My teen recently told me she had a batch of Sea-Monkey eggs, but no kit. If you Google how to care for Sea-Monkeys without a kit, most articles will tell you to buy a kit. But, I was determined to use what we had, so I dug a little deeper.
With some research, I was able to find some information on how to start a Sea-Monkey Colony without a kit. I’m sharing that information here. If you raise brine shrimp, leave us a comment. We want to know your experience.
Ironically, we actually did have a full kit that came with my daughters microscope set, she had just lost the instructions and didn’t know what to do with the pieces. Luckily, the research I had done helped us to know what to do with the kit and when we needed to supplement.
What Are Sea-Monkeys?
Sea-Monkeys are a man-made hybrid of brine shrimp. They do not exist in the wild — or at least not naturally in the wild. According to Live Science, they were originally bred in 1957 by Harold von Braunhut and the name is a registered trademark.
The more I read about Sea-Monkeys, the more questions I had. Are they environmentally safe? Have we released Frankenstein’s monster into the world? I couldn’t find that answer, so I’m assuming they are relatively harmless.
Our kit, which came with our microscope set was actually natural brine shrimp. Brine Shrimp (and their hybrid cousins) require saltwater, so flushing them down the drain is unlikely to start a rogue colony in the Mississippi. Plus, as we’ve learned from our readers, they need a consistently warm environment, so again, unlikely to survive in the wild in the Upper Midwest.
Similar to Sea-Monkeys, but natural, you can raise Triops with a Smithsonian Prehistoric Sea Monsters Kit. Triops have existed naturally since the time of the dinosaurs. They exist on every continent except Antarctica, although probably not as far north as Minnesota. (Triops are considered a natural defense against mosquito larvae. Maybe, if you are doing this experiment in the summer, you could keep them in an outdoor fountain?)
What Comes With A Sea-Monkey Kit?
- A packet of “Water Purifier“. This basically turns your purified water into a saltwater base. I found directions for creating the necessary salt-water solution on HomeScienceTools.com.
- Sea-Monkey Eggs. If you don’t have your own eggs, than you would probably want to purchase the kit. Although the video below suggests you could buy live adults from the pet store (they sell them as fish food) and start with the adults rather than the instant live eggs, that doesn’t sound like as much fun.
- A packet of “Growth Food” and a feeding spoon. This turns out to be yeast and spirulina. If you get your ecosphere going, you should not need to feed the Sea-Monkeys after the original packet is gone. They should be able to live off the algae that naturally forms in tanks. If you do feed them, McGalver Blog Spot suggests you only do it once a week.
- Some come with a tank or bowl. Otherwise, you can make a DIY Sea Monkey Tank out of a fish bowl or a jar. We used a fish bowl we already owned.
How to Make Sea Monkey Water Purifier Substitute:
Sea Monkeys need saltwater. HomeSchoolTools.com provided directions for preparing our own saltwater solution. We did have some conditioner that came with our microscope, but it wasn’t enough for the size of bowl we were using, so we used these directions to supplement with sea salt. Their salt to water ratio for sea monkeys is 1 to 1½ teaspoons of sea salt to 1 cup* of water. Tap water is not recommended, but if you use it, let it sit for a day before starting the process. *Thank you to reader James for correcting my mistake.
YouTube Channel Life in Jars, suggested that getting the balance right is important to Sea Monkey tank setup; and it may be better to just go to a pet store and ask for a quart of water from one of their saltwater fish tanks. Apparently, this worked for him. In retrospect, this step is probably where we went wrong.
12/7/20 Note: See the comments, Christina tells us that temperature matters. She recommends a mug warmer or an aquarium heater in cooler months. This California State Science Fair project (<-PDF) found that 80 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal.
6/24/21 Note: Reader Christina checked back to tell us she has had great luck in the last six months. She bought the brine shrimp eggs and aquarium salt from an aquarium store. Her little guys are breeding like mad and are super cute to watch. So, if you don’t want to buy the plastic kit, she recommends you keep trying.
DIY Brine Shrimp / Sea Monkey Food:
My next question was, “What can I feed Sea Monkeys?”. It turns out that Sea-Monkey food is basically spirulina and yeast, but algae is their natural food source. Theoretically, a healthy tank will grow enough algae to feed your colony. McGalver Blog had good luck with simply feeding the brine shrimp spirulina powder sparingly, once a week. I found a fish food that contained both spirulina and yeast (and other filler ingredients). Most of my research suggested brine shrimp are not picky eaters. This is a possibility if you can’t grow enough algae to feed your colony.
Make An Aquarium Into a Self-Sustaining Eco-sphere
This was a funny, but informative video about creating an eco-sphere that grows the Sea-Monkey’s food and other essential habitat needs.
Is It Worth It to DIY?
Not for families with small kids. Buy a kit. Adult hobbyists and families with older kids, may actually enjoy the challenge to raising Sea Monkeys or their brine shrimp cousins without the kit. If you have an adult or bigger kid to take the lead it could be fun for the entire family to watch the life cycle of sea monkeys, see the baby sea-monkeys after they hatch and to try to teach them tricks with lights.
We had absolutely no luck hatching our brine shrimp eggs. None. I don’t know if they were too old or we just messed up one of the early steps. My final analysis is that, if you are planning a long-term colony, knowing how to make your own food and saltwater is worth the learning curve. However, if you are fine with this being a short-lived experiment, purchasing the kit is probably best for your needs. So, the average family with kids who will be moving on the the next best thing will do just fine with a Sea Monkey Kit.
As our kit did not come with much food, had our eggs hatched, we would have needed to purchase a small bottle of spirulina fish food, crush it and use as needed. This is half the price of the cheapest kit.
1/24/22 Note: This is my all-time favorite article that I’ve written because I have learned so much from readers. After so much helpful advice, I actually think if my kids are interested, I will be willing to try again, with or without a kit. Most recently, Leslie has included some really helpful tips in the comments:
- As Christina also mentioned, Leslie says temperature is key — minimally 74 degrees and best for hatching was 78-80 degrees.
- Aerating and feeding are also keys to happy Sea Monkeys. Also, they are sensitive to bacteria, so keep their tank clean.
- The kit is not necessarily easier if you don’t read up on brine shrimp first. (Although, I maintain that it may be simplest for getting everything you need in one spot.)
- Don’t give up if they don’t hatch. Let the tank dry up and try again with warmer water. As Leslie reminds us that unhatched does not equal expired, it means conditions were not right. Like the amazing tardigrades (a/k/a “water bears”) Sea Monkeys can go into a state of Cryptobiosis when conditions
- John in the UK has pointed out that I am a complete novice at this and have no idea what I’m talking about. He’s not wrong. However, I hope you can use the research I did, the lessons I’ve learned, and the comments from other readers to improve your chances. Again, I think starting with a Sea Monkeys kit is a good idea, but I don’t necessarily agree with John that the lessons learned from one wouldn’t apply to the other. I think you could successfully move from Sea Monkeys to Brine Shrimp and possibly even raise both in the same bowl.
Sea Monkey kits are pretty inexpensive. The cheapest kit does not include a bowl. The more expensive kits come with plastic containers and fun decorations. The microscope kit, which I linked to above (and actually carries natural brine shrimp), is more expensive, but can be used for a variety of science activities. I would recommend doing the sea monkey experiment right away rather than holding onto it. However you choose to go forward, we have linked to our resources below. We would love to hear about hour experience.
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- Sea Monkey care: The best place to start, is the official care instructions.
- Background: Wikipedia contained a wealth of useful information and is worth a read for an understanding of what sea-monkeys are and what comes with a kit and also to learn about triops.
- Science: HomeScienceTools.com not only provided guidance in how to make salt water for Sea Monkeys, it also has ideas for incorporating Sea-Monkeys into science projects. To do all of these activities, you may want to purchase a microscope.
- Feeding Sea Monkeys: McGalver Blog Spot helped me determine what went into food for Sea-Monkeys and explained how often to feed them.
- Self-Sustaining Ecospheres: Life in Jars is a YouTube channel dedicated to creating ecospheres.
- Sea Monkey Habitat Temperature: California State Science Fair Project Number J192 by Deanna J. Purther.
- How to Train Sea Monkeys to Do Tricks: Apparently, like any pets, Sea Monkeys are individuals and some will be easier to train than others. Learn more here.
More Science Fun to Do Together
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- Family Fun: Science Activities for Kids
- STEM Fun Calendar + 6 Places for Any Time Hands-On Science with Kids
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