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Brine Shrimp Benefits & Growth Tips

Last Updated January 23, 2020
Looking for an easy live food option for your aquarium fish that you can culture at home? Brine shrimp are the solution!

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If you’ve been in the aquarium game for long enough, you’ve probably heard of brine shrimp. They’re mentioned as potential fish food in almost every care guide you’ll read, and for good reason.

In this post, we’ll cover everything you need to know about brine shrimp. What they are, the benefits they provide, and how you can grow your own. It’s super easy and your fish will greatly appreciate it!


Note: Brine shrimp are purchased in egg form, since their eggs last for a long time even when dry. If you’d like to give hatching them at home a shot, start by acquiring your brine shrimp eggs (also referred to as Artemia cysts).


What Are They?

Brine shrimp (scientific name: Artemia salina, also sometimes referred to as just ‘Artemia’) are small saltwater crustaceans that are found primarily in inland bodies of water. Despite this, they can survive for extended periods of time in freshwater.

Their adaptability when it comes to water salinity is a rather unique ability and is what makes brine shrimp so perfect as a live food for freshwater aquarium fish. It doesn’t matter if the salinity is super high, or super low. Brine shrimp can find a way to survive.

Brine shrimp are very interesting looking creatures that have eleven pairs of legs, a long tail, and a hard shell. They also have compound eyes that sit on the end of two very short stalks. They typically grow between 12 and 15 millimeters (~0.5″) in length and will reach this size very quickly. 

Did you know? Brine shrimp are so easy to hatch that they’re often used as a little science experiment/novelty pet for kids. You might have heard of them under the name sea-monkeys!

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The Benefits Of Using Brine Shrimp As Food

Brine shrimp are an incredibly efficient and energy-rich source of food. In fact, the amount of protein in brine shrimp can be up to 60 percent of their dry weight. This makes them the perfect choice if you need food to facilitate the growth of young fish.

Their protein content is the primary reason why brine shrimp are such a popular food choice in the aquarist community. However, there are quite a few other benefits as well.

  • They engage the hunting instincts of your fish due to their spastic swimming motions. This is good enrichment for your fish, and fun to watch! Many aquarium fish species naturally feed on similar small critters.
  • Brine shrimp are easy to eat and easy on the the digestive systems of your fish.
  • Due to their salinity tolerance, you can use them as food in both marine and freshwater tanks.
  • They rarely contain diseases that can be passed along to your fish, unlike many other live foods sold in aquarium stores.
  • Freshly hatched brine shrimp are very tiny and make a great food source for fish fry that are too small to eat anything else.

Brine shrimp can be fed to a wide range of fish including Bettas, neon tetras, cory catfish, the kuhli loach, and many more. To be honest, it’s harder to find fish that CAN’T eat brine shrimp than ones that can.

Looking for an easy live food option for your aquarium fish that you can culture at home? Brine shrimp are the solution!
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Raising Brine Shrimp: The Prep

Raising your own brine shrimp comes with a number of challenges that you’ll need to deal with. Don’t worry, though: with a proper instruction sheet by your side that lays out all the steps, it’ll be easy as pie.

  • The first requirement you’ll need to address is the need for an appropriate hatching tank. This is where the process will start before you move them over to another tank where the baby brine shrimp can grow. You can buy an Artemia hatching kit online or set up your own tank as described below.
  • Your hatching tank will be split into two sides by an opaque divider that light cannot pass through. The side where the brine shrimp eggs go should be roughly two-thirds of the tank size, and the side where you’ll transfer the hatched eggs will be the remaining one third.
  • The divider should have a small hole in it that’s somewhere between one and two inches in diameter. This is where your newly hatched brine shrimp will pass through to the other side. Make sure there’s an easy way for you to cover this hole with a material that blocks light as well.
  • Once you’ve got the divider sorted, the next step is to fully black out the larger side of your hatching tank. The easiest way to accomplish this is by covering the outside of the glass with any solid material you can affix to the glass, like black sticky film.
Saul Dolgin [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]

Brine Shrimp Water Parameters

Once you’ve got your brine shrimp hatchery in order, the next step will be to make sure the water in the tank can actually facilitate hatching.

You’ll need chlorine-free water and a bag of aquarium sea salt to make this happen. Simply measure your tank to figure out its volume and follow the instructions on the bag of salt. You’ll want to achieve a slightly higher than average level of salt concentration (25ppt to be exact). You’ll also want to add some airstones to the larger side of the tank and turn them on before you add the eggs.

  • Water Temperature: 26.5 to 27.5 °C (80 to 82 °F)
  • pH: Never lower than 8
  • Stocking Density: 1 gram of cysts (eggs) per liter

Brine Shrimp: The Hatching Process

Once your hatching tank is ready it’s time to add the eggs! Using the stocking density goal of 1 gram of eggs per liter, add the appropriate amount of eggs and close the lid. That’s it for now.

After 24 hours you should check on the tank to monitor the progress. Depending on the situation you could be ready to move on to the next step, or you might need to wait another twelve hours for further development. f you see tiny specks dancing around the tank, congrats: you’ve got baby brine shrimp.

If you plan on growing your brine shrimp to adulthood then you’ll need to add water to a growing tank. The growing tank should should have the same water parameters and salt density to ensure the baby brine shrimp don’t suffer a shock to their system.

To move the brine shrimp, use a light source to lure them through the hole you created in the divider (described in the previous paragraph). This will separate them from the rest of the unhatched or dead brine shrimp. Then, you can easily transition them to the growing tank with a net, or simply feed them directly to your fish. It can be helpful to use a special super-fine brine shrimp net.

Brine shrimp

Feeding Your Fish

If you want to feed your batch of baby brine shrimp to your fish there isn’t much you need to do. The only thing to remember is to give them a quick rinse with tap water and place them in a container or small tank that shares the same water parameters as your fish tank.

This will ensure that your brine shrimp are clean and acclimated to the same kind of water your fish live in. When your fish eat brine shrimp that come directly from different water there can be health consequences.

Conclusion

Brine shrimp are a fantastic source of protein and energy for your fish. Even better, they’re super easy to cultivate at home! There’s a reason why almost every experienced aquarist has them on their shortlist when it comes to live food.

You should now have a better understanding of brine shrimp, their benefits, and the basics of how you can hatch your own. If you’re someone who’s unsure if hatching and growing your own brine shrimp is right for you, we encourage you to give it a shot!


If you have any more questions about hatching brine shrimp eggs or if you’d like to share your own experiences with this ideal live fish food, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below.

Want to learn more about cultivating other types of live fish food at home? Don’t forget to have a look at the following:


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10 Comments

  • Reply Majesta March 13, 2021 at 6:46 pm

    Hello everyone, I just had a question as to how long are brine shrimp typically nutritional for? I was told 24 hours after hatch they are the most nutritional for your fish, With that being said I never see that as a comment on anything referring to feeding fish brine shrimp. Could anyone else confirm this.

    • Reply Jennifer Doll March 16, 2021 at 7:18 pm

      Hi Majesta!
      This is true that brine shrimp are most nutritional during the first 24 hours after being hatched! This is because they still have a yolk/egg sac that gets absorbed as they leave the nauplii stage. In the refrigerator, this time can be expanded to 2-3 days.
      Otherwise, you can continue feeding them to your fish without any problems as they mature. They’re just a little less nutritional. But keep in mind that you can always supplement higher-quality feedings for your brine shrimp that will then benefit whatever you’re feeding.

  • Reply Martin Steele December 18, 2020 at 12:22 pm

    Hi Jennifer,

    1 I have been using Utah State Artema and some Russian stuff I bought. I think that USA brine shrimp eggs have a good reputation correct me if I am wrong.

    2 I have been sending my eggs directly into the grow out tank SG varying from 1018 to 1028.

    3 we live in the South West and the water here is very soft typically about 65 ppm total dissolved solids.
    And hardly any kh .

    I
    4 We live near the Le mer so it would not be to much trouble to get hold of some Sea water and use that I believe I o should let it down a little though to 1018.
    5 Thank you for your help Jennifer.

    My grow out tank is 35 litres and I have installed a corner fitting box filter I wanted to maintain zero ammonia and nitrite in the water.

    Sorry for my out burst I was letting of some steam.

    Regards Martin Steele

    • Reply Jennifer Doll December 18, 2020 at 7:31 pm

      I did a little research on Utah State Artema, and it seems like a reputable source. Maybe also look into Brine Shrimp Direct (even if just for price comparison).
      1.018 is pretty low. You want to keep it at a constant salinity between 1.024 and 1.028. For saltwater, even a change of 0.001 can be enough to upset some marine life. So you really want to keep on top of topping off for evaporation. And like I said, it might be best just to use a typical marine salt. This marine salt should also help boost up your calcium, magnesium, and overall KH.
      I wouldn’t recommend collecting natural seawater. There are just so many unknowns that you introduce every time you harvest more water that could bring a different issue to your tank, be it parasites or consequences from runoff. Plus, for convenience’s sake, I think it’s just much easier to mix a batch of saltwater at your home.
      And yes! A healthy system will always have 0 ppm ammonia and 0 ppm nitrites!

      Please let me know if you have more questions!

  • Reply Martin Steele December 18, 2020 at 11:58 am

    Hi Jennifer,
    I will reply later to your message.

    That shrimp tank you mentioned have you added any plants at all.

    Only I had exactly the same situation and it turned out that I had bought some plants from a dealer on e bay.

    They came in from the far East and it turned out they had been treated with neo nicatineoids.

    Leathal to neo caradinas.

    Just a thought.

    Regards Martin Steele

    • Reply Jennifer Doll December 18, 2020 at 7:16 pm

      I do have plants in there! It’s a pretty heavily planted tank. But I bought the plants from very reputable sellers.. very interesting hypothesis though. As I said, I’m going to let it run for a little bit, and then I’ll test everything and maybe try a small fish from there instead. It really is a head-scratcher.
      I’ve been doing saltwater for years and just recently switched back to freshwater, and it’s turning out to be even more difficult than a reef tank!

      • Reply Martin Steele December 19, 2020 at 2:28 pm

        Hi Jennifer,

        I hope you are well at these difficult times.

        It might be worth checking with your supplier where the plants have come from.

        Not saying that they have been treated but your supplier is only part of a chain. If they have come from the far East the chances are that they have been treated,and the farmers are not always willing to disclose what they have sprayed.

        That said there are a few things that you can do try adding some live Dapnie to your system if they can survive chances are shrimp can too.

        Regards Martin Steele

        And yes salt water is sometimes less challenging than fresh I have found this to be the case.

        • Reply Jennifer Doll December 21, 2020 at 8:51 pm

          Thank you for these tips! Hopefully, other people will find them useful as well.
          Keep us updated on your tanks :-).

  • Reply Martin Steele December 17, 2020 at 9:07 pm

    Hi far from being super easy I am finding raising brine shrimp super duper dooper super impossible.

    I have tried low salinity high salinity.

    Low kh high kh low temp high temp.

    High food low food I have even bought dead sea salt all the way from Israel.

    AND S TILL THEY DIE.

    Sometimes slowly and other times quickly BUT THEY ALWAYS ALWAYS DIE.

    Please please don’t tell me that it’s super easy for me it’s borderline mission impossible.

    I have talked my brains trying to figure out where i am going wrong

    Is it my dead sea salt/ is it the spirulena I am feeding them.

    I simply don’t know what I am doing wrong but please take my word for it it IS NOT EASY it’s down right impossible.

    • Reply Jennifer Doll December 17, 2020 at 10:41 pm

      Hi Martin!
      There are a few things that could be going wrong:
      1) The quality of the brine shrimp that you’re buying. Brine shrimp are usually sold with the intention of being used as food and are not expected to have long lifespans. Perhaps try a more reputable source, even if that means spending a little more money.
      2) You’re not acclimating them properly. Treat them as you would any other fish or invertebrates. Let the bag float for 20-30 minutes and then gradually add water from the tank to match parameters.
      3) Your source water is not ideal and/or other water parameters. Again, make sure that you’re treating this setup like an actual fish tank, with ammonia, nitrites, nitrates, pH, temperature, and everything else where it’s supposed to be. Make sure the tank is cycled and water parameters remain stable.
      4) Also, maybe try using a basic marine salt, like Instant Ocean. I’m sure it’s cheaper and it might fix your problem.
      5) Maybe brine shrimp are just not for you. Recently, I’ve been having difficulty keeping shrimp, which should not be hard at all! But whatever I do, they end up dying just a few days after putting them in the tank. I’ve tested all my parameters and changed source water and they still do not survive. It’s frustrating, I know. Regardless, I don’t plan on ripping down the tank; I’ll just wait until it’s a little more mature, even though at this point it’s already been four months! Perhaps the same is true for you.

      I hope this helped a little. Really make sure that your parameters are ideal and get a good batch of brine shrimp from a reputable source.

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