For some reason, 90s kids are the most persistant and openly nostalgic bunch I know of. There might be some bias here, because I am a 90’s kid, but so many of the popular things from that time are making a comeback, have made a comeback, or simply never went away. People wear chokers now, new Furbies were released a few years ago, and people /still/ wear denim jackets and crop tops.
I’m not very fashion-forward and sometimes avoid the “in things” altogether. Nevertheless, I’ve got a bit of 90s fever myself. All summer I’ve been begging myself, my friends and family, and my boyfriend for Sea Monkeys, much to their chagrin.
Do you remember Sea Monkeys? Those really cool (invertebrate) pets with a ton of um… appendages (?) that technically swim upside-down. They were a crazy popular and surprisingly durable hybrid brine shrimp known as Artemia NYOS. The hype has been dead for probably over a decade, but you can still find pet Sea Monkeys being sold here and there.
An easier way to find these beloved pets is at many fish stores! Brine shrimp are often sold en masse as feed for a variety fish. Who knew?
To indulge my nostalgic needs, I researched a way to keep brine shrimp (Artemia sp.) in a hopefully self-sustaining, and more attractive, ecosystem. I remembered having to add air to my tank of Sea Monkeys, as well as food, for them to survive. Because I am currently undeniably lazy, I wanted to have something else add air and food to the tank for me.
Enter a plant or something.
I spent a long time researching saltwater plants (brine shrimp like saline water… who knew?) and settled upon the popular Chaetomorpha. Frequently called Chaeto, this algae is not a plant, is relatively durable, doesn’t need too much water flow, and is generally easy to care for. Or so I’ve read.
SEPTEMBER 23, 2016:
I threw the Chaeto into a saltwater mixture after letting the water sit for a few days (at least three). My personal jar had this nice little rock from the shore of Lake Michigan, adding some nice contrast. Beautiful, right?
SEPTEMBER 27, 2016:
WRONG. That rock was a stupid, stupid mistake on my part, and probably not my last. When it was time to add my brine shrimp, I made a rotten discovery. I opened my jar and immediately noticed the smell of sulfur coming out of only my jar. The stone also lost its pretty red shade. Lesson: don’t add random rocks, especially ones from a freshwater source. You don’t know what could be on it or how it will react to saltwater. I took out the stone, threw in the shrimp, and hoped for the best.
“Throwing in the shrimp” is a very short and easy way to describe the long, long process of dividing up the tablespoon of brine shrimp I acquired. For only a dollar, I got piles of brine shrimp.
There were enough brine shrimp to fill six new half-pint jars, one former Vlasic pickle jar (24 oz), and three one quart jars turned hastily-made mini-quariums with some Chaeto. I didn’t even have enough saltwater prepared.If you know saltwater aquariums, you know this spells disaster. I braced myself for the impending brine shrimp mass deaths.
OCTOBER 4, 2016:
Many, many brine shrimp didn’t last the first night. The worst hit containers were the Vlasic jar and three of the half-pints, which needed to be completely re-stocked. By the time a week had passed, all of them had died.
I feel like I have some pretty good ideas about why this happened.
First, I fed them fish food based on some probably not-so-credible advice. I can’t find that suggestion anywhere anymore. Sadly, many probably starved.
Not all of them starved, though! Some of the dead brine shrimp had this dark stripe down their middle. This dark stripe is a full feed groove. Some of the brine shrimp that died were still full.
An alternative option is lack of oxygen. I noticed a lot of the brine swimming on the top of the containers. According to the Sea Monkey website, this means the system does not contain enough oxygen for them. There should have been oxygen present in the system, though I lack the equipment to prove this. I believe that when I added the massive numbers of brine shrimp, they rapidly consumed most, if not all, of the available oxygen.
I got the pure pleasure of cleaning out the jars. It stunk. There’s also something extremely sad about washing countless little brine shrimp bodies down the garbage disposal. I want to clean them out as soon as possible to start a second attempt at this. I’m hoping to let the plants sit for a week to fill the environment with dissolved oxygen before adding some kind of algae. It’ll be a while before I add the brine shrimp again.
On the bright side, I found these really pretty glass stones that I wanted to add to my mini-quariums. I rinsed them very well and plunked them in. They look great with the Chaeto. I’ll put up a picture some other time.
I added Nannochloropsis after letting the jars fill for a week. I had read that brine shrimp
will happily devour Nannochloropsis, so figured it would bea great addition. If I could get it to populate the tank enough, that is.
I ordered 16 ounces (one of the containers on the right) and tried to be relatively scientific about how much algae I was adding to each container. Sadly, I do not have any great measuring equipment. As a result, using the randomly-sized pipette they provided me with ended up being a vessel for putting as much as I could in a container. The larger containers did get more in them, but I can’t tell any exact measurements (unfortunately). I’m pretty disappointed in myself on this…
I’ve been keeping a good eye on the jars since adding the Nannochloropsis, and it looks like most of the Nannochloropsis sunk to the bottom. I feel like it’ll be harder for the brine shrimp to filter feed off the bottom of the jars. Hopefully the Chaeto trapped some.
Today I added Sea Monkeys. I specifically got a half tablespoon instead of the full tablespoon. I almost regretted it, though, because it seems like so few little critters swimming around. It’s almost disappointing compared to the last batch. Hopefully that means they live longer, though.
Here’s one of the more interesting jars I have of brine shrimp. I think this is one of my favorites.
The results are in! Not for the election, it’s too early for that as I’m typing this, but for my brine shrimp.
The populations in the jars are quite depleted, but they’re still going. I’m pretty thrilled that they are still around, but I have a feeling algae is definitely the limiting factor right now. I can’t afford to buy more Nannochloropsis, so I think I’m going to have to supplement some other food to give the algae time to catch up. It seems like some of the better supplemental foods are yeast or soybean powder, among others. I’ll probably invest in one of those and buy Selcon when I get some more money saved up.
I hate to say this, but if they all die again, I don’t think I’ll be trying this a third time. I am running out of time and money for the little guys…