Hatching Artemia (Brine Shrimp) for Dwarf Seahorses and Seahorse Fry
Successfully hatching brine shrimp (Artemia nauplii also known as baby brine shrimp) is key to successfully keeping Dwarf Seahorses, Hippocampus zosterae. Baby brine shrimp (bbs) can also be used as a first food when raising seahorse fry such as Hippocampus erectus.
Please make sure you have practiced and are able to successfully culture baby brine shrimp consistently before you order your Dwarf seahorses. Being able to supply them live baby shrimp daily is a must to keeping them as they will not eat frozen foods!
Dwarf Seahorse fry Hippocampus erectus fry
Newborn to ~5 weeks old
Hatching Artemia (Brine shrimp) is not difficult with the proper hatching setup but can be time consuming and tedious. This is certainly not for everyone so please read and make sure you are up for the task before considering keeping Dwarf seahorses or raising seahorse fry.
What size hatching container you need is dependent on how much bbs you are needing to produce. For a small herd of Dwarf seahorses a small 1-4 liter hatching container will work. We use glass cylinders from craft stores such as Michael's. These work well for us and are easy to clean. Some hobbyist use 2 liter soda bottles too. Either way a tall cylinder is what you are looking for when choosing a culturing vessel. When you are new to culturing brine shrimp keeping the culture at a low density will improve your success. Dense cultures are much more likely to crash from ammonia build up and/or lack of oxygen.
Heavy aeration via a air pump is required to hatch bbs. Eggs should not settle at the bottom of the hatching vessel. We prefer to have rigid airline tubing at the end of the airline entering the culture to allow the air to enter the bottom of the culture and turn it over. Having proper aeration is one of the most import steps to culturing bbs.
The ideal hatch temperature is 78-82 F. We use a water bath to warm our brine shrimp cultures. This temperature range allows for faster hatch rates. One can expect their bbs to hatch in 12-24 hours at this temperature range. Eggs will typically hatch as room temperature but it usually takes longer and decreases your hatch rate.
Cultures in water bath
The ideal specific gravity to hatch Artemia is 1.016-1.022.
To separate brine shrimp from culture water we use a 125 micron sieve. This tool is a must to culture your brine shrimp.
Separating Artemia From Unhatched Eggs and Egg Shells
After your Artemia have hatch they should separated from the unhatched eggs (not all of your eggs will hatch) and the shells from the hatched eggs. These shells will cause a mess in your aquarium over time so making an effort to not put these in the system will help long term.
To begin separating your bbs from the shells/eggs pull the airline out of the culture and allow the culture to stand for approximately 1-3 minutes. Unhatched eggs will sink to the bottom of the culture and shells will float to the top. Your bbs will be in the middle of the vessel. To separate we recommend using a rigid airline tube connected to flexible airline tubing and siphon the hatched bbs out of the culture. One should not leave the culture sit too long without aeration as it will quickly crash from lack of oxygen.
*Tip: bbs are phototactic meaning they are attracted to a light source. Having a light near the culture during the separation process can help drawl them to the center to make for easier collection.
Using rigid airline attached to flexible airline to siphon hatched bbs from eggs and egg shells
Enriching (feeding) your bbs will make them much more nutritious for your Dwarf seahorses or growing seahorse fry. We enrich our bbs with our own in house enrichment formulated specifically for raising seahorse fry and maintaining Dwarf seahorses. We highly recommend this step as bbs by themselves are not very nutritious. Our in house enrichment was developed by our staff and is what all of our seahorse fry are raised on at our farm as well as our Dwarf seahorses.
We begin enriching our bbs when they are ~24 hours old. This is when their gut is fully developed. After the brine shrimp have hatched and we have separated them we place them in newly mixed saltwater. We enrich our bbs at room temperature.
Our enrichment is dry and should be refrigerated. To prepare enrichment one will blend it in freshwater for approximately 2 minutes. Once it is well-blended add enough enrichment to the culture to tint it green. If the water clears more enrichment can be added. 100% water changes are recommended every 12 hours on cultures being enriched. After the water change one adds more enrichment. This is to prevent too much ammonia and bacterial build up in your culture. Not preforming water changes will lead to culture crashes. Having clean cultures is key to long term success with your seahorses.
We enrich our bbs for a minimum of 12 hours before feeding them to our seahorses. We do not feed Artemia that are older than ~72 hours as they typically become too large for dwarf seahorses and young seahorse fry to consume.
**Brine shrimp culture water should NEVER be added to your tank. Brine shrimp culture water is often high in ammonia and bacteria and will cause imbalances and problems in your tank. Use your sieve to separate the brine shrimp from the culture water before feeding them to your seahorses. Rinsing the bbs under cool tap water for approximately 30 seconds will help keep them cleaner too.
Before Enrichment Enrichment Added
Getting into the routine of hatching Artemia takes practice. Multiple cultures are required to make sure one has a constant supply of enriched bbs for their seahorses.
For Dwarf seahorses we try to keep a constant supply of bbs shrimp in the system for them to feed on throughout the day. We add new brine shrimp throughout the day. You do not want to add too much as overfeeding can degrade your water quality quickly.
For seahorse fry we feed them multiple times daily typically 3-4 hours apart.
One can also store bbs in the refrigerator for ~12-24 hours. This is not what we do but maybe helpful for some folks so we like to mention this tip.
Common Misconception-Do Hydroids Come From Brine Shrimp Eggs???
Hydrozoa are small predatory animals commonly found in saltwater environments. There are many species of Hydrozoa including solitary and colonial forms. Hydroids being introduced to an aquarium from brine shrimp eggs is a common misconception. There is no life stage of Hydroids that can withstand defecation (being on dried brine shrimp eggs). Hydroids are common in many aquariums and come in as hitchhikers on liverock, sand, corals, inverts ect. Since many are microscopic they often are not seen until you have a population explosion. In a typical saltwater aquarium they are often found in small numbers and the population stays under control as there is limited food for them. In your average aquarium you often do not see hydroids and they do not typically cause problems. However, in fry systems or Dwarf seahorse systems which are heavily fed Artemia nauplii, hydroid populations can explode and become a problem. There are so many different types of Hydroids that it can be seen quickly or take a while. Contamination from other systems one may have in their home can also introduce Hydroids. Artemia nauplii and the "messiness" that comes with feeding Artemia nauplii are a perfect food source for a lot of Hydroids which is why they are commonly a problem people run into when feeding Artemia nauplii but the eggs are not the source of these hydroids. Hydroids can sting and irritate fry and Dwarf seahorses so you do want to avoid them or treat for them if they become present in your seahorse fry or Dwarf seahorse tank. To avoid them, starting with dry sand, artificial decorations, and no live rock (cycled ceramic media), and avoid contamination from other aquariums will help prevent them. Panacur (Fenbendazole) can help treat them but invertebrates can be sensitive to this medication.
Thank you for reading and we hope you find this information helpful. For specific questions please reach out to us via email firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a call 410-618-3604.
2.5 week old H. Erectus seahorse H. zosterae (Dwarf seahorse) breeders
with cirri (appendages)
Seahorse Savvy production facility