be rapid colonizers, producing more offspring faster than larger copepods. Unlike bigger copepods, Tisbes can mature in only nine days, and can lay many eggs in a short period of time. This means no more over-eaten copepods, and no more running out of food. Most mature reefs with plenty of live rock can easily support enough live copepods to feed your entire aquarium.

One thing to take care with is the initial colonization. Simply pouring a bottle of live Tisbe Pods into an aquarium is a hit-and-miss. Sometimes they’ll make it long enough to colonize, but much of the time they’ll all be eaten before that time.

It’s recommended to either introduce them into a solid refugium with live rock and microalgae, or to simply culture them in a separate container, like a plastic bin, where they’ll be safe from predation. To reduce the risk even further, introduce them to the tank at dusk, when it’s starting to get dark. The predators are less active then, giving your copepods a little time to get their bearings.

In either case, be sure that they have plenty of food, ideally Green Phytoplankton. When pouring phytoplankton in their water, aim for a light green tea tint. As a general rule, that’s the optimal amount.

As for the conditions, make sure their container is properly aerated and filtered. Every so often, gunk like waste, uneaten food, and sediment can sift to the bottom. Be sure to siphon that out every two or three days, especially as the colony grows. Like Tiger Pods, they aren’t particularly specific on salinity of the water. However, the optimal range is somewhere with the specific gravity of 1.020-1.026, 25-35 ppt range.

Remember that they are, in fact, tropical copepods, and need water as such. Somewhere in the range of 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit (22-27 degrees Celsius) is the optimal temperature for explosive growth. Any lower than that, and the Tisbe Pods could go into a torpored state similar to hibernation.

If you choose to go the refugium route, make sure there’s some live mud or sand for the Tisbe’s to cling to and plenty of algae for them to feast on.

And in case you were wondering, Tisbe Pods are tough. There’s no trouble sending them through an impeller pump; they’ll easily survive. Do keep in mind the fact that bio-filters will trap them, however. To remove them if they get trapped, simply shake out the filter sock in saltwater, and reintroduce them.


Photo by Luc Viatour
Photo by Luc Viatour

Tisbe Pods aren’t Just for Food

While Tisbe Pods are primarily food, they just so happen to be great at keeping the tank clean and running smoothly, too.

Tisbe Pods are known as “opportunistic feeders”, meaning they don’t miss an opportunity to eat, even if what they’re eating isn’t really “food”. As detritivores, they’ll eat practically any detritus in the tank, from algae to fish waste.

In fact, some reef enthusiasts with large Tisbe colonies have problems with their tanks being too clean. While most hobbyists won’t get that many Tisbe Pods, a good-sized colony is an excellent way to keep your tank clean.

As a side note, you should use a little discretion when using chemicals around Tisbe Pod colonies. They’re really sensitive to that sort of thing. Something as simple as a chemical treatment could collapse an entire colony. If you aren’t sure how they’ll react to a new additive, collect as many as you can and transfer them to a back-up container. Slowly re-introduce about a quarter of them to test for adverse reactions.


Wrapping Up

Tisbe Pods are a resilient, easy to grow copepod that’s a great first start for anyone looking to get into the field. Irresistible to picky fish, great for small creatures, and good cleaners to boot, they are a spectacular addition to any aquarium.

Jett Murdock
Jett Murdock

Jett Murdock is the resident reef writer here at When he isn’t writing about all things reef related, he freelances over at He’s a seasoned writer with 3+ years of experience writing everything from product descriptions to essays.

2 thoughts on “The Benefits of Tisbe Pods in a Saltwater Aquarium

  1. frank says:

    I have a 54gal corner aquarium with only about 20 lbs of live rock/rubble and a lot of vintage blue and red pipe coral. My plan is to introduce a mandarin. Is what I have sufficient to house / grow copepods or should I culture then in a separate tank/container. I have no refugium nd use a canister filter.

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