Triops are “prehistoric” shrimps that can now be bought in the form of eggs and eaily raised in the home as an exotic pet.
With just a few essential factors to success they are not only very cheap to buy and care for but can make a fascinating display in the home too. Triops are also typically quite short-lived and require little in the way of specialist equipment or regular upkeep and so in terms of exotic pets they can be seen very much as a low-risk animal to try out.
The Lifecycle Of Triops
Triops exist in the wild in areas where water can be very seasonal. The lifecycle is such that eggs can lay dormant in dry mud or sand for months or even years on end.
When the rain finally begins and pools of fresh water start to appear, any eggs in that area begin to hatch into microscopic larvae. Over time the triops grow – shedding their skin a number of times – and finally mature into adults that may be up to 4 or 5 cm in length.
As adults the triops breed and lay further eggs which depending on the environmental conditions may hatch rapidly to begin the cycle or, in the case of a rapidly drying environment may lay dormant in the soil once again waiting for the rains to arrive.
Triops are available for sale from a variety of sources. Besides the many online suppliers many toy shops, science stores and novelty gift shops offer either packets of triop eggs or complete ready-to-go triop kits including eggs, food and a small aquarium for your pets.
Being shrimps triops require a container of fresh water in order to live, grow and breed. Any water-tight container is sufficient though in order to really observe your triops properly a container with clear sides is recommended. It is unnecessary to use a proper aquarium setup as one might for fish but instead small er, more basic containers such as tupperware boxes and other food containers may be used.
Your triop aquarium should have a layer of fine sand on the bottom and should be filled with fresh, dechlorinated water. Either use rain water for this or fill your aquarium with tap water which has either been allowed to sit for 48 hours so the chlorine has disappeared or alternatively use one of the commercially-available dechlorinating agents available for aquarium-owners.
Besides this little is required in the way of equipment and a simple setup like this will enable you to raise triops successfully from egg to adult in a matter of weeks.
Hatching Triop Eggs
Whilst triop care is a very easy procedure when compared to looking after a range of other exotic pets the only area where a few people have difficulties is in the initial hatching of the eggs so here a few tips may well come in handy.
Firstly appreciate that as with planting seeds, not all your eggs will hatch and buying “fresh” eggs from a reliable source will greatly increase your chances of success.
The eggs should be emptied into your triop aquarium where you should try to keep the water both reasonably warm and brightly lit in order to encourage the eggs to hatch. I find that placing the triop aquarium on a brightly-lit windowsill or under a desklamp will help you to accomplish this.
When the eggs hatch the larvae are almost impossible to see due to their tiny size so just because you don’t see any activity in your aquarium don’t assume your efforts have failed. It may take a week or more before the larvae become visible to the eye so try to assume that all is well once you begin hatching the eggs and add a tiny pinch of food for them each day.
With patience, you should start to see tiny translucent dots moving around in the water after a week or two and at this point you can feel confident that your triops have hatched and are now starting to grow towards adulthood. Over time they should grow larger and more visible until the the point that they are clearly living crustaceans swimming around in their aquarium.
Triops will eat a range of food in captivity. Many triop kits come complete with a small sachet of triop food but should yours not – or should the food run out – then the easiest form of triop food is to purchase a tub of commercially-available aquarium fish flake and carefully crumble some into fine dust before sprinkling it into your triop aquarium.
Triops are fast-growing animals that can go from egg to adult in a matter of weeks. Furthermore they can become cannibalistic so try to feed them regularly and if you start to see the number of triops in your aquarium dropping at an alarming rate try to increase the amount of food you are providing in the hope that the growing triops find their tank-mates less appealing as a potential snack!
Realistically breeding triops really needs no human intervention. Maintaining a group of adult triops will allow them to successfully mate and lay eggs which will drop to the bottom of the aquarium and sit in the sand you have placed there.
This sand can then be dried out and used in the future to “reseed” new aquariums and begin new cultures or alternatively the adults can be removed (to eliminate the risk of cannibalism) whereafter the whole cycle should start again and larvae should become visible to the eye after a few weeks.
Problems With Triop Care
Triops are generally very simple to keep and breed in the home and there are really only three common problems. The first of these is either not following the instructions for hatching eggs properly or not having the patience to wait until the larvae become visible.
The second is cannibalism where you may end up with just one or two very fat adult triops so as mentioned earlier try to keep an eye on the number of specimens you have an increase the amount of food you provide if these numbers start to drop markedly.
Finally be aware that triops will change their skins as they grow and you may well see these skins floating around the aquariun like ghosts. If you see “dead” triops is is just as likely that these are moulted skins so don’t be too concerned.
Equally if your triops are healthy and are growing don’t be too concerned if you never see a moulted skin because triops will often eat their skins to retain nutrients so if you’re out at work or at school for much of the day they may well change their skin and then eat it before you have a chance to observe the process hence the lack of sloughed skins in the aquarium.