Aquarium Microfauna

Aquarium Microfauna include Rotifers, Copepods, Phytoplankton, and Other Aquarium Microfauna

Aquarium Microfauna

Seahorse eating Aquarium Microfauna
Seahorse Eating Microfauna

Aquarium Microfauna are microscopic organisms that can play a valuable part in an aquarium ecosystem.  These organisms include various species of rotifers, copepods, and phytoplankton both fresh and saltwater.  Although they are not completely necessary, they will benefit an aquarium ecosystem in many ways when allowed to be present.  They act as a nitrogen and nutrient buffer, absorbing nitrates and other contaminants in the aquarium until they can be removed by water changes, filtration, and/or denitrification.  They will also help control algae and actually eat many of the organisms that will cause unwanted algae, bacterial (cloudy water), or diatom blooms.  In coral reef tanks, they will provide abundant food for corals and other filter feeders.  In addition, many fish and virtually all fish fry feed exclusively on copepods, the larger of the microfauna.  Copepods in turn feed on rotifers and phytoplankton.

Bottle of Beneficial Aquarium Microfauna
Bottle of Beneficial Aquarium Microfauna

Buying and maintaining beneficial species of microfauna in the aquarium will help crowd and eliminate out possible unwanted species and they will even help control fish disease as the larger numbers of benign microfauna will feed on unwanted and parasitic organisms.

Saltwater microfauna is commonly available online and links to many different kinds will be posted here.  Freshwater microfauna are harder to find but can be purchased from my friends at  Saltwater Microfauna is more common and many links will be provided here for you from different suppliers.  Microfauna should be added to the Aquarium at night and only after all copper and any medication in the tank has been removed and cleared up (carbon is useful for this.)  They should be slowly acclimated to the aquarium conditions over an hour or so just like any new fish introduced to the aquarium.  To keep a viable population in the Aquarium filter socks less than 200 microns should have about an inch diameter hole cut just off to the side to let some of them pass through the filter.  UV sterilizers should not be used continuously and only used when the microfauna population needs to be controlled.  Otherwise, they will do well in the tank with normal filtration and even denitrification.   If a tank is medicated or a UV sterilizer is used for an extended period of time to control disease then after the tank is clear the microfauna will likely need to be re-introduced to the aquarium.  I recommend adding rotifers, phytoplankton, and at least a couple of species of copepods for the maximum benefit.  Here is a complete package for saltwater aquariums!

Complete SW Aquarium Microfauna kit
Complete SW Aquarium Microfauna Kit for Sale

Coral Reefing Products, LLC
5 Bottle Package – Tisbe Pods, Tiger Pods, Marine Rotifers, Green Phyto(Nannochloropsis Oculata) and Gold Phyto(Isochrysis Galbana)
This Complete Live Package Includes:
600+ Live Tisbe Pods(Tisbe biminiensis)
500+ Live Tiger Pods(Tigriopus californicus)
8 oz. Bottle Marine Rotifers
8 oz. Bottle Live Green Phyto(Nannochloropsis Oculata)
8 oz. Bottle Live Gold Phyto(Isochrysis galbana)

Tiger Pods are microfauna loaded with crude fat and protein. Fish are drawn to the pods swimming through the water. Even troublesome feeders suck as Mandarin Gobies, Scooter Blennies, Anthias, and Butterfly Fish can’t resist our Live Tiger Pods. Tiger Pods can also greatly increase the color and appearance of the fish and coral in your aquarium. Loaded with beta-Carotene, brighter pigmentation will result in most any animals that eat Tiger Pods.

Tisbe Pods are a popular aquarium microfauna food source for many animals, including but not limited to mandarin gobies and other dragonettes, most carnivorous reef fish, young seahorses soft corals & many hard corals. As a colony flourishes in an aquarium, they are effective detritavores, eating excess detritus, fish food, some animal waste, etc., thus helping to the clean the aquarium.

Many often forget the need for live phytoplankton, relying purely on a zooplankton diet. Without a premium phytoplankton diet, the base of the food chain suffers, thus affecting everything in the system. Additionally, many clams, gorgonians & other coral filter out only Phytoplankton, thus zooplankton diets are useless for these particular animals. Besides being a food source that generates the natural food for all tropic levels, Phytoplankton absorbs undesirable chemicals present in many reef aquariums, such as ammonia, nitrite, nitrates, phosphates, silicates, etc.

Live Rotifers and their eggs are a highly nutritious food source for your hard corals, young fish and macro inverts. Packed with protein, our Live Rotifers will promote the growth of most animals in your aquarium.

Aquarium Microfauna – Rotifers

Aquarium Microfauna rotifer
Aquarium Microfauna Rotifer

Rotifers are small aquarium microfauna that contain both fresh and saltwater species.  They are among the smallest members of the Metazoa — that group of multicellular animals which includes humans, and whose bodies are organized into systems of organs.  Most rotifers are about 0.5mm in length or less, and their bodies have a total of around a thousand cells. Their organ systems are a greatly simplified version of the organ systems found in the bodies of the higher animals.

A typical rotifer might have a brain of perhaps fifteen cells with associated nerves and ganglia, a stomach of much the same number, an excretory system of only a dozen or so cells, and a similarly fundamental reproductive system.  Despite their complexity, many rotifers are much smaller than common single-celled organisms whose world they share.

Aquarium Microfauna Rotifer in Motion
Rotifer in Motion

Their most distinctive feature is the corona — usually in the form of two lobes surrounded by beating cilia, which give a vivid impression of rapidly rotating wheels. The current created by the corona brings food particles to the mouth, and when the rotifer releases the grip of its foot, they act as twin propellers, transporting the rotifer rapidly from one place to another.

Rotifers have at least two other remarkable qualities. Firstly, they are able to survive long periods — even perhaps hundreds of years — in a dried or frozen state, and will resume normal behaviour when rehydrated or thawed.
Secondly, they exhibit what biologists call cell constancy — they grow in size not by cell division, but by increase in the size of the cells which they already have.  A rotifer ends its life with the same number of cell nuclei with which it was born!

Ecologically speaking, this type of aquarium microfauna plays an important contributory role in the natural water purification process.  The diet of rotifers also consists of dead or decomposing organic materials, as well as unicellular algae and other phytoplankton. Such feeding habits make some rotifers primary consumers. Rotifers are in turn prey to carnivorous secondary consumers, including shrimp and crabs.

Saltwater Rotifers for Sale
Saltwater Rotifers for Sale

Faremax Trading Co.  AT Rotifer Delight – Live Rotifers (10 oz)

Food for Copepods, Rotifers (zooplankton), Soft Corals, Clams, and other Filter Feeders

Super Nutritious. No Preservatives or Additives .Harvested Daily to Insure Freshness

Free Priority Mail Shipping Which Rotifers Do You Stock? We stock (Brachionus plicatilis) which is the “L” strain which range in size from 150-360 microns. Unlike brine shrimp or pods, they cannot be easily seen with the naked eye. With the rotifers in a clear container and the water perfectly still, shine a flash light to the side of the container. The rotifers should be visible as tiny specks swimming around when viewed from the surface of the water. Storage DO NOT FREEZE! Keep refrigerated for up to 7 days between 34° – 39°F (1 – 4°C). After 7 days majority of your rotifers will be dead.

Aquarium Microfauna Rotifers
Coral Reefing Rotifers

Coral Reefing Products, LLC – 8 oz. Live Marine Rotifers

LIVE SALTWATER PRODUCT, reproduces readily in reef aquariums

High in protein and crude fat, aids in rapid growth!

Excellent detritivores, feeds on excess waste in aquarium.  Feeds hard corals, young fish and macro inverts.

Aquarium Microfauna – Copepods

Aquarium Microfauna copepod
Aquarium Microfauna Copepod

These aquarium microfauna are very diverse and are the most numerous metazoans in the water community.  Copepods live virtually anywhere where there is water.  There are tens of thousands of species.  The can be found anywhere from fresh water to hyper-saline conditions, from subterranean caves to water in leaves or leaf litter on the ground and from streams, rivers, and lakes to the sediment layer in the open ocean.  The usual length of adults is 1-2 mm, but adults of some species may be as short as 0.2mm and others may be as long as 10mm. Ecologically they are important links in the food chain linking everything from microscopic algal cells to juvenile fish to whales.

Copepods eat and are eaten. Tiny copepods (the smallest look like specks of dust) live most everywhere in the ocean in numbers too vast to count. They’re a key link in ocean food webs. They eat diatoms and other phytoplankton—and are eaten in turn by larger drifters, larval fishes and filter feeders. Copepods may even be the most abundant single species of animal on Earth.

Cope is greek meaning an “oar” or “paddle;” pod is Greek for “foot.” Copepods have antennae and appendages that are used like paddles for movement. Some species swim in a jerky fashion, while others move more smoothly.

A single copepod may eat from 11,000 to 373,000 diatoms in 24 hours and so are very useful along with rotifers to control a diatom outbreak in the aquarium.

Copepods are tiny crustaceans, so they are cousins of crayfish and water fleas. You can see them with your eyes in the right conditions, but they don’t get much bigger than 2 millimeters. If the aquarium and the room it is in is dark and you shine a flashlight in it you will see them attracted towards the light like moths to a porch light.

Some live near the surface or in shallow water with lots of plants, but they also sometimes hang out on the bottom.  Like their crustacean cousins, these aquarium microfauna have two main body parts: cephalothorax and abdomen. They have ten legs, which they use for swimming. The abdomen is like a rudder and helps the copepod steer.

Copepods eat other tiny plankton organisms, including: bacteria, protozoans, (amoeba, paramecium, euglena, etc.), tiny insect larvae (including mosquitoes), rotifers, and other crustaceans. They will even eat other copepods! Copepods also eat tiny bits of plant and animal matter floating in the current.

Female copepods are much larger than males.  Copepods can occur in huge numbers, sometimes over 1,000 copepods have been found in one liter of water. Predators of copepods include other plankton eaters; such as fish, amphibians (tadpoles and newts), water fleas, rotifers, and aquatic insects.  They are an important part of the diet of most fish fry.

There are numerous species of copepods available for the home aquarist available.

aquarium microfauna copepods tisbee pods for sale
SW Aquarium Copepods for Sale

AlgaeBarn – Tisbee Pods, 3,000+ Live Marine Copepods Tisbe biminiensis Coral Reef Fish Food

Contains Live Nutritious Tisbe biminiensis Copepods

Seed Your Aquarium with a “Copepod Clean-Up Crew” & Feed Finicky Fish

Premium live food for Mandarin Dragonets, Seahorses, LPS, SPS & NPS Corals, Wrasses, Anthias, Pipefish, Clown Fish, Blennies, Clams, & other Finicky Fish & Inverts

Cleans your tank by consuming detritus, fish waste, and invasive algae naturally

100% Alive On Arrival Guarantee.

Aquarium Microfauna mixed copepods
6000 Mixed Saltwater Copepods for Sale!

AQUACULTURE NURSERY FARMS – Copepods 6,000+ Pods Tisbe + Tigger Pods Mix. Live Fish Food for Mandarrin, Seahorse.

Live Copepod portions come loaded with a mix of Tiger Pods and Tisbe Pods. Why buy copepods of these two types mixed? This Copepod mix has the two best types of aquarium microfauna to feed Mandarin Fish, Seahorses and Fish larvae fry and many other planktonic feeding fish and corals. Add some Amphipods to your order and you have the perfect combination. Tigger Copepods and Tisbe Copepods are one of the hardiest types that have the best chance of reproducing and establishing a breeding colony in your aquarium environment if you feed them some live phytoplankton algae cells once a week. Buy some of our concentrated live phytoplankton called “PHYTOPREME” to go along with your live copepods. Tiger Pods will crawl and swim around the aquarium and become a natural live fish food source for mandarin fish food, dragonettes, gobies, blennies, and Seahorse food, etc. This species is one of the hardier copepods. It will adapt readily to differing conditions in the home aquarium and establish a breeding colony in and among your live rock and refugium. They are also one of the fastest, more prolific breeders. You receive all different stages of development. Nauplii to breeding adults. Comes with instructions for introducing to your aquarium, refugium and for short term culturing. Live phytoplankton needed. Phytopreme Live is a concentrated blend of 6 live phytoplankton micro algae types. Phytopreme Live is also a great food for and will benefit many other tank inhabitants like corals, clams, scallops, filter feeders, feather dusters, gargonians etc.. Arrive Alive Guarantee: We guarantee you will receive our live specimens alive. For this guarantee to be valid we must be notified of any issues within 2 hours of delivery time. If this condition is met we will resend the item at no cost to you.

Aquarium Microfauna – Phytoplankton

Aquarium Microfauna Phytoplankton
Aquarium Microfauna Phytoplankton

Derived from the Greek words phyto (plant) and plankton (made to wander or drift), phytoplankton are photosynthetic aquarium microfauna that live in both Fresh and Saltwater environments.

Some phytoplankton are bacteria, some are protists, and most are single-celled plants. Among the common kinds are cyanobacteria, silica-encased diatoms, dinoflagellates, green algae, and others.  Cyanobacteria and diatoms are generally considered unwanted in and aquarium ecosystem but having some benign green algae in the tank can help crowd out unwanted bacterial and phytoplankton blooms as well as provide needed nutrients for corals and other microfauna. 

Like land plants, phytoplankton have chlorophyll to capture sunlight, and they use photosynthesis to turn it into chemical energy. They consume carbon dioxide, and release oxygen. All phytoplankton photosynthesize, but some get additional energy by consuming other organisms.

Phytoplankton growth depends on the availability of carbon dioxide, sunlight, and nutrients. Phytoplankton, like land plants, require nutrients such as nitrate, phosphate, silicate, and calcium at various levels depending on the species. They also require trace amounts of iron which limits phytoplankton growth in large areas of the ocean because iron concentrations are very low.

Through photosynthesis, phytoplankton consume carbon dioxide on a scale equivalent to forests and other land plants. Some of this carbon is carried to the deep ocean when phytoplankton die, and some is transferred to different layers of the ocean as phytoplankton are eaten by other creatures, which themselves reproduce, generate waste, and die.

Phytoplankton can also be purchased and “spot fed” corals and other filter feeders in the aquarium.

Aquarium microfauna PhytoPlankton
Seachem PhytoPlankton for Sale

Seachem – Reef Phytoplankton, 500 mL / 16.9 fl. oz.

A Concentrated Blend Of Green And Brown Marine Phytoplankton aquarium microfauna.

Natural Source Of Carotenoids For Coloration; Enhanced To Increase The Bioavailability Of Important Nutrients Such As Protein, Lipids And Others

No refrigeration required and no added dyes or synthetic pigments

Blended With The Proper Ratio Of Fatty Acids, Carbohydrates, And Proteins Thus Corals Expend Less Energy To Derive Nutritional Benefit

Provides Essential Fatty Acids, Proteins, Vitamins, Amino Acids, With Biological Carotenoids For Invertebrate Diet

aquarium microfauna plankton
SW Aquarium Plankton for Sale

Faremax Trading Co. – AT Plankton Delight – Live Marine Phytoplankton Food for Fish, Rotifers, Copepods and other Aquarium Tank Animals

Description Phytoplankton are microscopic organisms that inhabit the upper sunlit layer of almost all oceans and bodies of fresh water. Phytoplankton serve as the base of the aquatic food web, providing an essential ecological function for all aquatic life. Clams (and other bivalves), soft corals, sponges, zooplankton and copepods are all known to feed directly on phytoplankton. Ingredients Proprietary blend of live Nannochloropsis oculata, Isochrysis Galbana (T-iso), Tetraselmis chuii and Dunaliella tertiolecta plankton for a perfect balance of proteins, carbohydrates and lipids, including DHA, EPA, ArA and others. This product is 100% Natural, with no additives or preservatives. About 30,700,000 cells per milliliter. Grown under strain-specific protocols to increase lipid and protein production. Nannochloropsis oculata is guaranteed to provide at least 50% lipid content (mostly EPA fatty acid) and 20% protein content; Isochrysis galbana provides at least 17% lipid content (mostly DHA) and 25% of protein content; Tetraselmis provides at least 17% lipid content including minimum 4% of ArA. Directions Before use, shake bottle, shut skimmer off and dose. Wait one hour to re-start skimmer. Dosage Recommended dose is 1 ml per 1 gallon of aquarium water three times a week. You cannot overfeed, as these are live Phytoplankton, which if not consumed immediately will remain alive in your tank.

Other Aquarium Microfauna

aquarium microfauna diatom outbreak
Diatom Outbreak

There are other types of aquarium microfauna that are not generally considered desirable.  For example, diatoms are a very common type of phytoplankton but when there are too many diatoms it will create a type of “brown algae” outbreak.  This is fairly common in new saltwater aquariums.  The easy solution is to add a comprehensive aquarium microfauna package to the aquarium like the one below.

Complete SW Aquarium Microfauna kit
Complete SW Aquarium Microfauna kit

Coral Reefing Products, LLC
5 Bottle Package – Tisbe Pods, Tiger Pods, Marine Rotifers, Green Phyto(Nannochloropsis Oculata) and Gold Phyto(Isochrysis Galbana)
This Complete Live Package Includes:
600+ Live Tisbe Pods(Tisbe biminiensis)
500+ Live Tiger Pods(Tigriopus californicus)
8 oz. Bottle Marine Rotifers
8 oz. Bottle Live Green Phyto(Nannochloropsis Oculata)
8 oz. Bottle Live Gold Phyto(Isochrysis galbana)


aquarium microfauna parasites
Aquarium Parasites

Other types of undesirable aquarium microfauna include various parasites.  Again, keeping a healthy population of desirable and harmless microfauna will minimize the potential for any parasite population to take hold.


There are also microorganism called amphipods that are visible to the naked eye.  Some are harmless but some will bother fish and be parasitic and are often called “water fleas.”  In general if they are big enough to be seen clearly with the naked eye you probably don’t want it.  Cleaner shrimp and many types of fish will make a meal out of these larger unwanted critters.