Cyclops is a buzzword that is sometimes heard when discussing types of live foods for aquarium fish. Yet many people have no idea what they are, what they are used for, or where to get them. Here is the scoop on Cyclops.
Cyclops are tiny copepods, or crustaceans, that are found in many freshwater and saltwater bodies of water. They derive their name from the single eye located in the middle of their head. Another name often used to refer to this tiny crustacean is Water Flea, due to the resemblance of the young Cyclops to fleas found on land.
Cyclops range from 0.5 to 2 mm long, possess antennae, a segmented body, and five pairs of legs. The front section of the adult is oval in shape and includes the head as well as the first five thoracic segments. The rear section, known as a furca, is slimmer and contains the sixth thoracic segment, four abdominal segments, and two caudal appendages that project from the rear. The Cyclops larvae, known as nauplii, are free-swimming and devoid of segments. It is the nauplii that resemble a flea.
The body of the Cyclops takes on the hue, at least in part, from what it eats. Cyclops species can vary in color from blue, green, orange, and red. The single eye may be black but it is quite often red. They are omnivorous, eating algae and a variety of other microscopic debris. On average, they live for about three months. Females are more abundant than males and have paired egg sacs that are carried at the back of the body. When conditions are ideal, Cyclops will rapidly multiply.
Cyclops are found in freshwater ponds as well as in slow-moving bodies of water. They are often found in the same locations where Daphnia is found. Cyclops congregate most heavily in the still areas of water that have algae growth. They are also available to fish enthusiasts in frozen or gel-based formulas. In warm weather, it is possible to culture them in outdoor containers as live food for fish.
Cyclops can be fed to fry as well as adult fish, and make a good quality high protein meal. If live cultures are available, they are the ideal form for feeding fish. Livebearing fish, Killifish, Bettas, Barbs, Danios, Tetras, and even Discus will relish Cyclops as an occasional supplemental food. Bottom feeding Catfish will quickly consume any that drop to the tank floor. Cyclops also make excellent conditioning food when preparing breeders for spawning.