Proper stocking procedure can have a huge long-term impact on the health of your aquarium system. That’s why proper order of stocking is so important. For example, after certain groups of beneficial microbes (as described in the last article of this series), copepods are among the first organisms to stock. These tiny crustaceans are an essential part of reef foods chains. In aquaria, the adults of benthic species are invaluable herbivores and detritivores; their pelagic larvae are a nutritious food source for zooplanktivorous filter-feeders. A refugium full of fast-growing fleshy algae such as Gracilaria promotes large and stable copepod populations.
Before proceeding, it is best to allow the reef base to mature such that there is clear recovery and growth of filter-feeders. This can take as long as a month or so. Lights over the main tank should remain off (however, if in use, planted refugia should be brightly illuminated). Depending upon the types of filter-feeders present, it might be a good idea to begin offering modest feedings of phytoplankton or some other suitable liquid invertebrate diet; this can accelerate the growth of both live rock organisms and copepods.