Ever heard of Sea Monkeys? They were advertised in comic books in the 1960s and 1970s. Essentially, you could order brine shrimp eggs and grow them at home. As the story goes, the creator of Sea Monkeys was inspired to sell them after learning at a pet store the eggs could survive out of water. The term “Sea Monkey” comes from the tails that brine shrimp grow.

Sea Monkeys are relevant to us at the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre because thousands of Aquarium animals eat them every day – but we call them by their common or scientific name, brine shrimp or Artemia salina.

A cloud of brine shrimp before they're eaten up by young fish.

A cloud of brine shrimp before they’re eaten up by young fish.

Just like the kids of the ’60s and ’70s we grow our own brine shrimp, but unlike them, we’re growing millions at a time.

As Aquarium biologist Mackenzie Neale explains, the dried eggs arrive in tin cans from a supplier, then she pours them into a cylinder filled with heated saltwater to stimulate hatching. Within 24 hours we have brine shrimp babies!

Senior Aquarium biologist Mackenzie Neale feeds brine shrimp (Sea Monkeys) to the jellyfish.

Senior Aquarium biologist Mackenzie Neale feeds brine shrimp (Sea Monkeys) to the jellyfish.

After they’ve hatched, Mackenzie transfers the brine shrimp into a second cylinder to be fed. She feeds them liquid vitamins to increase their nutritional value, and within 48 hours, they are ready to be fed to the Aquarium animals. Bon appétit!

Written by Karen Glanzberg, writer-editor, content and digital experience at the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre.

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