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When it comes to feeding your fish live food, brine shrimp are a pretty popular choice, highly nutritious and an excellent selection for newly hatched fry.
Saltwater brine shrimp work particularly well as they have no pathogens that can be passed to fish as with other live foods such as bloodworms.
What’s even better, it only takes 24 to 36 hours to hatch brine shrimp eggs at home, with the supplies needed readily available in local fish or hardware stores, and even on online platforms like Amazon.
However, there are so many different methods for hatching brine shrimp and making DIY hatcheries, some a little complicated than others, which could make your decision difficult than it should be.
For that reason I’ve decided to make a guide to take you through the nitty-gritty stuff you need to grasp to attain success.
Please read on as I break it down into simple, failproof steps for you to follow along.
What is Brine Shrimp
Brineshrimp are crustaceans that inhabit salty water bodies around the world, both inland and on the coast. Though in the context of the fish keeping hobby, they are considered more of a food source for other aquatic life than pets.
They are microscopic in nature and are mostly visible to bare eyes when in large schools. Adult males average 0.3 to 0.4 inches long, while the females range anywhere between 0.4 and 0.5 inches in length.
Both male and females have a series of undulating appendages which they use to direct food towards their mouths.
While feeding, brine shrimp also ingest a lot of salty water which they excrete through their gills called branchia. They use the gills to obtain oxygen in the water as well.
Brine shrimp will survive in water with salinities ranging from 3 to 33 percent which is quite helpful when hatching them at home because you get a lot of wiggle area, even with a couple of slips.
The little creatures swim in an upside-down position by rhythmically beating their legs, which they also use to filter food from the water. Brine shrimp feed primarily on green algae.
The ability of brine shrimp to produce dormant eggs, called cysts, has led to their extensive use in aquaculture. The eggs can be stored indefinitely and hatched on demand to provide a convenient form of live food for your aquarium fish, more so young fry.
Consequently, artemia is the most widely used fish food item worldwide with over 2K tons of dry cyst marketed every year.
Artinia salina, the species that occur in vast numbers in the Great Salt Lake, Utah, is of commercial importance. Young brine shrimp hatched there from dried eggs are used widely as food for fish and other small animals in aquariums.
Quite often, the words artemia and sea monkey are be used interchangeably to refer to brine shrimp, even though ‘sea monkeys’ are a novelty variant of the brine shrimp artificially developed in the United States.
Brine Shrimp Hatching at Home
As I’ve stated, brine shrimp are an ideal food source for aquatic life, especially larval-fish.
I know hatching brine shrimp can be a daunting task considering prepared and frozen foods are less of a hassle. The only problem is it will take your fish more than a long minute to grow.
Moreover, freshly hatched artemia troops still have their yolk sacs while they are harvested, which make them super nutritious for babies, and their jerking motions really trigger feeding instincts for fry and crustaceans.
Parent fish will also breed more readily if they believe there is plenty of food available for their babies to eat.
So, what do you need and how do you hatch brine shrimp at home?
Below is a detailed guide.
- Hatchery kit
- Air pump and accessories
- 6 mm Airline tubing and check valve
- Airline manifolds and Micro ball valves: This will allow you to run multiple cultures off of one air pump and control the air to each using the tiny valves
- 2 liters plastic bottle: Pick the strongest, thickest bottle that won’t crush
- Painters tape and a market
- Measuring devices; you can also use tea spoons
- RO or Dechlorinated water
- Baby shrimp eggs
- Aquarium salt; but rocks salt is aslso perfectly OK, and dirt-cheap😜
- Baking soda or epsom salt
- Desk lamp or any other appropriate light source that takes incandescent or halogen bulbs
- Botttle holder or hangers; You can try out your DIY skills on this one.
How to Instal Your Brine Shrimp Hatchery Kit
Before we get to the process, I deem it essential to mention that putting all your stakes on one brine shrimp culture is not a risk you want to take.
This is especially true because hatcheries do crush, leaving you with nothing to feed your fish. As such, run several (up to 5) setup at different times for a steady supply/.
Of course, you will need a little more products or custom ones, including a place to hold the bottles.
With that out of the way, let’s get to the steps.
- Prepare your water bottle
- Instal the air pump
- Mix the contents
- Start the air pump
- Add the brine shrimp eggs
- Place the setup under a desk lamp
Step #1&mdashStart with The Water Bottle
To start with, you will need to cut the bottoms of the bottles and put the cut off potions aside as you will use them a while later.
Next install the seal to the bottom of the hatchery stand and place the upside-down bottle on it, with the top part attaching to the base.
However, if yours is a DIY project, meaning you do not have a hatchery kit, you can use DIY C02 bottle caps at the base instead. But since they caps do not have a flat-base, remember to install the bottle hangers or use a wooden holding stand to keep them in place.
When you cut the base of your bottle, make sure the part that remains is strong enough and won’t crumble under the weight of pressure when you add the contents.
Also, make sure you remove the plastic ring that seals the new water or soda bottle to the cup to make it watertight when you screw it to the base or CO2 caps.
Step #2&mdashInstal the Airline Tubing and Air Pump
Once you have your bottle set on the base or the caps on, its time to connect the air supply.
From the stand, hatchery stand, you will have a probe at the very bottom where you insert the airline tubing. Putting your airline on DIY CO2 cups is straightforward because the connection points are clearly visible.
Even so, if you intend on having more than one hatchery running on off the same air pump, meaning you’ll need a manifold, attach two tubings on the DIY cups.
Attach the short ones to the microvalves, and the long one goes to the manifold. Use another airline tubing to attach your manifold to the air pump.
If you are concerned about an imminent power cut, you might want to place a check valve on the airline tubing leading to the pump to keep it from flooding when the lights go out.
Alternatively, place your pump in a spot above the hatchery setup.
Step #3&mdashMix The Contents in The Bottle
With everything well set and in place, mix the hatchery contents in the bottle.
First, start by feeling your bottle about three-quarters (70 percent) full with the dechlorinated or RO water. Some aquarist recommend using warm water, which is also an option, though I have not tried it yet.
If you have a thermometer, place it in the water but make sure you have a reading dial outside the system because the water will get quite hazy.
While adding the salt, baking soda, and the brine shrimp eggs, follow the instruction given in the hatchery kit.
But typically, the average is about a tablespoon and a half of salt per liter of water or 25 parts per thousand which is the specific gravity of 1.018
A pinch of baking soda per liter of water will help to sufficiently stabilize the ph.
Step #4&mdashTurn The Pump On
Now, we are inching closer to the end.
To supply your eggs and hatchling with the much-needed air, you want to turn the air pump on and open the air valves before your add the brine shrimp eggs.
If you have more than once hatchery, regulate the air coming through the manifold using the microvalve to make sure each bottle has sufficient aeration (even number of bubbles).
Step #5&mdashAdd Your Brine Shrimp Eggs
The second last step is to add your brine shrimp eggs in the saline water.
Again, follow the instruction on the hatchery kit, though any amount equal to half a teaspoon per liter of water is perfectly OK. Besides, the measurements are quite flexible, so don’t worry about getting it all accurate.
If you have more than one hatchery, which I recommend, try not to add all your eggs at the same time, stagger then over several hours to a day to make sure you have a continuous supply o brine shrimp for your fish.
To ensure you do not lose track of which bottle is older and which to feed first, use the painter tape to write down the date and time you set up each unit.
Step #6&mdashPlace Your Hatchery Under The Desk Lamp
The last thing we need is heat and light, luckily, something as simple as a desk lamp will provide both.
The water will need to be pretty warm, usually upwards of 82℉ , also keep the light on throughout the incubation period.
Finally, remember to take the cut off parts of the bottle and set them on top of the open side. This will help reduce evaporation and heat retention.
Your eggs will hatch within 24 hours but do not stress out if they don’t because at times the process takes up to 36 hours depending on the conditions.
Raising Brine Shrimp
Hatching brine shrimp is pretty easy, what’s challenging is bringing them to adult-stage, though it’s not as complicated as many people make it out to be.
You only need to follow a few steps, and appreciate that brine shrimp are quite greedy and grow quite fast, meaning you need to be on top of things.
After hatching, the first thing you want to do is harvest them.
Start by turning off your air pump and let the water rest for about 10 minutes. At this point, you might also want to place the desk lamp near the mouth of the bottle.
That will encourage the shrimplets to swim to the bottom (towards the light) and leave the shells at the top water level.
Give the setup enough time to settle fully and the shells to completely float at the top as you do not want any egg covers coming out with the shrimplets.
Brine shrimp egg casing can be quite unsightly flying all over your tank and on your substrate, especially if you have dark gravel or sand. They show up everywhere, and they last for ages before they biodegrade away.
Once everything is gone into the bottom and to your airline tubing, lower the pipe and take it off the air pump so that it siphons out with all your freshly hatched brine shrimplets.
Normally, when your harvest brine shrimp, you will most likely be feeding them to your fish almost immediately, but if you want to bring them on and get them to grow a little further, you need to set up a little tank, maybe 2.5 gallons, or even a big Tupperware.
Mix up water as you did when hatching them (1 tablespoon of salt per liter) and fill up the tank depending on how much shrimplet you have.
You can, and I recommend, adding a sponge filter in the tank.
What that does is keep everything nice and fresh for the shrimp.
Another thing you will need is a heat source. You can add a heater in the tank and set it to about 72℉. Remember to let the water get up to temperature first before adding your shrimplets in the water.
To transfer your brine shrimp into the tank, use a turkey buster to siphon them. I recommend taking small troops at a time to make sure the shrimplets don’t overpopulate their new home.
Gradually move them from one Tupperware to another as they get bigger and add a new colony to the empty one from the one before it to make sure you have a steady supply for your fishes.
Feed your brine shrimp spirulina powder that is highly-ground and rich in protein.
You can use a lab specimen container to mix a pinch of powder with salty water and pour it in the tank sparingly on every feeding time. Ideally, add the food until your water is slightly cloudy.
Egg yolk is another ideal food source for brine shrimp.
Whenever you boil an egg, rub a little bit of the yolk between your fingers and place it in the water, making sure the particles are light enough for the shrimplets to devour.
Wheat flour, soybean flour, and bakers yeast are good alternatives as well if you don’t have spirulina or egg yolk.
You do not need to feed your brine shrimp if you have tiny microscopic plants or algae growing in the container. Placing your Tupperware in natural light will stimulate the growth.
Don’t forget to cover the containers with the shrimplets to prevent evaporation as this can lead to excess salinity in the water and kill your brine shrimp.
When the water is ideal, food is plentiful, and oxygen levels high, your shrimplets can develop to adulthood in as little as eight (8) days. But in less than ideal conditions, the brine shrimp will take anywhere from 3 to 6 weeks to reach maturity.
That’s all for this post, happy fish keeping
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