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In praise of hatching brine shrimp

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In praise of hatching brine shrimp

Post by GaryE on Sun Oct 20, 2013 2:33 pm

My first aquarium club meeting featured a speaker teaching people how to hatch brine shrimp cysts. I went home and tried it, and have never looked back.
Freshly hatched brine shrimp (bbs in acronym slang) was the single biggest factor in my multiple tank development. It is a key element in whatever success I have had with fishbreeding.
To begin, it is a staple food for me. I have cut back from a pound every 3 months (when it was $12.99 a pound) to about 1.5 pounds per year (at $45 a pound). I have found many alternatives, but no replacements. It is a great food for small carnivores and for fry, and is eagerly eaten by fish of two inches or less.
Nothing has produced the growth and colour of this easy food (easy if the cysts have been stored in a freezer or, short term, in a fridge. Cysts die in warmth). It's getting ludicrously expensive, but people who want to keep killies, small livebearers, rasbora, small gouramies or betta species, pygmy sunfish or other smaller creatures should consider having a bottle of artemia bubbling away.
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Re: In praise of hatching brine shrimp

Post by alexmtl on Sun Oct 20, 2013 3:44 pm

Absolutely these are the best food that the small carnivores will rabidly eat. I always have two 2 L containers on the go. The Neoheterandria (small livebearer) get the bbs in the evening, flak in the morning. The Class N Endlers (small livebearer) get bbs every other day (second priority to the Neohets).

I believe that live food is key to active and healthy fish. The instinctive predatory behaviour and feeding response is an elicitor of hormones. Due to the swimming action (only live foods can do this) invoke behaviour that is a natural hunting response. I have tried most alternatives but I keep going back to bbs.

The other natural alternatives that I have tried to culture have met with failure : cyclops (copepods), daphnia, and ostracods. For the time and effort nothing seems more convenient than bbs. Mosquito larvae are a second food source, but only available during the season and not a food source for fry.

Yes I had sea monkeys as a kid. I still have the sea monkey aquariums (blue and red versions).
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Re: In praise of hatching brine shrimp

Post by cephalotus on Tue Oct 22, 2013 7:41 pm

So... I have a question. Once the brine shrimp are hatched, how do you separate the BBS from the cyst husks? Everything I've read says that they are supposed to float, and/or the BBS will swim toward the light, but I have not found either to be the case. They are all mixed up together in the water column and I end up dumping a bunch of husks in with the food. Is this bad?

@alex, have you tried microworms? I have found them to be super easy to culture.
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Re: In praise of hatching brine shrimp

Post by GaryE on Wed Oct 23, 2013 4:25 am

I use the coke bottle method. I take a clear 2 ltr pop bottle and cut the bottom off. I drill a hole through the cap, then silicone all around the hole and cap after jamming an airline up through the tight opening. The airline protrudes anout one cm into the bottle when the cap is screwed back on. When the silicone's cured, I attach the other end of the hose to an air pump and add water and cysts. A bottle's good for a year or more with a couple of bleachings.
When it's ready, I disconnect the air source, and wait about ten minutes. The husks go up in that time, and the bbs settle to the bottom above the hose opening. I use gravity to fill the net with them.

The lower grade the artemia cysts, the more shells in the mix (assuming you haven't rushed and given them time to hatch). Hatch rates vary by origin (Salt lake at 21 is about 36 hours, Russian eggs are quicker).

Cysts have to be taken care of. They need to come from a freezer, which cuts out those little vials in the pet stores. If you get 40% of the cycts hatching from pet shop vials, you are lucky. Unhatched eggs don't float.

The good dealers don't like to sell to Canada in summer. You have to pay a fortune for shipping. In winter, shipiing is half the cost as they know the eggs won't be heated up, and that their reputation for quality won't suffer.

The cysts are sold in different grades - premium, 85% hatch, 75% hatch, 60% hatch. I just bought 75%, which I dislike for the shells, but it's a seller's market and for an extra ten percent I would have doubled my costs. I've had decent success with the low grade stuff before, so I'll sadly go back to that system. In a perfect world, I'd only use premium or 85%.
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Re: In praise of hatching brine shrimp

Post by GaryE on Wed Oct 23, 2013 6:01 am

A picture's worth... here's the device. I admit, this one has been in use for 3 years, and is getting beaten up, with salt creep etc. But it works.
This was this morning, after the air was off for 15 minutes. You can see the nauplii settled on the bottom, while the hatched casings have floated to the surface. That's more brine than the average member will use, as I am feeding 30 tanks with it.
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Re: In praise of hatching brine shrimp

Post by alexmtl on Wed Oct 23, 2013 6:25 am

Thanks for the posting of the apparatus. I used them in the past when I had the need for larger and more efficient yields. Right now my needs are not high thought I could become more efficient.

I have had microworms in the past and they are great foods as an alternative. I prefer BBS as my first choice as I have not seen any better based upon cost, ease of hatching and accessibility. While many people recommend frozen BBS or even FD, I am a fan of the live hatch.

I use simple 2 L food bins that you find at the dollar store. I have two running alternating on days so that each hatch is available each day. To separate the BBS from the egss, I use an LED light that is focused o the side of the transparent plastic bin. Since BBS are phototactic, they can be collected en masse when they gather at the light focal point. Usually the hatch is good for about 12 hours, anymore and the nauplii have absorbed the yolk and have become less nutritious.

I use straight dollar sea salt (yes it is iodized) with no problems. The tap water that I use is as hot as I can get it from the tap, to mix the salt. I use two tablespoons per 2 L bin and it appears to give best yield. In the past I used the inverted 2 L bottle apparatus but in wanted a low tech set up with the limited space that I have now.

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Re: In praise of hatching brine shrimp

Post by cephalotus on Wed Oct 23, 2013 1:14 pm

Ahhhh, that must be my problem, I've been using one of those pet shop vials. I put it in the freezer when I got it home but who knows how long it was on the shelf before I bought it.

Nice setup Gary! Thanks for the visual, that really helps me understand your system. I don't have a need for any large quantity of BBS, so I've just been using a small canning jar with an airstone and sucking the BBS out with an eyedropper/turkey baster (based on this setup). It's a lot of effort for a small quantity compared to the microworms though.

Does anyone know whether/how harmful it is to include unhatched cysts and shells mixed in with the nauplii when feeding fish? Should I give up on BBS altogether until I can get a higher grade supply?

What about the nutritional value of microworms vs. BBS? Any thoughts?
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Re: In praise of hatching brine shrimp

Post by sucker4plecos on Wed Oct 23, 2013 4:19 pm

I used to have a fantastic shrimp hatchery that was given to me by an old retired dentist that seriously bred guppies.... It was made of glass..... basically a pyramid shaped tank turned upside down with an air stone siliconed through the bottom.... there was a glass lid to go on top.... it gave lots of space for eggs to be swirled around and I have kicked my self many times for selling it off when I steered away from fish back in high school....

Some stores have started bringing in live brine shrimp which do very well, but are larger than newly hatched shrimp.... still, fish love them.... so talk your LFS and see if there is enough interest to get a batch in every week or two.... once a few people try it the product catches on.....
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Re: In praise of hatching brine shrimp

Post by hello_rockview12 on Wed Oct 23, 2013 4:28 pm

I need to get into this. Looks like it's pretty beneficial and I'd like my fish to be as happy/healthy/colourful as possible!
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Re: In praise of hatching brine shrimp

Post by Ursus sapien on Wed Oct 23, 2013 5:00 pm

Ceph, others can give you more detail but baby brine shrimp can be used as a primary food as it is nutritionally vastly superior to either microworms or vinegar eels, which are really just supplemental foods.
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Re: In praise of hatching brine shrimp

Post by GaryE on Wed Oct 23, 2013 5:35 pm

Microworms are great in bare glass bottomed tanks with bottom feeders. They aren't as nutritious as bbs, as Ursus said, but they go right to the bottom. Fish that hunt in the water column will often let microworms fall by and not go down to get them. In a gravel tank, the worms escape and die.
BBS hop around the water column. In my soft water tanks, they can swim for 4 hours. In harder water, all day.
I was feeding 30 tanks with bbs this morning, but only four of them were fry that needed small foods. It's a great supplement or even a staple (if you can find it cheaply) for under two inch adult fish. All my fish eat it when they get a chance, even the big cichlids. It doesn't fill them, but then again, raisins don't fill me but they are a treat.
The killer is not hatching it, but the price. My preferred source is brineshrimpdirect in Utah, as I have always had really good eggs from them. But the shipping to the east hurts. To the west, it might be different. I always order by phone and insist on USPS shipping, to avoid the expected unexpected private courrier charges. If you go that way, wait til it's below zero outside. They ship better.
I was delighted to buy locally, especially since it was that company's product being sold.

Unhatched shells. I have never seen a problem, but hobby lore says there is one. Some species (angel fish are apparently affected, among others) eat the shells and develop intestinal blockages. I have never heard of an autopsy to prove it was the shells (that would be hard to do with fry) but there are a lot of anecdotes saying unhatched shells cause problems.
I had some very low hatch stuff from Utah once, and from Russia once. Both made a mess - getting those shells out is a pain - but I never lost fry. At that time, I was raising lots of young Apistogramma and gouramies.

Apparently, there's a lake in Saskatchewan where there is a commercial brine shrimp harvest, but it's not for aquarium distribution. There is a company I found once online, but I can't recall what they were doing with the artemia.
The Russian eggs I used to buy gave small nauplii that were really cool - lower salinity and great for tiny fry. But the source was a local guy who shorted every pound and kept raising his prices til he put himself out of business. The artemia were good, but the hatch was at best 60%. He got greedy and we lost our source ;-(
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Re: In praise of hatching brine shrimp

Post by sucker4plecos on Wed Oct 23, 2013 5:41 pm

Somewhat unrelated.... but I think the shipping is not east or west .... but a north thing.... The US has greatly increased the shipping fees for out of country addresses...... I have a friend who used to shop a lot on E-Bay for collector items... it isn't worth it to him any more because the mailing here to Canada makes the price just too high.....
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