How To Hatch Brine Shrimp (Step-By-Step)

Saul Dolgin, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Saul Dolgin, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

How To Hatch Brine Shrimp (Step-By-Step)


Brine Shrimp are nutritious live food items and a must-have for hobbyists trying to give their fish the food they need to thrive. However, hatching Brine Shrimp cysts can be a little confusing if you are new to the hobby but if you take the proper time to prepare, hatching brine shrimp will just be another part of your care routine. 

All it takes is some treated tap water, salt mix, a hatchery, and some Brine Shrimp egg specimens.

 You can make the process as complicated or straightforward as you would like. Some people try to streamline the process as much as possible to perfect the hatch rates for their shrimp but if you are more worried about having a supply of live food now and then, that shouldn’t be a big deal for you.

Easiest way to hatch Brine Shrimp (Without an Air Pump)

The easiest way of hatching brine shrimp eggs is by using a hatchery. Hatcheries can be bought online and sometimes at your local pet store. These hatcheries will allow you to easily hatch brine shrimp and make them readily available every day if you wanted that to be your practice. The way the hatchery is laid out means that you need next to no equipment to hatch the Brine Shrimp. This method won’t require an air pump as well.

All you need to do to begin the hatching process is mix some aquarium-safe tap water with reef salt mix. You place the water in the assembled hatchery and use the provided scooper to measure out the Brine Shrimp eggs or cysts as they are normally referred to. Place the cover on the hatchery and in no longer than 48 hours, Brine Shrimp should begin to hatch. All hatcheries come with instructions so be sure to follow them in case there are slight differences in setups between brands for construction!

To improve the hatch rates of your shrimp, you will want to be focused on the specific water temperature and salinity while hatching Brine Shrimp cysts. For a quicker hatch rate, you will want to have the water temperature between 80 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit. The increased water temperature will help to hatch the eggs faster but be mindful not to go much higher as that will cause the eggs to crack too early and you will kill your shrimp. The shrimp will begin to hatch over the next 18 to 48 hours depending on the parameters that you have constructed for them.

The newly hatched Brine Shrimp are attracted to the light in the center of the hatchery which means they move towards it and segregate themselves from their unhatched siblings. As they fill up the harvest scoop, you can safely harvest the newly hatched Brine Shrimp without worrying about scooping up unhatched eggs in the process. The unhatched eggs will remain on the outskirts of the hatchery waiting for their turn to hatch and join their siblings.

Easiest way to hatch Brine Shrimp (With an Air Pump)

Another common method for hatching your shrimp is with a cone rather than the circular hatchery like in the previous example. actually, it is more likely you will find these hatcheries in your local pet store rather than the circular light traps like the previous example but these can be almost as easy to use as those hatcheries so don’t worry. What’s even better is that you can make this hatchery yourself if you wanted however this method will require an air pump.

You want to adhere to similar parameters as the other hatching method so keep the temperature between 78 and 83 degrees Fahrenheit at the very least, specific gravity at least 1.011, and pH between 8 and 8.5.

Have some sort of lighting available. It can be as simple as a 60-watt bulb. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy.

  • Getting into the nitty-gritty, the cone method should have the light source about 8 inches away.
  • Fill the cone with about one liter of aquarium-safe saltwater.
  • Place an airline from the air pump into the cone until it is nearly at the bottom of the container. The airstream would be steady with the bubbles traveling from the bottom to the top. The air pump should be higher than the cone container so you aren’t creating a siphon. A siphon might make your hatching endeavor impossible.
  • Add a tablespoon of eggs and let sit for an hour
  • If eggs come to the surface carefully push them back into the water.
  • If you are struggling with the pH of your water, you can add baking soda to increase it.
  • After about 24 hours, move the light to the bottom of the cone. This will cause the shrimp to swim downwards and you can begin to get an idea of how well the hatching process is going.
  • If there are several hatched shrimp, you can use the airline like a siphon at this point to collect the specimens.
  • Between every incubation attempt, you should always wash your hatcheries to ensure that nothing gross is going to contaminate your shrimp and then your fish.

What do Brine Shrimp need to hatch?

Brine Shrimp are actually really easy to hatch and they don’t need much to get started. The temperature, salinity, pH, and light source are the main factors you want to be paying attention to during this process. 

As we have briefly discussed already, the temperature should be maintained between 78 and 83 degrees Fahrenheit to ensure a more quality hatch. Lower temperatures will hatch eggs but it will be at a slower rate while higher temperatures hatch the eggs faster but at an increased rate of loss. What this means is you are trying to aim for the idle ground with the 78-83 range. 

Light also increases the hatch rate of baby Brine Shrimp but depending on your setup you will be limited as to how much control over the lighting you have. For instance, the hatchery method that we discussed earlier uses light as a way to separate the baby Brine Shrimp as they hatch which means that they don’t receive a lot of direct light before they gain mobility. 

The most important thing to ensure that unhatched Brine Shrimp have is salt. Salt prevents the baby Brine Shrimp from, in a sense, being overwatered too quickly. You want to try to have the eggs in water that measures around 1.011 specific gravity at the very least. 

If this is the same water that you are used to using for water changes, you might not need to mind the pH too much but you might still want to make sure that the pH is coming in around 8-8.5.

How long does it take for Brine Shrimp to hatch?

How quickly Brine Shrimp eggs take to hatch can depend on the Brine Shrimp eggs but they can hatch as quickly as within 18 hours or as long as 48 hours. It really depends on the specific species of Brine Shrimp. Generally, a good time to aim for is around 24 hours to hatch your shrimp. The hatch rate depends largely on the water parameters that the shrimp were placed in. Please be sure to reference the instructions in the last section to best setup your hatchery and water for the shrimp.

How to tell if baby Brine Shrimp have hatched?

You can tell if your shrimp have hatched fairly easily. The shrimp have a distinct color that is often orange but is known to be white or pink as well. If you grab a small flashlight and shine it to the spot where you expect them to be, you might be able to see them gather near the source of the light. 

Why are my baby Brine Shrimp not hatching?

There could be a variety of reasons why your baby Brine Shrimp are not hatching. You first want to double-check that you have followed the necessary precautions that we have outlined in the last section of this post. If you still have issues after doing so, your cysts might be bad. You should clean out whatever hatchery you may be using and try a new scoop of unhatched eggs but chances are the entire bottle is probably bad and you will need to invest in new baby Brine Shrimp eggs. You can help prevent your shrimp supply from going bad by buying from reputable retailers and storing them properly when not being used.

Does Brine Shrimp hatching require a light source?

Brine Shrimp are more attracted to light than actually needing the light source. They will hatch in darker spaces as long as their salinity, water, and pH needs are met. The light acts more as a meeting place for them. After they hatch, almost any level of light will work just fine for them to glide along under.

Why do Brine Shrimp need salt to hatch?

Salt acts as a way to prevent water from flowing through the egg cysts too quickly. The salt slows the process down and allows the cysts to mature at the appropriate rate without cracking prematurely during the hatching process. 

How long do Brine Shrimp eggs last

Baby Brine Shrimp eggs are one of the go-to live foods for hobbyists due to their nutritional value and shelf life. The eggs of the shrimp, if properly stored, can last about 2 years. The eggs can last this long because they are effectively inactive until they are introduced to salt and water. Until that time, the eggs are safe to keep in dry cool conditions. 

Can I hatch Brine Shrimp in my aquarium?

Can you? Yeah probably. Should you? Probably not. It really depends on the inhabitants of your tank. There have been reports that the cysts of the baby Brine Shrimp can be a little harsh for newly developing fish so depending on your fish’s age it might not be a great idea. However, I see the benefit of wanting to drop the cysts in the aquarium and forget about the process rather than dealing with the multi-day hatching process. You also wouldn’t be able to manage the eggs after you dropped them into the main aquarium and the eggs would be at the mercy of the fish present. Though some species might enjoy the eggs as treats themselves, they lack some of the developed nutrients that the Brine Shrimp offer your fish.

How long do Brine Shrimp live

Brine Shrimp can live up to 6 months on their own but in feeding environments, they should be used as quickly as possible to ensure the highest nutritional value. However, they can last several days if stored in an environment that registers at 4 degrees celsius. However, chances are your baby brine shrimp will not make it to 6 months before they are introduced. to your main saltwater aquarium. You might even consider freezing the shrimp as soon as they hatch so you can save them for a later day. Note, that the Brine Shrimp lose nutritional value the longer that they stay alive. The freezing should be done as quickly as possible.

Can Brine Shrimp live in freshwater?

If you have a freshwater tank as well as a saltwater aquarium, you might be wondering if you can use Brine Shrimp to feed that ecosystem or maybe you want to store your newly hatched Brine Shrimp in fresh water and not prepare a salt environment for them. Well, it turns out Brine Shrimp naturally live in saltwater and brackish water. They can survive in freshwater for a little while and definitely long enough for most of your fish to feed on them.

What do Brine Shrimp look like?

You might think that Brine Shrimp are just smaller versions of one of our favorite dinner dishes but as it turns out they are really tiny creatures that resemble something like a lobster more than it does a shrimp. The Brine Shrimp use their tiny wings to move through the water and have 11 pairs of legs that assist in that movement. The shrimp are mostly orange in color after they are newly hatched.

How big do Brine Shrimp get?

As you might assume, Brine Shrimp do no get super big. The total length that they can expect to achieve is between 8 and 10 millimeters and about 4 millimeters wide. They are really only noticeable when they are with their siblings though you can see them individually if you are paying careful attention. They stand out in their numbers rather than individually. 

Final thoughts

Baby Brine Shrimp hatching is only as confusing as you make it. If you take things slow and do not try to rush your first few batches, you will get the hang of the details in no time. Once you have a better idea of what you are doing, you can try to improve those hatch rates to 24 hours or even 18 hours. Don’t skimp on the recommended cylinder hatchery, it will save you a lot of time in the long run. Now you should be ready to start your very own Brine Shrimp hatchery. Good luck and for more on how to best care for your saltwater aquarium read on at Reef Tank Resource.

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