The Lifecycle of a Copepod

Maybe you use copepods to feed your fish on a regular basis, or maybe you’ve never heard of them before. Either way, getting to know the lifecycle of these amazing creatures is a step in the right direction for your aquarium hobby.

The general state of a copepod

It’s important to know that copepods vary in their state depending on their species. Many copepods are holoplanktonic, meaning they stay planktonic for all of their lifecycles. However, harpacticoids, a popular copepod that we sell at Aquatic Live Food tend to be benthic rather than planktonic.


The mating process of a copepod is unusual to think about because of their tiny size. However, like many creatures, copepods do have a mating process and it is very unique.

During mating, the male copepod grips the female with his first pair of antennae. From here, the male produces an adhesive package of sperm and then transfers this package to the female’s genital opening with his thoracic limbs.

The eggs are sometimes laid directly into the water, but many species of copepods enclose them within a sac attached to the female’s body until they hatch. You may see this in some close-up images of copepods and maybe even your own copepods if you have a suitable microscope!


The hatching of the eggs is very interesting also. The eggs hatch into nauplius larvae, which consist of a head with a small tail, but no thorax or true abdomen. The nauplius then moults around five times, before emerging as a “copepodid larva”. This stage resembles the adult but has a simple, unsegmented abdomen and only three pairs of thoracic limbs. After a further five moults, the copepod takes on the adult form. The entire process from hatching to adulthood can take a week to a year, depending on the species and environmental conditions such as temperature and nutrition.

We hope you now have a better insight into the overall lifecycle of a copepod. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us on our website.