Many of the ant farm stores on our lineup sell a range of other live animal kits that make great first pet experiences for kids. Sea-monkeys, for example. As you might have guessed, sea-monkeys are not tiny primates that took to the water because they were too small to jump from branch to branch. They are in fact a type of aquatic creature closely related to brine shrimp. The amazing thing about sea-monkeys is that they don’t die when they dry up. Instead, sea-monkeys go into a state of suspended animation and can survive without food or water for years.
Sea-monkeys are not the only type of organism that can survive dehydration, but they are the most common organisms of this type that are often sold as pets. This is because sea-monkeys are large enough to be visible to the naked eye, while other similar organisms (like the tardigrades, or water bears) are so small they’re practically microscopic.
“Sea-monkey” is the common name for Artemia, a subspecies of brine shrimp. Sea-monkeys grow bigger and live longer than brine shrimp, making them better suited as pets.
When you buy ant farms or many other types of live animal kits, you have to order the animals separately and you can only have them shipped to you in moderate weather. Sea-monkeys, on the other hand, can be shipped any time of year and can be left in the package for years without endangering their lives. When you receive your sea-monkeys, they are in an unhatched form called a cyst and they require no food or water because they are in a state of suspended animation. Before hatching, sea-monkey eggs can survive extreme conditions, including temperatures down to -300 degrees Fahrenheit and up to 220 degrees Fahrenheit for a few hours. However, in order to hatch and survive, they require adequate water at a certain temperature.
When you add the package of sea-monkey cysts to water with the right conditions, they quickly hatch and begin to grow. Sea-monkey kits also come with a few other supplies you’ll need to keep your pets alive, including a water treatment chemical that removes chlorine and a packet of food. You’ll need to feed your sea-monkeys about once a week. The tank that comes with your kit has a lid that will slow the evaporation of the water, but over time the water level will drop and you’ll need to add either bottled water or water that has been boiled and then cooled to the right temperature.
When sea-monkeys first hatch, they are very small, around 0.5 mm, which is smaller than a poppy seed. Under the appropriate conditions the sea-monkeys will grow to an adult size of around 1 cm, big enough to be easily observed with the naked eye.
Some packets of sea-monkey eggs contain other organisms as well, because the eggs are collected from natural areas where other species naturally occur. This type of organism is generally called a triops, a name that means “three eyes.” When you buy a triops kit, it may contain sea-monkeys and other closely related types of brine shrimp and similar creatures. The eggs are so small before hatching that they have a powder-like consistency, and it would be nearly impossible to sort out the individual eggs.
Sea-monkeys are born with a single eye, and over time they develop two more, making them one of very few organisms that has three eyes. As mentioned above, this is why sea-monkeys fall under the category of triops, meaning three eyes. Sea-monkeys are naturally attracted to light so you can get a clearer look at them by holding a flashlight to the side of your tank.
Sea-monkeys might be less popular with the current generation than they were years ago, but they still make a great starter pet for curious kids, as they require very little care and only live for about a year. See our review of ant farm stores to learn more about where to buy these fascinating creatures.