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DIY Brine Shrimp Hatchery
by Lincoln Coleman (aka Gir)
Original idea used with permission from Michael Storer

Preparation:

These plans are an alternative to the "2 liter bottle" method of hatching brine shrimp. This method takes up less space, and is just as efficient with hatching eggs. The "2 liter bottle" method might be better if you have a fish house or need to raise enough brine shrimp for thousands of babies.

Purpose: To design a Hatchery to hatch brine shrimp (Artemia) to feed to small or newly hatched fish fry.

Tools required: Mason jar w/lid and screw on ring (wide or narrow mouthed), Air pump, flexible airline tubing, 2-3 way gang valve, hammer, screwdriver (or punch tool), Brine shrimp eggs, and Rock salt (or any non-iodized salt).

Preparation: If your mason jar is new, give it a good rinsing. If your using one previously used for canning give it a good cleaning with mild soap and water, but preferably with an Autoclave.

Construction: First screw the lid onto the mason jar with the ring. In the center of the lid use your hammer and screwdriver (or punch tool) and make a hole roughly the size of the flexible airline tubing. I made mine a little smaller so that it was a tight fit which helped me in the placement of the tubing later on. Then on each "corner" of the lid punch a smaller hole for air to escape out of (one is probably enough, but I like it to err on the side of caution). Then cut your flexible tubing to an appropriate length to reach the gang valve. You can also just cut it to run directly into your mason jar if you are running only one jar instead of multiples, but I would recommend a gang valve anyhow to control noise and air flow. Then cut your flexible airline tubing at an appropriate length to reach down into your mason jars. You can also use stiff airline tubing in the lid going down into the mason jar, and then connect your flexible tubing to it. For ease I decided to just use flexible tubing all the way. You now have a fully functional brine shrimp hatchery, on to the hatching!


Hatching your own brine:

Eggs: First thing to consider is getting good quality eggs, I prefer an egg that boasts 90% hatch rate or higher. You can buy them in small cans, but pricewise its usually cheaper to buy it in bulk and store the rest. To give you a good idea I bought a small can (pictured to the right) for 13 bucks, but at a local auction I was able to score the mega can (lifetime supply) for 15. You can also get the nice cans online at E-bay or Aquabid. As for storage, I used a mason jar (tightly sealed) and stuck it in my fridge, the remainder of the eggs that wouldnt fit in the mason jar I put in a good Ziploc back also in the fridge. You always want to store your eggs in a cool low moisture environment so the fridge is ideal.

Salt: Next get a big bag/box of salt. I use rock salt, but many others have had success with water softener salt, or any other non-iodized salt.

PH: Ideally your water needs to have a PH of 8+. If you have a lower PH you might need to add a little baking soda or Epson salt to raise the PH. My PH is naturally 8.5 so I don't have to add any.

Lighting: I don't use any external lighting when I hatch brine shrimp. Just natural room lighting and overhead lights at night.

Heating: I don't heat the water with a heater, or with a light. I keep my house around 70-74 degrees and it seems to be warned enough. I have heard that if you use heat you will get faster hatch rates, but I haven't had the need for hate rates any higher than what I already have. If you live somewhere that is constantly cold, or are hatching in a garage/unheated fish room you may want to consider a small heater or small lamp with 60 watt bulb to assist in the heating process.

Take your mason jar and fill it with regular tap water (and add buffers to raise PH if needed) up to the part on the mason jar where it starts to curve, maybe a little below that point. At this point you want to add the salt. I usually add 3 teaspoons of salt per mason jar. There are numerous thoughts on what the salinity should be, go with what works best for you. After adding the salt I screw on the lid and turn on the air pump. After the salt has dissolved I remove the lid and add my eggs. I wouldn't recommend adding more than 1/2 teaspoon per mason jar. You can, but it will probably decrease the hatch rate a little bit. The amount you use will highly depend on how many fish you are needing to feed. As an example I am feeding around 80-100 baby calvus 3 times a day, and 1/8-1/4 tsp works well for me and usually end up throwing away alot of brine that could have been fed. After you add the eggs swish the jar a little bit to make sure that no eggs get stuck to the sides out of the water. Now just wait 12-18 hours (depending on temperature) and you should have some hatched brine.


Harvesting:

After around 18 hours I turn off the airpump and let the water settle for 5 minutes or so. If your salinity is correct all of the hatched eggs will float to the top, and most of the unhatched eggs will either be near the top or lingering in the middle. At the very bottom is where all your hatched baby brine should be residing. If you look really close you can see a little pink cloud squiggling around. If you are getting a lot of eggs at the bottom of the mason jar try increasing your salt. Then I remove the lid and take a turkey baster and slowly put it into the bottom of the jar (so as to not stir in the egg shells with the fry) and suck out as many baby brine as I think I will need. The more dense the brine is at the bottom the less you will need to suck out.

 

Extracting the hatched brine with a turkey baster.
Closeup: Circled in Red are the hatched shells. Circled in Blue are the brine.

 

To rinse or not to rinse: After you harvest your brine the next question is whether you should rise them before feeding them to your babies or not. My philosophy is that it never hurts to rinse things off that are going into a tank, especially a fry tank. That being said, I squirt my brine directly into my tanks without rinsing them and I have never had a problem. I add salt to all my normal tanks to help with disease, so adding the salty brine doesn't seem to be hurting, I just don't add normal salt when I do water changed on fry tanks. If you choose to rinse them, alot of people use either baby brine shrimp nets, or coffee filters. The main reason I don't do these is because brine nets usually let alot of the younger brine through and they get thrown away, also coffee filters can take a while to drain. If you are rinsing them, just do so under cold water, and then feed them to your brine.

Shelf life: Another important thing is how long to keep the brine going before starting a new batch. After my first hatch (around 18 hours after I started) I will usually wait 36 hours and then dump the water and brine and start a new batch. Completely rinsing out the mason jar with just water and some violent shaking. Then I start the process over again. I use a 2 mason jar setup, and it keeps fresh brine at my fingertips all the time. If you need more you can use a 3 jar system and it should provide more.

I hope this article helps you with feeding your babies with fresh brine!

If you have any questions on the article or in general please don't hesitate to contact me. □

 


Disclaimer: By building this DIY project you agree not to hold the author or the owners of this Web site responsible for any injury or bodily harm you may cause to yourself or others. Always wear safety glasses when working with tools and keep chemicals and power tools away from children. Read and understand all safety instructions pertaining to equipment prior to use.           

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