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Sea-Monkeys in an aquarium

Sea-Monkeys is a brand name for brine shrimp – a group of crustaceans that undergo cryptobiosis – often sold in hatching kits as novelty aquarium pets. Invented in 1957 by Harold von Braunhut, the product was heavily marketed, especially in comic books, and remains a presence in popular culture.


Harold von Braunhut invented the product based on brine shrimp in 1957.[1] Ant farms had been popularised the year before by Milton Levine.[1] Initially called "Instant Life", von Braunhut changed the name to "Sea-Monkeys" in 1962. This was based on the supposed resemblance of the animals' tails to those of monkeys, and their salt-water habitat.[2] The product was intensively marketed in comic books[2] using illustrations of humanoid animals drawn by the comic-book illustrator Joe Orlando, which bear no resemblance to the crustaceans.[3] Many purchasers were disappointed by the dissimilarity, and by the short lifespan of the animals.[2] Von Braunhut is quoted as stating: "I think I bought something like 3.2 million pages of comic book advertising a year. It worked beautifully."[2]


The colony is started by adding the contents of a packet labelled "Water Purifier" to a tank of water. This packet contains salt and some brine shrimp eggs.[3] After 24 hours, this is augmented with the contents of a packet labelled "Instant Life Eggs", containing eggs, yeast, borax, soda, salt, and sometimes a dye.[3] The animals which hatched from the eggs over the previous day seem to appear instantly.[3] "Growth Food", containing yeast and spirulina is then added every few days.[3]


The animals sold as Sea-Monkeys are an artificial breed known as "Artemia NYOS" (NYOS being short for New York Ocean Science), formed by hybridising different species of Artemia.[2] They undergo cryptobiosis or anhydrobiosis, a condition of apparent lifelessness which allows them to survive the desiccation of the temporary pools they live in.[1]

In popular culture[edit]

Sea-Monkeys remain a popular product, and have gained a cult following. References to Sea-Monkeys have been made in films and television series, including Spin City, Roseanne, Night Court, South Park, The Simpsons, It's Garry Shandling's Show and Desperate Housewives.[3] A spin-off television series was broadcast on Saturday mornings on CBS,[1] The Amazing Live Sea Monkeys, which ran from September 1992 to August 1993, and was based on Joe Orlando's cartoons.[3]

The astronaut John Glenn took Sea-Monkeys into space on October 29, 1998 aboard Space Shuttle Discovery during mission STS-95. After nine days in space, they were returned to Earth, and hatched eight weeks later apparently unaffected by their travels.[3]


  1. ^ a b c d May Berenbaum (2000). "Sea monkey see, sea monkey do". Buzzwords: a Scientist Muses on Sex, Bugs, and Rock 'n' Roll. Joseph Henry Press. pp. 45–49. ISBN 978-0-309-06835-2. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Tim Walsh (2005). "Ant Farm and Sea-Monkeys". Timeless Toys: Classic Toys and the Playmakers who Created Them. Andrews McMeel Publishing. pp. 124–129. ISBN 978-0-7407-5571-2. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Sharon M. Scott (2010). "Sea-Monkeys". Toys and American Culture: an Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. pp. 282–284. ISBN 978-0-313-34798-6.