Re:brine shrimp and quarantine tank?

Pete Giwojna

Dear hobby:

Sure, if you have hatched out some brine shrimp and you want to save them for a while before using them, or even grow them into adult brine shrimp, you can use an occupied quarantine tank or any other handy aquarium or container filled with saltwater. Just be aware that if you want to save them for more than a couple of days, you will need to feed the brine shrimp nauplii, since the newly hatched brine shrimp will exhaust their yolk supply within 48 hours at the most.

I will be happy to provide you with instructions for raising and growing out the brine shrimp if you hope to keep it for a while so you know just how to proceed, hobby.

BRINE SHRIMP (Artemia spp.)

Pros (Giwojna, Oct. 1996):
· Adult Artemia are readily available from your fish store or through the mail.
· Easily raised from cysts to provide nauplii of all sizes and stages of development.
· Excellent tolerance for saltwater: feed and forget–survives until eaten.
· Easy to gut-load and enrich.
· Accepted greedily by most seahorses (except Hippocampus reidi and H. ingens).

Cons (Giwojna, Oct. 1996):
· Poor food value–good source of protein, but lacking in other essential nutrients.
· Must be fortified or enriched to increase nutritional content.
· Cannot be used as staple diet.

Collecting Tips:

Culture Instructions:
Specific gravity: 1.020-1.026; pH: 8.0-9.0;
Temperature: 77 degrees F (25 degrees C)

An easy way to raise small quantities of brine shrimp is to set up a 10-20 gallon tank in a location where it receives natural sunlight to promote the growth of green algae, and provide gentle aeration using a length of airline tubing as a bubbler (avoid fine bubbles and the use of airstones; Giwojna, Oct. 1996). Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon of eggs on the surface of the water. The nauplii will hatch 24-36 hour later, and the day after they emerge, they can be fed sparingly with various additives and enrichment products (Giwojna, Oct. 1996). Adjust the amount so a slight haze barely clouds the water for a few hours each day. Do not feed again until the water is crystal clear, and avoid overfeeding at all costs. Maintain constant aeration to keep the food in suspension, and feed very small amounts fairly often — never a large quantity at any given time (Giwojna, Oct. 1996). The first generation of brine shrimp will reach maturity after 2-3 weeks, and the culture will then be self-sustaining (Daleco Aquarists Supply Manual, 1995). Add more eggs as needed to supplement natural reproduction and bolster the population of brine shrimp. Top off the tank with freshwater regularly to make up for evaporation, and replace about 25% of the culture water on a monthly basis (Giwojna, Oct. 1996).

It’s a good idea to set up 2 or more culture tanks for adult Artemia at the same time so you can harvest a little from each culture and prevent the population of shrimp in any one tank from being depleted to the extent it can no longer sustain itself.

Rearing Artemia this way makes it easy to select nauplii at just the proper stage of development and size for your sea horses (Giwojna, Oct. 1996).

Brine shrimp are no doubt the most widely used live foods for sea horses. They are convenient, always available, easy to hatch and raise, and adults can be bought by the pint or quart at many fish stores (Giwojna, Oct. 1996).

However, commercially raised brine shrimp have one big drawback. By the time they are purchased and released in the aquarium, they usually have not eaten for several days, and starved brine shrimp are nutritionally barren. It is therefore imperative that brine shrimp be fortified before they are fed to your sea horses. (As discussed earlier, unfortified adult brine shrimp are useful for feeding to captive-bred seahorses on a staple diet of enriched frozen Mysis on their fasting days precisely because the brine shrimp have nonexistent nutritional value.)

Fortunately, brine shrimp are filter feeders and will take in whatever is suspended in the water with them that has a manageable particle size. This can be yeast cells; unicellular algae; rotifers; micronized rice bran, whey, wheat flour, or egg yolk; dried Spirulina algae; water-soluble vitamin and mineral formulations designed for marine fish; or whatever else the aquarist cares to add to their culture water (Daleco Aquarists Supply Manual, 1995).

I recommend using one of the concentrated food additives or enrichment products that have recently been developed specifically for mariculturists. The best additives are rich in lipids, especially highly unsaturated fatty acids (HUFA), and vitamins such as stabilized Vitamin C and cyanocobalmin (B-12) (Giwojna, Oct. 1996). Adding such enrichment products to a 6-ounce portion of brine shrimp, and then allowing at least 12 hours for the shrimp to ingest it can fortify store-bought adult Artemia (Giwojna, Oct. 1996)

Liquid vitamin formulations can also be added, and the ability to enrich their lipid and vitamin content this way allows us to treat brine shrimp as animated vitamin pills for seahorses (Lawrence, 1998). The savvy seahorse keeper should regard enriched Artemia as bio-encapsulated food for his charges and take full advantage of every opportunity to fortify the shrimp (Lawrence, 1998).

The survival rate of marine fish fry improves dramatically when they are fed lipid-enriched brine shrimp nauplii, and the importance of fortifying Artemia in this manner cannot be overemphasized (Forrest Young, pers. com.). In fact, the Steinhart Aquarium in San Francisco has successfully raised Hippocampus erectus from birth to maturity on a diet consisting solely of brine shrimp (Herald and Rakowicz, 1951). For best results, however, brine shrimp should be considered only a dietary supplement, with of the bulk of your sea horses’ diet consisting of hard-bodied crustaceans such as Mysids, feeder shrimp or Gammarids.

Growing Out Brine Shrimp (Culturing Artemia salina)

Under ideal conditions, Artemia reach adulthood in 8 days after molting 15 times. The easiest way to raise brine shrimp is to set up 5-30 gallon tanks (indoors or outdoors) in a sunny location that will encourage an algae bloom, seed these tanks with freshly hatched Artemia nauplii, and let nature take its course. [Note this is essentially the bucket technique for raising brine shrimp, which Alisa and others have found to be so successful.]

Here is how Robert Straughan describes this simple culture method: "Fill the culture container with fresh seawater or salt brine solution and let it age for a week or two in a sunny location. Then add a good hatch of live brine shrimp from your regular hatching jar and if conditions are right, you will soon be a full-fledged brine shrimp grower. In a few weeks, the shrimp will mature and even reproduce in the container. By siphoning off just a portion of the shrimp at a time, you will have a continued supply of this superb food. Green algae will form along the sides of the container and will furnish food for the growing shrimp so that all you will have to do is check the salinity occasionally and add a little freshwater when necessary. About every three or four months, replace about one-fourth of the solution with fresh saltwater and, if all goes well, the growing process will go on indefinitely. If the container is left outside, cover the top partially with a piece of glass so that just a little rain will enter the container during storms. Aeration is helpful where a large quantity is desired, but it is not necessary if clean water is used and the container is not too crowded. Evidently the growing algae gives off oxygen for the author has raised large quantities in the method described above and used neither aeration nor food" (Salt-Water Aquarium in the Home, pp 103-104).

The grow out containers for this low-maintenance method of raising brine shrimp can be buckets, large Rubbermaid vats, or old aquaria, but I find transparent containers work the best for promoting the growth of algae and observing the culture as the brine shrimp grow.

However, this simple system for culturing Artemia is inadequate if you need to provide enough nauplii to feed hundreds of hungry juveniles. This is often the case when you’re dealing with a large, healthy brood from a prolific species such as Hippocampus erectus or H. reidi, or when you have several mated pairs and more than one male gives birth within a short period.

A more sophisticated Artemia culture system is called for under these circumstances. This can be achieved by modifying your conventional rectangular culture tanks to form closed brine shrimp ”raceways” with improved circulation patterns that boost productivity. The modification involves installing a central partition that is equidistant from all four sides of the tank and then mounting 4 or more airlift tubes on the sides of the partition (see diagram). The air lifts are positioned so they provide optimum circulation and aeration by producing a circular flow with sufficient upwelling to keep the food particles and shrimp evenly distributed and in a state of constant suspension.

The converted raceway tanks are then stocked with nauplii at the rate of 1000-3800/liter and maintained under optimum conditions that will maximize brine shrimp production (pH = 8.0, specific gravity = 1.022 to 1.035, temperature = 80-82 F, and low light levels). (See the Plankton Culture Manual by Frank Hoff and Terry Snell* for complete instructions on this high-productivity, raceway culture method.)

If you live in an area with a favorable climate, there is an easier method for culturing brine shrimp in large quantities that might be just right for you: raising them outdoors in wading pools or small ponds. Simply install the pond in a suitable sunny location of your yard, fertilize the water with manure, and inoculate it with a starter culture of unicellular marine algae. Once the algae takes hold and the weather is right, the pond is seeded with brine shrimp eggs and nature is allowed to take its course. Voila! If all goes well, after a few weeks, you can begin harvesting large amounts of brine shrimp in various stages of development on a daily basis. For a more detailed discussion of the pond culture method, see William Gant’s article in the October 1996 issue of FAMA (”The Brine Shrimp, Part IV”).

Likewise, here is Sissy’s preferred technique for growing or adult brine shrimp, hobby:

"I do things different from most. I take decaupsulated BS eggs and hatch them, use as many as I can for a day or two. Then I take whats left and pour them water and all into a fish shipping styro outside, that has saltwater already in it from water changes on tanks.Add a air stone,I feed algae paste and selco from BS Direct everyday. The results is full grown BS in a few days, and they lay eggs and the eggs hatch,I have a constant supply of all sizes of BS. I use different size mesh nets to seperate adults from BBS. I have 3 styros going most of the year, except winter. This gives me food for all sizes of seahorses and fish."
Sissy Sathre

Always remember that unfed adult brine shrimp are virtually nutritionally barren, and it is therefore vital that they be enriched improperly before you offer them to your seahorses. It is a great idea to enrich the brine shrimp with Vibrance, but make sure you use the lipid-rich Vibrance I rather than the low-fat formula (Vibrance II) for the Artemia. Adult brine shrimp are a good source of protein, but they have very little fat content. The lipid-rich formulation in Vibrance 1 (the original Vibrance) is thus ideal for enriching brine shrimp, transforming them from nutritionally barren, empty calories into a high-fat powerhouse of vitamins and nutrients that’s loaded with color-enhancing carotenoids. As an added benefit, enriching brine shrimp with Vibrance is also an excellent way to get your seahorses to ingest beta-glucan, which will boost their immune systems and help keep them healthy.

So in your case, hobby, if the weather is favorable for you this time of year, I recommend that you start growing out brine shrimp outdoors as described above. The algae growth from sunlight will help to feed them, but for best results I would also provide them with ArtemiaGro on a daily basis as well. That will assure that they grow into the adults, which are the only brine shrimp your H. abdominalis will be interested in, much faster and are much more nutritious. Then, before you feed the adult brine shrimp you have grown out to the seahorses, be sure to enrich it with the lipid-rich Vibrance I. (I will order some ArtemiaGro and Vibrance I for you using the surplus funds you provided me with previously and mail it to you as soon as possible.) Here are the specific instructions for feeding the baby brine shrimp you hatch out with ArtemiaGro and for enriching the adult brine shrimp with Vibrance I:

Ocean Rider Artemiagro

This dry product is also a trade secret and has been specifically formulated for growing and/or maintaining healthy populations of artemia (brine shrimp) and/or rotifers. It is very high in vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, and digestible proteins that optimize growth and survivability.

Please store in a cool dark place (refrigerator or freezer is fine).

For fast and efficient feeding: Blend for 2 to 3 minutes 1 tablespoon of Ocean Rider Artemiagro into 1 cup of fresh water. Store any unused portion in the refrigerator. Add to artemia/rotifer grow out vessel until water turns slightly murky. When the water has cleared you may add more. Store any unused portion in the refrigerator in a container that does not allow light to penetrate. For slower and alternative feeding : Simply sprinkle a small amount directly into artemia vessel until water turns slightly murky. Re-apply when water has cleared. (Be careful not to stir up the bottom of vessel.)

Okay, that’s the quick rundown on keeping and growing out brine shrimp, hobby. You could use your quarantine tank for that or just any handy container filled with saltwater will suffice. Just bear in mind that when you are ready to quarantine any fish in the tank, they will quickly gobble up all of the brine shrimp you have been saving.

Have you just been practicing hatching out baby brine shrimp so that you’ll be ready if and when your first seahorses produce a brood of young, hobby? That’s not a bad idea and you should quickly become proficient at hatching out Artemia nauplii with a little practice. You will soon work out a technique that produces good results for you.

Best of luck with your brine shrimp hatchery and grow out tank for the Artemia, hobby!

Happy Trails!
Pete Giwojna

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