Raising And Growing Large Brine Shrimp


Retired Staff
Apr 8, 2009
Raising And Growing Large Brine Shrimp
by Bill "Pegasus NZ"
of New Zealand

I had a problem keeping my fish supplied with a regular supply of live foods, and with Brine Shrimp being high on their list of favorites I decided to produce them in quantity and size, and here is how I did it.

Topic is BIG brine shrimp, and you will need the following. One or two spare all-glass tanks, a sheet of rigid plastic (see below), a small stainless steel self tapping screw, a bag of genuine sea salt, and some brine shrimp eggs. Further to this, you will need to read and follow the instructions given if you want to succeed.

As promised, here is a great way to grow brine shrimp for all year round use. First a little warning. Live food to tropicals is a "Treat" not an "Everyday" food and should be used in moderation, and not as a substitute for a normal diet. Most live foods are a laxative to fish, so feed sparingly. Also, prolonged feeding of brine shrimp can increase water salinity, so again, take care.
If you want to get really serious about this, then discard your regular hatcher for the time being and set yourself up a REAL HATCHERY:

You will need an all glass tank, and preferably two if you want to produce large healthy shrimps. You will also need a dedicated air supply that won't be turned off, as this is critical. Tank size is really not important to start with, but if you have a spare 18x12x12 inches, this will do. The second tank should be larger if possible, as this will be your "Growing on Tank."
Take your small tank and begin by blacking out about two thirds completely, that is the front, back, and sides; plus make a top of glass or plastic and black the outer side of this also, never the inside. Blackboard paint applied to the outside is ideal, but it should be allowed to dry completely before taking it into your fish room. As an alternative you could stick cardboard or something around the sides.

You are going to need to partition the tank off into two areas, with no gaps if possible. Measure the inside dimension from front to back, and the depth. Cut a square of rigid plastic sheet, or similar material that can be cut and trimmed easily. Your local hardware store might have an offcut of sheeting somewhere. You are trying to create a completely dark side of the tank, and a small (one third) area of non-darkened area, so your efforts in this department will pay dividends. The separator sheet should be a good push fit, and you may have to trim the lower corners to stop it tearing into the silicone seals on your tank, so check this. Try it for size, but don't fit it yet, as you have work to do. Take the square plastic sheet separator and measure around three to four inches from the top, and then find the approx. centre. Now cut a hole around one and a half inches in diameter in this position on the sheet. (It's hard talking in imperial - we're metric). The above is not critical, but the position given works. This hole will be the exit hole for the live shrimp.

Now cut a disc of the sheet plastic to cover the hole - square or round, it doesn't matter. While you were at the hardware shop you should have got a small stainless steel self tapping screw. Sorry, off you go. ....Geez, that was quick. Now, bore a small hole into the small piece you just cut, and another in the separator sheet. The idea is that the small piece acts as a peephole, and when swung into position it should cover the hole and prevent light from getting to the dark side. Take your time, this is important.

Now gently position your separator sheet in the tank and check the fit. If all is well, proceed with the next step. Hopefully you have some sea salt, and some brine shrimp eggs. A word about the eggs. Hatching rates vary so much that if you get a bad result, it will be the eggs. Some are from Utah Salt Lake Flats, others from San Francisco (over here that is), so try different brands and when you find a good one stick to it.

Right, next step. The correct salinity of the water will be on the bag of salts you bought, and should be as for marine fish, or slightly saltier. Calculate the gallons, or litres that your tank holds and follow the directions on your salt bag. Use genuine sea salt not household stuff. Put the correct amount of salts in your tank with the partition removed, then gradually fill with clean unchlorinated water. Rain water is good if it's clean, although it could be a little soft in some regions. If you can get offshore a couple of miles out, take a few containers and grab yourself some seawater. It has enough food in it to support your shrimps in the early stages. Land lubbers fear not, just read on. Once the tank is full, mix the contents thoroughly making sure all the salt has dissolved. You clued up folks can measure the specific gravity if you like with a hydrometer, but going by the instructions on the bag always works.

Slip the partition into position making sure all light is excluded from the dark side of the tank. I have always found I didn't need heat to hatch these little fellas out, but if you live in a cold region introduce a small heater and keep it around 65-70 deg.F. Just to be clear to everyone, the tank needs to be absolutely bare - no gravel or UG filters, or outside filters of any sort, clean and bare. Now the shrimps. Take each shrimp singly between the finger and thumb and…. Just kidding. Its surprising how many shrimp a small bottle holds, so don't tip half a bottle in and hope to get a good result. You will be introducing more eggs gradually, over time, so at first only put around a quarter of a level teaspoon full into the dark side of the tank. Get a good free flowing airstone with heaps of grunt and place in the dark side of the tank. The idea here is not to let the eggs settle on the bottom for even a second, and the air must remain on constantly if you want results. The dark side should now be a swirling mass of eggs. You'll find that they get washed up onto the tank sides, so occasionally wipe them off and back into the water. Cover the tank so that it is completely dark. 36 to 48 hours later you should have a mass of live shrimp.

Never take shrimp from the dark side. Don't be too anxious, give them a day or so to grow on a little.


The big decision now is "Do you feed to the fish, or grow on?" Tell you what, why not do both? That spare second tank you have, now is the time to fill it, no partitions, just a straight tank filled with the same type of salt water you filled the first with. Set it up and get the temp. right, and the airstone going. If you have space near a sunny window, so much the better.
On the hatching tank, turn the air supply off for a while. Have a cuppa till the eggs settle. Again, don't rush this or you'll finish up with mostly egg shells. Take a peek, and if the eggs have settled open the peephole on the separator, while still keeping the dark end of the tank covered. Stand a light of some form at the clear end of the tank and watch. Gradually the LIVE shrimps will swim through the peephole into the lighted area, leaving all the SHELLS behind. The shrimp can be siphoned off with a length of air hose and into a net with a fine cloth laid in it to stop the shrimps going through the net, and those to be fed can be fed direct. They should be a mass of pink in the cloth. If your second tank is some distance away use a jam jar filled with water from the tank to transfer some shrimp for growing on.
Brine Shrimp, as with any other living thing that comes from an egg, can survive a certain amount of time on the egg sac, and for the shrimp this time is short, so if you want to grow your shrimp on, then you must feed them. Those of you that have the luxury of natural seawater will have less worries, but others will need to do the following. Another "Never" is, never feed the shrimps in the hatching tank. You can pollute the water in two seconds if you don't take care, so only feed them in the growing-on tank (if you do decide to grow them on), or from the retrieval side of your new hatchery where they are free of shells and this is how you do it:
First few days, one or two small drops of #1 Liquifry, or similar fry food. Don't overfeed, you'll pollute the water so quick you'll miss it. Watch the shrimp, watch their size. They grow amazingly quick. At around a half a millimetre long they can start on the prepared food I will tell you about. In some regions they call them "Sea Monkeys"

The Growing On Food:

You will need one hard boiled egg, and one tablespoon of Bemax, or similar non-flavoured health food. Use only the yolk of the egg, and along with the "Bemax" mix into a smooth paste. A few squirts of Liquifry into the paste would not go amiss at this time along with a pinch or two of flaky fish food. Please note: There are other foods in various articles on Brine Shrimp, but this worked for me with excellent results. Form into a small thin biscuit shape and place on a baking tray and pop in the oven under a low heat. You are trying to create a small biscuit of food. Don't burn it, just dry it out completely. Once dry and crisp, remove from the oven and cool. Now take a rolling pin and crush the thing to the finest dust you can, the finer the better. Store the result in an airtight jar. Possibly by now you can see the legs on the shrimps if you look close, or if you are like me with aging eyesight, use a hand lens. Cute little buggers.


I don't want to preach, but don't overfeed or your efforts will be wasted.
Get a match and dip the end into the tank, then into the pounded mixture you prepared. An eighth of an inch of mixture JUST clinging to the match is more than enough. Dip it into the tank and swish around. It should appear milky, with no lumps or large bits. Any large bits will remain uneaten and pollute the tank. A small amount like this in the morning, and again at night is sufficient, and this formula has grown shrimps to ¾" plus, and were seen to be carrying eggs themselves, so it can be done. You may have to feed slightly more depending on the size and stock of your shrimps. Try to feed before it gets too dark. I'm not sure if the shrimp can see in the dark, I suppose they can, but to be on the safe side. Many people feed their fish, then turn off the light and go to bed, and they wonder why they get problems. Having your tank near the window will grow algae, and this will also be a food for your shrimps.
Mollies love them, and also like a bit of salt in their water, sea horses thrive on them, as do all tropical marines. As with everything in nature, what we take, we have to give back, so each time you remove eggs from your hatchery tank, pop a few more in to keep the cycle going. Again, don't overdo it. You may have the facilities to move the shrimp to a third tank and grow them even bigger, and the secret here is the food, and natural seawater will assist in your results, as the microscopic life can feed the shrimp. Trials at a university in England showed that pollution of the water can happen rapidly, and to ensure your supply lasts and grows, feed half as much as you think they need, and move the adults on as they grow. Use a wooden box with a poly liner if you have to, but if you follow the steps you should be successful.

Any Questions? Good... I'll be off then. Any Questions Email me at pegasus-nz@paradise.net.nz . I'll be glad to help.
Enjoy every moment as if it were your last. Take care always.
Best Regards Bill (Pegasus NZ) New Zealand.

Since writing this article on the raising of big Brine Shrimp, I have had dozens of emails asking for further information on various matters that some readers have found confusing. I have answered all these queries, but for the benefit of other readers, below are listed many of the questions, and should anyone need more clarification, I would be pleased to answer via my email. The main questions have been on lighting, heat, food, growing on, plus a few others, so I will try to cover these below.

Q. Why do you say the eggs have to be kept in the darkened area, when the suppliers say "Keep under light for 24 hours..?"

A. I designed the hatcher during the mid '70's, and after trying various methods over several months, I found that keeping the eggs (cysts) in the darkened area until hatched gave a better result, with more consistency, than hatching under light. I have just received a one pound tin of eggs from a supplier in the States, and this also says to hatch under light for 24hrs, but as the old saying goes.. "What works for me," and I personally found that using the segregated tank with the darkened area method did just that.

Q. When should I open the flap to allow the hatched ones to swim through, and won't just the normal light attract them..?

A. Opening the flap on the separator and shining a strong light to attract the shrimp into the open side should be done as soon as the shrimp are hatched. Because of the amount of shrimp in the enclosed area, they can soon become overcrowded, so the quicker they are attracted into the naturally lighted open area the better. Using normal house lights, or natural light will no get them to congregate in one area for siphoning off, hence the strong light. If conditions are right, you should have a huge pink mass in one area. I found it best to use a sieve at this point so that the old water was not added to the new setup. If you transfer them quickly, they should come to no harm.

Q. Do I really need to use a heater..?

A. This depends on your room temperature, but hatching at around 25 to 28C will give you a faster hatching rate than at 20C or less. At 20 or below they could take several days to hatch, whereas at 25C to 28C they should hatch in around 18hrs, but some may take longer.

Q. Is there any way I can filter the water without losing the shrimps…?

A. Not that I know of, but if you discover one I would be pleased to see it. I have often wondered if a bivalve would do it, or would it create more waste..?

Q. Should the water smell..?

A. After a while, and a few hatchings, the water 'will' begin to smell and I think this is due to the cyst shells that accumulate after a few hatchings, or perhaps from the demise of some of the shrimps through overcrowding. Sea Salt from the supermarket is cheap, and is what gives good results, but I have used natural sea water when I could get it. Any odors from the tank should be an indication that the water needs changing.

Q. How much salt do I use..?

A. As per the salinity of sea water, or slightly more, this is a specific gravity of 1.022, which is 1.022 times heavier than pure water at 4C.

Q. This 'Bemax' stuff you mention, what is it and where can I get it..?

A. Bemax is a health food as was sold in the UK, and may not be available everywhere, but a normal health food (unflavoured) will work just as well, or even some baby food if dried as per the article. Experiment with different things as I did, then tell us your results. Growing green algae on the tank is a great food for them, so if you can do this, so much the better.

Q. When should I start feeding them..? Is the recipe you mention really needed to grow them on..?

A. Two parts here. First… NEVER feed them in the hatching tank, as this will pollute the water very quickly. Natural sea water (if you have a handy supply) contains enough food for the early stages, but not enough to sustain them indefinitely until mature. Attract the shrimp into the lighted area with a strong light, then allow to settle around the light, then siphon off and place in the growing on tank. Second. Now is the time to feed them small amounts of the mixture you have 'hopefully' prepared. Once again, the mixture in the article is "what works for me", but you can get results using a liquid fry food, but I found the best results were gained from using the mixture as in the article. There is I understand a prepared food available for feeding brine shrimp, but to date I have not come across it. As they grow, increase the amount of feed, and the number of feedings.

Q. How long can they stay in the growing on tank..?

A. As long as you can sustain the right conditions for them. Ideally you should have a couple of growing on tanks if you 'really' want to grow the big guys, and to do this you grow them on in the first tank, then as the water shows signs of becoming fouled or old, you move them on to the next prepared tank, which allows you to clean out the first and get it ready for the next shift. They grow fast, and take up a lot of room, plus they consume heaps of air, so it should be kept flowing at all times. You may find that due to their growth that you will need to either feed them out to your fish, or set up an additional unit to cope with them, as at around half an inch they will be seen to be carrying eggs. Once these hatch you will have to 'grade' them and either grow the young on, or feed them out. You could also freeze your surplus for feeding at a later date. I don't actually know the lifespan of these brine shrimp, but I was never short of a continuous supply in all the time I used this method.

** Just a note here **
These growing on tanks are just 'bare' tanks.. nothing else, just plain old all glass tanks, or some other suitable container, plus of course the aeration. Two foot by one foot is an ideal size, but you may feel adventurous and set up a three or four foot.
Happy Days, By Bill (Pegasus NZ)

Author: Bill "Pegasus NZ"
Title: Raising and Growing Large Brine Shrimp
Summary: How to build a brine shrimp hatchery, and how to feed and grow the shrimps.
Date first published: 2001. Addendum June 2003
Publication: Bill's web site: Fishy Types Aquarium Help



Jan 28, 2011
cornwall uk
very good article:clap: just wondering if i can copy and paste this on another forum that i am a member of as it would be of great use to them.

thanks ollie


Retired Staff
Apr 8, 2009
very good article:clap: just wondering if i can copy and paste this on another forum that i am a member of as it would be of great use to them.

thanks ollie
Hey Ollie
This article is one of a couple I got from aqua articles. You are allowed to use them but you need to make sure that you credit the author, aqua articles and link to the article. You also need to email aqua articles and let them know you are putting it up somewhere. While you are there check out some of the other articles, theres quite a few and they are pretty good:D