Welcome back to Day 27 of the 31 Days to Build a Better Saltwater Aquarium Challenge, build a DIY brine shrimp hatchery.
Nothing will make your saltwater aquarium come to life like feeding live foods. Earlier in the challenge, we talked about adding phytoplankton, macroalgae, and copepods. Give your fish and the prey-capturing coral polyps a boost of energy with some live brine shrimp.
Today’s challenge is to build a DIY Brine Shrimp Hatchery
Why brine shrimp? Because they are available everywhere, are easy to hatch and the jerking swimming motion will drive your fish nuts.
The best way to grow brine shrimp is with a brine shrimp hatchery. You can buy one online or make one yourself.
I adapted this model from a diagram and description in Joyce Wilkerson’s Clownfishes book, which is on my MUST-READ LIST.
Materials you will need:
If you transitioned from a freshwater tank to a saltwater tank, you may have some of this gear around the house. Otherwise, it may cost you a few dollars to pick up the supplies you need. Here are the materials you need to make a DIY brine shrimp hatchery.
- Empty 2-liter soda bottle (mine are mostly Diet Mountain Dew…all the caffeine, all the flavor, none of the sugar…showing my age)
- A short length of rigid airline tubing (this is the stuff that used to be used in old under gravel filters)
- Super glue gel
- Large scissors (poultry shears?)
- Air pump
- Flexible airline hose
- Brine shrimp eggs
- Brine shrimp net
Skip the DIY and go right to Hatching Brine Shrimp
If DIY or cutting up soda bottles aren’t your thing, you can pick up a complete hatchery online. There are two common models:
The San Francisco Bay model is basically a stand (paperweight) with airline tubing and a few packets of eggs/salt mix.
TOM Hatch‘N Feeder
The TOM Hatch’N Feeder model is a plastic gizmo designed to fit inside your aquarium with a suction cup to dispense the brine shrimp directly into your aquarium. For a few dollars more, it sounds like a great idea. Reviews, however, are mixed.
I’ve never purchased either. They don’t seem like very strong upgrades from what you can make yourself, but they are certainly faster if you don’t want to make your own DIY Brine Shrimp Hatchery
Here are the steps:
- Drill a small hole in the bottle cap so that the rigid airline tubing fits through.
- Cut a 2-3 inch length of rigid tubing and put it through the bottle cap so that an even amount extends above and below the cap
- Glue the tubing into place and be sure to seal it completely with the super glue gel (it needs to be waterproof
- Cut the bottle straight across, with the scissors, about 2/3 down the bottle
- Once the cap and tube have dried, screw the bottle cap tightly on to the bottle and attach the flexible airline tubing to the rigid airline tubing that extends outside of the bottle
- Invert the top 2/3 of the bottle so that it sits in the bottom 1/3 (as a stand)
- Connect the free end of the airline tubing to the air pump and turn on the pump
- Fill the bottle with 50% used tank water and 50% tap water—don’t fill it all the way up, you want to leave room for bubbles
- Add a scoop of your brine shrimp eggs
- When ready to harvest (24-48 hours after you add the eggs), simply remove the airline tubing from the air pump and hold the line below the hatchery, to cause a siphon. Direct the siphon into the brine shrimp net to collect the freshly hatched shrimp and hold it over a bucket or sink (for disposal). Because your rigid airline extends 1-1.5 inches into the hatchery, the empty, floating egg cases will collect at the bottom of the hatchery rather than get sucked down into your net.
All you need to do is rinse and repeat.
Be sure to rinse the brine shrimp (in tank water) prior to adding them to your tank, to provide the cleanest possible food source. After you grow brine shrimp with your DIY Brine Shrimp Hatchery, kick back and watch the feeding frenzy begin.
I am not successful with this I think because I cannot keep the soda bottle hatchery warm enough. Any suggestions? Would an aqua heater melt the bottle?
Hi Lydia, thanks for the great question. I would not recommend using a heater–I think it does create a risk of melting the bottle. How cold is your house? I can grow mine at room temperature. I suspect the hatch rates are lower than if I heated them up, but it seems to work. One idea here–could you do a small-scale test by just using a cup to see if they will hatch at room temperature? The other way to do it would be to use a small aquarium to hatch them (and then you can use a heater without fear of melting). What do you think? Either of those sound possible?
Thanks for the reply, Al, everything I tried failed. However, I bought fresh new eggs and have them in the hatchery and the hatchery is in a 6 gallon bucket with about 4″ of water and that has the heater. I’ll let you know what happens. My 30+ gallon aquarium can get to 25 degrees overnight in spring and winter. I live in the mountains. Of course during the summer it get too hot. I have a lot of windows or what everyone used to call passive solar. I’m situation with a view of Pike’s Peak so that gives you an idea.
I’m using a small aquarium to try and grow copepods (just started that project) but I like the idea of small aquarium. There is a nice Fluval 1.6 gal. on Amazon for about $50.
Everyone, Al’s books are the books that you wish you had when you started with marine tanks!! Also the Clownfishes book Al quoted by J.D. Wilkerson is wonderful.
Thanks Lydia. Sorry that we still use Fahrenheit :). I can use Google to translate though :). Pike’s Peak is beautiful. Made it out there one time for a business trip. Keep us posted!
Make that 70 degrees F.
It worked. I used new brine shrimp eggs and my DIY hatchery (actually I bought one ages ago from San Francisco Bay) and an added heater to a 6 gal. bucket with 4″ of water (heater in bucket, not hatchery). This kept the hatchery at 78 degrees.
Lydia, great thinking and congrats. That’s exciting. Be ready for a feeding frenzy.
Feeding frenzy 🙂 It is all for one red mandarin, four Cerith snails, and my favorite seven Narcarius snails who keep they population alive by breeding. The bristle worms care for themselves and always breed.
Remember I only have about 30+ gal. and a 2.6 gal. for starting a copepod population for the same Mandarin. His or her name is Drago (for dragonnette so I remember the kind of fish quickly). My domestic partner just read that Blennies are poisonous. Another of my favorite species but I had a Lawnmower Blennie who didn’t read that he was supposed to be peaceful and killed everything in sight but he had a great, playful personality.
Hi Lydia, you have a spoiled (and hopefully happy) mandarin :). Bristle worms do have a habit of doing that… as far as the rogue lawnmower blenny, I’m sorry about that. he/she was quite aggressive, eh? I’ve read that they can be. Not all blennies are poisonous (there are a lot of blennies). Many of the popular aquacultured (fang) blennies are. Good job with the research, keep it up. glad to hear things are going well now.