Feeding the livestock in a marine system is of very great importance. All living things need food to obtain energy and remain healthy. Without an adequate food supply – adequate in both quantity and quality – livestock will soon start to have problems.
Brine shrimp have been in use for many years. They can be obtained frozen and live and, though I haven’t seen any for a while, they are also available dry.
One of the tricks that can be employed when a new fish is reluctant to eat is to use brine shrimp. When they go into the aquarium the other resident fish chase them with gusto and often the new fish will become involved in this and take a few. If the new fish is on its own a brine shrimp or two dancing in the current is hard to ignore.
I would guess that the majority of aquarists use the frozen type. These come in a flat pack which is divided into segments, each segment is broken free as required. The segments can be cut down into smaller amounts according to need. Before the food is introduced it needs to be defrosted and this process should be done in seawater or a little reverse osmosis water. The food should be allowed to defrost on its own without the assistance of a microwave or similar. Some aquarists rinse the defrosted food before use.
The best frozen shrimps to use are those that are ‘enriched’. Brine shrimp is not particularly rich though it probably provides good roughage. Some aquarists insist on a product that has been irradiated, which means that there will not be any disease causing dangers present.
Live brine shrimp are usually purchased from a local store by the bag. The shrimp are definitely fresh and the storekeeper should be able to state their origin and if they have been enriched. Some aquarists are concerned about the possibility of disease. I used live shrimp for two years or so from a local store and never had a problem. I ceased using them as the supply to the storekeeper dried up. At that point I switched to frozen.
Brine shrimp are available dried. I did try them once and found them not to be particularly worthwhile for the simple reason that they had to be pre-soaked for quite a time or they would float around on the surface – once soaked they did sink but the fish were not overly enthusiastic. As said I haven’t seen the dried variety available for a good while. I also wondered about the nutritional value. Without any evidence I always had the feeling that this was poor.
Producing live brine shrimp at home is easy. All it needs is a suitable container with vigorous water movement, a convenient location and a supply of eggs. The eggs have become much more expensive (or they have in my area) and it may be found that the frozen variety is more economical. There are brine shrimp hatching kits available commercially, and these come with full instructions which are straight forward. Just don’t put too many eggs in like I once did: there’ll be so many brine shrimp they’ll need feeding themselves before they can be used. Using tiny newly hatched shrimp is good for corals and fish.
Brine shrimp are not a complete food in themselves, more of a supplement. There isn’t a reason why an aquarist couldn’t use them every day, but it would be better to use them along with other ‘supplements’, a good example is mysis shrimp. A fully nutritional food such as marine flake and the like should be the base diet. In addition attention must be given to the dietary requirements of livestock. Surgeon fish for example will usually eat brine shrimp without problem, but they need more nutrition as mentioned plus a good supply of suitable algae.
Brine shrimp is an excellent part of the marine aquarist’s food store. Stored and used properly it will add dietary variety and the fish seem to enjoy chasing it down.