JellyFish Facts

Brine Shrimp: Jellyfish Food

Brine Shrimp: Jellyfish Food picture

Brine Shrimp: Jellyfish Food

Jellyfish is one of the most captivating creatures that freely inhabit the marine waters of the world. Hobbyists have been dreaming of keeping captive jellyfish for years. This has not been possible until the recent past. Jellyfish, being one of the most fragile creatures in the world and completely dependent on ocean currents for their suspension, motion and food posed a difficult challenge to being kept in any place other then their natural habitat: the ocean.

Another huge problem with keeping jellyfish captive has been the issue of feeding them. In nature, jellyfish, who are carnivorous creatures, feed on microscopic zooplankton and small crustaceans. Larger species of jellyfish are known to eat small fish and other jellyfish, but the species that we have been able to keep in captivity primarily feed on live zooplankton. There is no secure source of zooplankton available. In public aquariums, which were the only place jellyfish were displayed until very recently, had to cultivate live strains of zooplankton to feed the jellyfish twice a day. This is a very difficult undertaking and it kept the dream of keeping jellyfish firmly out of reach for the hobbyist.

After a lot of research into the matter, scientists have discovered that brine shrimp can be used as an adequate food substitute to feed jellyfish. The common brine shrimp (artemia) is in the phylum Arthropoda, class Crustacea. Artemia are closely related to zooplankton like Copepods and Daphnia, which have also been used for live food in the aquarium. Brine shrimp have existed since the Triassic Age, millions of years ago, and are one of the oldest inhabitants of the world.

It is relatively easy to cultivate brine shrimp. Brine shrimp eggs can remain in 'stasis' i.e. metabolically inactive for years on end in a dry oxygen free environment. This makes them very easy to store. To 'activate' them, they have to be placed in water. Within a few hours of being in water, the cyst-like eggs hatch and tiny brine shrimp larvae are born. At birth, they are no longer than 0.5 mm in length. They can grow to over 1 cm in size during their short life span of one year.

In natural conditions, brine shrimp feed on microscopic planktonic algae. When bred in captivity, they can be fed with yeast, soybean powder, and wheat flour or egg yolk. The ease with which these foods can be acquired and supplied is one of the reasons for the popularity of brine shrimp as aquarium food. On the other hand, as aquarium food, brine shrimp are highly nutritional to the inhabitants of the aquarium. A newly hatched colony of brine shrimp is high in lipids and unsaturated fatty acids. However, they are extremely low on calcium. This makes them a somewhat poor substitute as the entire diet of the jellyfish. More research is being conducted to find new food source for the jellyfish than can either supplement or replace the brine shrimp. However, the discovery of brine shrimp as an acceptable food substitute for jellyfish has allowed the dream of a number of hobbyists come true by making it possible to keep jellyfish in captivity.

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Written by and Sudarsana Sinha.

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