Published January 06, 2013
Brine shrimp are a type of small aquatic crustacean that are often used as food for aquarium fish. These creatures belong to the genus Artemia which has existed for millions of years, its origins dating back beyond the Triassic period. Brine shrimp reproduce by producing dormant eggs which can be stored for long periods of time and hatched on demand – this makes brine shrimp an easy source of live food for aquarium hobbyists to cultivate at home. In order to raise your own brine shrimp all you need is some brine shrimp eggs and a hatchery. This article will teach you how to construct your own brine shrimp hatchery and will also provide you with all the information you need to raise the brine shrimp at home.
Brine Shrimp as Fish Food
Like all living things, aquarium fish require a varied diet in order to thrive – a diet that meets all of their nutritional needs
for protein, carbohydrate, lipids, vitamins and minerals. Brine shrimp are an excellent source of protein for aquarium fish and they are particularly beneficial for newly hatched fry and juvenile fish. When they first hatch, brine shrimp are very small – the perfect size for developing fry. Newly hatched brine shrimp, also called brine shrimp nauplii can be released directly into the breeding tank for fry to feed on. As the brine shrimp grow, they become ideal for adult fish as a healthy source of protein. Mature brine shrimp can be offered to fish live or in either freeze-dried or frozen form. Because purchasing small quantities of live food
and frozen food can become expensive, many aquarium hobbyists choose to raise their own brine shrimp – not only does this option save you money but it also ensures that you have a ready supply of brine shrimp on hand for your fish.
Building the Hatchery
To construct a brine shrimp hatchery all you need is a large glass or plastic jar with a lid, a length of airline tubing and an air pump. Before you begin building the hatchery, make sure you thoroughly wash and rinse the jar to remove any food or soap residue which could contaminate the water. Next, punch a hole in the center of the lid large enough to accommodate the airline tubing – you may also want to punch an extra hole or two in the lid to allow air to escape from the jar. Trim the airline tubing to the appropriate length and attach it to the air pump to aerate the water
. If you are concerned about noise or if you plan to run several hatcheries, you may need to use a gang valve.
Once you have the basic construction for your hatchery completed you need to fill the jar with water and add your brine shrimp eggs. You can purchase brine shrimp eggs online or at your local pet store but, if you want to guarantee a high hatch rate, you should invest in high quality eggs. If you intend to cultivate a constant supply of brine shrimp you may want to look into purchasing brine shrimp eggs in bulk to save money. To prepare the hatchery for the eggs, fill the jar with regular tap water to just below the point where it begins to curve inward. Add about three teaspoons of rock salt to the jar and stir it until the salt dissolves – you may want to screw on the lid and turn on the air pump to help the salt dissolve more quickly. In addition to salinity, you also need to be aware of the pH of the water you use in your hatchery – brine shrimp require a pH of 8.0 or higher so, if your pH is too low, you may need to add some baking soda to raise it.
Raising/Harvesting Brine Shrimp
After you have gotten your hatchery completely set up you will need to add the eggs. Pour no more than ½ tsp. of eggs into the jar then screw on the lid and turn on the air pump. Depending on the temperature of the water, your brine shrimp eggs should hatch within 12 to 18 hours. If the temperature in your house is below 74°F you may need to install an aquarium heater
or use a lamp to warm the water in your brine shrimp hatchery to the appropriate temperature. Once the eggs have hatched, turn off the air pump and let the water settle. After a few minutes you should notice that the hatched eggs have floated to the top of the water and the baby brine shrimp will be at the very bottom of the jar. To harvest the baby brine shrimp, use a turkey baster to siphon out as many brine shrimp as you can and release them directly into the tank with your fish.
Once you have harvested the brine shrimp you should wait between 24 and 36 hours before starting a new batch. After a few times you will get a feel for how many brine shrimp each batch yields and how much your fish require. Over time you will fall into a rhythm and you will have no problem maintaining a constant supply of freshly hatched brine shrimp for your aquarium fish.