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Primeval aquarium crustaceans

caridina English Edition - epaper ⋅ Ausgabe 4/2019 vom 22.10.2019
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Triops are easy to keep and breed

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 ...

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

Photo: Kai A. Quante

Info box

Scientific name:Triops cancriformis
Adult length: 7 cm (2.8 inches)
Recommended aquarium size: starting 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, conspecics and other crustaceans


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 tiny 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 patternless 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.

Photo: Kai A. Quante


Photo: Kai-Uwe Genzel

ManyTriops cancriformis populations in nature are female only. Scientists assume that these branchiopods are able to reproduce parthenogenetically, and not through self-fertilization. In other populations, a few males may occur. They can easily be identied 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 cancriformi s population, scientists mainly found detritus, plant bres and small crustaceans like copepods or ostracods. The larger theTriops , the higher was the proportion of prey in their stomachs. In an aquarium,Triops with a length of 3 cm (1.2 inches) and more will eat special softTriops food and, in addition, 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 signicantly shorter, probably due to stress. A 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 decoration 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 entire population has died off,leave the empty tank running for around two more weeks so the cysts can complete their development. Then remove the largest proportion of the water and allow the sand to dry out slowly at room temperature. Once it is completely dry you can start your nextTriops population.


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 rst tiny larvae, raise the water level by around 10% per day. Use stale tap water with a water conditioner 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 fits on the tip of a toothpick is sufficient!

Only feed again when all the powder is gone. If you add too much food, a lm 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 after 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 acclimatize slowly.


Kai-Uwe Genzel: Urzeitkrebse Triops, Vol. 1: Arten, Haltung & Zucht. 33 pp, self-published F. Zaff agnini & M. Trentini (1980): The distribution and reproduction 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): Predation 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