Homegrown Food - Beautiful Brine

Posted by Aquatropic Staff on May 5, 2023

Homegrown Food - Beautiful Brine thumbnail image

Brine Shrimp are amazing critters. The term “Brine Shrimp” is actually a generic term for an entire genus of invertebrates called Artemia. There is some debate as to whether the different varieties of them are actually separate species, or all different varieties of one species “Artemia salina,” which were first documented for western science in England in the late 1700s.

They are important sources of food for a variety of birds and in at least one instance are a traditional source of food for indigenous peoples in Libya. They have been shown to increase salt concentrations in brine pools and as such are a part of commercial salt production.

Brine shrimp don't get bigger than about 15mm long for the largest varieties, though most stay under about 10mm. They can be colorless and transparent, or a bright red and any variation of color in between; this coloration is somewhat dependent upon what they eat (and thus some could probably be green or brown as well. They are filter feeders, and the reddest varieties get their color from beta-carotene (yes, the same stuff that makes carrots orange) which they derive from their food. They eat simple (often single celled) organisms like diatoms and micro-algae. Dunaliella is a common algae in the shrimp's natural environment, which are high in Beta-carotene. Beta-carotene is a persistent anti-oxidant and it gets passed on to the cysts (think eggs) which helps protect the viability of the cyst and gives newborn brine shrimp, aka nauplii, their color too. As a result, the brine shrimp can pass this color onto the flamingos that eat them by the billions, literally turning them into Pink Flamingos.

Brine shrimp are found in saltwater habitats worldwide, in salinity levels that could be both much higher than and much lower than normal saltwater. They are found in huge concentrations in places like Mono Lake, California, the Caspian Basin, and the Great Salt Lake in Utah. They are absent, at least in dense concentrations, from the worlds oceans, perhaps in part due to heavy predation in these environments.

Outside of salt pools, their primary commercial value lies in fish food, mostly for commercial aquaculture but also as food for aquarium hobbyists. For the hobbyist, Gamma Foods offers an array of excellent, nutritious, and guaranteed pathogen free frozen products in flat pack and blister formats. They are available plain, and also enriched with omega fatty acids, garlic and spirulina. We use all these products in house and they have our highest recommendation. They are all appropriate for use in your freshwater and marine aquariums.

Artemia are easy to rear for the home hobbyist, with a minimum amount of equipment and in a short period of time. Nauplii can be hatched in 24 to 36 hours at around 80 degrees Fahrenheit and are feedable at this point. These baby shrimp make excellent food for newly hatched fish and very picky small fish as well. After hatching, the Brine Shrimp will reach full maturation in a bit more than a week, depending on variety, available food and temperature. At this point, most Artemia are capable of producing eggs, through harvesting these eggs is beyond the scope of this article.

Artemia cysts (just think eggs) are very stable and can remain viable for years at temperatures from below freezing to 80 plus degrees. The eggs can be bought freeze dried from most local fish stores, through we find that eggs that are bought refrigerated have a significantly higher hatch rate. There is a large number of kits available through aquarium retailers to help you hatch your own if you are interested in doing so. Our favorite systems for the home hobbyist are based on liter water bottles, small air pumps and after market bottle caps that allow you to both connect air to stir and oxygenate the water, as well as drain off the hatched nauplii. More comprehensive kits will be more expensive, but also more clean looking, and possibly easier to handle. Effectively, all you need is brine shrimp eggs, a small container, some salt water and an airstone. Just mix your eggs into your saltwater, add air, make sure it stays 75 to 85 degrees and wait; within 24 to 36 hours, you'll have thousands if not millions of baby shrimp to feed your aquatic pets. If any of this is unclear, head to YouTube and watch a few videos. You'll soon see there are lots of ways to do this, and most of them are very simple.

When first hatched, these baby brine shrimp will be less than half a millimeter long, and high in lipids and fatty acids which makes them excellent food for your newly hatched fish. The larger fish you keep might like them better if grown out slightly, and this is also an easy process. You just need two containers (buckets work great), clean water, some Tropic Marin marine aquarium salt and food. Mix the salt water (½ cup of salt per gallon), add your hatched nauplii and feed them. The absolute best food for them is Nutramar's Live Algae, and this will result in good growth, but also excellent, healthy food for your fish. They can also be fed spirulina or a mix of bread yeast and nutritional powders. Enough food should be added to the mixture to make the water barely cloudy, then oxygenate the bucket with your airstone. After 24 hours, turn off the air flow and most of the shrimp will settle to the bottom of the bucket. Mix up the next bucket of saltwater, add food, and siphon off the growing brine shrimp into their new home, then rinse and clean out the old bucket. Repeat this process once a day until your shrimp are a feedable size, usually three to five days. This process may take some fine tuning for you to understand how much oxygen is enough, how much food is enough, and how often water changes are actually needed.

Raising your own Brine Shrimp is so easy that it is done in grade school classrooms around the world, and sometimes for home science experiments; they are even marketed as “Sea Monkeys” for exactly this purpose, and those kits could also be used to rear your fish some delicious snacks. If this sounds like too much, just pick up some frozen Gamma Brine Shrimp from your Local Fish Store. Conversely, if this sounds like an experiment you'd like to try, hit up that same LFS to pick up some eggs, Tropic Marin Salt, Nutramar Live Algae and reverse osmosis water and maybe a brine shrimp rearing kit and get started on Brine Shrimp Rearing today! Tell them Aquatropic sent you.