Or why would you want to keep them as pets?
by Chip Hannum
As the link that led me to my fascination with the notostrocans said, “they’re kind of like Sea-Monkeys, but bigger and a whole lot cooler.” That little phrase sums up a lot. Triops are primarily marketed to the same audience as Sea-Monkeys, boys aged about 8 – 15, and for the same reasons, cool, scientific, and disposable pets. The marketing scheme is largely built around the “instant-pet” model. This, in my opinion, is a serious misreading of their potential audience.
The appeal of triops as pets is the same as any other unusual aquarium inhabitant. People spend millions annually on aquarium supplies to raise sea anemones, corals, African cichilids, discus, fancy goldfish, marine gobies, and so on. No one blinks an eye at these “legitimate” expressions of the aquaria hobby, but set up an aquarium dedicated to triops and you’ll find yourself called the “Triops Guy” by your wife’s friends.
Triops are as attractive as many popular fish. T. longicaudatus is silver colored with a mother-of-pearl sheen and sometimes patterned with darker pigments. It has a deep golden colored triangle marking on the “forehead” where the carapace is attached to the body. T. cancriformis is a golden to golden-brown colored creature often with much more pronounced patterning from darker pigments. They may not be mandarin gobies in the beauty department, but let’s see you raise mandarin gobies in an old spaghetti sauce jar on your desk. They also possess a quasi-muppet cuteness about them that I, at least, find appealing.
Triops grow as large as most freshwater community fish and they do so in a day to day manner that always amazes. Their behaviour is as interesting as almost any fish and they do engage in those “aqua-batics” as Triops, Inc. claims on their packaging. Their Klingon behavior with one another also never ceases to entertain.
Nothing like watching one of your triops parade happily about the tank carrying the head of one of its dead comrades like some bizarre trophy while it cannibalizes it to bring a lump to your throat. They are easy to care for and maintain, plus they require a minimum of equipment, space and cost. Unlike fish, you don’t need to get anyone to take care of the tank when you leave town for a month – just drain it and refill it when you get back to start the process over again.
Depending upon your outlook, their lifecycle can be a bonus. When it comes to those pets that you can’t really spend time interacting with, one of the major attractions is setting up their habitat and watching its development. Maintenance, at least for me, is of far more limited appeal. Triops avoid that.
In a span of 4 – 8 weeks you watch them go from tiny larvae to large prehistoric looking creatures that devour everything they can. For this time you watch them do their thing, you watch them reproduce, and then you watch them die. Then, you watch them do it again. It is a cycle of endless flux which never stagnates and is never wholly predictable. They have sort of a bizarre “farming” appeal to them. Always there are the questions of just how many will hatch, how many will survive, how big can they’ll grow them this time, how long they’ll live, and so on.
The other bonus of their life cycle is no real commitment. Even something as seemingly inocuous as a goldfish could demand years of care from you. With triops, if you want to take a break, it’s as easy as letting one generation die and not refilling the tank until you’re ready for more. Heck, you could drain the tank, sock some gravel and eggs away in a drawer, raise guppies in their tank until you realize what a mistake you’ve made, and start over with the triops. Although marketing them primarily as such is misleading, they truly are instant-pets.