Raising your own brine shrimp from eggs is an easy and economical way to keep a steady supply of nutritious, live food for your aquarium fish. To create a "grow-out" system of your own, you'll need a few simple supplies. Setup is simple—especially if you're a seasoned aquarist.
What Are Brine Shrimp?
Brine shrimp (Artemia spp.) are tiny crustaceans that seem to defy all odds of survival. Residents of saltwater lakes, these hardy organisms can tolerate higher levels of salinity and more dramatic temperature fluctuations than most other creatures on earth. Their resilience to environmental extremes has allowed brine shrimp to exist, virtually unchanged, for over 100 million years.
Among aquarium enthusiasts, brine shrimp are valued as a highly nutritious food source that meets the needs of fish better than commercially manufactured flakes. While you can buy them in pet stores, you can also raise them yourself to ensure a constantly fresh food supply.
How to Grow Brine Shrimp
Assuming you've already established your brine shrimp hatchery, you'll need a few supplies to create a grow-out system for your nauplii (baby shrimp). Although nauplii are an excellent food source for fish, they are too small to feed adult fish. To grow them bigger, you will need:
- Containers (at least two)
- Air pump and tubing
- Food supply for the shrimp
Fill Your Container
You can use two small aquariums (10 or 20 gallons) for grow-out containers, but inexpensive 5-gallon buckets often work better because their handles allow easy movement.
Fill one bucket with fresh, dechlorinated water that has a specific gravity (salt content) of 1.018. Reserve the other bucket for maintenance (water changes), which must be performed once a week.
Install an Air Pump
Use an air pump that is powerful enough to deliver a good air supply to the bottom of the grow-out container. Drop one or more air stones into the container to circulate the water or use an aquarium bubbler. For best results, you need to keep your brine shrimp and their food in constant motion.
Add Baby Shrimp
Rinse your harvested baby brine shrimp with clean saltwater and release them into the grow-out container.
For the brine shrimp to grow, they require a constant food supply in a form that is palatable and is easily consumed (microscopic) for these filter-feeders. There are several yeast-based brine shrimp foods available on the market, but they lack nutrients that help shrimp grow and build proteins.
April Kirkendoll has a great brine shrimp food recipe in her book, How To Raise & Train Your Peppermint Shrimp: "I mix one teaspoon of baby food pureed sweet potatoes and one teaspoon of baby food peas into one cup of water. I usually add a drop of liquid vitamin supplement, and often for good measure, I'll add a small amount of some fatty acid enrichment mixture such as Super Selco. Then I put it all in a small resealable bottle, like the kind used for soda or water, and shake well."
The mixture will keep well in your refrigerator for about a week if it is sealed. Shake the container well before each feeding.
Feeding Your Brine Shrimp
For maximum results, your brine shrimp should have food available 24/7. At the same time, you don't want to flood the container with so much food that the shrimp can't consume it all because it will settle on the bottom of the container and decompose. Overfeeding will only add to your container maintenance.
So how often and how much should you feed? It depends on the size of your grow-out container and your brine shrimp size and population.
- To begin with, when you have a small population of small brine shrimp in your container, it won't take much. A good "rule of thumb" is to feed just enough of the mixture to make the container water slightly cloudy.
- Keep an eye on the water and, when it appears to be clear (most or almost all of the food consumed), add some more food. Over time, you will know how much and how often to add food to the container.
- As you add more and more shrimp to your grow-out container (from the daily hatchings), you will need to feed more food, more often.
Maintaining Your Grow-Out Container
When your grow-out container becomes dirty (debris on the bottom, slime on the sides, and/or foam on the surface), it's time for a container change. Here's how:
- Turn off the air supply to your container for about 15 minutes, allowing debris to settle to the bottom and the brine shrimp to rise to the surface.
- Fill your second container with clean saltwater. Move the air pump and airstones to this container unless you have a second set for this container.
- With a fine mesh net, scoop the brine shrimp out of the first container and put them in the new one.
- Turn on the air supply to the new container, feed the shrimp, and clean the first container in preparation for the next maintenance cycle.
If you are not overfeeding your shrimp, you should be able to get by with once-weekly container maintenance.
4.1. Introduction, biology and ecology of Artemia. Laboratory of Aquaculture & Artemia Reference Center, University of Gent, Belgium.
Kirkendoll, April. How to Raise & Train Your Peppermint Shrimp: A Hobbyist's Guide to Raising Saltwater Aquarium Shrimp from Egg to Adult. Lysmata Pub., 2009.
Aquarium Water Quality: Nitrogen Cycle. Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
Simon, Seymour. Pets in a Jar. Isabella Products, Inc., 2014