Whether you have a freshwater or saltwater tank, you’re likely at least somewhat familiar with brine shrimp. These unusual creatures are available as fish food in frozen, freeze-dried, and fresh forms. They are highly nutritious, boasting a protein content that ranges around 40–70%, while they are between 12–30% lipids, making them a great food source for developing fish. If you’ve ever taken a close look at brine shrimps, they are odd looking animals, which may have led you to wonder what it is that something so small and unusual eats to survive.
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What are Brine Shrimps?
It might surprise you to learn that brine shrimps are one in the same as the “sea monkeys” you kept as a kid. They are crustaceans, although they aren’t actually shrimp. They are small animals, measuring in around 15mm, or 0.6 inches, and they have 19 body segments with 11 pairs of legs. They also have two different types of eyes and the ability to defensively drop body parts, like a lizard losing its tail.
Brine shrimp eggs, called cysts, can stay dormant for years until optimal environmental conditions for hatching are reached. These creatures have survived trips to space, radiation exposure, and completely drying out. They can survive water that is up to 50% salinity. For perspective, ocean water is around 3.5% salinity. On top of all that, they have been around virtually unchanged for around 100 million years. Needless to say, brine shrimps are tough!
What Do Brine Shrimps Eat?
They eat tiny planktonic algae, which they filter from the water to consume. Since they live in high salinity environments, like the Great Salt Lake, there is little competition for food since the salinity of the water is an unforgiving environment for most living things. In captivity, they are fed rich foods like egg yolks, powdered spirulina algae, soybean powder, and yeast. In fact, brine shrimps will eat just about anything offered to them if it is small enough. Since their natural food source is microscopic, they require food that consists of extremely fine particles.
Can I Raise My Own Brine Shrimps?
Not only can you raise your own brine shrimps, but you can buy kits to help you do it. Once you have a setup going, keeping them alive is easy since they are pretty indiscriminate when it comes to food. However, you want your brine shrimps to eat a healthy diet to make them more nutrient dense for your fish. Baby brine shrimps are more nutrient dense than adults, and they are one of the best foods you can offer to fry to stimulate healthy growth and development.
Brine shrimps are oddball animals that can be a healthy addition to the diet of your fish or invertebrates. They are small enough for most aquarium pets to eat, and they are nutrient-dense enough to support growth, especially baby brine shrimps. They are easy to raise in your own home, saving you money and shipping time. Setting up a brine shrimp hatchery is a great idea if you intend to raise fry.
Featured Image Credit: Napat, Shutterstock