How do breed tadpole shrimps (Triops)?

Are you wondering if breeding Triops is difficult? Well, it is not. But as with any pet, you need to gain knowledge of its basic needs and then put it into practice, carefully observing the whole process. This is not a dinner recipe, but breeding of a living organism. There are a lot of variables here, and your lack of attention can end in failure. In this post, I’ll give you some hints on how to breed Triops, also known as tadpole shrimps. However, I encourage you to get to know these animals better. To do this read Tadpole shrimps (Triops) as a reminder of the past in your tank

Where do I start with breeding Triops?

You start by buying dried cysts. You will receive a portion of dry sand. Don’t let this surprise you. It’s where the previous generation of Triops deposited their cysts. Next, you need to prepare:

  1. a small container,
  2. a lamp (can be a desk lamp),
  3. distilled water,
  4. thermometer,
  5. protozoa.

Then you will need:

  • a small aquarium,
  • sponge filter + buzzer,
  • heater,
  • some easy-to-grow plants.

Preparation of the container for hatching Triops

For hatching Triops choose a small container. It can be a faunabox with a capacity of several liters or any other small container you have at hand. When your crustaceans grow up, you will have to move them to a larger aquarium anyway.

The Triops hatch best in soft water. No wonder, after all, this is the kind of rainwater that forms puddles, their natural habitat. You need a few liters of distilled or demineralized water. You can get it, for example, at a gas station. Mix it with tap water in a ratio of 1:1. If your tap water is very hard, use more distilled water. Fill the container with water to a height of a few centimeters. Freshly hatched Triops larvae will find it much easier to find food in a small volume of water.

Install a light above the hatching container. It should be on non-stop for the first 3-4 days. Thanks to its light, freshly hatched Triops larvae will head toward the water surface, where protozoa accumulate most abundantly. The lamp can simultaneously heat the water, the temperature of which should be about 20-24°C. In cooler or warmer water, fewer larvae may hatch. Leave this container for 1-2 days. Then place the sand with the cysts of Triops in there. If you have a larger portion, it is worth dividing it into smaller ones in case something goes wrong. Make sure that the cysts, which can float when dry, have not stuck to the walls of the vessel. This is also the moment to add some water from your protozoa culture. Turn on the light and wait.

How to start a culture of protozoa?

Again, you will need some kind of vessel. It can be a jar. Fill it with tap water and add protozoa medium in the form of, for example, dried banana peel. It is also a good idea to put dry leaves, such as beech or oak leaves, in the jar. Not only will they serve as a breeding ground for protozoa, but they will also return tannins and humic acids to the water. It is also worth adding a little water from rinsing the sponge from the aquarium filter (if you have one), pond water, puddles – the protozoa present there will initiate breeding. Use your imagination. Every aquarist has a different way of growing protozoa. You will find many interesting ideas and hints online.

When will the Triops larvae appear?

Larvae usually appear after two days. However, sometimes you have to wait longer, even two weeks. Remember that the larvae are tiny, about 0.5 mm long. Watch your tank carefully so you don’t miss them. At this stage of life, the larvae of Triops feed on protozoa. This is the most difficult stage of breeding. If they can’t find food – they won’t survive.

On the second day after hatching, start giving the “mist”. This is an aqueous suspension that you will get by mixing powder fish food, such as Tropical Micro-vit Basic, with water. You can also use crushed flake food for fish. Using a pipette, feed the “mist” into the larvae tank. Remember, however, that the amount of food should be very, very small. Excess food will deteriorate water quality and the larvae will die.

Start doing small, regular water changes. The temperature of water should be close to the temperature of the tank. Do not use distilled water anymore. Set tap water aside beforehand to remove chlorine or use Tropical Antichlor.

Triops’ rate of growth is tremendous. Rapid growth goes hand in hand with a huge appetite and a high demand for protein. It can happen that larger individuals eat smaller ones. So make sure they have an abundance of food and keep the water clean. Note, that the growth of the Triops is associated with moulting. Just like any crustacean, in order to grow, the Triops must shed their carapaces and replace them with larger ones.

Aquarium for Triops

Prepare a target aquarium for the Triops before you start hatching them. It is assumed that there should be about 3.5 liters of water per one adult tadpole shrimp. Place a 2-3 cm layer of sand on the bottom of the aquarium. Install an air-powered sponge filter (breeding without a filter also succeeds, but then you need to change water more frequently). It will make it easier for you to keep the water clean. You can also put some undemanding aquatic plants such as waterweeds in the aquarium. It is also useful to have a heater to keep the water temperature at about 20-22°C (if you have heat in the house, you can ignore it). Slowly acclimatize the Triops to the water from the target aquarium by adding it gradually to the container. Then carefully transfer them to the aquarium. Feed them with fish food or Tropical Triops granules specially prepared for them, as well as frozen foods (bloodworm, daphnia, artemia). The Triops are very voracious.

Tropical Triops food for tadpole shrimp

Reproduction of Triops

Soon you should notice that the females have pouches filled with cysts. These are not eggs in the sense of a single reproductive cell, but embryos surrounded by a hard shell. The females carry the cysts for 2-4 days, after which they bury them in the substrate. They bury them deep enough so that when digging through the sand in search of food, it doesn’t dig them up and eat. Hence the thickness of the substrate recommended above. The egg-laying cycle repeats itself many times. The goal is to lay as many eggs as possible during the very short life of a tadpole shrimp. If you’re lucky and there are males or hermaphrodites in your group, you’ll be able to observe copulation, during which one individual turns the other on its back.

Embryos develop only up to a certain point, after which further development is halted – this is known as diapause. It is important that this development takes place in an aquatic environment. Overdrying of freshly deposited cysts causes embryos to die. Therefore, after depositing, the cysts should remain in the water for about 2-3 weeks.

The cysts have been deposited – what next?

Breaking the diapause requires drying or freezing the cysts. Why? It is a kind of time stamp – Triops’ natural calendar. The appearance of water in the environment and an increase in temperature are signs that an unfavorable period for life – drought or winter – is over. The problem arises when weather anomalies occur in nature. They can cause the hatching of the Triops at the wrong time. Fortunately, the larvae do not hatch at the same time, which ensures the continuity of the species. Cysts can wait up to 20 years to hatch. Keep this in mind when for some reason the larvae in your tank die. There may still be cysts capable of hatching in the sand, so dry it out and then reflood it with water.

When the last of your Triops dies, pour the water out of the aquarium. You can also transfer the sand to a smaller container. Wait for the sand to dry. Usually after 3 weeks, the dry sand with eggs can be flooded with water again and you can enjoy the hatching of the next generation. You can also store it in a drawer to “revive” them at any time in the future.

Ph.D.Eng Aleksandra Kwaśniak-Płacheta


Uwe Dost (2006), Przekopnica właściwa (Triops canciformes) – spotkanie z żywą skamieliną, „Aqua Forum” nr 14, 61-71.

Dominik Tomaszewski (2006), Niezwykłe zwierzęta z zamierzchłej przeszłości, czyli o przekopnicach. Część I. „Nasze Akwarium” nr 81, 43-46.

Dominik Tomaszewski (2006), Niezwykłe zwierzęta z zamierzchłej przeszłości, czyli o przekopnicach. Część II. „Nasze Akwarium” nr 82, 19-23.

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