Tisbe Pods vs. Tiger Pods: Which is Better?

There comes a time in every reefing hobbyist’s life when they arrive at a crossroad. Should I cultivate Tisbe Pods or Tiger Pods? It’s a question that can weigh on the mind of even the best cultivators. Luckily, the decision is an easy one if you know what you’re looking for.

Both are invaluable additions to any reef habitat, and each of them sport their own pros and cons. As long as you pay attention to this guide, you’ll choose the right copepod for your aquarium every time. Here’s everything you need to know.


What are they?

Tisbe Pods (Tisbe biminiensis) are the most commonly cultured copepods, and are a great choice for the less experienced reef enthusiast. Hailing from tropical waters, Tisbe Pods are a tiny type of Microplankton with a knack for rapid reproduction and an irresistibly tasty disposition.

Tisbe Pods are the smaller of the two, measuring in at a diminutive average size of 0.85 millimeters. Typically, they can only be seen in the right lighting or with a magnifying glass. But don’t fret if you don’t see them. They’re most likely still there, reproducing away.

Tiger Pods (Tigriopus californicus) are an up-and-coming addition to many reef enthusiasts habitats, thanks to their size, rich stores of fat and protein, and beta-carotene induced color.

It’s a common belief that Tiger Pods are cold water copepods and won’t do very well in the typical reef environment. That’s slightly true, but at the same time mostly false.

While you can find Tiger Copepods in cold water environment, most commercially available copepods come from tropical environments, as far south as Mexico.

Additionally, Tiger Copepods like to hang out in tide pools in nature, which retain heat from the sun, making the water much warmer than open sea water.

Tiger Pods are about double the size of Tisbes, allowing for easy monitoring and easier feeding for finicky fish. Not only that, but their sparkling sunset color makes them a beautiful centerpiece of your reef’s ecosystem.


Photo by Luc Viatour
Photo by Luc Viatour

What eats them?

When it comes to feeding, the type of copepod you choose will make the biggest difference.

Tisbe Pods are, as mentioned, a great choice for beginning reef enthusiasts. Tisbes are truly an all-purpose food. Coral loves them. Mandarin Gobies love them. Practically any fish will love them. Even the young, nauplii Tisbe Pods are a good food for fish larvae and younger fish.

Tisbes are gentle on the digestive system of sensitive fish, too. It’s rare to have a fish that’s actually incompatible with Tisbe Pods. That being said, Tisbe Copepods are probably the best food to test out on new fish, at least until you can figure out its preferences.

Tiger Pods are widely regarded as a more difficult copepod to culture, yet the end result makes it well worth the extra trouble.

It’s important to keep in mind that Tiger Pods aren’t for every fish. Fish with smaller mouths, like sea horses, may have a tough time trying to eat them, due to their size. When it comes to fish like mature Mandarin Gobies, though, it’s no problem at all.

In fact, Tiger Pods are perhaps the best choice for bigger, pickier fish. Their attractive color, size and free swimming motions will draw even the hardest-to-feed fish in. Especially with fish that can often become malnourished, such as the Mandarin Goby or butterfly fish, attraction is key.

If your fish seems to be enjoying the Tiger Pods, you’ll quickly start to reap the benefits. Since Tigers are so nutrient dense, fish that eat them tend to grow at a more rapid rate than normal. Sometimes, they’ll even start to take on a more vibrant hue, thanks to the high concentration of beta carotene in the Tigers.


Are they Hard to Colonize?tiger-pods

It depends. Under the right conditions, they’re both resilient fish capable of speedy colonization. The first-time colonizer might run into some trouble, but culturing them really works like a formula.

Still, Tisbe Pods, are probably the best choice for newbies in the culturing field. Thriving in warm water, Tisbes are just a little more self-sufficient than Tiger Pods. As long as they have plenty of Phytoplankton for food and a well-aerated, clean container, Tisbe Pods are a breeze to cultivate.

Tiger Pods, as tough as they are, are just a little harder to cultivate. Some reefers can get lucky and get their first batch of Tigers to effortlessly and exponentially expand, but the majority of people aren’t so lucky.

By no means does that imply that Tiger Pods can’t easily be cultivated. It just means that they’re better suited for someone who has a little more time and knowledge to put into their culture.


What’s the Same?

Both Tisbe Pods and Tiger Pods are excellent choices for supporting and adding diversity to a thriving aquarium. Both are excellent detritivores, meaning they’ll feast on decaying organic waste that otherwise will become toxic in the aquarium water.

In fact, many people colonize their aquariums with pods like Tigers and Tisbes just for their ability to reduce algae, fish waste, and other particles the water.

They both come with all the benefits of choosing live food over frozen or pelleted food. They’re both the most natural and nutritious food choices on the market, period. Regardless of which copepod you choose, you can rest assured you’re making the right choice for your fish.



Tisbe Pods:

  • Great “all-purpose” food. Compatible with most fish, especially those with smaller mouths.
  • Easy to colonize.
  • The smaller of the two.
  • A good choice for the beginning reefing enthusiast.
  • Difficult to see in the wrong lighting.

Tiger Pods:

  • Great food for picky fish, but not for fish with smaller mouths.
  • Slightly more tricky to colonize.
  • Packed full of nutrients.
  • The bigger of the two.
  • Easily visible to the eye.
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.

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