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Grow Triops with your kids! April 13, 2009

Posted by dorigo in personal, science.
Tags: ,

Just a short, advertising post to mention a very entertaining “scientific toy” for children. Filippo was given a box for his birthday, “Triassic Triops”, a toy made in USA by Triops Inc., three weeks ago. The box rested untouched for a while, until Filippo asked me to try it. The figure on the cover shows a mean-looking crustacean, and it took me a while to decide to try and grow those creatures in our home.

The box contains a small plastic tank, an envelope with gravel and tiny wood bits to create a reasonable habitat in the tank, a tiny box containing about 20 eggs, a tape-on thermometer, and a parcel of food pellets, plus instructions and a plastic pipette. Instructions are quite precise and easy to follow, but the hard part is to find a place in your home where you can stabilize the temperature: these creatures will hatch and grow only if the temperature is in the 22-29°C range.

We followed instructions carefully by using bottled water and waiting until the temperature had stabilized, but once eggs had to be dropped in the tank I was rather amazed: the little box did not seem to contain anything! Only by looking very carefully could I spot tiny grains smaller than half a millimeter across.

Nothing happened for a couple of days, but then we started to see two or three teeny-tiny little beings swimming around. We started feeding them, and they grew quite fast. I have no idea why only few of the eggs hatched, but I am really not sure whether there were twenty originally in the box, nor whether I managed to drop all of them in the tank…

In ten days, two triops have grown to about two-thirds of an inch in length (see right), probably killing the third one in the process (its carcass is still floating around). They are happily swimming day and night, and they eat all the pellets I put in the tank in the matter of a couple of hours… According to instructions, the life cycle of these amazing creatures is of about one to three months. They should grow to about two inches length -roughly the size of a small shrimp. Then they will die, and -by totally drying the tank, and pouring warm water in again- it should be possible to revive their eggs, if they have produced any.

The interesting thing about these creatures is that they have remained biologically identical to the original beings that populated our earth in the Triassic age. Quoting from the leaflet:

“Millions of years before Tyrannosaurus Rex ruled the earth, Tripos Longicaudatus was evolving a method of reproduction that allowed the developing embryos (developing eggs) to survive the drying up of the temporary ponds. This amazing process is known as suspended animation, or diapause. Scientists have found that Triops eggs can remain dormant for more than 25 years. In other words, the little Tripos slept while the dinosaurs disappeared”.

Regardless of the accuracy of the above reconstruction, I think it is really amazing to drop dried eggs into water and see creatures growing up in it. Try it with your kids: fun is assured!

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1. Luboš Motl - April 13, 2009

Besides small ones from the Triassic Age, can you also create a Jurassic Park – dinosaurs (others than yourself)?

2. dorigo - April 13, 2009

That’d be loads of fun Lubos, but unfortunately those have not passed the ASTM F963 requirements for safety…

3. carlbrannen - April 13, 2009

I wonder if these are related to sea monkeys that were sold when I was young. These are brine shrimp, which never reach as large as several inches in length, but otherwise sound similar.

This is an excuse to buy them a good quality microscope. I bought my brother’s children a nice surplus unit from Boeing. It’s better to get a real unit that is a little beat up than to get them one of those pieces of duty that is manufactured for children (with bright colors and lousy optics).

Once you get a decent microscope, the coolest thing to look at is the wings of moths. Also, the most difficult thing is getting good light sources that are also safe. But an experimentalist will be able to solve this problem.

4. dorigo - April 13, 2009

Hi Carl,

I guess the idea is the same – the whole process is. I found it really amazing how tiny those “eggs” can be. Almost invisible. Well, a human egg is even smaller, but the fast development of life is always surprising.

I do own a good microscope. I love good optics in all its forms, and bought a binocular one some time ago. However, it does not reach high in magnification. If Filippo manifests interest, I will buy a larger one. Heck, I’m just waiting for an excuse to get a real good one!


5. Anonymous - April 14, 2009

Just take him into work on the weekend and use a microscope in the lab for free, saves a couple $1000 for cheapos like me! no one complains or cares, as long as things are cleaned up properly afterwards.

6. carlbrannen - April 14, 2009

You should be able to get a decent but obsolete lab quality microscope, from the 1950s or 1960s, for around $200 if you look hard enough. It should be dirty, having sat around in somebody’s office unused for 20 years collecting dust, and you’ll have to strip it down and clean the optics. When you’re done you’ll have a nice wide screen scope that’s beyond suitable for high school level science fair projects.

My buddy’s business got started when we bought a scanning electron microscope on eBay (not necessarily the best place to buy, try a local surplus center for a university or laboratory or large company instead). It was about $400. When it got here, we discovered that it was sadly abused as a result of having been handled by the government. They sawed it in two instead of disconnecting the maybe 200 wires. When we got too busy to deal with it, we put it back up on eBay with a complete description of its many faults and sold it for around $650. Just better advertisement copy. After that we began buying and selling larger and larger things.

7. dorigo - April 14, 2009

Interesting Carl! But the kind of work you suggest on old optics is not one I would be happy to entertain with -I’m the kind of guy who screams if somebody puts a finger into his favourite eyepiece.

Anon, that’s a good suggestion, and besides, we do happen to have an excellent microscope with leitz optics in the lab, five feet across from my office. Hmm, maybe you knew this ? :)


8. carlbrannen - April 14, 2009

Tommaso, the perfect microscope to buy surplus is one that is so dusty you can’t see through it. This is a good sign that no one has botched the job of cleaning it yet.

9. Kids Lockers | broozel.com - April 14, 2009

[...] Grow Triops with your kids! « A Quantum Diaries Survivor [...]

10. Mandeep - April 14, 2009

T- I also used to love to grow ‘sea monkeys’ when i was a kid — but these Triops sound substantially larger! interesting, i may try to order some online for nephews and nieces.. -M

11. Florian Freistetter - April 14, 2009

What a coincidence – Yesterday I too got a Triops set and have posted about it today (in german): http://www.scienceblogs.de/astrodicticum-simplex/2009/04/urzeitkrebse.php

I hope mine will grow as fast as yours ;)

12. dorigo - April 14, 2009

Carl, please stop talking about abused lenses, you frighten me!

Mandeep, they are highly entertaining. But then again, I haven’t grown sea monkeys so I do not know how they compare.

Hi Florian, just follow instructions carefully. I left the things alone for one day and upon coming back one of the three had been eaten by the others!

Cheers all,

13. Kids and College - Solutions For Extra Rooms | broozel.com - April 15, 2009

[...] Grow Triops with your kids! « A Quantum Diaries Survivor [...]

14. HydroSystemDave - September 3, 2009

Hey, cool blog! I gave one of these to my nephew as a birthday present recently and it was very cool to see how amazed and interested he was (he is seven). This really is a fun gift for kids, and a little different, which is a good thing!

15. Lori Adams - November 5, 2009

Hi –

Triops are really amazing! I have grown triops also and photographed them and now have published a book with the photos for kids ages 7-11. Science teachers and elementary school teachers really love it. If you want to take a look:


Let me know what you think!


16. mytrailer.net - December 17, 2009

T- I also used to love to grow ’sea monkeys’ when i was a kid — but these Triops sound substantially larger! interesting, i may try to order some online for nephews and nieces

17. Dolls pushchairs - January 21, 2010

These triops are awewome. We bought them for my son and he floved them. Although they are a bit weird and freaky!!

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