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Primeval aquarium crustaceans

caridina - epaper ⋅ Ausgabe 4/2019 vom 15.10.2019


Triops are easy to keep and breed

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Triops , aka tadpole or shield shrimp, belong to the crustacean class of the branchiopods. They have remained basically unchanged since the days of the dinosaurs and are perfectly adapted to life in temporary waters that come into being as quickly as they dry out again. These fleeting habitats give shield shrimp only a few weeks for their complete life cycle, forcing them to produce cysts, or permanent eggs, which remain fertile for a long time - even a 20- year drought isn’t really a problem!

This is possible since there is no detectable biological activity in ...

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... the eggs at all during the dry phase. Tadpole shrimp conquer new habitats in two ways: the cysts are blown away with the wind, and predators that eat Triops are usually unable to digest the permanent eggs, which are then excreted and distributed.

When these permanent eggs are laid into the substrate, they won’t hatch right away since they need a dry phase or a good freeze-through. Only when they get into water after that, the nauplii (larvae) will hatch.


The European summer shield shrimpTriops cancriformis is especially recommendable for aquarium hobbyists who’d like to give tadpole shrimp a try: They don’t grow as large as other species, and are quite robust. Moreover they tolerate a medium water hardness, and some larvae will even hatch in hard water. Moreover, this species won’t eat a lot of its own off spring, and leave the cysts as well as the hatched nauplii basically alone. You may well expect a large number of ti ny shrimplets in yourTriops cancriformis tank.

In addition to permanent eggs,Triops cancriformis produces instant cysts, from which nauplii hatch without prior need for drying out or freezing through, even though their number will be a bit lower. Besides the brown wild form, you may come across a red variant (Triops cancriformis var. Beni-Kabuto Ebi) from Japan in the hobby, some of which have a red pattern, others are patt ernless and bright red.

Triops cancriformis can reach a total length of up to 7 cm, or 2.8 inches. On its underside you can see the large number of walking and swimming legs.


ManyTriops cancriformis populati ons in nature are female only. Scienti sts assume that these branchiopods are able to reproduce parthenogeneti cally, and not through self-ferti lizati on. In other populati ons, a few males may occur. They can easily be identified since they don’t carry egg pouches. FemaleTriops may be able to produce eggs as early as a few days aft er hatching, depending on the temperature.

When examining the stomach content of specimens with a total length of over 10 mm (0.4 inches) from an outdoorTriops cancriformis population, scientists mainly found detritus, plant fibres and small crustaceans like copepods or ostracods. The larger theTriops , the higher was the proporti on of prey in their stomachs. In an aquarium,Triops with a length of 3 cm (1.2 inches) and more will eat special soft Triops food and, in additi on, detritus, dead plants and small crustaceans, as well as worms or other larvae. They may even eat each other.


ATriops tank needn’t be planted, but it cannot run without a substrate. Tadpole shrimp just love digging, and in naked tanks their life is signifi cantly shorter, probably due to stress. A fi ne substrate grain of 1-2 mm (0.04 to 0.08 inches) and a layer of 2-3 cm (around one inch) have proven to be great for them. Drift wood and rocks are a nice decorati on forTriops tanks. They are going to eat aquatic plants with soft leaves, but hard-leafed plants likeAnubias are normally left alone.

When the adultTriops have reached the end of their life span, and when the enti re populati on has died off , leave the empty tank running for around two more weeks so the cysts can complete their development. Then remove the largest proporti on of the water and allow the sand to dry out slowly at room temperature. Once it is completely dry you can start your nextTriops populati on.

Info box

Scientific name:Triops cancriformis
Adult length : 7 cm (2.8 inches)
Recommended aquarium size: starti ng at 60 cm / 24 inches
Water temperature: 15-30 °C (59-86 °F) , recommended: 20-25 °C (68-77 °F)
Life expectancy: < 20 °C approx. 3 months,> 25 °C approx. 6 weeks
Food: Detritus, dead plants, conspecifi cs and other crustaceans


Add demineralized water to a container with a volume of around two liters (0.5 US gal) until the water level is about two inches, or 5 cm. Add the sand/egg mixture. Place the container in a bright spot, but not in direct sun. Around 80 % of the nauplii will hatch aft er two to three days, another 2% follows suit during the next two weeks. The rest of the cysts remains dormant. Those will only hatch aft er another drought phase, or even several.

When you can see the first tiny larvae, raise the water level by around 10% per day. Use stale tap water with a water conditi oner that eliminates chlorine and heavy metals.

When the larvae have started their life on the ground, on the second day at the earliest, you can start feedingChlorella powder. The amount that fi ts on the tip of a toothpick is suffi cient! Only feed again when all the powder is gone. If you add too much food, a film will form on the water surface. You need to remove it with a paper towel in order to keep the gas exchange at the surface going. Switch to a powdered food with a higher protein content aft er around six days.

When the young tadpole shrimp have reached a length of 2-3 cm (around 1 inch), they can be moved to their permanent home aquarium. Drain around 50% of the water in the breeding tank and add aquarium water in order to enable theTriops to adapt to the new parameters. Make sure the water temperatures are basically the same, or acclimati ze slowly.


Kai-Uwe Genzel: Urzeitkrebse Triops, Vol. 1: Arten, Haltung & Zucht. 33 pp, self-published F. Zaff agnini & M. Trenti ni (1980): The distributi on and reproducti on ofTriops cancriformis (Bosc) in Europe (Crustacea Notostraca). Monitore Zoologico Italiano - Italian Journal of Zoology 14(1-2), 1-8, DOI: 10.1080/00269786.1980.10736342
Dani Boix et al (2006): Predati on in a temporary pond with special attention to the trophic role of Triops cancriformis (Crustacea: Branchiopoda: Notostraca). Hydrobiologica 571: 341- 353. DOI: 10.1007/s10750-006-0259-0

Photo: Kai-Uwe Genzel

Photo: Kai-Uwe Genze

Photo: © PIXATERRA –

Photo: Kai A. Quante

Photo: Kai A. Quante

Photo: Kai-Uwe Genzel