When it comes to raising baby fish, baby brine shrimp are one of the best live foods that money can buy. This nutrient-dense food maximizes the survival rate of fry and significantly speeds up their growth. Plus, you can even feed them to adults to condition them for breeding. Keep reading to learn how to easily hatch your own batch of baby brine shrimp at home.
What Are Brine Shrimp?
Have you ever heard of pet “sea monkeys”? They are actually tiny, saltwater crustaceans that belong to the Artemia genus, and they reproduce by laying encapsulated eggs or cysts that can remain viable on dry land for years. These same creatures are also used frequently in the aquarium hobby to feed fish. By rehydrating the cysts in salt water for 18-36 hours, you can hatch baby brine shrimp, which come with highly nutritious yolk sacs that are packed with proteins and healthy fats. If you’re serious about breeding fish, live baby brine shrimp is the #1 recommended fry food used by veteran fish breeders and major fish farms all over the world.
Adult brine shrimp swim upside-down by rhythmically waving their 22 swimming appendages.
How to Make Baby Brine Shrimp
The Ziss brine shrimp hatchery is one of the best hatcheries we’ve found on the market. It’s made from strong and high-quality plastic, has built-in ports to insert a thermometer and heater, and is optimized for hatching brine shrimp around the clock if needed. You can make your own hatchery, but if you don’t have a lot of spare materials and tools lying around, this pre-built hatchery will make your life a lot easier.
- Gather the following materials:
- Insert the clear plastic “blender” into the black stand, and screw on the black blender valve into the base of the blender. Place the blender and stand somewhere near a power outlet or power strip.
- Pour in roughly 1.75 liters of room temperature tap water, such that the water level stays about 1.5-1.75 inches (3.8-4.4 cm) below the top rim of the blender. By not filling the water all the way to the top, you can avoid getting brine shrimp eggs stuck on the blender lid. Also, there is no need to dechlorinate the water since it helps dissolve the outer shells of the brine shrimp eggs.
- Cut a 1” piece of airline tubing and use it to connect the rigid tubing to the airline port on the inside of the lid. This allows the rigid tubing to reach the bottom of the hatchery. There is no need to attach the air stone at the end of the rigid tubing because we want larger bubbles to increase circulation and oxygenation for a higher hatch rate.
- Heat the water to 74-82°F (23-28°C) either by heating the entire room, shining a small lamp with an incandescent or halogen bulb, or placing a small heater inside the water. (If you are using a heater, follow the manufacturer’s instructions and wait for it to sit underwater for 30 minutes before plugging it in.)
Make sure the heater’s plug can fit through the largest opening in the middle of the blender lid.
- Add 2 tablespoons of aquarium salt to the blender, or use 2 tablespoons of marine salt if you have soft water. (Tip: get a plastic coffee spoon, which measures exactly 2 tablespoons and won’t get rusty in the salt.) If you don’t have marine salt, you can add to ¼ to ½ teaspoon of baking soda to raise the pH or add 1 teaspoon of Epsom salt to raise the GH (for 2 liters of water).
- Add up to 1 tablespoon of brine shrimp eggs. For increased longevity, store the rest of the eggs in the refrigerator (or in the freezer if you don’t plan on hatching the rest of them in the near future).
- Find a location for the air pump so that it can reach a nearby power outlet. Connect a longer length of airline tubing from the air pump to the airline port on the top of the blender lid. Cut this airline tubing into two pieces, and install a check valve in between to prevent water from flooding out of the hatchery. Plug in the air pump and make sure the water in the hatchery is bubbling. (If the pump is running but you can’t feel any air, flip the check valve around.)
This red check valve is properly installed with the colored or horizontal bar facing the green air pump. In the event of a power outage, the check valve prevents water from flooding out of the hatchery.
- Cover the blender with the lid. Slip the red O-ring onto the top third of the thermometer, and insert the thermometer into the thermometer-sized port in the lid. Adjust the height of the O-ring so that the thermometer reaches the water and you can read the temperature.
How to Harvest Baby Brine Shrimp
After 18 to 36 hours, you can collect the newly hatched baby brine shrimp. If you don’t see any moving, pink particles in the water (when the pump is off), then something with the setup is incorrect. It could be that the temperature is too cold, eggs are too old, or salinity is not right. Once you figure out the issue, rinse the hatchery and start with a new hatching mixture.
- Now that the brine shrimp have hatched, it’s time to separate them from the egg shells and unhatched eggs. Turn off the air pump and heater, and then shine a light at the base of the blender so that the brine shrimp swim towards the bottom while the eggs float toward the top.
- After 10 minutes, get a collection container to collect the brine shrimp and place it under the nozzle at the base of the blender. Unscrew the blender valve and collect the brine shrimp. (Do not collect the darker-colored eggs floating at the water surface.) Screw tight the blender valve to stop the flow of water.
Note: If the stand is too short for you to reach the blender valve, we have a short tutorial on how to make a taller DIY stand using PVC pipes.
- Some people like to filter out the brine shrimp using a brine shrimp sieve and rinse them in fresh water before feeding their fish, but we just directly pour the brine shrimp liquid into the tank to feed the fish. (In our experience, a little bit of salt added to the aquarium doesn’t affect the fish.) If you are feeding many tanks, it may be easier to use the included pipette or a no-drip turkey baster to portion out the liquid.
You can tell if the fry are eating the baby brine shrimp because their bellies will get round and pinkish-orange colored.
- Thoroughly rinse the blender and the lid after every hatching because rotting eggs and bacterial buildup will pollute the water. Also, don’t forget to open the blender valve to flush it clean. Wash out all the old eggs and salt deposits with hot water, and now your setup is ready to hatch another batch of brine shrimp eggs.
How Long Can Baby Brine Shrimp Live in Freshwater?
Since they are saltwater creatures, they can only survive in freshwater for a few hours. If you hatched too many baby brine shrimp, refrigerate the liquid and use them within the next two or three days. If you still have too much, consider freezing them in ice cube trays for longer term storage.
Remember that baby brine shrimp hatch out at 450 microns in size, so if your fish fry are too small to eat them, try culturing live vinegar eels first with this easy, step-by-step tutorial.