What are Sea-Monkeys? They aren’t monkeys, and they don’t live in the sea. Sea-Monkeys are actually just hybrid brine shrimp. These tiny creatures were primarily used as a live food option by aquarium owners until the late 1950s. That’s when entrepreneur Harold Von Braunhut (March 31, 1926 – November 28, 2003) got the great idea to sell brine shrimp to kids as novelty pets. It sounds crazy, but it was a huge hit.
As lighthearted and fun as they might appear, there’s actually a dark side to the history Sea-Monkeys, including a connection to white supremacist groups. From raising money for the KKK to NASA experiments in outer space, here are some weird facts about Sea-Monkeys that you won’t believe are true.
The Inspiration For Sea-Monkeys Came From Ant Farms
After being impressed by the success of toy ant farms in the 1950s, entrepreneur Harold Von Braunhut wanted to come up with an aquatic competitor. The inspiration for Sea-Monkeys came to Von Braunhut during a visit to a pet store. The store was selling brine shrimp as a live fish food option for aquarium owners. But Von Braunhut started to wonder if he could turn the pet food into the pet.
NERD NOTE: What are Sea-Monkeys? Biologically speaking, their genus is Artemia salina, also known as brine shrimp commonly found in brine pools and places like the Great Salt Lake in Salt Lake City, UT.
A Marine Biologist Spent Time Crossbreeding Brine Shrimp To Create Sea-Moneys
After Harold Von Braunhut came up with the idea for Sea-Monkeys, he realized that he would need a special breed of brine shrimp for his aquatic novelty pet. In order for his plan to work, he would need to overcome several challenges.
- Water: Brine shrimp need special salty water to survive. His Sea-Monkeys would need to come with a water purifier mixture capable of converting household tap water into an aquatic environment suitable for brine shrimp
- Lifespan: Brine shrimp don’t live very long. Dead pets are bad for business so increasing the average lifespan of his brine shrimp was important.
- Survival Rates: Because brine shrimp are so small, even the slightest change in their environment can have major impacts. Sea-Monkeys would need to be more resilient and have higher survival rates than regular brine shrimp.
- Size: Brine shrimp are small and not that exciting when you can barely see them. Sea-Monkeys would need to be as big as possible so kids could look at them without optical magnifiers, like a magnifying glass.
To help overcome these issues, Von Braunhut enlisted marine biologist Dr. Anthony D’Agostino. In addition to creating the formulas for Sea-Monkey growth food and water conditioners, Dr. D’Agostino also crossbred a special hybrid species of brine shrimp that grew bigger and lived longer. That’s right, as crazy as it sounds, a marine biologist spent months breeding tiny little brine shrimp to create Sea-Monkeys! The scientific nomenclature for Sea-Monkeys is ARTEMIA SALINA but the artificially breed Sea-Monkeys are called ARTEMIA NYOS.
NERD NOTE: Harold von Braunhut, the inventor of Sea-Monkeys, was also behind several other successful novelty products including the Kiyoga Agent M5 self-defense baton and X-Ray Specs glasses. His products were heavily marketed to children through small ads in magazines and comic books from the 1960s to the 1980s.
Sea-Monkeys Got Their Name Because Of Their Long Body Shape
According to the company’s marketing materials, Dr. D’Agostino was able to crossbreed larger brine shrimp that grow up to half an inch (15 mm) long. Their long body shapes reminded Harold Von Braunhut of a monkey tail, thus giving him the inspiration for the unique name “Sea-Monkeys.”
In all honesty, it’s a great name. The name definitely makes the prospect of owning brine shrimp more exciting than it actually is. If Von Braunhut had called his product anything else besides “Sea-Monkeys,” I doubt it would have been such a hit.
Dried Sea-Monkey Eggs Hatch Instantly In Water
When it comes to brine shrimp, there’s not a lot of “wow” involved. Brine shrimp are just an almost microscopic type of shrimp. But they do possess the power of what the Sea-Monkey manual calls “Instant Life.”
Hatching a tank full of Sea-Monkeys is as easy as making lemonade. All you have to do is pour an Instant-Life® packet of dried Sea-Monkey instant live eggs into some treated water, and they will hatch before your very eyes. This is possible because Sea-Monkey eggs exist in suspended animation until exposed to water. The cycle of drying and re-wetting triggers a biochemical reaction that induces the cyst-like egg casings to swell up, split and release the live baby Sea-Monkeys.
According to the manual, this makes them “real life, time travelers asleep in biological time capsules for their strange journey into the future!” At first, your Sea-Monkeys will be almost microscopic and you might need a magnifying glass to see them. But 24 hours later they will be much easier to see. As the Official Sea-Monkey Handbook states, Sea-Monkeys are “the world’s only living, breathing Instant-Pets®.”
Fully Grown Sea-Monkeys Can Reproduce Sexually, Or Asexually
Are there male and female Sea-Monkeys? Yes. Once they mature, you can easily tell the difference in gender between fully grown Sea-Monkeys. Male Sea-Monkeys have large mating hands that are used for holding on to females while mating. And the females have two giant egg sacks. As a teenager, I mistakenly assumed that the egg sacks were giant testicles. Whoops!
For many kids, Sea-Monkeys are their first exposure to the reproduction process. Since you’re feeding them, they don’t need to search for food. Instead, they shift their entire focus to the “wonders of nature.” That’s right, I’m talking about Sea-Monkey sex! Sea-Monkeys reproduce constantly and it’s fun to watch them select mates and engage in the coupling process.
How long do Sea-Monkeys live? Although the average Sea-Monkey’s life span is only about 1-2 weeks, a female Sea-Monkey can produce up to 50 young in that time. And when I say female, I mean the female all by herself. Sea-Monkeys can reproduce sexually or asexually. Sorry guys, that means Sea-Monkey eggs can develop without fertilization from a male.
Thanks To Cryptobiosis, Your Sea Monkey Population Will Probably Never Permanently Die Out
Sea-Monkeys don’t live very long. Your population will slowly decrease from hundreds to dozens in a matter of weeks. If your Sea-Monkeys start dying sooner, then you are probably overfeeding them. Too much Sea-Monkey food in the tank will cause bacteria to multiply and use up all the oxygen in the water, thus suffocating your pet brine shrimp.
But don’t worry, your Sea-Monkey population cannot ultimately die. If you have at least one female left, she can single-handedly replenish your entire aquarium. And if for some reason all of your Sea-Monkeys die, you need not worry, but wait and let the water in your Sea-Monkey tank evaporate. Once the tank is totally dry, just add treated water and the Sea-Monkey cycle of life will start up again.
Sea-Monkey eggs can survive for years in a dried state. The oldest egg that was successfully hatched was about ten years old. This process is called CRYPTOBIOSIS, or as the Sea-Monkey handbook calls it, “hidden life.”
Dead Sea-Monkeys Can Give Birth To Live Babies
As Sea-Monkeys start to mature, you can easily see the female’s egg sacks. Female Sea-Monkeys birth live young directly from their egg sacks. This process is called VIVIPARITY, or “live birth.”
However, if a female Sea-Monkey dies while pregnant, she can still birth live young. Amazingly, the embryo will continue to develop and hatch live babies from her dead body. This is called NECROOVOVIVIPARITY, “birth by the dead.” Just imagine if humans could do this.
The egg doesn’t even need to be attached to the mother to hatch. If a female Sea-Monkey feels threatened, she may detach her eggs and let them float away. Her babies can then hatch directly from the eggs. This process is called OVIPARITY, or “egg birth.”
But if the Sea-Monkey’s unbreakable “chain of life” does end for some reason (like you if accidentally knock the tank over), the company will send you a free replacement. That’s right, Sea-Monkeys come with their own specialized replacement guarantee.
Male Sea-Monkeys Will Fight To The Death
Both male and female Sea-Monkeys have very identifiable physical characteristics. While female Sea-Monkeys have giant egg sacks, males have large mating arms. This allows them to hold on to a female during the mating process.
But male Sea-Monkeys also use these arms to fight other males. They will lock onto each other and attempt to crush their opponents to death. The winner gets the girl. However, I’ve seen both males die before locked in a futile death grip. Or sometimes, one male will die during the battle forcing the winner to spend the rest of its short life attached to a corpse. Guess what your chances of mating with a female are while attached to a corpse? That’s right, less than zero.
Sea-Monkeys Have Been To Outer Space
In the name of science, the nerds at NASA are always looking for different creatures to take with them to outer space. Ants, cats, frogs, fruit flies, and even Sea-Monkeys have all been passengers on various space missions.
During one of John Glenn’s Space Shuttle Discovery missions, about 400 million Sea-Monkeys accompanied the crew on their mission into outer space. NASA’s Sea-Monkey experiment was to test the effect on animals born in zero gravity. The result? Sea-Monkey’s actually thrived in outer space. They grew bigger and faster without gravity.
To celebrate the mission, a special Sea-Monkey tank called the “Sea-Monkeys Space Shuttle Expedition” was released. The set is extremely difficult to find and only rarely available to find on sites like eBay.
You Can Teach Sea Monkeys Tricks
There are several “tricks” that you can teach your Sea-Monkeys to perform, such as hypnotism, acrobatic swimming, and even baseball. These tricks all rely on how Sea-Monkeys react to light.
One common trick is to shine a flashlight at the top of your aquarium when you feed them. After a few times, they will naturally start following the light wherever it goes.
The Sea-Monkey manual also explains how to perform “Acrobatic Sea-Monkeys” tricks. This basically involves scaring the crap out of your Sea-Monkeys. To do this, move your Sea-Monkeys to a dark area for 5-10 minutes and then shine a bright flashlight into their tank. This will result in them freaking out and swimming around in a panic. Their erratic panicked swim patterns will consist of “acrobatic” spinning and twirling.
Some Sea-Monkey owners will set up a small light next to their tank to project giant Sea-Monkey shadows on to your wall. The Sea-Monkey manual calls this the Electric “Sea-Show.” It’s a fun dreamscape nightlight idea for kids.
The Marketing Artwork For Sea-Monkeys Ads Was Created By The Future VP Of DC Comics
Before he became the Vice President of DC Comics and the Associate Publisher of Mad Magazine, Joe Orlando illustrated the iconic comic book ads for Sea-Monkeys. The ads were brilliant! What better way to advertise to comic book fans than by using comic book artwork?
For many kids, Joe Orlando’s humanoid Sea-Monkey cartoon characters were their first lesson in false advertising. What do Sea-Monkeys look like? Nothing like the ads. If you interpreted the images in the ads literally, as most kids did, Sea-Monkeys were magical underwater sea creatures that had human-like features. In reality, they’re nothing more than small aquatic crustaceans that look more like pet sperm.
Sea-Monkeys Were One Of The First Products Marketed Directly To Kids
If you grew up between the 1960s and 1980s, then you’re probably very familiar with Sea-Monkeys. It was almost impossible to read a magazine or comic book without seeing an ad for a Sea-Monkey kit usually placed in between the ads for fake dog poop and snapping gum.
Advertising directly to kids was a genius move on part of the company. Compared to most toys that kids ask their parents for, a packet of Sea-Monkeys is cheap. It’s only after you start buying all of the ridiculous novelty tanks and accessories that Sea-Monkeys become just as expensive as any other toy.
Sea-Monkeys aren’t as popular today as they once were. But for decades, Sea-Monkeys were quite the rage with grade school kids and tweens. Once people
The Amazing Live Sea-Monkeys Have Their Own Line Of Toys, Food, And Accessories
In addition to different types of food and feeding spoons, there’s a full line of Sea-Monkey toys, aquarium tanks, and other accessories.
After hatching your Sea-Monkeys, one of the first things you’ll need to do is feed them. What do Sea-Monkeys eat? Their primary food source is green algae. You can either grow your own algae by leaving a bucket of water in the sun or buy some. Just like any other pet, Sea-Monkeys have their own line of food products. There’s Sea-Monkey Baby Food, Super Food, Banana Treat, Gro-Kwikly (growth stimulator), and even Red Magic Vitamins.
Kids can’t help but get caught up in the whole Sea-Monkey experience with all their ridiculous toys and accessories. When you see toys such as the Electronic Ocean Zoo® “Showboat”, Sea-Monkey “Oxy Mist” Air Pump, and the Sea Monkey “Sea Diamonds” it’s enough to make you want to jump into the tank and join the Sea-Monkey adventure.
But one accessory that you should probably avoid is the Sea-Monkey necklace. This “necklace” is just a little plastic bubble that you can put your Sea-Monkeys inside and wear around your neck. Even if your kids beg you for the Sea-Monkey necklace, don’t cave in and buy it for them. There was a kid who went to my grade school who had one of these necklaces, and he was teased relentlessly even into his high school years.
The Same Guy Who Invented Sea-Monkeys Also Invented X-Ray Specs
Harold von Braunhut, the entrepreneur and inventor of Sea-Monkeys, also invented several other successful novelty products including cardboard novelty X-ray specs glasses and the Kiyoga Agent M5 self-defense baton.
On a personal level, I was shocked to learn about Harold Von Braunhut‘s involvement with white supremacist organizations. The fact that he sold products targeted to kids and then used the proceeds from these sales to help fund these hate groups only makes things worse. If there’s a silver lining to this story, Von Braunhut‘s estate lost control of the Sea-Monkey brand, and the product is no longer associated with his family. So if you buy Sea-Monkeys today, the money no longer has any connection to organizations like the Ku Klux Klan.
The Inventor Of Sea-Monkeys Was A HUGE Racist
When Harold Von Braunhut wasn’t running his Sea-Monkey empire, he was an active supporter of various racist organizations. Despite his Jewish ethnicity, Von Braunhut was closely involved with several white supremacist groups.
Harold von Braunhut didn’t try to hide his racist views either. In a 1988 interview with The Seattle Times, he called Korean shop owners “slanty” eyes and went on to clarify his views with this comment, “You know what side I’m on. I don’t make any bones about it.” He was also reportedly a huge fan of Adolf Hitler.
In addition to attending the Aryan Nations annual gatherings, he also provided funding and support to these groups. For example, Von Braunhut purchased weapons for the Ku Klux Klan and even donated a portion of the profits of his Kiyoga Agent M5 self-defense baton to the Aryan Nations. The Kiyoga Agent M5 wasn’t as popular as Sea-Monkeys, but it was used by Burt Reynolds in the 1981 film “Sharkey’s Machine.”
On a personal level, I was shocked to learn about Harold Von Braunhut‘s involvement with white supremacist organizations. The fact that he sold products targeted to kids and then used the proceeds from these sales to help fund these hate groups only makes things worse. If there’s a silver lining to this story, Von Braunhut‘s widow lost most control of the Sea-Monkey brand after his death. She made a series of bad deals with Big Time Toys and now struggles to pay her bills according to an article in The New York Times. So if you buy Sea-Monkeys today, the money is no longer helping to fund organizations like the Ku Klux Klan.
There Was A 1990s Sea-Monkey TV Show Featuring Howie Mandell And Gilbert Gottfried
In 1992, there was a short-lived live-action television series about Sea-Monkeys. After his daughter raised Sea-Monkeys at home, comedian Howie Mandell got the idea for the show. The series only lasted 11 episodes but featured several notable actors and comedians including Stephen Furst (Babylon 5, National Lampoon’s Animal House), Gilbert Gottfried (Beverly Hills Cop II, Aladdin), Larry “Bud” Melman (Late Night With David Letterman), and Vernon Wells (Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, Commando).
Sea-Monkeys Are Edible
Are Sea Monkeys edible? Yes, they are. Even though you may love your pet Sea-Monkeys, they are, after all, just tiny shrimp. Hopefully you’ll never be in this type of survival situation, but if necessary, you can consume your Sea-Monkeys.
Sea-Monkeys can grow to be about half an inch long (15 mm) but that’s still too small to eat using silverware. It might be easier just to drink your Sea-Monkeys. But before you do, just realize that the nutritional value of brine shrimp will be next to zero for the average human being.
It’s Cheaper To Buy Brine Shrimp From A Pet Store Than Authentic Sea-Monkeys
Here’s the dirty little secret behind the Sea-Monkey empire: Original Sea-Monkeys are just brine shrimp. Once you take away all the fancy marketing, supposed crossbreeding, and novelty accessories, Sea-Monkeys are just fish food.
If you’re struggling to get your Sea-Monkey population to take off, then you might want to try buying regular live hatching brine shrimp. An official packet of Sea-Monkeys will contain 100-200 brine shrimp. For the same amount of money, you can buy multiple thousands of brine shrimp from a pet store. Aquarium owners will frequently buy brine shrimp eggs and breed them as a live food option for their aquarium fish. Although regular brine shrimp don’t have the hybrid breeding background of Sea-Monkeys, they are much cheaper and available online from sites like Amazon and eBay.
Sea-Monkeys Aren’t The Best Pets, But They Are Fun To Watch And Easy To Care For
When compared to other common pets, Sea-Monkeys aren’t very exciting. They can’t show love or make a companion connection with you like cats, dogs, horses, and other animals. But because Sea-Monkeys are so low maintenance and have the ability to come back to life, they can be the perfect pet for kids or people with busy lifestyles.
Full disclaimer, I love Sea-Monkeys. As a teenager, I knew Sea-Monkeys were just brine shrimp and not underwater magical creatures, but I still wanted them. Sea-Monkeys are very active and fun to watch. Plus, just having such a unique pet gave me a certain sense of satisfaction. My Sea-Monkeys never lived longer than a few weeks, but just owning Sea-Monkeys is like having complete control over a whole underwater world.
Should Sea-Monkeys be renamed as man’s best friend? No. But if you’ve always wanted a pet but have been worried about caring for it, then you should consider getting Sea-Monkeys.
So just to recap, here are answers to all the most common questions about Sea-Monkeys:
- What are Sea Monkeys? Sea-Monkeys are hybrid brine shrimp specifically designed to live in home aquariums.
- What do Sea Monkeys look like? Sorry kids, Sea-Monkeys don’t actually look like monkeys. Their name is just a marketing gimmick. Although Sea-Monkeys have long bodies that might look similar to a monkey’s tail, they are just miniature brine shrimp.
- How long do Sea Monkeys live? If properly cared for, an individual Sea-Monkey can live for several weeks. However, each female can produce up to 50 offspring in her lifetime.
- How big are fully grown Sea Monkeys? Sea-Monkeys can grow slightly larger than regular brine shrimp and up to half an inch (15 mm) long.
I had a lot of fun writing this article even though it took me 20+ years to finish it. This website was first launched in 1996 and I just recently found a draft of this article in an old folder of files from 1997. Please post a comment or share it on social media. Thanks for reading!