Figured this would be a helpful guide for anyone here interested in raising triops

Treading Oxygen

Symptoms: Your Triops are at the surface for long periods, belly-up, and either in one spot or skimming along.

Cause: Lack of oxygen.

Details: The important phrase here is “for long periods.” Skimming the surface upside-down is not necessarily an indicator of problems. Many Triops do this occasionally to filter feed or just “because they can.” However, in a smaller tank with stagnant water it usually indicates oxygen levels have dropped below their comfort zone. This is not a reason for panic. Triops can live in water with as little oxygen as 1 part per million. To put this in perspective, hot desert pools rarely make it below 2 parts per million.

Remedy: As an immediate fix, change a quarter of the water in the container with fresh water. Although not required, it helps to oxygenate the fresh water by filling up a bottle halfway and shaking it for a couple of minutes. Longer term fixes involve transferring your Triops to a larger tank and/or adding a aerator (bubble rod/block) to your tank.

Swimming Sideways

Symptoms: Your Triops are kind of freaking out. Instead of grubbing in the sand they are swimming sideways a lot in open water and bouncing between the sides of the tank. They do not seem to be able to figure out where they are. Oddly, only some are doing this, while others continue their usual digging.

Cause: Most likely due to an additional light source at the front, back, or side of the tank that is stronger than the light source above the tank.

Details: Triops have three eyes. The neat, somewhat evil looking eyes at the front are usually black and apparently offer near-sighted vision with which they survey their immediate surroundings. Immediate is pretty literal here, as anyone who has ever raised Triops can tell you they tend to swim into just about everything in their way. Their third eye is usually silvery-white, dome-shaped, and located above and in between the other eyes. This eye is used to sense light. For Triops light generally indicates the surface of the pool. Since light diffuses and scatters in water we can assume that the strongest source of light indicates the surface. In cases where the light above your tank is dimmed or off and another light source is prominent your Triops may get confused and act accordingly. Triops with less or no exposure to the stronger light source, like those under rocks or digging in sand, will behave normally until the do get exposed. Sunlight is very strong and can easily overpower your tank light. This is not necessarily a problem if it enters the tank evenly and from a top angle.

Remedy: Make sure that the tank light is the predominant light source. If your tank stands in front of a window and you experience these problems, add a backdrop to your tank on the window side.

Immobilized but Alive

Symptoms: Your Triops are lying around or floating at the surface and all they do is move their legs, even when lightly touched.

Cause: This may be indicative of environmental poisoning and must be taken serious.

Details: Although adult Triops are massively adaptable to changes in temperature and water quality, there are levels where they can no longer function. Water that is way too alkaline or veers towards acidic will poison your Triops and cause the above symptoms. The same goes for rising levels of Ammonia, Nitrates, and Nitrites. Often, combinations of these appear.

Remedy: Especially if your water is cloudy and/or smelly, even before you test it or do anything else, immediately move your Triops to a holding tank with clean water (preferably the same kind of water they were raised in – never distilled water or tap water). Once in clean water they will recover, although this may take many hours. Add more oxygenated water when you can. Triops will go through various stages of recovery, including spastic freak-outs, back-looping, laying on their backs, and periods of “sleep” with minimal leg movement that may look like they won’t make it. Be patient. They will make it.

Back Looping

Symptoms: Your Triops is swimming in backward circles without any care for objects in its way. Even if it sometimes stops swimming, its tail remains curved upwards.

Cause: This may be a symptom of chemical poisoning, or a stage in the recovery of a more extensive poisoning.

Details: None.

Remedy: If recovering from environmental poisoning in a tank of clean water, nothing more can be done. It is a stage that can last anywhere from a few minutes to several hours. If this behavior occurs without any apparent reason, immediately isolate the Triops in a holding tank with clean water (preferably the same kind of water they were raised in – never distilled water or tap water). Test the water in the tank it came from for Ph, Ammonia, total Alkalinity, Nitrate, and Nitrite. If there is a problem, move the rest of your Triops to safety and fix it.


Symptoms: Sometimes and for what looks like absolutely no reason your Triops go all spastic. This sometimes lasts only a second, at other times it lasts longer or happens intermittently.

Cause: This can be for a variety of reasons, so observation is needed to determine what exactly is going on.

Details: Here are some possible reasons for why Triops spasm:

When Triops molt, they start the process with disoriented movements, followed by a series of what look like sit-up exercises and a short burst of spasms that shake the skin off. After molting, Triops will appear disoriented and may still spasm every now and then. Look for floating skin nearby. Alternately, Triops Longicaudatus have light colored spots to the sides of their “face” that flush bright pink after molting. Other Triops species may show the same.

Triops tend to spasm and freak in the presence of toxins or as a stage in recovering from poisoning. If your drop something into your tank and your Triops go bonkers, take it out immediately and keep an eye on them. The same goes if this happens even when you just dip your pinky in the water. Example: if you add Broccoli (and likely any type of cabbage) to your tank, your Triops will react instantly. Leave the Broccoli in the tank and you will kill your Triops. Another example: wash your hands with soap, germ-killer, or detergent and rinse thoroughly. Then dip your finger in the tank for a second. Your Triops will react instantly. This happened for me with a 10 gallon tank.

Sometimes Triops just spasm for the same reason that they do a lot of weird things: because they can.

Remedy: Never underestimate your Triops’ sensitivity to chemicals of any kind. If anything chemical related is indicated, treat like an environmental poisoning. Do not hesitate to move your Triops to safety and, if need be, clean and re-do your tank.

Dive Bombing

Symptoms: Your Triops lazily swims upwards, seems to go into a coma and falls backwards in slow-motion like it’s in the Matrix. It regains composure somewhere halfway or when it bumps into something – most notably the ground.

Cause: Unknown.

Details: I have seen completely healthy Triops do this in a clean environment, without any bad side- or after-effects. On the other hand, I have also read reports of Triops dying shortly after this behavior.

Remedy: Unknown.