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Fish Tank Basics: A Simple Guide to Copepods and Amphipods

Do you own a saltwater fish tank? Then you’ll know that it is not uncommon to find tiny white bugs swimming around in your tank. There are quite a few things you should know about these critters.

Keep reading to learn more about copepods and amphipods that might be calling your aquarium home. 


These little sea bugs generally appear in your saltwater aquarium system when you have added live rock or sand. During their larvae and juvenile stages, they will most often be free-swimming throughout the tank water. As they age into adults they will settle into the substrate of your tank. 

Copepods can be found in all types of aquatic systems, from freshwater to saltwater, and are one of the many organisms that help make up animal plankton. These creatures help detritus, phytoplankton, and microzooplankton. 


Amphipods are tiny little crustaceans that also enjoy eating the detritus found at the bottom of your fish tank, alongside the glass and even inside your filters. These tiny shrimp-like creatures rarely do any damage to your tank, fish, or coral but the population should be controlled. They can reproduce in large amounts if the conditions in your aquarium are favorable. 

There are very few species of amphipods that are considered to be parasitic and are rarely found in a saltwater fish tank system. 


Copepods and amphipods are an excellent food source for your saltwater aquarium. They are especially a good source of food for seahorses, octopus, and if you are breeding gobies. There are also some fish that enjoy these sea bugs as part of their primary food source. Mainly mandarinfish, sleeper gobies, and sandsifting gobies. 

Some fish species will sift through the substrate of your aquarium and pick at the live rock to get at these sea bugs. This is a great way to help control the population of the copepods and amphipods in your aquarium. 

Introduce Into Your System

If your aquarium doesn’t currently have a good bug population to help sustain your fish then you can introduce them yourself. You can purchase them from your local saltwater fish store or through an online supplier. 

When adding them into your system it is best to acclimate copepods and amphipods from their old environment into their new. The best way to do this is by using a drip acclimation system where you slowly add the water from your fish tank into the water they were shipped or lived in from the store.

Once this has been finished, add them to your fish tank after the lights are out. This is when your fish are less active and they will have a harder time seeing them, allowing them to have enough time to hide and giving you a higher rate of success.

Learn More Today About Copepods and Amphipods!

Copepods and amphipods can be an important sea creature to add to your saltwater aquarium system, depending on what type of marine life you have. They are great at cleaning the various types of detritus in your tank and make a great meal for your fish too. 

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