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How to raise Brine Shrimp step by step

Artemia salina package, resized image

Introduction

There are a wide variety of feeds on the market available for fish - flake, pellets, frozen, etc., but one of the most nourishment enriched foods has to be freshly hatched. One of the easiest ways of harvesting this food has to be by hatching and raising brine shrimp. These creatures can also make fascinating pets to grow onto adults.

Visit Artemia USA if you want to buy brine shrimp!

But what are brine shrimp?

Basically they are a small crustacean from the Artemia family and these creatures have been around since the Triassic period, having changed very little since then. They are found all over the world in salt lakes but never found in the oceans. Fish love them as a treat when they are newly hatched but beware, they should not be fed on a regular basis as this can lead to digestive problems, plus if there is a build up of uneaten shrimp it can start to foul the tank water.

As stated above they live in salt lakes that luckily for the brine shrimp, do not provide the correct conditions for predators, so they spend most of their life feeding of bacteria and algae which blooms alongside them. Their lifespan is normally a year and in this time they will produce batches of eggs which are very adaptable and can remain dormant for many years if kept in a dry state.

This is the stage where one would normally purchase the eggs ready for hatching, so they should be stored in a dry, airtight container.

It really is quite easy to construct a basic hatchery for these creatures, but there are several available to purchase ready made and relatively inexpensive.

The hatchery

A simple DIY method of constructing a hatchery for brine shrimp involves adapting a 2 litre plastic soft drink bottle. Cut the bottle a third of the way down, this will now be used as the base. Make sure the lid is screwed on firmly to the rest of the bottle and turn this upside down, pushing this into the base. Add 1 liter of warm water to the bottle along with a small amount of sea salt or aquarium salt, (I normally do a mix of 1.021 salinity). To this add an airline to keep the eggs suspended in the fluid but add a flow valve to this to act as a regulator, a steady stream of air bubbles is all that is required. Another variation of this is to drill a hole in the bottle cap just big enough to push the airline through to that the air is fed from the bottom.

To this add about half a teaspoon of good quality eggs, (these are normally sold with the hatch rate success, also try to get cyst free), giving the water a swirl to spread the eggs evenly.

Placement

The hatchery should then be placed in a warm room, away from sunlight, but no artificial lighting is required.

The process of hatching

Under normal circumstances the eggs should hatch between 12 – 24 hours later, but depending on the quality of the eggs they make take a little longer. Once hatched the brine shrimp have now entered their larval (nauplii) stage and are minute. It is at this stage that many breeders will feed them to their fry as they are full of nourishment, but they can be grown on to the adult stage quite simply. Initially they will feed on the yolk they carry but after 12 hours they will do their first molt and it is at this stage that we have to supply them with food.

These creatures are filter feeders so with mine I give them phyto plankton, another good food source is the yolk of a hard boiled egg squeezed through a fine mesh cloth, but there are feeds that can be purchased designed to take them through to adulthood. While they are developing they will continue to molt as they grow and after about 8 days they should reach the adult stage.

They are quite easy to sex as the males will have a pair of graspers at the front of their bodies; these are used when they are mating to hold onto the females.

If these are being hatched as fish food the air supply must be switched off for 10 minutes to allow the larva and the eggs to separate then the brine shrimp can be siphoned off.

For the keepers who wish to hatch their brine shrimp to start a colony or even grow them to adults for feed, there is a better method of raising them using a small 10 gallon tank.

Black out one of the sides, also black out halfway along the front and back of the tank or cover them over with cardboard to prevent light getting in and insert a divider halfway along the tank, thus giving you a darkened hatching tank and a growing on area at the side. A Perspex sheet cut to size will suffice for this but it will need to be blackened out also, this will then give you one half of the tank in darkness, the other in natural daylight. Before fitting the divider, drill a hole in it roughly one inch in diameter, this will allow the hatched shrimp to enter the other side of the tank.

A cover will need to be fitted to the hole but this can be done quite easily by making a disc from the Perspex and fitting this to the divider with a piece of wire or a screw so that it can be lifted open when needed.

Now add the salt/water mix which should be at a salinity of about 1.021, I normally use RO water for this purpose to give me almost sterile conditions. Add half a teaspoon of eggs along with an airline to keep them in solution and cover the top of the tank over. Remember to keep the tank to at least room temp.

After 24 hours most of the eggs should have hatched so turn off the air supply and let everything settle. Now the trick is to open the hole on the divider and shine a torch or some other light in the other end of the tank. Brine shrimp are naturally attracted to light so they will swim out of the darkened area into the other side.

Now the divider cover can be closed and more eggs added ready for hatching the next batch, the free swimming brine shrimp can then be either grown on or used as food for your fish.

This is definitely a fun way of raising these little shrimps.

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