A few months ago, Matt and I decided we'd like to get some sort of creature habitat for the boy. I had always wanted an ant farm, Matt had always wanted an ant farm and in order to vicariously relive our childhood through the boy, we wanted to give him an ant farm. One day, off we set to Toys 'R Us in search of said item only to end up with a habitat for a prehistoric creature called a Triops (it is meant to be plural).
We get home, follow the instructions to the letter: rinse rocks until water is clear, fill tank with distilled water, drop half the triops egg bag into tank and wait two days for them to hatch.
Each day my son was peering into the tank perched on our bedroom window sill with bated breath hoping to see some form of life. And after a few moments of staring into a lifeless tank, he would quickly remind me "MOM - it said two days! It's been five! You've done something wrong!" Yes, I know. I do a lot of things wrong. I generally have no patience for instructions, but this time I know I did it all correctly so pardon me for wanting to jump up and down screaming till red. in. the. face. "NO I DIDN'T! THE BATCH WAS BAD. THE BATCH WAS BAD."
Then, something magical happened. This minuscule little creature started swimming around the tank. It was so tiny and transparent, a person could go blind trying to look for it. The boy was thrilled! We grew a triops! Daily we would watch it flit around the little, clear plastic bowl and after a few days we could count many more. Three, ten, sixteen...before we knew it, we had a swarm of translucent little creatures swimming in our tank--too many to count. We thought, "triop success"!
After a week or so of strange creature enjoyment, I told my son to be prepared, that one day they would be gone and he seemed cool with it. Day after day we would regard the triops tank and just watch them numbly. Algae began to grow and a new little organism appeared out of nowhere--A little orange round thing with tiny little feelers. It was fast and appeared to be cleaning the algae from the tank. Then more little orange things and more translucent triops. I'd seen pictures of triops and though our little creatures looked a little different, I didn't think much of it. Damn it, we had hatched little living creatures!
And then it all changed. A bigger creature suddenly showed up after a month of watching this family of creatures in a tank no bigger than a soup bowl. Upon inspecting this newly hatched being, I immediately thought DINOSAUR SPERM!. It was maybe a quarter of an inch long, with a rounded, shelled-like upper torso, two eye dots front and center, and a long tail-like body with lots of little feet on its underbelly that seemed to be filtering the tiny rocks along the bed of the tank. This was a triops. This is what we were waiting for. And this little thing was growing. Fast.
But if this was a triops, what in the heck were all the other things swimming around? Were they all variations of dinosaur sperm? After some digging around on the web, turns out we were mistaking daphnia for triops (the little orange things are maybe, not certifiably, clam shrimp).
And. And. They are all dead now and only the sole triops remains. Yep, our little triops is a carnivore. A daphnia, orange thing eating carnivore. It took one night and a following morning for "Big Ben" to eat everything in sight. Now, her main food source are tiny food pellets we drop in the tank. She promptly devours each pellet by spinning it around and around with her 'legs'. She likes to swim upside down while eating, grabbing it from the waters' surface and gracefully falling to the tank floor, resting on her back until she's had her fill.
We've now scoured the internet for information on this little creature and in all her spermy ugliness as a prehistoric being, I find her fascinatingly beautiful. And though the internet tells me she'll only be around for 20-90 days, I think we'll all enjoy watching her a little bit longer--as long as the tank is big enough to hold her.