I recently joined the SeaMonkey Clubhouse on Facebook, a friendly group of enthusiasts, so I thought I'd dig out the Ocean Aquarium pack I'd been given, and start a new batch of sea-monkeys.
Unfortunately, the effort was plagued with bad luck: the extension lead for my 'heat' lamp shorted out, then my husband bumped the lamp lead and knocked over my aquarium, so I started a new batch and was growing some fine babies when I left the lamp too close and overheated the water :( I felt like a murderer, and learnt a valuable lesson.
I went looking for more supplies to start again, but found that the market has been flooded with fakes. Even the big stores here seem to be carrying only the 'Sea-Monkeys' (an exact copy) but from China, not USA. I refuse to buy counterfeits.
I tried some 'Aqua Dragons' which looked promising with lots of eggs in the pack but despite following the instructions carefully (and watching the temperature like a hawk!), not one egg has hatched in a week.
It seems the best place to get proper Sea-Monkeys is from Transcience themselves, especially if you are in the US or Canada! You can order online from http://www.sea-monkeys.com/
Please note that the links in the paragraph below are from 2010...
June, 2010, Melbourne, Australia.
Exotic, alien, unattainable... these cute and fascinating little pink characters were always frolicking inside the back cover of the comics I used to read as a kid. I used to gaze at them and wonder if anyone really could grow "sea monkeys" and teach them tricks as described in the ad. The picture was an artist's impression, so what did they really look like? Could you really write away and get the kit? (Not for me- I lived in Australia.)
Even the currency to buy them was foreign; we used pounds, shillings and pence, not dollars and cents. The sea monkeys seemed about as real as Uncle Scrooge and his millions. It was the '50s, long before internet access, so I couldn't just Google them and find out more. I just dreamed on.
When my son was young, it was the 90's, but we still had no computer. I saw Sea Monkeys kits in the toy store but they looked expensive and still highly unlikely.
Then came the noughties: we had a computer, and the internet put everything at your fingertips. My son grew up, but I guess I didn't. I still love the novelty of instant information on just about every topic under the sun, and people all over the world sharing their interests and knowledge. One site I subscribe to is www.instructables.com, where people submit step-by-step instructions for all kinds of weird and wonderful projects.
A week or so ago, I noticed an "instructable" on "USB sea monkeys"- growing sea monkeys in a bottle of water on a coffee warmer plugged into a computer. That made it sound so simple, and compact. What if I could grow a jar of sea monkeys on my desk at work? I teach Reading Intervention, in a small room, and my students love novelty. I researched sea monkeys on the internet, and I was hooked...
* see Sea Monkeys II for the next Chapter, with more photos including a hatching baby, sea monkeys mating and a "Sea Monkeys Ballet" video - plus a Sea Monkeys online jigsaw!
Here are the sites I found most useful:What started this project- an “Instructable” on growing sea monkeys in a bottle of water on a coffee warmer plugged into a computer! Here’s the instructable: http://www.instructables.com/id/USB-Sea-Monkeys/
It took me a while muddling around at the official Sea Monkeys website ( www.seamonkeys.com) to find the detailed instructions. Here is the page: http://www.sea-monkeys.com/html/aboutsm/howto.html
There are also health tips at: http://www.sea-monkeys.com/html/aboutsm/health_tips.html
A handy chart showing the water temperature and corresponding times for hatching your Sea Monkeys is at: http://www.discoverthis.com/seamonkeys-hatching-temperature.html
www.seamonkeyworship.com - lots of good info, FAQ, fun...
Some instructions on how to raise your Sea-Monkeys, with pictures (and some interesting facts): http://www.seamonkeyshop.com/sea-monkeys-instructions-care.html
Seamonkeyman - http://members.fortunecity.com/seamonkeyman/index.htm - interesting site with sea monkey information, history, stories etc ( note- the list of sea monkey products to order is out of date).
Extra facts and some useful tips/rules for growing sea monkeys: http://seamonkeys.elswet.com/
After reading everything I could find, I realised that there was room for a journal account of growing sea monkeys, so I decided to start this page and see how far I could go....
First, I needed to get my sea monkey kit. I was too impatient to buy on eBay, and my local Toy Kingdom store stocked them (AU$11.95). I didn't see any extras stocked there, but thought I'd worry about that later. I can always go online to access other products...
A container was the next step. I'm not keen on the little plastic containers that are available- they seem expensive and plastic scratches- plus I have jars at home! I chose a wide, squat jar with good, clear glass, and cleaned off the label with hot water, then eucalyptus oil for the residue. I washed the jar thoroughly with detergent and hot water, then rinsed it several times with hot, then boiling water (I also got a new plastic spoon and fork for stirring. I cleaned them. I keep them in a clean plastic bag).
I had some bottled water, so I measured 10 fl oz (11/4 cups or 270ml) in a measuring jug (also cleaned thoroughly). I put it in my jar, then I realised the water would be too cold, even if I put it near the window. It's winter, and our house isn't heated, so the eggs wouldn't hatch unless I heated the water*.
I needed a thermometer** to check the temperature. The one from my medicine cabinet didn't register the temperature of the water, as it was too low. I got a cheap room thermometer and wrapped it in a clean plastic bag, then stuck it in my jar of water.
I got an old goose-neck lamp, and tried different bulbs. The florescent 8w bulb didn't seem to do much, so I tried some old style bulbs I still have. The 25w lamp bulb didn't heat the water above 20 deg. Celsius, and I needed 21-24 deg.C. for hatching within a few days.
I settled on a 40watt bulb, and put it right over the jar. After a few hours, the water finally heated to around 24 degrees (Celsius).
The picture shows my jar with the water & purifier in. I marked the water level on the back of the jar (for future reference) with a DVD marker
Notes: * I've ordered a USB coffee warmer from eBay for around $5... I can always use it to warm coffee... **and also a fish tank thermometer for a couple of dollars. They have to come from China, so it could take a couple of weeks.
What's in the pack?
Here is the Sea Monkeys starter pack I bought.
As well as the packs of Water Purifier, Eggs and Growth Food (1 year supply), there's a tiny measuring spoon for the food, a little hand magnifier, a picture guide which is not really easy to follow and a sheet of basic instructions, with a list of "extra" supplies on the back...
These extra supplies sound great- if you live in the USA (or Mexico or Canada)! Not so good if you live further away, as I can't seem to track down any local supplies (see Aussie Notes at bottom of page).
With the water temperature now around 24 degrees celcius, I removed the thermometer and added the water purifier from Packet 1. I stirred it in with my clean fork, and replaced the light over the top of the jar.
One source I read said that in order to produce the impression of "instant" life on Day 1, there are eggs mixed in with the purifier pack, and it's these that are hatched and visible when you look on the first day... so I'm keeping my jar warm in case!
My jar of "purifying" water has been sitting for well over 24 hours (around 28 hours). The jar still feels warm*, so I figure I can add the eggs from Packet 2! I stir them in carefully with my fork...
Yes, there are little particles floating around in the current...some seem to be going the other way, but that's probably just the current at the back of the jar as it swirls around... can I see some tiny dots wriggling, or is it just the trick of the light? I replace my light and try to curb my impatience (and my imagination). I have it near a window, not on the sill... my lamp should help the algae to grow as well as maintain the warmth.
Later in the day, I notice that a small insect has landed in the water, no doubt attracted by the light. I fish it out carefully with my clean spoon. I make a cover for my jar, using a small piece of curtain netting and the ring of plastic that was originally attached to the lid (could have used a rubber band).
Then at night I had a quandary: should I leave the lamp on overnight? Presumably brine shrimp are used to dark at night, but I don't want the water to get too cold for the eggs to hatch. My solution was to leave the lamp on, only facing away a bit, and to put an upended dark-coloured ice-cream bucket over the jar (on an angle so the air could still circulate, though I'm sure there would be enough air under there for 8 hours or so).
* I don't want to use my big thermometer again, as I don't want to disturb the contents of the jar, and it would have water and goodness-knows-what-else stuck to it when I took it out...
Now I definitely think I can see some of the little specks wriggling when I stir the water. There are still bubbles on the bottom of the jar, and everything seems to settle back down there again. I don't want to stir it again and disturb the process.
Later that day... yes, I can definitely see a score or so little critters wriggling and jiggling, mostly just above the bottom, but some swimming further up. The little magnifier that came with the kit is proving useful, as they're about the size of this comma: ,
I want to try some photos, but I realise that my nice, sturdy jar is too thick to photograph through with any clarity. I hunt through all my jars and drinking glasses, but they all distort to some extent. I pick a glass that seems clearer, and wash it out with detergent, hot then boiling water, then bottled water to remove any chlorine or fluoride left. Then I scoop out a heap of spoonfuls of water from the bottom my sea monkey jar and put them in the glass.
I take dozens of photos from all angles with varying backgrounds and light sources (yes, I'm a keen photographer, and I hope to fluke a few clear pictures... and digital pics are free!) I get the feeling I may be just a little obsessed, but hey, I like to be thorough!
My holidaying sea monkeys get poured back into the jar- they're supposed to like the trip when you aerate the water like this, I've heard.
Time for a rest for all of us... now I just have to find my camera cord so I can see if any of the pics show anything more than just dots and flecks... guess not really.... This picture is an enlargement of an overhead shot - and the little starry-shaped thing near the bottom right is definitely a baby (1/2mm) sea monkey!
Now there are at least 100 or so tiny wriggling life-forms in the jar! I've still got the lamp on day and night for warmth, with the cover at night. I aerate the water by pouring everything into the glass and back again.
Still dozens of tiny sea-monkeys, less than 1mm long, but more active now- darting, wriggling, turning somersaults. .. Still can't get a clear photo through the glass and with full macro zoom.
Here's an enlargement of some of them (they're about 1/2 this size).
Very busy little fellows, these are- chugging around in the water.. still tiny but you can make out their shape without using the magnifying glass.
Day 5 is feeding day, so I tip in a scant spoonful of "Growth Food", using the tiny spoon from the kit.
Tonight I leave the lamp off, as I figure they need some "night"... but I'm worried they'll get too cold so I wrap a folded cloth around the jar, leaving a gap at the top for air.
Not much change today. Maybe they're fractionally larger...
This afternoon I go shopping, and look for clearer drinking glasses to use as a tank. I also try to track down "extras" - medicine etc - but my local Toy Kingdom and National Geographic stores only have the starter kits (only $9.95 at National Geographic) and some fancy tanks. I just have to hope my little sea monkeys don't get sick or run out of food!
Still lots of little sea monkeys, a tiny bit bigger. They seem to have survived their cold night so I put them on a windowsill during the day. In the afternoon, I'm still aerating the water daily by tipping them from jar to glass and back. At night, I wrap them up again (and move them away from the cold window glass).
I've bought a whisky glass with fairly clear sides from my local op shop.
I tip most of the sea monkeys with their water into the glass and take some photos when the water settles.
At right, you can see the top of the water and the reflection of my lens. This is about "life size".
When I look closely at the top of the water, I can see that some of the sea monkeys seem to be actually swimming up out of the water and back in again!
The water is now a distinct greenish tinge, so I guess the algae is growing well and will help feed my tiny pets.
My sea monkeys are a week old. They are definitely easier to see, and they are quite entertaining. I'm not sure how many there are, but there don't seem to be as many as before. If they all grew to full size, there wouldn't be enough room in the jar for them.
My thermometer arrived yesterday, but there doesn't seem much point in using it now that my sea monkeys have hatched and seem to be thriving even without the lamp. It only cost a few dollars. I guess the coffee warmer will be surplus to requirements, too - oh well, at least I can have warm coffee!
The USB coffee heater arrived today, but I've realised that I don't need it as the lamp gives enough heat and also light to grow the algae. My sea monkeys are on my desk at work and there is no window in my little room, so I need the lamp. (The coffee heater has virtually no heat anyhow- it might work on metal or thin plastic, but my cold coffee mug stays cold, so it's not going to heat a glass jar at all). So the lamp stays on in the daytime, and at night the jar gets a thick cloth wrapped around the sides for insulation. I still seem to have dozens of active sea monkeys.
The sea monkeys get their second feed today. I realised that the little feeding spoon has a smaller scoop at one end, so I use that to measure the food, and stir it in with the fork.
My students are fascinated with the tiny little creatures, though they can only just see them. Several children tell me they have tried to grow them at home, with various stories of woe. One said her grandmother has some that are several inches long!
Two weeks old today! Here are some photos- a bit blurry still but you can make out some details...
Forgot to unwrap the sea monkeys this morning, so they had extra time under the lamp at night, after aerating by pouring between jar and glass a few times. Topped up the water a couple of mm too, and gave them a small scoop of food. The food seemed to spread out to cover the surface, so I stirred it in with the fork.
There seem to be a few tiny sea monkeys, so I assume some more eggs hatched after the others.
In these pictures, you can see the long flaps behind the head of the sea monkeys. They seem to use these like arms to swim with, and I assume these are the "graspers" that the male uses to hang onto the female.
The 3 eyes are easy to see now, with the original eye spot in the middle.
Here are some pictures of the sea monkeys from 20 days old. They have developed longer swimming limbs, but their bodies are still only a few mm long.
The first picture shows the sea monkeys in their Vegemite jar, at about life size. In the next picture, you can clearly see the "food tube" going through the body from the "cheeks" to the tail.
The sea monkeys are now about 6-7mm (1/2 inch) long. There are a couple of dozen of them, and they are very entertaining to watch.
Everything seemed fine for a while, and I was very careful to clean containers and everything else with filtered water (no soap), but the sea monkeys started to die off. Natural selection, I thought - they can't all grow to full size and still fit in the same amount of water. It's not as if I could get a bigger tank- they have this much "salt" water and no more....
Despite everything I tried, including filtering the water, eventually I was left with one male and one female- and in the end they succumbed, too.
I was sad, but decided to try again with a new lot... see Sea Monkeys II.
After losing my first batch of sea monkeys and managing to get the second batch to 13 weeks with 7 still alive and looking OK, I thought I should condense the main things I've found out over the past few months. I've read other people's suggestions, found out some things by trial and error and worked out some ideas myself. So, here are my Top Twelve Tips:
1. Keep it clean- anything that touches the water that your sea monkeys live in must be free of chemicals (including detergent and chlorine from tap water) and other contaminants, bacteria etc. Wash containers and any utensils with pure soap if necessary, wash/soak in boiling water, then rinse several times with filtered/bottled water. Keep utensils in a jar of filtered water or wrapped in clean tissue or plastic. If you don't have bottled or filtered water, use boiled water which has been sitting in a clean container for a few hours to cool and let any additives such as chlorine escape.
2. You don’t need a fancy container for your sea monkeys – a glass jar or large, wide drinking glass is fine. Choose a container with a nice solid base, and check that the glass on the sides is clear (put your finger inside and look through the side to see if it looks distorted). You will need a mesh cover of some kind (e.g. net cloth held on with a rubber band).
3. Keep your sea monkeys in a place where their container won’t get knocked over, where pets can’t get to them (and drink the water/eat them), and where it’s light but not too hot or cold. I wrap a thick cloth around the sides of my sea monkeys jar on cold nights. Don’t spray any aerosols near them.
4. You don’t need a special aerator- a medicine dropper is fine (VERY well rinsed). Just squirt it in the water twice, then out of the water (over the sea monkeys container) twice. Repeat a couple of times and you should have heaps of tiny bubbles in the water. Do this daily to keep the water oxygenated.
5. Don’t be in a hurry to tip your sea monkeys into a different container- this increases the risk of contamination and of spilling water/sea monkeys. I know the official blurb suggests tipping them back and forth from one container to another several times to aerate the water, but I haven’t found this a good idea.
6. If you are transferring your sea monkeys to another container, place a clean dish underneath, just in case – and check the dish (I nearly lost one when I tipped them into their jar, but found it in the dish when I went to put it on the sink!) Always check if you have left any behind in the bottom or caught on the sides of the first container - you'll see it wriggling.
7. Keep your sea monkey container covered with a net-type cover to keep out dust and insects which can contaminate their water.
8. Keep the water clear – don’t over-feed, as the extra food will decompose in the water. Smell the water when it’s good so you will know if it starts to smell bad. Don’t feed if the water is cloudy and only feed a tiny amount at a time (the SMALL end of the scoop, not too full).
9. Suck out any dead sea monkeys or little balls of gunk (not algae) with the eye dropper (try not to take out more than a few drops of water with them, though- you can’t replace a lot of water unless you have the Plasma mix). Rinse the eye dropper well afterwards.
10. If the water gets too full of floaties and smells “off”, and it doesn’t clear after a few days, you may need to filter the water using a paper coffee filter and a large, clean jar. This is a fiddly process. Carefully take out your sea monkeys with a clean spoon or with an aqua leash (or your medicine dropper if they are small); transfer them to another clean container with a little of their water. Make sure you also take out any cysts (eggs- round, pink/light brown) and baby sea monkeys (look for tiny dots chugging around) you can find, before you filter the water – use a magnifying glass to check.
You may need to filter it twice or more until it's clear. Clean their container thoroughly with boiling water (use a paper towel to clean the sides and bottom), then rinse with filtered water several times and let it cool before you put your sea monkeys back in. Give them a little food and top up to the previous water level with bottled water.
11. If your eggs aren't hatching, you may need to warm up the water. Use a desk lamp right over your sea monkeys container, day and night. Keep the container covered in case of insects, and make sure your lamp won't set the cover on fire. You can buy a tank thermometer for a few dollars on eBay to check the temperature more accurately- it should be almost 75-80 deg. F or 24-27 deg.C for ideal hatching conditions.
12. Check your sea monkeys daily- firstly, to keep an eye on them (remove any dead ones or bad bits); and secondly, they are so much fun to watch! They do change as they develop, so don't miss out as your babies grow. Buy a cheap, large magnifying glass so you can see them clearly. If you have a super macro setting on a digital camera, set up a lamp and take photos- you can see much more detail when you look at the photos on a computer.
For more good tips, see www.seamonkeyworship.com/top10.html - Top 11 Questions About Sea Monkeys
If you would like to see larger copies of the pictures on this page, you can find my Sea Monkeys photos and video clip (see Sea Monkeys II) in a Flickr album at http://www.flickr.com/photos/bycp/sets/72157624468364201/
If you live in Australia, Sea Monkeys are not hard to come by in their basic starter pack and with various containers if you look in your local toy store or a National Geographic shop, or on eBay. Getting extra food packs, medicine etc may not be so easy. I'm trying to track down places to get these without the expense and bother of international purchases.
The starter pack I bought suggests firstname.lastname@example.org, so I emailed them for info, but the email bounced.
The only website I can find that mentions extra supplies in Australia is www.members.fortunecity.com/seamonkeyman, as mentioned in the links above. I emailed him to find out more, but that email came back, too. This site refers to Moose toys, so I looked up their website and emailed them... but no response...
Apart from seamonkeys.com in the US (which only ships locally), the only places I can find world-wide with extra sea monkey supplies are: a shop on eBay UK, giftsdirect2u - it has several packs, not the whole range; UK stores www.langleystoys.com and www.cornishcrispa.co.uk (very good range) - but with these of course you'd have to check their shipping rates overseas (not to mention exchange rates).
A note on measurements: in Aus, we use "cup" or ml measurements for liquids. 1 cup=8 fluid ounces, so if you need 10 fl oz of water, you'll need to measure out 1 1/4 cups (about 270ml).
Here is a free board game that you can print (in colour or black & white). Use A4 thick paper, or cardboard if you can, for best results (if you can laminate it, it will look better and last longer).
You will need a die/spinner and some little counters/buttons etc to use as tokens or "movers", and some "word cards".
See my Reading Games to Print page for more details and free games.
Sea Monkeys II has more info and pictures, a Sea Monkeys Ballet video (my students love that one!) and an online Sea Monkeys jigsaw.