Triops Aquarium Care: Hatching, Tank Setup & Diet (Complete Guide 2020)

Triops Aquarium Care: Hatching, Tank Setup & Diet (Complete Guide 2020)

Triops, usually called Dinosaur Shrimp, Shield Shrimp or Tadpole Shrimp, have seen the dinosaurs and giant mammals go into extinction. They continued to live in bodies of freshwater and eventually became our pets. Their ability to withstand the test of time is the reason why people call them “living fossils.” And you can easily take part in ensuring that they are here to stay for good by being an owner of a prehistoric pet. Don’t worry, Triops won’t bite you.

Aside from the fact that they are the oldest creatures in existence, a Triops appearance is something that intrigues many. They have three eyes as a result of an evolutionary process. Like most creatures, Tadpole Shrimp use two eyes to search for food and stay away from predators. The eye on top of its head, on the other hand, is used to detect light. As a matter of fact, having three eyes is the reason why they have such a name. “Triops” loosely translates to “three eyes” in the Greek language.

Two Triops in shallow water with a red sandy bottom.
Two Triops in shallow water with a red sandy bottom.

Aside from the fact that their eyes will probably interest you, their legs will also catch your attention. If you ever wonder how Triops breathe underwater, the answer is simple: they breathe through their legs! Unlike fishes that have gills on their sides, these creatures have gills on their legs allowing them to function normally.

Like the shrimps we are used to seeing today, Shield Shrimp have an exoskeleton called a carapace. This means that unlike most animals that have their skeletons inside their bodies, these creatures have their skeletons outside that allow them to move and that also serves as their protection.

Triops Eggs

It is very rare to see your pets grow right before your very eyes. Most of us purchase pets already in their grown forms and only very few of us see them during their births. This is certainly not the case for Triops.

First is that you purchase Triops eggs and not the Triops themselves. Upon purchasing the eggs, you follow the directions on how to make them hatch and watch them grow right in front of you. Now if you’re wondering how Triops eggs can survive not being hatched, the reason is that they are able to stay as eggs for more than fifteen years.

Their eggs develop a protective shell that allows this to happen – which is also considered to be one of the reasons why they were able to survive way beyond the dinosaurs. Now if you’re wondering how Triops reproduce, some species don’t need partners to be able to lay eggs.

This is called asexual reproduction. On the other hand, other species have to engage in sexual or reproductive activity to be able to lay eggs. Some people worry that the Triops eggs they purchase are taken from the wild.

Triops eggs are raised and cared for by humans in laboratories for the purpose of making them pets at home. As a matter of fact, you can even hatch the eggs that your pet Triops lay. Remember that certain species of Triops are endangered in some countries and taking them from the wild is both wrong and illegal. So make sure you buy your Triops eggs from a reputable toy or pet store and, of course, it should be from a good brand.

You can purchase a packet of Triops eggs and be the one to set up the rest of the tank. You can also buy Triops kits to save you the hassle of finding the other materials needed in the setup. The kits from Toyops either come with a hatching dish or a tank, with both options having food for your baby prehistoric pets.

Tadpole shrimp
Tadpole shrimp

Triops Lifespan

Unlike other pets, the lifespan of Triops is relatively short. On average, Triops live for eight weeks (two months) long but can last for as long as fourteen weeks (three and a half months).

Since Triops live in ponds that easily dry up, they evolved in such a way that they adapted to their environment’s short life span and had eggs that can withstand the test of time. This is called Diapause which is the delay in development to allow species like these prehistoric pets to multiply despite harsh environmental situations.

Though they do not live long as other pets do, you should understand that it is the experience that counts. You will be a part of every aspect of your pet’s development as you see them grow before your very eyes.

Triops don’t really live that long so you don’t have to feel bad when you lose them. This is how they evolved. Plus, you can easily hatch out the eggs that your pet Triops lay. So you will have a limitless supply of eggs if you take care of them properly.

You will be amazed at how these creatures maximize their short life span. From being eggs that are smaller than grains of sand, you’ll see them grow up to two to four inches (about six to eleven centimeters) in a tank.

The Triops Cancriformis species, which grows the biggest at up to four inches and lives the longest at up to fourteen weeks, is found throughout Europe. On the other hand, the Triops longicaudatus from America grows up to two inches, lives up to eight weeks long and is commonly sold in stores.

Triops Hatching

Before you even start buying the materials you need to hatch your Triops, remember that caring for them in this stage takes responsibility. This is because you need to maintain a certain temperature of the water because if the water is too cold or too hot, your prehistoric pets won’t hatch out or if they do, they will eventually die.

The following are the materials you’ll need for hatching out your Triops:

Triops Eggs and Food

Some eggs that you buy are contained in packets or envelopes that contain about more or less eighty eggs. In this case, these packets usually come with hatching nutrients and/or food for your pets. Another option you have is to buy the all-in-one packets. This type contains sand, eggs and leafy things that serve as food for the newly hatched eggs for the first few days. Unlike the first option, all these materials are in the same packet (which is the reason why you won’t see the eggs).

Hatching Dish

Not to be confused with the tank you’ll use when the Triops are bigger, the hatching dish will serve as your pets’ first home for their early stages. Your baby Triops will live here for about eight days after they hatch before transferring them to a larger tank. This can be any regular-sized plastic or glass container that usually hold your food or liquid (people have used clear bowls and wide-rimmed jars for this). Make sure that your containers can also handle the light that will be over the surface of the water. It would be best to use a clear container so you could see your pets since they’re barely visible during the first few days.

Desk Lamp

Now, this can be a bit tricky because you have to make sure that your lamp has the right bulb. Make sure that your bulb is the traditional incandescent kind that is 40- 60 Watts. Don’t confuse this with the halogen kind of bulb since this can heat the water too much and is said to be quite dangerous as well. Likewise, don’t use the compact fluorescent lamps as these don’t heat the water that much.

Lastly, it would be best if you use a bendable desk lamp to allow you to adjust the distance of the light source from the hatching dish. If your desk lamp is not bendable, you can easily bring your hatching dish closer to the bulb by placing stacks of paper or notebooks underneath it. Just make sure that the hatching dish is on a very stable base.

Thermometer

This is necessary for maintaining the temperature of your water since extreme temperatures will kill your Triops. Some kits come with strip thermometers that are placed on the sides of your hatching dish or tanks. Though some don’t see any problem with this, we’ve experienced having eggs that did not hatch or Triops that did not survive because of the wrong reading of such thermometers.

We realized that these thermometers may have measured either the temperature of the container or the light source and not the water. With these said, we highly recommend the use of a regular thermometer that you can submerge in the water to ensure that you get an accurate reading of the water’s temperature.

Distilled Water (0.25 Gallon / 1 Liter)

Understand that not just any kind of bottled water can be used for your Triops while they are still eggs and babies. Moreover, you cannot use tap water at this stage (but you can use tap water later on which will be discussed in a bit). Make sure that you do not confuse distilled water with just purified water or mineral water. Distilled water, also called de-ionized, is a very common form of purified water and can easily be found in supermarkets.

Stick

You will need this to stir the water when you place the eggs in it. Make sure that your stick is as clean as your container to ensure that your pets hatch out. Using a clean drinking straw is also an option for this.

Black Sheet of Paper or Cardboard

Though this isn’t exactly for your pets, you’ll probably need this for yourself. You see, within the first few days of the life of your Triops, your pets can barely be seen. You have to place a cardboard on the side of your hatching dish to be able to see those small white specks that move around in the water.

Close up of prehistoric Shield Shrimp
Close up of prehistoric Shield Shrimp

How to Hatch Out Your Eggs – Step by Step

Now that you have your materials ready, take a closer look on how to hatch out your eggs in a simple step-by-step process. Just make sure that you follow them correctly so you’re sure that your prehistoric pets hatch out.

Clean the Hatching Dish and Stick

This is very important. Soap and whatever form of residue can kill your Triops so the container being clean is very important. Some Triops owners recommend sterilizing the containers before using them. Though this is an option, we actually see that running your cleaned container and stick through hot water is enough to clean it. Make sure that your containers are dry when you use it.

Shake the Water Bottle

Pour a little water off the bottle to leave an air gap. Shake the bottle a couple of times to ensure that there is oxygen in the water.

Fill Your Hatching Dish

Fill your hatching dish a little over half-full with the water. If you decide to already use a tank and skip using a hatching dish (which has been done by a lot of Triops owners), use about half a liter of water or just make sure that the water is 2 inches / 5cm in depth. Your Triops don’t need a lot of water at this point, so don’t worry too much about this.

Make Sure the Water is 68-77°F / 20-25°C (With 71.5°F / 22°C as the Ideal Temperature)

The temperature should be at this level to ensure that your Triops hatch out. Maintaining this temperature is very important since if the water goes beyond 88°F / 31°C, your pets will not hatch out or die eventually. Now how do you maintain this temperature? This is where your desk lamp falls into place.

Place the light over the surface of the water at approximately 15 cm from the water’s surface and wait until the temperature is within the range stated. Once the temperature reaches the range, wait for a few minutes to see if this temperature is maintained and adjust your lamp or the distance of your hatching dish accordingly until the temperature is maintained.

Shake and Pour Your Eggs into the Water

This part varies depending on the instructions of your packets. Some packets will advise you to pour only half of the contents. In this case, shaking is necessary. And in the case of most packets and the ones that come with food and sand, you’ll probably be advised to pour everything in. Some packets come with what they call “hatching nutrients” that aid in the hatching and growth of your Triops. Make sure you follow these directions accordingly since hatching also depends on the brand and instructions of the packet you buy.

Stir the Eggs into the Water

Stirring the water is necessary to ensure that your eggs go into the water and not stick to the sides of your hatching dish or tank. You have to stir occasionally for the first two hours in thirty-minute intervals just so you’re sure that all the eggs are in the water and not on the sides or on your stick. In the event that the eggs are stuck in the sides of your hatching dish, run them down with a little distilled water over the next few days to ensure that they hatch.

Leave Space for Air

Your Triops need oxygen to survive so it is necessary that you leave the top of your hatching dish or tank open for air to come in. Always remember that you should not put your lamp too close to the water’s surface. Aside from safety concerns, this may hinder air from coming in and can likewise heat your water too much. Do not seal your hatching dish or tank or else your pets will not survive.

Leave the Lamp On for 24 Hours for the Next 3-4 Days

This is necessary for their survival. As mentioned earlier, you have to maintain the temperature of the water so be sure that you also check on the water’s temperature regularly and adjust your lamp accordingly. Take note that the most ideal temperature for your prehistoric pets is 71.5°F / 22°C. But maintaining the temperature within 68-77°F / 20-25°C is just fine.

How Long Does It Take The Triops Eggs To Hatch?

Within 48 hours, you will begin to notice your Triops swimming about in the water with the help of your black sheet of paper or cardboard. Just put this outside your hatching dish or tank and see your baby prehistoric pets. A lot of people have failed in hatching out their eggs. The main reason for this is that they don’t follow directions properly. So make sure that you follow these directions and tips and we’re sure your eggs will hatch out.

Take note that during cold weather seasons, your Triops may take longer to hatch. It can take as long as 3-5 days in this situation so it is necessary that you be patient and ensure that you maintain the ideal temperature for your prehistoric pets.

How to Feed Your Triops and Watch Them Grow

Earlier we mentioned that the setup and maintenance of Triops are not expensive at all, this is true even for feeding your pets throughout their lifespan. You’ll be surprised at all the options you have in feeding your prehistoric pets. In this part, we will discuss the various feeding options and methods you can use in caring for the Triops. From their hatching stage up to the time when they’re fully grown (which is pretty fast), know the types of food that your pets will enjoy.

Feeding The Babies

This part may be tricky since this really depends on the Triops kit that you’ll buy. Understand that newly hatched Triops don’t need much food to begin with. One kind of package is the all-in-one kind that comes with sand and dried plant clippings. When you purchase this package, you may not have to feed your pets for the first few days. The dried plant clippings will already serve as their food and are ideal for the growing stage of the Triops.

On the other hand, other packages include hatching nutrients and Triops baby food which is considered necessary for the growth and development of your pets. For this, the only thing that we recommend is following the instructions seen in the packets as thoroughly as possible. The instructions will show you how often you should feed them and the right amount. Some kits even include measuring devices for this to ensure that you do not overfeed. Putting too much food can result in an increase in the bacteria levels of the water making it dirty that it could kill your pets.

The No-Fuss Diet

Triops are not picky eaters. You will be surprised at the variety of food that you can feed your prehistoric pets as they grow and when they’re already full-grown. Since Triops are omnivores, they can eat both plant and animal material.

Feeding growing and full-grown Triops can be fun because you’ll see the amount of food they are able to take in. You will notice that your pets are always hungry as they can consume up to 40% of their total body weight. Read this list to know more about the food you can feed your prehistoric pets:

Triops Food

Your kits will probably come with food for your growing and full-grown Triops. As mentioned earlier, these usually come in pellets and have been laboratory tested to ensure that it gives all the nutrients for your growing pets.

Fish Food

These pets can eat any form of fish food are available in the market. It can be flakes or pellets or floating or sinking and you will not have any problem with feeding your pets. You may want to look into fish flakes such as the TetraMin Plus kind that is formulated to keep the water clean as well. Another option is the TetraFin flakes and the Tetracolor Tropical Flakes which is generally more affordable. You can also use pellets that float which also encourages your Triops to swim – TetraFin also offers this variety.

Catfish Food

What makes catfish food different from the normal fish food is the fact that this type of fish food was made for a balanced omnivore diet with fish, plant and oil materials. These are usually made to sink which does not cause many problems in terms of feeding. Catfish food comes in tubs or in tetra packs like the one from Hikari.

Earthworms

If you happen to be caring for your garden or walking on the sidewalk and you see a tiny earthworm, pick it up for your Triops to enjoy. There are a few things you have to make sure of before feeding your prehistoric pets with earthworms. First is that these should be of the very small kind. Second is that you can’t feed your Triops the earthworms fresh out of the garden or sidewalk. Get a bowl with water and place the small earthworms there for six hours or more. This is to ensure that your pets eat clean worms.

Bloodworms

This type of worms has been a favorite of aquatic animals including Triops. You can purchase live bloodworms in your local pet store. A few tips before feeding your pets with bloodworms: remove excess water from the bag and pour the rest of the worms on a piece of cloth or tissue so you’ll place only the worms and not the water from the pet store into your Triops tank.

Another option is freeze-dried bloodworms that are readily available as well – look into the Freeze Dried Bloodworms by Tetra.

Daphnia

Also known as water fleas, daphnia is a treat for your Triops. As a matter of fact, some Triops kits and packets contain daphnia for your baby pets to eat! You have the option of buying live daphnia in your local pet store. Dried daphnia can also be purchased and directly fed since it floats on the surface (you’ll see your pets swim so they could eat).

You can also place the dried daphnia in a bowl of water for a few days and see the tiny daphnia you can feed your Triops. Another option is freeze-dried daphnia also offered by Hikari.

Brine Shrimp

For less than a dollar, you can buy fresh brine shrimp from the local pet shop to feed your Triops. Freeze-dried brine shrimp are also available from San Francisco Bay and Hikari.

Fruit Fly

Happen to catch a fly around your house? Don’t just throw it away, feed it to your Triops! It is important to know that the flies you feed your Triops must be caught and not killed by any form of fly spray or insect repellant – otherwise, you’ll be killing your Triops as well. Though most Triops owners skip this step, we recommend cleaning the fly by dipping it in water before using it for feeding your Triops.

Food of Your Other Pets

Yes, you read that right. Do you have a cat or a dog for a pet as well? Some Triops owners feed their prehistoric pets with the same stuff they feed their cats and dogs. You have the option of feeding your Triops with tiny bits of dried cat or dog food.

Veggies from Your Fridge

Yes, you read that right. As mentioned, you can feed your Triops organic plant materials and they’ll definitely enjoy it. A few regular items on your fridge can now be used to feed your pets. An option is feeding them with lettuce. Boil a leaf for three minutes and cut small pieces to use for feeding.

Triops also eat carrots – first, peel a carrot and throw away the skin. Using a peeler, slice out thin strips of the carrot (the thinner and smaller, the better). You have an option of feeding the carrot strips directly to your Triops – but we highly recommend boiling the strips for three minutes so it will be easier for your pets to eat the tiny carrot strips. And since Triops also like eating roots, the roots you see on the skin of your potato is something that they enjoy as well. Boil this with tiny chunks of potato for three minutes so you can use this for feeding your Triops. Basically, any fresh vegetable can be used to feed your Triops.

We just recommend that you wash the veggies thoroughly and peel the skin to ensure that there are no pesticides – boiling for about three minutes in the water is always a good idea so it will be easier for the Triops to eat the vegetables.

Fish and Shrimp from Your Fridge

Cut the cooked or uncooked fish or shrimp into small pieces and place them in the tank. You’ll realize that you can also share the food you eat with your prehistoric pets!

Triops Granarius
Triops Granarius

How to Setup a Triops Tank

Though some Triops owners prefer to hatch the Triops in the tanks where they are bound to live in for the rest of their lives, we highly recommend the use of a hatching dish as mentioned in the earlier part. In case you are wondering, using a hatching dish allows you to see your pets in their early stages.

Likewise, it is the closest thing to the natural habitat of the Triops which are temporary ponds. To add to this, given that the newly-hatched Triops are barely visible to the naked eye, it would be easier to see them in a smaller container with the aid of a black piece of paper or cardboard during the first few days. But what we think is the primary benefit of hatching your eggs in a hatching dish is that it will be less difficult for the baby Triops to find food in a smaller area that increases their chance of survival.

When your Triops are already big enough, usually eight days after hatching, you are bound to place them in a larger tank. And selecting a tank is crucial for this since there are specific types of tanks (or even regular plastic or glass containers you probably have at home) that optimize the growth of your prehistoric pets. Read the following tips on changing the water, selecting your tank, maintaining it, and what exactly you can put inside your tank that would help your Triops survive:

Transition From Distilled To Tap/Bottled Water

Using distilled water all throughout the life of your Triops will surely kill it. Newly- hatched Triops need something to feed on which is not present in distilled water. This is the reason why your Triops eggs packets, envelopes, and kits already come with (or are mixed in with) dried sand or gravel and dried plant materials. This provides food for your Triops for the first few days after hatching. Likewise, this is also the reason why some kits contain hatching nutrients. All of these are done to ensure that the Triops are in a contained environment to ensure hatching and survival.

When you see your Triops grow a bit, you may already start adding tap water or regular spring or purified bottled water to your hatching dish/tank (this is also the time wherein you should start considering transferring your Triops to a bigger tank). This allows your Triops to slowly adapt to the environment they will be living in for the rest of their lives. There are a few important things to consider when doing this:

  1. Water Temperature – First is you have to make sure that the tap/bottled water you place in the hatching/tank is of the same temperature as the water that is in it. You can do this simply by placing the tap/bottled water under a light source and use a thermometer to measure the temperature. Another method, which is considerably simpler, is placing the tap/bottled water in a container beside your hatching dish/tank for about an hour before placing the new water in. By doing this the water is roughly the same temperature and will not shock your Triops.
  2. Amount of Water – The amount of tap/bottled water you are to place in your hatching dish/tank should not be more than 25% of the water that is already in it. Do this on a regular basis to ensure that your Triops adapt to this new environment at the right pace. If you’re using a hatching dish, consider transferring your Triops to a tank when your water level is already close to the rim. Make sure that the water temperature of the water in the tank is equal to the one in the hatching dish. Now if you’re already using a tank, don’t fill it up too much and change water only if it is necessary (the details on how to change the water will be discussed later on).

Now whether you can use tap water or not for your Triops has always been an issue among Triops manufacturers, owners, and experts. Some of the Triops owners use tap water while others opt to use cheap bottled water. More important than the water selection, we believe, is the transition from distilled water to tap/bottled water. So it is important that you follow the directions we gave to ensure that you do not shock the Triops with the change of environment.

Selecting The Right Tank

Proper tank selection is vital in ensuring that your Triops survive. But this does not necessarily mean that you have to spend a lot on your tank. Though fish tanks are oftentimes favored by many because it looks more pleasing to the eyes and has clear glass, use of items you may already have on hand is also an option.

What You Can Put In Your Tank

There are a lot of questions as to what exactly can you put in your tank. It has been previously discussed and encouraged, to place aquarium plants in your tank. But the bigger question is what else you can put in. Triops owners want to pamper their pets. It is also important to know that your Triops can survive in an empty container and these additions are optional. Read this list of what you can place in the tanks and tips on when and how to do this correctly:

  • Substrate
  • Aquarium Decorations
  • Other Species
  • Filters and Bubblers
  • Light and Heater

In Summary

It is probable that your prehistoric pets lay eggs during their lifespan. You will see eggs that are pinkish in color on the substrate or attached to the things in the tank. Understand that for these to hatch, you have to dry them first. When your tank is already empty of Triops, remove as much water as you can so that what is left is a little water over the substrate.

It is best if you use a siphon for this most especially if you don’t have substrate, in which you will have to remove as much water as you can while you ensure that the eggs remain on the bottom of your tank. Leave the substrate to dry for about two weeks or more. Know that for your eggs to hatch, the substrate and eggs have to be completely dry. Don’t worry, you can store your substrate and eggs for years to continue the cycle.

Though the lifespan of your Triops may be short, they leave you with eggs for you to hatch out a new generation of prehistoric pets to take care of. Just follow all the instructions, directions and tips we have given you and we’re sure that you will have an endless cycle of prehistoric pets in no time!

Sean B.

Hi, My name is Sean. I’m blogging mostly about freshwater and saltwater aquariums, fish, invertebrates, and plants.