Skip to main content

Triops as Pets: How to Raise, Feed, Breed, Care For, and More

Lady Rain works as a daytime stock trader and writes about crafts and hobbies. She likes travelling and making papercraft models.

A pair of adult Triops australiensis.

A pair of adult Triops australiensis.

Introduction to Triops

Triops are prehistoric critters that existed before the dinosaurs. They look a bit like tadpoles with shields, hence they are also known as the tadpole shrimp and shield shrimp. Most Triops are hermaphrodites, which means their eggs do not need to be fertilized and will still hatch into little baby triops.

There are many species. The common species are Triops australiensis, Triops granarius, Triops cancriformis, Triops longicaudatus, Triops newberryi, and so on. Triops can be found in the wild in areas where bodies of water tend to evaporate and dry up for several weeks or months. Then, the rain pours from heaven to drench those areas and bring back new life—including hatching Triops eggs that were laid before the drought.

Cool Critters

Triops means "three eyes," and that is what these little creatures appeared to have. They have a pair of compound eyes and in addition, there is a third eye in between the two eyes. Even though Triops have three eyes, they have poor eyesight!

They have many legs which act as antennae for finding food and for breathing. Triops can also move food around with their legs until the food reaches their mouths. Half of the time, they can be seen swimming upside down, just like brine shrimp.

Closeup look at a triops.

Closeup look at a triops.

Triops Diet

Triops are omnivores; they eat anything including each other if there is no other food available. In their natural habitat, they feed on plant matter, algae, daphnia and mosquito larvae. Their appetite is enormous, they eat ferociously at all times in order to grow and breed at a fast rate. Unsurprisingly the lifespan of a triops is really short.

The Life Cycle of Triops

A newly hatched Triops is so tiny, just a small little dot wriggling in the water. However, it grows quickly and doubles in size every day until it reaches adult size. Most mature in two weeks and will start laying eggs. They can only live up to three months, but some of them die after laying eggs several times. The adults of the Triops australiensis species can grow up to 7 cm long, while other species like the Triops cancriformis grow up to 11 cm long.

Triops in an aquarium with coarse sand.

Triops in an aquarium with coarse sand.

The Molting Process

In order to grow, they have to shed off their exoskeletons. This process is called molting, just like what hermit crabs and other crustaceans do. Young Triops can shed off their exoskeletons every day so that they can grow quickly. The process of molting is also very quick (typically lasting several minutes); they then become a little bigger, thicker and darker in color after shedding off their exoskeletons. Some may get injured or trapped by their own skin if they do not shed off their exoskeletons successfully. In the end, the creature dies due to stress and starvation.

Molting can be beautiful . . . yet deadly!

Discarded exoskeleton of an adult triops looks like a ghost image of the triops.

Discarded exoskeleton of an adult triops looks like a ghost image of the triops.

Triops Eggs

The eggs of the Triops can stay dormant for years and decades; that is probably why they have existed since the prehistoric times. The structure of the eggs is similar to the eggs of brine shrimp (famously known as sea monkeys); they have a special layer of covering that protects the eggs from extreme temperatures and drought. In the wild, the eggs go through a drying phase or drought before the next generation is hatched again when the summer rain returns.

Keeping Triops as Pets

Dried eggs are sold in Triops kits similar to sea monkey kits. The eggs can be hatched and raised as pets for kids to learn and enjoy. The success rate of keeping them as pets is sometimes quite low for the inexperienced pet owner. The eggs require certain conditions in order to hatch successfully. The water conditions are very important; there should not be any trace of minerals in the water. Tap water is a "no," same with mineral water. Rain water contains certain polluted elements; sometimes the eggs do not hatch either. Bottled spring water is highly recommended. The optimum temperature is above 23°C for the eggs to hatch. Once hatched, they will survive at temperatures between 23°C to 32°C. A sudden fluctuation in the temperature of the water can also kill the Triops, so it is quite a challenge when changing the aquarium water.

Caring for Your Pet Triops

A kit usually comes with a small plastic aquarium, shallow container, eggs, some food for the babies and adults, a small bag of leaf litter and instructions. The leaf litter is added to the water in a shallow container before the eggs are added. The eggs will hatch in 24-48 hours if the water temperature is warm enough. Newly hatched triops look like water fleas wriggling around and they do not need to be fed until after three days. The babies will double in size every day. They start to develop a shell when they are around three days old and resemble adults.

Baby food is included in the kit. When they are around six days old, they can be fed with the adult food provided. Other food like fish pellets, carrots, daphnia and dried shrimps can be given to the Triops as they grow. Around the eighth day, they will be strong enough to be transferred to the plastic aquarium.

The aquarium water needs to be kept clean at all times. Waste matter and uneaten food should be removed once or twice a day, otherwise, the water becomes dirty and very cloudy. Care must be taken when changing the aquarium water. Remove no more than one-third of the water each time and add in the same amount of clean spring water. If the water is very cloudy, wait at least 10 minutes before repeating the water change.

Substrate for the Aquarium

Small pebbles or sand can be used as substrate. Aquarium sand without mineral traces and coral sand are most suitable substrate. Sand from beaches and builder's sand is not suitable as they contain a lot of other elements that are toxic to Triops.

Triops Reproduction

When adult Triops mature in around 14 days, they will start to lay eggs if there is a layer of substrate in the aquarium. A pair of egg sacs start to develop on the underside of their bodies. They will start to dig the sand when it is almost ready to lay some eggs. The digging increases when eggs are being laid and get buried in the sand. This is nature's way of hiding the eggs from other predators in the wild. The young sometimes lay their eggs twice a day. As they get older and older, eggs are laid once a day and then less frequent until they finally reach the end of their very short lives.

Collecting Triops Eggs

Triops will leave behind hundreds of eggs in the substrate. The eggs are visible under a magnifying glass. They are light brown or beige in color. The eggs need to be dried before they are able to hatch the next generation.

Carefully pour away the aquarium water and leave the sand to dry out completely. It takes around two weeks to dry the sand and eggs. The sand and eggs can then be kept in an airtight container and the eggs will be viable for many years.

To hatch some eggs again, pour some bottled spring water in a small container and add in one tablespoon of the sand. Under the right conditions, you will get baby triops again.

How to Grow Triops Into Adults

How to Grow Triops Into Adults

First things first: you need to buy a Triops kit that comes with eggs and all the items for keeping them. I got my first Triops kit from Australian Geographic as we are not allowed to import the eggs into Australia due to quarantine issues.

Hatching the Eggs

  • Fill a shallow container with 300 mL of bottled spring water.
  • Add one teaspoon of leaf litter to the container of water.
  • Add in about 20 eggs.
  • Keep the hatching container in a warm place with bright light.
  • The eggs should hatch in 24 to 48 hours under the right conditions. Sometimes only one or two eggs will hatch; you'll be very lucky to get half a dozen babies.
  • The instructions that came with the kit say to feed the babies on day one but I wait until the hatchlings are 3 days old and swimming freely. Reason: The leaf litter dissolves in the water and produces liquid food for the babies. Adding solid food to the water will only pollute the water and kill the babies.

Feeding and Caring for the Babies

  • After three days, crush a small pellet of solid baby food and add a tiny amount in the water to feed them.
  • After a few hours, remove any uneaten food and other waste with a pipette.
  • If the water in the container has not evaporated much, leave it alone. Otherwise, add in a few drops of clean spring water, but not too much. A sudden change in water condition can also kill the babies, that includes adding too much clean water at a time.
  • Feed the babies twice a day with small amount of food.
  • Do the same for the next few days. Increase the amount of food if required. Clean up the uneaten food and waste. Add in some clean water.
  • After one week, your triops should be at least 5 mm big and eating well. You may have only one left in the container if it hasn't already cannibalized all the other siblings, if any.
  • It is time to feed adult pellets to the Triops. Feed half a pellet at a time depending on how big they are.
  • The water will start to get a little cloudy. Change about a third of the water every day.

The Big Move

  • After eight days, they are ready to be moved to the plastic tank that comes with the kit.
  • Wash the sand with spring water and put it on the bottom of the plastic tank.
  • Fill the tank to two-thirds full with spring water.
  • Float the hatching container of Triops on top of the tank of water for at least ten minutes to equalize the water temperatures.
  • Pour some of the water from the hatching container into the tank without tipping them out.
  • Fill back the hatching container with some tank water. This is to acclimatize them to the water in the tank.
  • Repeat pouring and filling the small container with tank water a few times.
  • Finally, gently pour them into the bigger tank.
  • Let the Triops settle in their new environment for a couple of hours before feeding them.
  • In order to keep them healthy, continue to feed them twice a day, remove the waste on the bottom of the tank and do the daily water changes.
A healthy adult Triops.

A healthy adult Triops.

Have you had Triops as pets before?

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

Question: How do I tell between Triop eggs and dirt?

Answer: The eggs are round and light brown in color, whereas the dirt and waste are not.

Question: Can I start the pet Triops kit at night?

Answer: You can start the Triops kit at any time, as long as the conditions for hatching Triops eggs are right.

Question: Is it alright if my Triop eggs don't hatch in between 24-48 hours?

Answer: Yes, some eggs do take a little longer to hatch but they shouldn't take more than a week though.

Question: How do I determine if there is dirt inside of my triops' tank?

Answer: Stir the water. If there are clumps of green and brown particles floating around, that's dirt!

Question: How do you remove the waste from a triops tank?

Answer: Waste matter can be removed with a pipette.

Question: Can i use bottled tap water that is the right temperature for a pet triops?

Answer: There are minerals in bottled tap water that are not suitable for the triops.

Question: How to get a triops that breeds itself?

Answer: If you are able to hatch some triops eggs, there shouldn't be a problem breeding more triops.

Question: Can I put my Triops in with my pet fish?

Answer: I would not recommend putting Triops with fish. The water conditions in a fish tank may not be suitable for the Triops. Some fish will eat them almost immediately!

Question: I am moving to a different city, how should I move my pet Triops with?

Answer: If you are moving to a different place by car, you can bring your pet Triops in their pet aquarium.

Question: I've put my Triop eggs in the water to hatch, but they are just floating on the top is this alright?

Answer: Yes, it's alright for Triops eggs to float in the water. Just make sure the eggs do not stick to the side of the container and get dried up.

Question: How do I know if my Triops' tank water has minerals?

Answer: If the tank water you are using is not mineral-free spring water, there will be minerals in the water.

Question: Do you need to put water filters for the Triops' oxygen?

Answer: The Triops are fine without water filters. When you do water changes and add in clean water regularly, that's good enough.

Question: There is a cloud of clear goo-looking stuff around my triope eggs that have been in the water for 24 hours. Is that mold?

Answer: It's hard to tell if that is mold but I don't think mold grows within 24 hours. Observe the eggs for 48 hours and check if there are any newly hatched triops babies in the water.

Question: Where do you keep your pet triops?

Answer: The adult triops are kept in a small fish tank measuring 25cm by 15cm. If you buy the Triops kit, a plastic tank is included in the kit.

Question: How do I change my triops' tank without hurting the triops?

Answer: You can refer to the article above and follow the instructions mentioned in "The Big Move".

Question: Will the triops eat each other if they are hungry enough?

Answer: Yes, they will kill each other to survive!

Question: 4 days ago, I somehow got about a hundred triopes to hatch from my kit. Do you think I should move them from the small tank included in the kit to a 1-gallon tank so they have more room to eat and avoid eating each other?

Answer: Wow, that's awesome! It is rather tricky to move new babies because of the change in water temperature. Another way to prevent overcrowding is to put some of them in a separate container with the same water from the small tank. Hopefully you'll get to raise a lot of them to adulthood.

Question: What happens if one of the Triops dies?

Answer: If there are a few triops in the tank and one of them dies, just remove the dead one to avoid contamination.

Question: Do triops need bright light?

Answer: Natural indirect light should be sufficient for the triops.

Question: Does a triops need a lamp or natural light?

Answer: If there is at least eight hours of natural lighting during the day, there is no need to use the lamp.

Question: Do I have to leave the light on for the baby triops at night?

Answer: Yes, you leave the light on for the baby triops at night. If there is not enough natural lighting during the day, you can leave the light on until the triops are bigger.

Question: Do Triops have genders?

Answer: Triops are hermaphrodites which means they are both genders. So, if you have two triops, you don't have to worry if they are male or female, and they can still reproduce.

Question: Can triops live in cold water?

Answer: Yes, triops can survive in cold water provided the surrounding temperature is not freezing cold!

Question: Where can I buy the Triop eggs in Australia?

Answer: Australian Geographic stores sell the Triops kit. Check out this link:

Question: Can I use previous aquarium gravel substrate?

Answer: Yes, I have used previous substrate and it worked fine.

Question: Can you use a water filter for fish instead of changing the water every day?

Answer: Water filter is not advisable if the triops are very small.

Question: How do you know if a triops is a male or female?

Answer: An adult female triops will have egg sacs on the underside of the body.

Question: How often should I feed my triops?

Answer: Adult triops should be fed twice a day.

Question: What’s a Triops lifespan?

Answer: The lifespan of a healthy triops is two to three months.

Question: My triops eggs are bright pink colour is that supposed to be like that?

Answer: Triops eggs can be of any color from white to orange, brown or black, so I am not surprised if they are pink or red color!

Question: What do I do if my Triops aren't hatching, even under the right conditions?

Answer: If triops eggs are not hatching, they may not have been stored properly and not viable.

Question: Will play sand kill Triops?

Answer: Play sand has high amount of minerals that can kill triops so it is not suitable for triops.

Question: Can you breed triops from different sellers?

Answer: It is possible but I have not tried doing that!

Question: I think one of my triops had an unsuccessful molt and is now trapped and stuck to the exoskeleton and some other gunk. Should I leave my half-molted triop alone or try to help separate it?

Answer: Unfortunately, unsuccessful molt is usually associated with triops that are not so healthy, so there is nothing much you can do about it.

© 2018 lady rain