Brine shrimp deserves to be considered by the tropical fish industry as the single most important food item in the whole world. This is due to the fact that brine shrimp contains an unbelievably high amount of energy. If not for brine shrimp, the tropical fish industry might not be what it is today. To help larval tropical fish have a good start, newly hatched brine shrimp is used by almost all individuals who breed tropical fish at home as well as at nearly all fish farms.
What Are Brine Shrimp?
Small Crustaceans. Brine shrimp is the common name that refers to a water animal belonging to crustaceans, which are identified by their multiple pairs of legs as well as their hard exterior shell. Commonly used for feeding tropical fish raised in aquariums, brine shrimp usually grows no more than 1.30 centimeters in length. Several varieties of brine shrimp exist, but all of them are considered to belong to a single species under a single genus (Artemis). They are generally characterized by their compound eyes, which are stalked, as well as their tapered bodies, which consist of a trunk to which eleven pairs of leaflike legs are attached.
Adaptable Creatures. Brine shrimp are different from true shrimp and cannot be found in the oceans but they can be found in many bodies of water in the world, especially inland salt waters. What is so fascinating about these crustaceans is their ability to easily adapt to fluctuations in water salinity. Brine shrimp can live without difficulty in a body of water which has a higher salinity level than sea water. They also have high tolerance for a water environment which has only one tenth of the salinity found in marine waters.
Easy Prey. The Great Salt Lake harbors vast windblown lines of brine shrimp, which generally occur in large numbers. Their small size makes them easy prey to larger water animals and this is why they are not found in oceans. Brine shrimp can flourish in inland saline habitats, in which their predators do not live.
Bearers of Highly Resistant Eggs. The female brine shrimp carries a brood pouch in its body. Under favorable conditions, the female liberates all her active young shrimp from this pouch. Female brine shrimp may also lay their eggs without having them fertilized by sperm. When brine shrimp eggs do get fertilized, they may hatch right away or are made to undergo a drying process (to make them viable for a number of years). Brine shrimp eggs are able to tolerate harsh environmental conditions; this quality gives them the ability to hatch without difficulty in saltwater as well as their usefulness as tropical fish food.
Why Brine Shrimp Is An Essential Food for Tropical Fish
A diet which consists of live baby brine shrimp has been tried and tested to be effective in raising many types of tropical fish. There are several reasons for baby brine
shrimp being an ideal food for baby tropical fish (or “fry”). One is the natural movements of brine shrimp, which attracts baby tropical fish into eating them. Another reason that makes baby brine shrimp good for baby tropical fish is the naturally high levels of protein that it contains. Brine shrimp is also rich in other nutrients that have not been subjected to any form of processing method, such as those undergone by freeze-dried foods, pellets, and commercial flakes.
In addition to that, baby brine shrimp can be easily digested. They also have the ability to survive for several hours when placed in a tank filled with baby tropical fish. This ensures that the tropical fish are provided a continuous supply of food, and that they get to grow in a tank in which the water’s good quality has been maintained. A number of commercial fish foods easily dissolve in water and affect its quality.
How to Make a Brine Shrimp Hatchery
What are referred to as brine shrimp eggs are actually cysts which swell with water when they become wet. The cysts start to hatch at 78°F after about eighteen hours to one day. Since the baby brine shrimp have incomplete digestive and excretory systems at this point, they cannot take in and process any food. This, and the fact that their bodies are packed with energy, makes them perfect as food for tropical fish.
Equipment Needed: Hatching brine shrimp cysts is a simple process which allows one to easily make one’s own brine shrimp hatchery. To construct it, one will need to prepare a number of equipment. A small glass tank will serve as the hatching tank for the baby brine shrimp, and another glass tank that is larger in size will serve as their growing tank.
Other supplies needed include a large stiff plastic sheet, a small tapping screw made of stainless steel, airstones to provide a dedicated air supply for the two glass tanks, a large bag of sea salt, a container filled with brine shrimp eggs, and a handy flashlight. One may add a third glass tank to the list if the brine shrimp are to be grown up to their adult stages.
1. The hatching tank needs to be divided into two parts, with one part taking up two-thirds of the tank’s area. Use the large stiff plastic sheet for this purpose to serve as the divider. In the center portion of the plastic divider, make a hole that is 1 ½-inch in diameter. This hole will be where the baby brine shrimp will easily swim through. After making the hole, set aside the divider to start working on the hatching tank itself.
2. Blacken the two-thirds portion of the tank as well as its lid. The goal here is to create a lightless area while still allowing light to pass through the remaining one-third portion of the tank.
3. Make a cover for the hole in the tank divider by cutting a disc of plastic that is big enough to go over it. Then use a drill to make small holes both in the disc and in the divider itself. Doing so will accomplish the idea of having the disc function as an eyehole in the hatching tank that, when swung into position, will cover up the hole in the divider. This prevents light from entering the darkened portion of the tank.
4. Place the divider inside the tank, making sure to get it securely attached and achieves a snug fit.
5. Measure the entire tank to determine its actual size. Use the figure in order to calculate how much sea salt is needed to create saltwater that is strong enough to allow the baby brine shrimp to hatch. Make sure to follow the instructions indicated in the sea salt bag so that a salt concentration that is a bit higher required by marine fish is achieved. Since the chlorine and chloramines in chlorinated water are toxic to the baby brine shrimps, it is important to use only water that has been stripped of chlorine.
6. Place the eyehole in position so that the blackened portion of the hatching tank becomes truly dark.
7. In case the room where the hatching tank for the baby brine shrimps is placed is cold, have a heater installed in order to maintain a water temperature that hovers between 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
8. Set up the airstones inside the hatching tank, specifically in the dark area of the tank. Turn on the airstones after installing them successfully.
9. To the dark portion of the hatching tank, pour about 1/4 teaspoon of the brine shrimp eggs. Ensure that the airstones are functioning well in order to keep the eggs afloat on the water; it is important that the eggs are prevented from setting on the bottom of the tank.
10. Place the lid on the tank to cover it, and then allow the eggs to float in complete darkness for one day and twelve hours. When the time is up, check the baby brine shrimp eggs, which usually hatch after 36 hours to two days.
11. Prepare the growing tank by filling it with saltwater. Make sure it has the same salt concentration as the saltwater used in the hatching tank.
12. Do not blacken the growing tank, and do not place any divider in it. Since light is beneficial for growing brine shrimp, it is recommended that the growing tank is placed near a light source such as a window.
13. To ensure water movement inside the growing tank, make sure to install an airstone. If the room in which the growing tank is situated is cold, set up a heater that prevents the water temperature inside the tank from dipping or rising from around 65°F to 70°F.
14. The moment the brine shrimps have hatched from their eggs, allow the eggs to settle first by turning off the airstone inside the hatching tank. Remember, though, to turn the airstone back on at a later time. Open the eyehole the moment the brine eggs have settled on the bottom of the tank.
15. Encourage the brine shrimps to swim through the eyehole by turning on a flashlight and placing it near the non-darkened portion of the tank. Doing this will get the live brine shrimps transferred to the light side of the tank while keeping the dead brine shrimps as well as any unfertilized eggs and shells within the darkened area.
16. Remove the live brine shrimps by carefully siphoning them off. Transfer them to a net, and then place in the growing tank (Some of the live brine shrimps can be set aside in order to be used as feed for tropical fish.).
17. It is important to remove any eggs, shells, and dead brine shrimps from the darkened part of the hatching tank. To keep the brine shrimp hatchery going, some new eggs should be added each time the tank is cleaned.
How Long It Takes to Hatch Brine Shrimp Eggs
It usually takes 24 hours for brine shrimp eggs to hatch at temperatures of 80°F to 82°F. Getting any lower from these temperatures should be avoided; otherwise, this will result in longer hatching periods. It is also important not to go beyond a temperature of 86°F, or else it would risk damaging the young brine shrimps.
How to Feed the Brine Shrimps
Besides using brine shrimps (at their baby stage) to feed tropical fish, they can also be grown to adulthood when fed properly. Because the digestive system of a brine shrimp is not yet fully developed in the first 24 hours of its life, no feeding is needed yet during that time. Growing brine shrimp are actually easy to feed since they are not fussy when it comes to their food. One can feed them almost any type of food such as whey, yeast, commercial fry food, soybean powder, wheat flour, fish meal, and even egg yolk. What is important is that the food used in feeding them is easily digestible by the brine shrimps but not easily dissolved in water, which is why powdered milk is not an option. One should also also avoid overfeeding the brine shrimp as doing so can damage the quality of the water in the growing tank.
How to Feed Brine Shrimp to Baby Tropical Fish
Many young tropical fish will only eat the food fed to them if that food is moving. As soon as the baby brine shrimps are hatched, stop the aeration process inside the tank by unplugging the pump, allow the baby brine shrimp immediately to settle, siphon them out, place them in a net, and then feed them directly to the baby tropical fish by pouring into their tank.
How to Feed Brine Shrimp to Grown Tropical Fish
The one thing to keep in mind when feeding grown tropical fish is that the baby brine shrimps are to be rinsed before use. Run them under tap water and then place them in a container filled with water taken from the tropical fish tank. Doing so will help get the brine shrimps cleaned as well as prevent any trouble with changes in acidity. Similar to feeding the baby tropical fish, one should follow the rules on not overfeeding grown tropical fish.