Smithsonian Prehistoric Sea Monsters Kit Review – Part 1

Smithsonian Prehistoric Sea Monsters Kit Review – Part 1

Cost – 12.99
Species – Unknown, I’m guessing T. longicaudatus
Amazon reviews – 2 stars out of 5 (Mostly having to do with poor instructions, especially when it comes to temperature)


I bought the “Smithsonian Prehistoric Sea Monsters” triops kit at Micheals (a craft store) for $12.99 or so. I have not seen it in any other stores around here, but you can buy it on amazon. Micheals usually has a 40% off coupon, either after you buy something you get a coupon you can use next week, or try going to then click on see all coupons. You can find these kits in the “science” section, next to exploding volcanos, rock crystal candy kits, that kind of thing.

With the coupon that brings the cost down to 8 bucks or so. So what do you get?


You get a small plastic tank, a bag of triops / detritus, food, a bag of white sand, a huge instruction poster with a triops photo and fact sheet on the back, and a dinosaur poster that goes behind the tank. The dinosaur poster is pretty cool if you are 10 years old, which I’m guessing is the average age this kit is aimed at. Although personally I think more adults are intersted in triops then kids.

My first thought was that the tank is way too small to raise triops in, unless you really JUST LOVE doing water changes every 10 hours. I had a tank twice that size with six 2-week old triops and that water got foul on a daily basis. I have also read that with smaller tanks your triops don’t live as long. BUT we shall test it out and see how it goes!

The bag of sand is just enough to put a small layer on the bottom of the container. I’m not sure exactly how many triops eggs you get, I’ll try hatching 1/3 of them first just to see how they do.


They look nice…

The instructions are broken up into three sections – assembly, preparing your triops for hatching, and caring for your triops.

To assemble it says to rinse out the tank with distilled or filtered water, put the sand in the tank, tape the dino poster to the back, and fill the tank with distilled or filtered room temperature water.

I’ve covered this more in the water FAQ, but I think it’s funny how two different commercial kits reccomend different types of water even though I’m pretty sure they are the same species of triops.

Preparing your triops for hatching just says to put half the bag of triops / nutrients in the water. This is a note at the bottom about temperature which basically says the water has to be at least 72f but no more then 86f and that the triops need light. It says if you live in a warm climate to put them by a window, and if it’s cold to put them under a desk lamp.

Funny how they don’t include even a cheapo stick on thermometer, these kits are aimed at young kids but how are they supposed to guess what their water temp is? Especially since it’s so important for hatching.

You can buy a water thermometer at walmart or a petstore for 1-2 dollars. I have a feeling a lot of people going by the “put it in a window or under a lamp” instructions aren’t going to get any triops unless they can actually monitor their temperature…any from reading amazon reviews that looks like what happens. I know in my house if I just put them under a lamp at night the water will drop below 72f unless I put the lamp in really close at night and then pull it back in the afternoon.

The number one complaint on amazon about these kits is the instructions are too vauge. I agree completely, and yes I’m going to say it again, WHY DON’T THEY GIVE YOU A TEMPERATURE STRIP?

The last part of the instructions is about feeding. No where does it say to transfer the triops to a larger tank later on…but I’m going to reserve judgement and try it out and see how it goes. I’ll set everything up, and in part 2 let’s see if they hatch.

Replacement policy if your eggs don’t hatch

Unlike most ebay sellers and another kit I know of, the Smithsonian Prehistoric Sea Monsters kit does NOT have a replacement policy if your eggs don’t hatch.

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My Triops Didn’t Hatch

What to do if your triops don’t hatch

First off all, don’t be discouraged. The most important thing to do is DONT THROW THE EGGS THAT DIDN’T HATCH AWAY. Put the container in a warm place, let all the water evaporate, let everything dry out, stick them in the freezer a few days, then pour new water in and try to hatch them again.

Also when you get a new “brand” of eggs, try to hatch only 1/3 or 1/2 the eggs at a time till you figure out what works for hatching them.

These are the things to check out first -

- Water. If you tried spring water, read the small print and make sure it isn’t made by distillation, reverse osmosis or deionization. If you aren’t having luck with any brand of spring water, try distilled water. Yeah I know some places say don’t use distilled water, but I had a guy who has raised tons of triops tell me he uses distilled water.

- Wait a couple days. Sometimes triops won’t hatch right away, just keep the light on them. If they don’t hatch in 4-7 days I’d just dry them out and try again with different water.

- Make sure your temperature is in the right range, generally around 73F (22C) for most hobby kit triops. Especially at night make sure the temperature isn’t getting too low. Put the lamp closer before you go to sleep.

- If bought your triops off ebay then ask the seller what the hatching temperature is. If you know your species check our pages for the hatching temps. If you bought a hobby kit most likely you have Longicaudatus or Cancriformis.

- If you are using the floating tank method, make sure the triops aren’t in a dark spot, they need light to hatch. Use a lamp if you need to.

- If you see algea growing showing up the first day, that is not good. Try putting less of your triops/detritus mixture in at a time, and put some tinfoil over the container at night to block out some of the light. Or get a refund / replacement because that just shouldn’t happen that quick.

If you are still having trouble…

- Just like a fish tank, you should never clean any container you want to use with triops with soap. If you aren’t sure of the integrity of your container buy a new one at the dollar store then rinse it out with boiling water before you use it.

- If you are trying to hatch eggs from sand that you saved from another batch, are you 1000% sure that there are eggs in the sand?

- Most kits I’ve seen will send you more eggs if none hatch. If you tried following the directions 2-3 times with no results, maybe you have a bad batch. Most ebay sellers will also send you more eggs if you can’t get any to hatch.

That’s all I can think of right now. You can also go read up the triops forum for ideas. I’ll update if I think of anything else, also if you have something to add or a particular problem please leave a comment.

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Floating Container Video Guide

How to hatch triops eggs in a floating container. I like this method better then the lamp method but you need a aquarium heater to do it.

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Hatching Triops in a Floating Container Video

How to hatch triops eggs in a floating container. I like this method better then the lamp method but you need a aquarium heater to do it.

Posted in Guides, Videos | 14 Responses

Triops Water Guide

The ULTIMATE Triops Water Guide

Triops tolerate a wide variety of water. However if you want optimum growth rate, health, egg production, and water clarity there are a few simple things you can do with your water make sure your triops are the envy of all the other triops on the block.

I use the two container method for hatching triops. First a small (1-2cup) container for hatching and the first 1-2 weeks, and then I move them into their final tank.

The reason I like this method is it is a lot easier to control the temperature, feeding, and quality of the water when the triops are small and more sensitive to these things. I’m not going to go into the actual hatching method here, but you can watch the hatching triops eggs video which covers hatching detail.

So this guide is divided into two parts, water for hatching, then water for the final tank.

Water for Hatching Triops Eggs (From 1-2 weeks old)

Use ONLY distilled water in your hatching container *See Note

The most important thing to remember is to only use DISTILLED WATER for hatching triops. Young triops are sensitive to mineral content in water, bacteria, chlorine, etc, and distilled water removes all these problems. You can find distilled water at any grocery store for a dollar a gallon.

After they grow to adult size and you transfer them to the big tank you don’t have to keep buying distilled water.

*NOTE – Although I have hatched triops with distilled water and I had a guy who hatches thousands of triops tell me to only use distilled water for hatching, I recently bought a kit that said to only used spring water for the mineral content that the baby triops needs. Confusing huh? I haven’t done enough tests to say it’s one way or the other, I’ve hatched with distilled water and I’ve hatched with spring water. My advice is that if your kit doesn’t recommend one or the other, go with spring water. If they don’t hatch, dry out the container, then go with distilled water. If you’ve had success with either distilled or spring, PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT!!!

Also if you are looking to buy spring water, make sure it doesn’t say “reverse-osmosis, distilled, etc” in the small print. Make sure it’s just plain spring water.

Find your triops hatching temperature

Each species of triops has a water temperature range before the triops eggs will hatch. If you know your species you can check out our species pages to find that temperature.

If you purchased a triops kit and for some reason they don’t tell you what species you have, then it’s a pretty safe bet that you have triops cancriformus.

After you know your triops hatching temperature range you can heat the water with a lamp, aquarium heater, or a heating mat. If you use a lamp, remember to not use a flouresent bulb because they don’t give off enough heat.

If you are using a lamp, remember to put it closer to the container at night if your room temperature drops at night.

You’ll need a way of checking your water temperature, I reccomend the drop in glass thermometers which are a couple bucks at walmart or a pet store. DO NOT use the “sticker” type temperature gauges, the heat from your lamp can mess them up and give you a higher reading then the actual water temperature.

Adding water to your hatching container

Everyday you will lose a little water from evaporation. I try not to distrub the water at all the first 2-3 days, but after that I add water. If you add water, just make sure the water you are adding is at room temperature, and only add a little bit at a time (in other words don’t dump a ton of water to fill the hatching container up, instead it’s better to do small regular top-offs.)

Keeping your water clean

I talk about this more in the triops food guide, but you want to keep your water clean to stop bacteria from growing. A dollar store turkey baster is great for cleaning up uneaten food and old carapeices. Uneaten food shouldn’t be left for long periods of time, clean it up and add new food or you’ll get algae growth.


If your container was used for something else before, say food, then it wouldn’t be a bad idea to swish some hot water around in there first to sanitize it.

Triops Tank Water

How much water

According to various sources I’ve read and personal experience, half a gallon to one gallon per adult triops seems to be the best for growth rate, health, egg production, and a big one for me is water clarity.

Although you can just as easily raise triops in a smaller tank (like the dollar store shoebox tank), there is one thing to consider…triops are messy. A bigger tank means you’ll have to do less water changes.

If you have no choice but to use a small tank, just keep the tank clean by not letting uneaten food sit around, and do regular water changes to keep the ph levels healthy. A aquarium pump / filter goes a long way for water clarity too.

What makes good triops water?

Fortunetly you don’t have to keep buying distilled water for this phase of a triops life. Tap water works fine, BUT you may have to use a water conditioner if you have chlorine or other chemicals in your water. Water conditioners are easily and cheaply avaliable at any pet store or walmart. Basically these are little bottles of liquid and you put a few drops into your tank to make it safe for triops, the bottle will say “water conditioner” or “tank conditioner” on it, and the label will say if it takes chlorine out or whatever.

And of course you can still use distilled water, spring water, or filtered water.


Although each species of triops has a different ph requirement, in general aim to keep your PH in the 7 – 9 range. If you have a rarer species you should check out the species page first for optimal PH. You can buy easy to use test kits at walmart or any pet store.

That being said, I usually don’t test my PH too often. If you do 1/4 tank water changes once a week and don’t leave too much uneaten food sitting in the tank you should be fine.

The final “is my triops tank water ok?” test

When you are ready to transfer your triops, only transfer one triops first. Wait 24 hours…if he is still alive then you’re good to go.

If you don’t want to get fancy with all these conditioners and ph tests, etc…

Remember that triops are pretty hardy creatures. Sure, if you get all these things right then your triops will grow fast, produce lots of eggs, be the healthiest they can be, have high self-esteem, etc.

But chances are they will do just fine with any old container and some decent water, without having to spend money on PH tests and water conditioners. They are wild creatures that live in puddles after all…

If this is your approach, then I suggest doing the final test I mentioned above, just so you don’t accidently kill all your triops on one go.

And that’s it. I hope this guide helps. If you have a question having to do with triops water that you don’t see here, just contact us and we’ll do our best to answer your question or point you in the right direction.

The ULTIMATE Triops water guide

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Hatching Triops Video Guide

This video shows how to hatch triops eggs step by step. If you have any questions feel free to ask.

Posted in Guides, Videos | 28 Responses

Triops Food Guide

Triops food guide – What to feed your triops and when.

Basically triops will eat anything organic…but here are some suggestions based on how old they are.

And if you want to take the cheap/easy/simple/quick way, all you’ll ever need for raising triops is Betta fish food pellets and shrimp pellets available at any pet store or walmart.

I use Wardley’s Shrimp Pellets formula and any betta fish pellets.

1 – 3 days

Detritus, which should be in the egg/sand mixture package you got when you bought the eggs. In other words, don’t add anything else besides the stuff that came with the eggs. See the hatching video for more information for this phase of a triops life.

3 – 7 days

Betta fish food pellets. Crush one pellet per day and sprinkle on the surface for every 10 triops. You can crush a pellet between two spoons.

Week 2

Betta fish food pellets, but you don’t have to crush them anymore. 1 pellet per day for each 2 triops, unless they eat everything within a few hours then give them more. You’ll see them grab the pellets and kind of roll it around underneath them.

I like putting in some crushed up cracker peices in at this point, just for fun.

Week 3 +

After week 3 they will almost be full size. At this stage I primarily feed expanding shrimp pellets. The pellet sinks, and then the triop grabs it and “kicks” it around, and if you look closely you can see how they feed themselves. I like the size of Wardley Shrimp Pellets.

I like these pellets cause of the size and convenience, and most importantly the triops seem to like them.

I feed 2-3 times a day, but you can get a way with once in the morning and another in the evening if you aren’t home during the day…or even once a day if you really had to.

I use 1 pellet per triops, and I just scatter the pellets all around the tank randomly. You’ll probably find that your triops like to dig around the edges of the tank mostly so if you want them to find the food faster drop the food in their little side trenches they dig out.


Triops are pretty messy eaters. There will usually be little bits and pieces left over of the food that they didn’t or won’t eat. The most awesome tool for cleaning triops tanks is a turkey baster. I clean up any uneaten junk on the bottom of the tank once a day just to keep the water as clean as possible and prevent algae / bacteria growth. I pour this water/junk mixture into a plastic bottle, and then use that water on houseplants as natural fertilizer. Cheap turkey basters are at the dollar store, unless for some reason you feel the need to get a really fancy one.

Triops Snacks

Vegetables – anything they get get their grubby little hands on. Chop vegetables up into tiny little pieces. If you are feeling especially kind you can para-boil (boiling for 2-3 minutes) to soften them up and make it easier for the triops to eat. Remember to just add a little at first to see if they like it, that way you won’t have a lot of cleanup if the triops don’t like what you put in.

Plant material – Like grass and tender soft green delicious leaves. Chop them up into small pieces first.

Brine Shrimp - Basically these are like mini-shrimp. You buy the eggs and then hatch them yourself. You can hatch them directly into the triops tank, or in a separate hatchery and then just put them into the triops tank for a snack.

Experimental food – Dead bugs and spiders, if you are into picking fleas off your cats then you can throw those in. Triops naturally live in ponds and little puddles, so anything that you think could probably end up in a puddle or pond is worth a try. If you do try feeding something unusual let me know how it goes!

I don’t know about you but I’m getting hungry. And no I didn’t kill the ladybug just for the picture, it was already dead.

So how do you tell how much food to feed your triops??

By observing your triops you can figure out how much to feed them.

- If there is lots of left over food a couple hours after feeding then you can cut back.

- If you see your triops hanging around the top of the tank and swimming upside down a lot more then usual, then they might be looking for food so try feeding them more.

What do you feed your triops? Did they like it? I’d like to hear about it, please leave a comment.

Related post – Week old triops eating crackers video.

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Hatching Triops Video – Reliable Method

Here is a video I made showing how to hatch triops step by step. I think I covered everything but if you have any questions let me know.

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Triops Hatching Temperatures

Here is a list I’ve complied from both personal experience and various sources on ideal hatching temperatures for the more popular species of triops.

Triops Longicaudatus : 71 – 75 f.
Triops Cancriformis : 71 – 75 f.
Triops Black Beauty SP. : I’ve had the best results at 82 f.
Triops Australiensis : 72 – 84 f. (Can take up to a week to hatch)

If you bought a kit most likely you have Cancriformis or Longicaudatus. If you have a different species you can try looking on this page for more hatching temperatures.

If you still can’t find your hatching temperature, leave a comment and I’ll try and help you find some info.

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Triops Pics – 2 Week Old Black Beauty

Triops pics from my latest batch of Black Beauties. Already I can see some are carrying eggs, which show up as dark “spots” near their rear legs at the end of the carapace (before the little tiny fuzzy legs start).

They really like to dig around the perimeter of the tank. I’ve been feeding them shrimp pellets, broccoli, and boiled celery. These triops don’t seem to like the celery too much though.

Usually triops spend most of their time looking for food at the bottom of the tank, however sometimes they will swim up and around the tank. Here is one climbing up to the top.

Also sometimes you’ll catch one swim up, then do somersaults over and over till it reaches the ground. I’ve seen a few swim to the top, then do this crazy nose dive routine to the bottom…sometimes even landing on another triop just innocently trying to find some food.

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