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Raising Brine Shrimp


Fish guide
Table of Contents

Hatching Brine Shrimp

Life Cycle, Feeding & Nutritional Value

Maintaining Water Quality

Breeding Brine Shrimp

Storing Live Brine Shrimp

Storing Brine Shrimp Eggs

Decapsulating Brine Shrimp Eggs

The Benefits of Decapsulating Brine Shrimp Eggs

Storing Decapsulated Eggs
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Introduction

For decades brine shrimp were sold under the ingenious marketing label, “Sea Monkeys.” You could turn to the back of any magazine or comic book and there they were just waiting for you to snip the order form out and enclose it in an envelope with a prepaid money order. There was no such thing as the Internet or Online ordering yet. At the risk of dating myself, I can remember anxiously awaiting for the postal delivery man to knock on the door and present me with my Sea Monkey Kit. Wow, I was the first kid on the block to have my very own Sea Monkeys.

In the world on sophisticated aquarium hobbyists, many aquarium owners (both freshwater and saltwater) raise their own brine shrimp to feed their aquatic livestock. In this article you will learn everything you need to know about hatching, raising and breeding brine shrimp as food source.

If you are new to the concept of raising your own brine shrimp the most common unfamiliar terms you will come into contact with are nauplii, encysts & decapsulated.

Nauplii: The scientific term used to describe newly hatched brine shrimp.

Encysts: Encysts is the term used to describe eggs or dormant brine shrimp embryos. In nature, encysts are covered with a hard shell known as a chorion. This hard shell protects and preserves the dormant embryo until the conditions are right for hatching. Many home brine shrimp farmers prefer to remove the chorion prior to incubating and hatching baby brine shrimp. This process is known as decapsulation. While decapsulating the brine shrimp eggs is not strictly necessary, many hobbyists swear the benefits outweigh the additional step of the decapsulation process.

Since encysts can be purchased Online in either their natural state or decapsulated, we will move directly to hatching brine shrimp.

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Hatching Brine Shrimp

Hatching brine shrimp is actually quite easy even if you are a complete novice in the field. The first thing you will need is an incubation chamber or hatchery. Virtually any glass or plastic container capable of holding water will do. Many aquarists simply cut a water bottle in half and invert the top (lid sealed) into the bottom so the bottom of the bottle functions as a base.

You will also need a basic air pump, aquarium tubing, a preparation of standard aquarium saltwater solution (specific gravity 1.020-1.025) and an incandescent light to use as a heat source if available. Any desk top light or table lamp with an incandescent bulb in it will work fine.

Prepare your *saltwater and add it to the hatchery. Add in your brine shrimp eggs. The higher the grade of brine shrimp eggs the higher the hatch out rate. Grade A brine shrimp eggs have an 82% hatch out rate. This equates to approximately 225,000 baby brine shrimp per gram of encysts. Plug in your air pump and stick the air hose in the water to aerate the incubation chamber. Now all you have to do is wait for the baby brine shrimp to hatch.

Hatching time is directly correlated to water temperature. If you place the hatchery next to or directly under an incandescent light source (60-100 watts) and raise your water temperature to between 77-86°F your brine shrimp should hatch within 15 to 20 hours. If you have replaced all your lamps with compact fluorescents to do your part to help create a greener planet, not to worry, your brine shrimp will still hatch. It will simply take longer. You can expect to have baby brine shrimp within 48-72 hours. So if you plan on getting away for the weekend put some brine shrimp eggs in your hatchery (without the additional heating element) and you will have newly hatched baby brine shrimp when you return.
Plastic Bottle

Once the brine shrimp have hatched expect your water to change from a dull brown to a bright orange color.

If you are using non-decapsulated encysts you will need to separate the baby brines from their chorions. Just turn off the light source, unplug your air pump and remove the hose. Wait 10 minutes. The baby brine shrimp will instinctively settle to the bottom of the chamber. Their discarded shells are buoyant and will float to the top. Just siphon or spoon them out like you would remove the fat from the top of a pot of chili or soup. 

*If you are a freshwater aquarium enthusiast you don’t necessarily need to run out and buy all kinds of supplies to prepare a saltwater solution for raising brine shrimp in. Here is a Video Tutorial on the most economical way to prepare and hatch baby brine shrimp eggs.

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Life Cycle, Feeding & Nutritional Value

For the first 36 to 48 hours, newly hatched brine shrimp survive off of a yolk sac that is attached to their digestive system at the time of birth. It is this yolk sac that makes them such an ideal source of nutrients and fatty acids for baby fish fry.

Once the egg sac is empty it will detach itself from the brine shrimp. At this point they will need to be fed in order to survive. Their nutritional value as a food source for fish fry will also be greatly diminished. Brine shrimp can be fed yeast, wheat flour, soybean flour or powdered egg yolk. Any of these commonly available pantry products will keep them alive and healthy. These products do not however sufficiently address their continued nutritional value as a food source for your fish fry. To insure optimum nutritional value, many brine shrimp farmers “enrich” their brine shrimp.

Enriching your brine shrimp is a simple process. You just change their diet. Feeding brine shrimp food preparations such as algae paste, Naturose or any product containing a high algae content will allow your brine shrimp to produce the natural fatty acids essential for proper fish fry development. 

A Note on Nutritional Value: Nauplii (newly hatched brine shrimp) have a high fatty acid content (approx. 23% by body weight). This makes them an excellent food source for fish fry. Adult brine shrimp only contain about 7% fat content. Adults however have a much higher protein content than nauplii (63 as opposed to 45% protein). A high protein content is preferable for adult carnivorous fish species.

Brine shrimp typically grow to adulthood in eight days. They will reach anywhere between 8-20 mm in length depending on environmental conditions. An average brine shrimp’s lifespan is 3 months.

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Maintaining Water Quality

A brine shrimp will molt (shed their shells) an average of 15 times between birth and adulthood. If left to decompose these molted shells will substantially reduce your shrimp farms water quality.

Fortunately, separating brine shrimp from their molted shells is a relatively easy process. Brine shrimp are instinctively drawn to light just like a moth. Discarded shells will sink to the bottom of a tank. In a dimly lit room, shine a flashlight at water surface horizontally rather than vertically. The brine shrimp will migrate toward the light source. Use a turkey baster or a straw to suck up the molted shells from the bottom of the tank. 

Constant aeration is a must to maintain proper oxygen levels in your water.

A brine shrimp farm does not need a filtration unit. In fact, because of their size, filtering their tank could prove potentially fatal. A 20% water change once or twice a week is more than sufficient. If you remove the water from the bottom of the tank you can eliminate molted shells and replenish their water supply at the same time.

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Breeding Brine Shrimp

Even a small container of brine shrimp eggs will last an average aquarium owner quite some time. Many hobbyists choose to breed their adult brine shrimp to guarantee an inexhaustible food supply. 

A typical adult female is capable of producing approximately 75 baby brines every four days. A single female can reproduce 10 to 12 times during the course of her three month life span. This can easily yield 900 baby brine shrimp per female.

A high protein diet (zooplankton based), lowered salinity levels and increased water temperatures will help to induce the spawning cycle. This may ultimately lead to the question, “What do I do with all these brine shrimp?”

Environmental Breeding Parameters

Temperature

pH Level Specific Gravity
78-86  °F 8.1-8.4 1.005-1.020

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Storing Live Brine Shrimp

Brine shrimp (both newly hatched and adults) can be stored in your refrigerator for anywhere from two weeks to an entire month. The cold water temperatures drastically reduce their metabolic rates making feeding them unnecessary. If for any reason you are dubious about this statement, add a pinch of your preferred shrimp food to the water prior to storage.

 Storing Brine Shrimp Eggs

Brine shrimp eggs will last for years stored in a refrigerator as long as the lid to their container is sealed tightly to prevent exposure to moisture.

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Decapsulating Brine Shrimp Eggs

In their natural state, brine shrimp eggs are encased in a hard shell known as a chorion. The chorion acts to preserve and protect the unhatched embryos from severe climate conditions until the premium conditions for hatching return. The purported befits of decapsulating brine shrimp eggs follow immediately after the actual process.

Please Note: Decapsulating brine shrimp eggs involves the use of bleach. It is strongly recommend that the entire process be performed in a kitchen sink. 

Brine shrimp eggs typically come in a dehydrated state. The initial step in the decapsulation process is rehydrating the eggs. Take the amount of eggs you want to decapsulate and submerge them completely in a container with regular tap water. The decapsulation container should be less than 2/3 full to the top. Additional aeration with the use of a water pump is recommended throughout the entire decapsulating process. Allow the aerated eggs to rehydrate for around 10 minutes.

Once the eggs are rehydrated add approximately 1/3 cup household bleach for every 2/3s cup water in the decapsulation chamber. Allow the aerated eggs to soak for approximately 7 minutes or until they change from brown to a yellowish orange in color. Strain the bleach and water solution through a net, finely meshed material or a coffee filter and rinse thoroughly until you can no longer smell the bleach. This process can be expedited with the use of dechlor or Sodium Thiosulfate.

Your brine shrimp eggs are now decapsulated and ready to hatch immediately or store for future use.

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The Benefits of Decapsulating Brine Shrimp Eggs

Many brine shrimp farmers swear by the benefits of decapsulating encysts prior to incubation. These advantages are particularly beneficial when baby brine shrimp are used to feed newly hatched fish fry.  These befits are as follows; 

  • When brine shrimp are first hatched, they have yet to shed their hard shells. Because of their size, it is impossible to separate the brine shrimp that have shed their chorions from those who have not. Empty or attached shells can become lodged in a fish fry’s digestive tract increasing mortality rates.
  • Decapsulated brine shrimp eggs no longer have these shells attached. The risk of chocking or digestive tract blockage is eliminated.
  • Unhatched decapsulated brine shrimp eggs are an excellent food source for both fish fry and adult fish. 
  • The decapsulation process involves introducing encysts to a sodium hydrochloride (common household bleach).  Exposure to bleach kills any bacterial cultures, in essence, sterilizing the brine shrimp eggs while not affecting their ability to hatch. This is particularly beneficial when you are planning to feed baby brine to newly hatched fish fry that have yet to develop an affective immune system.
  • The benefits of decapsulated brine shrimp eggs are nowhere near as important when feeding adult livestock. Just thoroughly rinse the brine shrimp off in a net under tap water (to reduce the possibility of bacteriological contamination) before introducing them to your aquarium.
  • Those who swear by the decapsulating process claim a much higher hatch rate over non-decapsulated eggs.

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Storing Decapsulated Eggs

Decapsulated eggs can be stored in a small amount of saltwater in the refrigerator for up to a week. If you need to store your decapsulated eggs for longer periods of time you will need to re-dehydrate them. Drain and remove the excess water from the eggs. Prepare a brine solution of 300+ ppt salinity and store them in the refrigerator overnight. The brine solution will partially dehydrate the eggs extending viability or shelf life. Drain the eggs and add fresh brine solution after 24 hours. Brined eggs will remain fresh in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.
 
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