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Brine Shrimp (Artemia) – Feeding, Life Cycle, And Care Guide

Brine shrimp are a common species of filter-feeding saltwater shrimp that are often used as a food source for many species of aquarium fish. 

You can buy frozen and freeze-dried brine shrimp, or you might want to raise your own in a special Artemia hatchery so that your fish get to enjoy some nutritious live food without the risk of introducing parasites to your aquarium. 

But did you know that you can keep the “sea monkey” as pets or for a fascinating school science project, too? 

Read this complete brine shrimp care guide for the answers to these questions and more!

Brine Shrimp – Species Profile

Scientific Name

Artemia franciscana

Common Name (species)

Brine shrimp, Sea Monkey

Family

Artemiidae

Origin

Tropical salt pools worldwide

Diet

Herbivore

Care Level

Easy

Activity

Filter-feeder

Lifespan

Up to 6 months

Temperament

Peaceful

Tank Level

All areas

Minimum Tank Size

5 gallons

Temperature Range

68o F to 79o F

Water salinity

1.011 to 1.030

pH Range

7.5 to 8.0

Filtration/Flow Rate

Well-filtered, medium flow rate

Water type

Saltwater

Breeding

Easy

Compatibility

Single-species tank only

Plant-safe?

N/A

Origins And Habitat

Brine shrimp have been around since the Triassic Period, 250 million years ago. These tiny, filter-feeding crustaceans are found in tropical saltwater pools, salt marshes, and oceans throughout the world. 

Brine shrimp live in the natural salt lakes of New Mexico, California, and Utah, and they are one of very few creatures to flourish in the Great Salt Lake. Here, Artemia is a major food source for migratory birds. 

The shrimp live in vast numbers, feeding on microscopic planktonic algae that drifts past in the current. Sea Monkeys are filter-feeders, extracting particles of algae from the water with their legs.

What Do Artemia Look Like?

Artemia plankton Brine shrimp

Brine shrimp have a small head with one nauplius (larval) eye and compound eyes on stalks. The shrimp have a thorax with a series of limbs and a narrow abdomen without appendages. 

The shrimp swim upside down by using their legs for propulsion.

How Big Do Brine Shrimp Get?

Brine shrimp are tiny, measuring only .5 inches long.

How Long Do Brine Shrimp Live?

Artemia has a very short lifespan of up to six months.

Temperament And Behavior

Brine shrimp are very active little creatures that spend their time busily filtering food from the water and breeding.

What Fish Make Good Tank Mates For Sea Monkeys?

Basically, you can’t keep fish or invertebrates with brine shrimp. There are two reasons for that.

  • Brine shrimp need very clean water to thrive and they need a spacious tank. If you keep your brine shrimp in a small 1-gallon setup, there won’t be enough space to accommodate anything else without upsetting the ecology of the tank.
  • Most omnivorous fish and inverts will eat the brine shrimp!

So, if you want to keep brine shrimp as educational pets for your kids, I recommend that you keep your Artemia in a single-species tank.

Brine Shrimp Diet

As previously mentioned, brine shrimp are non-selective filter feeders that will feed on many microorganisms.

Common yeast 947 W 3404 is a suitable food for brine shrimp. Add water to the yeast to create a suspension and add a few drops per five gallons of water to the surface of the tank every couple of days.

You can also feed your brine shrimp with green algae such as spirulina that you can buy in flake or powder form from fish stores. Crush the spirulina into a fine powder, make a solution from that, and add two to five drops per five gallons of water in the tank every few days.

Tank Requirements

Tank size

You can make raising brine shrimp as simple or complex as you want to. Ideally, a small 5 to 10-gallon tank is required, but you can use smaller aquariums.

close up image of underwater landscape nature style aquarium tank with a variety of aquatic plants inside.

A 5-gallon tank will hold up to 5,000 adult brine shrimp.

Tank Decoration

If you’re keeping brine shrimp as pets, you can include a sandy substrate and a few rocks as decoration.

Water Quality

Brine shrimp are saltwater creatures that need clean water to remain healthy and reproduce.

You should dechlorinate the water to remove harmful toxins that would poison the shrimp.

Filtration

Brine shrimp require clean, well-filtered water. As the shrimp are tiny, I recommend that you use a sponge filter so that the Sea Monkeys don’t get sucked into the filter unit.

Beautiful planted tropical freshwater aquarium with fishes. Aquascape.

It’s also a good idea to use an air stone or bubbler to help keep the water well-oxygenated.

Water Parameters

Water Temperature

Brine shrimp live in warm water, so they need a heated tank with a water temperature of between 68oF and 79oF.

Water Salinity And pH Range

The ideal water pH level for brine shrimp is in the range of 7.5 to 8.0, with optimal salinity at a specific gravity of 1.024 to 1.028.

Lighting

You can use standard aquarium lighting such as LED lights, incandescent or fluorescent bulbs.

Aquarium Maintenance

Vilnius, Lithuania A man vacuums a fish tank.

You need to carry out routine maintenance on your brine shrimp tank to keep the environment healthy and clean.

Carry out a 25% saltwater change each month. At that time, use an aquarium vacuum to remove dead shrimp and cysts from the tank bottom. During that process, I advise that you ask a helper to shine a flashlight into the tank to lure the shrimp away from the vacuum so that you don’t end up accidentally sucking up your shrimp.

If you add water to the tank to top up the levels because of evaporation, do not use saltwater. That will increase the salinity within the tank and unbalance the environment. 

Use a hydrometer to check the specific gravity levels in the tank when adding water to the aquarium.

How To Set Up A Tank For Brine Shrimp

Close up shot of hands putting plants on the low water aquarium.

What you’ll need:

  • Lighting unit
  • Sand substrate
  • Sponge filter
  • Air stone/bubbler
  • Heater
  • Water conditioner

Setting Up A Brine Shrimp Tank

  1. To remove dust that would otherwise cloud your water, rinse the sand under running water.
  2. Add a thin layer of sand to cover the bottom of the aquarium.
  3. It’s helpful to put a plate or upside down dish on the bottom of the tank so that the sand doesn’t get scattered all over the place when you pour the water in.
  4. Install the heater and filter in the tank.
  5. Fill the tank with dechlorinated tap water, pouring the water slowly over the upturned plate. If you prefer, you can use Reverse Osmosis (RO) water.
  6. Now you need to cycle your aquarium before you add the shrimp. To kick off the cycle, the water must contain a small amount of ammonia. So, sprinkle some fish food into the water or add a few drops of pure ammonia.
  7. Activate the sponge filter and heater.
  8. Leave the tank to cycle for ten days and test the water on alternate days.
  9. Wait until the levels of ammonia and nitrites are at zero and nitrates are 20ppm or less.

Health And Disease

Brine shrimp are pretty robust creatures. After all, you don’t get to survive as a species for 250 million years if you’re not hardy!

That said, there are a few diseases that can attack brine shrimp that you need to know about, especially if you’re planning on raising these creatures as food for your fish. However, since Artemia are so tiny, it can be next to impossible to spot the signs or symptoms of the disease until the shrimp begin dying. 

Common Brine Shrimp Health Issues And Treatment 

Health Issue

Tapeworm

White Spot disease

Fungal infections

Symptoms or Causes

Tapeworms can be present in live-caught brine shrimp. Infected shrimp appear bright red in color.

White Spot or Ich is caused by an aquatic parasite. Brine shrimp are typically vectors of the parasites.

Fungal infections can affect all life stages, appearing as black spots or fluffy areas on the shrimp’s body.

Suggested Action

Treat the aquarium with shrimp-safe OTC antiparasitic medication.

Treat the aquarium with shrimp-safe OTC Ich treatment.

Treat the aquarium with shrimp-safe OTC antifungal treatment.

Health Issue

Tapeworm

Symptoms or Causes

Tapeworms can be present in live-caught brine shrimp. Infected shrimp appear bright red in color.

Suggested Action

Treat the aquarium with shrimp-safe OTC antiparasitic medication.

Health Issue

White Spot disease

Symptoms or Causes

White Spot or Ich is caused by an aquatic parasite. Brine shrimp are typically vectors of the parasites.

Suggested Action

Treat the aquarium with shrimp-safe OTC Ich treatment.

Health Issue

Fungal infections

Symptoms or Causes

Fungal infections can affect all life stages, appearing as black spots or fluffy areas on the shrimp’s body.

Suggested Action

Treat the aquarium with shrimp-safe OTC antifungal treatment.

How Do Brine Shrimp Reproduce?

Male and female brine shrimp go through the same mating process as other shrimp species. 

If conditions within the tank are right, female brine shrimp will produce eggs that hatch almost immediately. 

Brine Shrimp Fun Facts

In hostile conditions, such as when the salinity is extremely high or oxygen levels in the water are very low, the shrimp produce eggs that have a chorion coating. These eggs are called cysts. 

Cysts can remain in total stasis for up to two years if kept in oxygen-free, dry conditions, even surviving at sub-zero temperatures. However, once you put them in saltwater, the cysts hatch within a matter of hours. When the eggs hatch, the nauplius larvae they release are under .5 inches long.

Mini Graphics for Brine Shrimp (Artemia) - Feeding, Life Cycle, And Care Guide

Breeding Brine Shrimp

  1. Start by adding a packet of dehydrated brine shrimp cysts to your tank.
  2. The cysts should hatch within 15 to 20 hours into free-swimming brine shrimp.
  3. Once the shrimp cysts hatch, the shrimp will grow and begin breeding rapidly.
  4. Keep the tank clean, monitor the water parameters, and feed the shrimp as detailed above.

If you’re keeping your Artemia as pets, that’s all you need to do. 

Harvesting Artemia As Food For Your Fish 

  1. If you’re planning on harvesting brine shrimp to feed to your fish, you’ll be able to do so after eight days.
  2. Switch off the pump and filter system. Wait for ten minutes. The hatched cyst shells will float up to the water surface, and any unhatched cysts will sink to the tank bottom.
  3. Get your net ready, and use a flashlight to herd the adult shrimp into a suitable place where you can easily catch them.
  4. The adult shrimp will be held in the net, while juveniles will fall through the net and back into the water. Now, you can feed your fish with the adult shrimp.

Availability

You can buy brine shrimp eggs from most good fish stores and online.

Since brine shrimp are so easy to breed, you’ll most likely only need to buy one batch of eggs or live shrimp.

What You’ll Need For Your Brine Shrimp Tank

  • Aquarium siphon vacuum cleaner
  • Sponge filter
  • Bubbler/Air stone
  • Aquarium (5 gallons or larger)
  • Heater
  • Lighting unit
  • Sand substrate
  • Water conditioner

You might also find it helpful to pick up a book on raising brine shrimp, especially if you’re not used to keeping marine species.

Final Thoughts

I hope you enjoyed our guide on how to raise and keep Artemia.

Did you raise brine shrimp at school as a science project? Tell us in the comments box below!

And don’t forget to share this guide if you loved it!

Alison Page has been an avid fish keeper for over 35 years and has owned many different species of freshwater tropical fish including bettas. Currently Alison has two large freshwater tanks. The first tank has two huge fancy goldfish who are almost ten years old and still looking as good as ever. In the other, she has a happy community of tiger barbs, green tiger barbs, corydoras catfish, platys, and mollies.

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