Brine shrimp are very small aquatic crustaceans that are commonly used as live food for aquarium fish. These little shrimps are also sold as pets under the name Sea Monkeys, so you may already be familiar with them without knowing it. Not only are brine shrimp a highly nutritious source of food for fish, but they are a type of live food that is very easy to produce and harvest at home. In fact, you can hatch hundreds or thousands of brine shrimp simply using a hatchery made from plastic bottles.
If you’re thinking about hatching your own brine shrimp to use as fish food, you may be wondering how long brine shrimp live. You can certainly feed newly hatched brine shrimp (known as nauplii) to your fish, but larger fish should be fed adult brine shrimp. Keep reading to learn more about what brine shrimp are, how long they life, and how to care for them.
What Are Brine Shrimp?
Knowing that brine shrimp are aquatic crustaceans may not be enough for you to truly understand what these little creatures are and how they are used in the aquarium industry. Brine shrimp belong to the genus Artemia and they are type of crustacean that has been around since the Triassic period. There are somewhere between 7 and 9 species of brine shrimp which are thought to have evolved from an ancient variety that lived as long as 5.5 million years ago. Though brine shrimp are still around today, they remain largely unchanged from their ancient ancestors.
Brine shrimp are arthropods with segmented bodies and broad, leaf-like appendages. A brine shrimp’s body consists of 19 individual segments. The first 11 segments each have a pair of appendages while the next two are fused to house the reproductive organs and the final segments lead down to a tail. These creatures are very small, growing to a total length between 8 and 10 millimeters for adult males and about 10 to 12 millimeters for adult females. Both sexes usually measure about 4 millimeters in width, which includes the length of their legs.
How Long Do Brine Shrimp Live?
Brine shrimp begin as dormant cysts, or eggs, and they go through a series of 14 to 17 different stages throughout their life cycle. Each of these stages is separated by a molt in which the brine shrimp grows a larger exoskeleton and sheds the old one. In the right conditions, brine shrimp can reach full adulthood in as little as 8 days, though it can take anywhere from 3 to 6 weeks in sub-prime conditions. Another interesting fact about brine shrimp is that when conditions are ideal, the females will release free-swimming naupiii or partially developed embryos into the water during reproduction. If the conditions are not ideal, she will release dormant cysts (or eggs) which will remain dormant until conditions improve. These dormant cysts can remain viable for as long as 25 years and adult brine shrimp can live for as long as three months.
How Do You Care For Brine Shrimp?
If you want to feed your aquarium fish adult brine shrimp, you are going to have to hatch them from eggs and then raise them until they are large enough to be used as food. In order to keep your brine shrimp, you’ll need to set up a tank to house them after they have hatched – this is called a culture tank.
Your culture tank doesn’t need to be anything fancy – a 5-gallon bucket or a 10-gallon aquarium will do. Just keep in mind that you’ll need to control certain elements like temperature, aeration, and filtration in order to keep your brine shrimp alive. Here are the steps for creating a culture tank using a 10-gallon glass aquarium:
- Cut a thin sheet of acrylic to slightly larger than the tank dimensions.
- Force the sheet of acrylic into the bottom of the tank and seal it at the edges so it forms a concave surface – this will allow spent shells and waste to collect at the bottom for easy cleaning.
- Outfit your tank with an air pump attached to an air stone to provide constant circulation – you’ll need good circulation all over the tank.
- Install a low-level lighting system – a 60-watt to 100-watt bulb will be fine.
- If needed, install an aquarium heater to keep the water temperature between 77°F and 86°F.
- Fill the aquarium with warm saltwater, aiming for a salinity between 30 and 35ppt.
Once you have set up your culture tank, simply add your hatched brine shrimp and do the necessary maintenance to keep them alive. You’ll want to perform a 20% water change every few days, focusing on siphoning the waste from the bottom of the tank. To avoid sucking up your brine shrimp, shine a light at the top of the tank so they will gather there, allowing you to vacuum the bottom of the tank. Feed your brine shrimp foods like egg yolk, whey, wheat flour, or soybean powder in small amounts as needed. If you can, set up a drip feeding system for continuous feeding or do several small feedings per day as an alternative.
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With more than 15 years of experience in aquarium sector, i’m totally passionate about creating Aquarist Guide blogspot. I enjoy sharing all of my knowledge to help you guys effectively build your own tank. I believe that when you find the easiest way to raise your lovely fish successfully throughout my blog, you will definitely fall in love with fish keeping more than a popular hobby.