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Living Organism Care Guide: Brine Shrimp

Living Care Information

Artemia salina
Commonly known as brine shrimp,
Sea Monkey®

Quick Start Information

  • Brine shrimp eggs may not hatch in water that contains chloramines, so removing chloramines from tap water is critical.

  • Adult brine shrimp can live in their shipping container for 1 to 2 days.

  • If you are receiving adult brine shrimp, you will need to have water prepared for them. See the Housing section for more information about water chemistry.

  • Adult brine shrimp will deplete oxygen in their holding containers. This is the most common cause of organism loss. Shallow, rectangular containers filled with 3 to 4 inches of water work well to hold adult brine shrimp. We also recommend an air stone and air pump to improve water quality. With aeration, a 1-gallon system can house approximately 500 to 1,000 adult brine shrimp.

About the Organism

  • Brine shrimp have changed little since the Triassic period. They are one of the only multicellular organisms known to flourish in the Great Salt Lake.
  • Dormant eggs, known as cysts, can be stored for long periods of time and hatched many years after being deposited.
  • Wild brine shrimp are found in the natural salt lakes of Utah, California, and New Mexico, as well as the oceans.
  • Scientists on the Apollo 16 and 17 missions to the moon brought brine shrimp cysts to study the effects of radiation on development.
  • Brine shrimp are an important food source used in the aquaculture industry.
  • Domain: Eukarya
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Arthropoda
  • Class: Crustacea
  • Order: Anostraca
  • Family: Artemiidae
  • Genus: Artemia
  • Species: salina

Preparation

For hatching, we recommend our Brine Shrimp Hatchery Kit or the following method:

In 1 liter of spring water or dechlorinated tap water, dissolve 2 tablespoons of non-iodized salt. The exact amount of salt is not critical. Synthetic sea salt is best, but rock salt also works. This is enough saltwater for hatching ¼ tablespoon to 1 level tablespoon of brine shrimp eggs.

Hatching requires constant light, so you need a lamp. Drop in a coarse-bubbling air stone or other bubbler to provide needed circulation and oxygen.

The eggs hatch in 24 hours at temperatures of 26° to 28° C (80° to 82° F). Lower temperatures result in longer hatching times. Do not exceed 30° C (86° F), or the young may be damaged. When hatching concludes (not all eggs hatch), remove the air stone and direct the light to the middle of the bottle. The shells of hatched eggs float, unhatched eggs settle to the bottom, and the young shrimp (nauplii) concentrate in the light. You can skim off most of the empty shells and discard them.

The typical use for freshly-hatched brine shrimp is as live food for fish and other aquatic organisms. Collect brine shrimp with a clean pipette or pour the culture through a net to capture masses. Before feeding brine shrimp to fish, rinse the nauplii under running water to remove salts and metabolites that might harm the fish. You can then feed them to either freshwater or marine fish. Brine shrimp survive in fresh water for 30 minutes or longer, but unless you overfeed, the fish snap them up long before then.

Housing

Although most use brine shrimp as hatchlings, you can grow them to adulthood. To do so, transfer hatchlings to a clean container of salt water. A shallow container with a large surface area works best for large numbers of shrimp. Plastic sweater boxes or shoeboxes work well. If you must use a deeper container, adding an air stone helps aerate the water.

The preferred salinity range for culturing brine shrimp is 35–40 ppt (specific gravity 1.024–1.028). Unlike in the preparation of hatching solutions, where household brands of baking salt, kosher salt, and solar salt are adequate, culture water should be premixed using an aquarium-grade marine salt.

The initial pH should be between 7.5 and 8. Monitor pH regularly and adjust as needed.

Brine shrimp are generally tolerant of low dissolved oxygen levels. Providing aeration to keep food in suspension usually eliminates any dissolved oxygen problems. Oxygen stress is often indicated by a visible reddening of the animals caused by the increased presence of hemoglobin. If your animals show signs of oxygen stress, add additional air stones. Keep in mind that small bubbles are more efficient vehicles for oxygen transfer. Very fine bubbles interfere with feeding.

Temperature should be maintained at between 20° and 25° C (68° to 79° F). Remember that replacement water should be of similar temperature to avoid thermal shock.

Feeding

Brine shrimp are filter feeders and remove fine organic particles from the water as they swim. Unicellular algae, such as Spirulina, and bacteria are natural food sources. Powdered Spirulina flakes or powder fish food flakes can be purchased from a pet store and scattered on the water's surface.

Yeast suspensions are also a convenient, easy way to prepare a food source for brine shrimp. Make up a salt solution of the same salinity as the water in your brine shrimp culture. Stir in enough baker’s yeast to make the water appear milky, and then store the solution in a refrigerator. Always agitate the solution before use to resuspend the yeast. Feed daily. Alternatively, crush grains of dry baker’s yeast on wax paper, then dust it on the surface of the brine shrimp culture. Avoid overfeeding. The water in the culture should not remain cloudy for more than 15 minutes after feeding.

Maintaining and culturing

Each week draw off and discard about ¼ of the culture water, then replace it with new saltwater. Brine shrimp tolerate crowding but may require additional containers as they grow. We recommend premixing and stocking additional water for later use. Your brine shrimp habitat should be cleaned of any dead shrimp weekly. If you add water to your tank because of dehydration, do not use salt water. The salt does not leave the solution. Adding salt water increases salinity.

Disposal

Brine shrimp should not be released under any circumstances. Consult with your school or local authority to identify their preferred methods of disposal.

In the absence of such guidance, use one of the following methods to dispose of your material:

  • Treat culture with a 10% bleach solution for 24 hours. Rinse the bleach solution down the drain with water. Rinse remaining materials and containers with water, and dispose of them in a general garbage container or allow to dry for reuse.
  • Wrap specimens and their containers in an autoclavable bag. Autoclave the bag for 30 minutes at 121° C and 15 psi. Dispose of the autoclaved materials according to your local guidelines.

Biosafety

Always wash your hands thoroughly before and after you handle your brine shrimp, its food, or anything it has touched.

Video

No recommended video for this organism.

FAQs

I had many eggs that didn’t hatch. What should I do with them?

Most of these eggs are slow hatchers. Mix up a new bottle of salt water and add them to it. They should hatch on the second try.

How long does it take brine shrimp to reach adulthood?

Under good conditions, nauplii grow rapidly, reaching adulthood in 3 weeks. The adults average about 8 mm in body length but can be double that length.

How can I tell if my brine shrimp are healthy?

Shine a flashlight into the culture. The shrimp are healthy if they concentrate in the light. If they don't, and you can access a dissecting scope, examine the digestive tract (the straight tube running the length of the shrimp’s body). It should be full of food. If not, feed them.

Can I refrigerate adult brine shrimp or naupuli?

Yes. They can be refrigerated (not frozen) for several days. Provide food several hours before you plan to refrigerate.

Why are my brine shrimp dying?

They could be overcrowded. If so, divide the culture. There could be insufficient aeration, or you could be using a wooden air stone or other air stone that produces a fine mist of bubbles. These small bubbles can clog the shrimp’s feeding system and starve them.

I found a container of brine shrimp eggs in the refrigerator. Can I still use them?

Brine shrimp cysts can last indefinitely. The best way to determine if your material is viable is to attempt to hatch a small batch. Hydration should cause hatching within 48 hours.

Need help?

We want you to have a good experience. Orders and replacements: 800.334.5551, then select Customer Service. Technical support and questions: caresheets@carolina.com

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