There seems to be a lot of conflicting information on the internet regarding how to breed Daphnia, with the goal of feeding them to aquarium fish.

Some of these at large expense including having whole tank set ups just for the Daphnia.

What would be an efficient and cost-effective way to breed Daphnia?

2 Answers 2


You don't really have to do anything special, especially considering Daphnia aren't really anything exotic (you can find them in many ponds etc.) depending on where you live.

A very minimalistic setup is very easy to achieve – I actually did it for a simple test, because I was also very interested in the whole concept of having a somewhat stable water tank. You can also use this if you have plants you can't water using tap water, etc. It's also an interesting experiment for kids rather than using some kind of shrimps.

Anyway, the initial setup is pretty straightforward:

  • Take a small tank or plastic box that may take 2-10 l (size is really up to you; my experiment here was a 5 l box meant for food storage). You'll want some way to close the top so nothing escapes. :)
  • Fill it with aquarium water.
  • Put it on a windowsill or another sunny place.
  • I added one or two tiny branches of chickweed for "asthetics", but that's really optional.
  • If you don't have plant bits from your aquarium, let it stay a few days in the sun. This gives algae some time to grow.
  • If you have beach almond leaves, add a tiny bit to avoid fungi and bacteria growth.
  • Add a few bladder snails (2-3 per liter are probably enough), ramshorn snails should work as well. The population will balance itself.
  • Add the Daphnia.
  • Just feed the snails once every or every second day with regular fish food or tiny amounts of spirulina. If you use spirulina, make sure to not overfeed; ramshorn snails won't like the water dirty.
  • From time to time add some fresh water and potentially some chalk (e.g. tabs sold for shrimp aquariums).

The concept of the tank is pretty simple:

  • Sunlight causes algae to grow.
  • Snails eat algae and other food you provide.
  • Daphnia feed off "dirt" produced by the snails.

This way you won't have to directly feed the Daphnia, but you can create a stable and "flourishing" tank. If you prefer feeding the Daphnia directly, basically do the same, but skip the snails and feed them drops of condensed milk.

Basic rule of thumb: While the water isn't clear, you don't have to feed.

Her's a quick shot of my tank in early spring – just after feeding the snails). Most Daphnia were still inactive at the time, hiding between the algae on the ground. I thought they didn't survive the winter on the windowsill, but all emerged a few weeks later (unfortunately don't have any pics at hand).

Tank picture

The tank will sooner or later become at least a bit green in some way. That's completely normal. You can remove excessive algae, but I'd always leave at least some for the snails.

  • 1
    Also, to add to the above answer, you can increase your chances by 1) ordering baby daphnia online instead of the pet store because they have a short life cycle and females reproduce asexually when they are still juvenile. Typical life cycle is 3-4 months but can be increased if you 2- lose the heater and/or slightly chill the tank as they've been seen to live 13-14 months in colder temperatures, increasing egg pouch counts. If you order online be sure to order regular daphnia NOT fish hook water fleas, sometimes confused w/ daphnia. They'll not only cloudy your tank, your fish won't eat them
    – Christy B.
    Commented Oct 17, 2017 at 7:15

Daphnia (and infusoria in general) can be found almost anywhere in the UK in the wild. I spend ages looking for it, which is sad. Most infusoria are a bit smaller than Daphnia, so they would be eaten first by the koi or carp larvae.

During the year Daphnia give birth to live babies from about spring onwards (temperature related) about every 5 days. As winter approaches, they then change from live birth to laying eggs, which sink to the bottom and stay there till the next spring, when the temp increases. Absolutely billions hatch out almost all at once, so its possible to see huge clouds of it. I have caught over 8 kg of it before now, then the next time zero! In lakes or ponds where there are fish there is less likelihood you will find it compared with other ponds too acidic for fish to live in. My favourite spot at the moment is completely devoid of water, due to the drought we have in the UK at the moment.

I do not know if Daphnia have the ability to change from live birth to egg laying when the water dries up/when there is not a temperature trigger. As they have been around for millions of years, my guess is they do.

Catching Daphnia from water that holds fish runs the risk of introducing parasites to the koi fry. Large fish can live with parasites, but not fry. Parasites can swim from one fish to another, and will not survive without fish. It is wise to leave the Daphnia in a tank for a week to be sure there are no parasites amongst them.


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