The Bug Box: Brine shrimp

Josef Hlasack


This bug is creeping around your property. He may be friend or foe.

Name: Artemia salina

Alias: Brine shrimp, fairy shrimp. These small creatures are distantly related to lobsters and crabs and, like their relatives, are aquatic crustaceans. Brine shrimp are small unsubstantial-looking creatures that are about one-half inch long. They glide smoothly through the water, propelled by what appear to be two wings along their sides. Viewed under a microscope, the “wings” are revealed to be 11 pairs of appendages that undulate and act as paddles. They feed on microscopic organisms such as algae, yeast and bacteria. In the U.S., brine shrimp live in the Great Salt Lake in Utah and Mono Lake in California. After mating, the female develops either live young or eggs in her egg sac. A female’s first batch of young are born alive. After that, eggs form and are released into the water. As juveniles, they possess only one eye, but as they become adults they develop two eyes. In the fall, males fertilize the eggs that will become cysts that are capable of overwintering in a completely desiccated environment. They are capable of surviving in the cyst form for 10 years or more. Brine shrimp can be found living in temporary salt ponds after torrential rains in the deserts.

Crimes: None known.

Redeeming Qualities: Brine shrimp serve several purposes. They are a food source for migratory birds and they assist in cleaning up contaminants from the water they live in. They are also used as a food source for many tropical fish.

Sentence: These are fascinating creatures to observe. They are easily grown in a salty solution. Starts can be obtained from most pet stores that sell tropical fish. Their optimum salt environment is around 80 parts per 1,000, which is twice as salty as the ocean.

For more information on dangerous and beneficial bugs, call agent Wayne Jones at the Bonneville County Extension Office at 208-529-1390.