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Other namesInstant Life
TypeNovelty aquarium pet
CountryUnited States

Sea-Monkeys is a marketing term used to refer to brine shrimp (Artemia) that are sold as novelty aquarium pets. Developed in the United States in 1957[1] by Harold von Braunhut, they are sold as eggs intended to be added to water, and almost always come bundled in a kit of three pouches and instructions. Sometimes a small tank and/or supplementary pouches may also be included with the product. The product was heavily marketed in the 1960s and 70s, especially in comic books, and remains a presence in popular culture.[2]



Ant farms had been popularized in 1956 by Milton Levine.[3] Harold von Braunhut invented a brine-shrimp-based product the next year, 1957.[3] Von Braunhut collaborated with marine biologist Dr. Anthony D'Agostino to develop the proper mix of nutrients and chemicals in dry form that could be added to plain tap water to create an accommodating habitat for the shrimp to thrive. Von Braunhut was granted a patent for this process on July 4, 1972.[4]

They were initially called "Instant Life" and sold for $0.49,[5] but von Braunhut changed the name to "Sea-Monkeys" in 1962. The new name was based on their salt-water habitat, together with the supposed resemblance of the animals' tails to those of monkeys.[6]

Sea-Monkeys were intensely marketed in comic books throughout the 1960s and early 1970s[6] using illustrations by the comic-book illustrator Joe Orlando. These showed humanoid animals that bear no resemblance to the crustaceans.[7] Many purchasers were disappointed by the dissimilarity and by the short lifespan of the animals.[6] 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."[6]

Legal history[edit]

The company that markets Sea-Monkeys today, Transcience Corporation[8] (not the same company that created them[9]) continues to operate, with its legal status questioned during its 4-year long lawsuit originally filed on September 24, 2013 by von Braunhut's widow, and against the company that is alleged to have illegally manufactured them, Big Time Toys.[2][10] Additionally, it was alleged that Big Time Toys breached their contract by not paying royalties for the rights to market the Sea Monkeys product,[11] then made their own from outside sources.[12] On April 24, 2017, it was ruled in a court of law that Transcience Corp. "failed to adequately show that she was the owner of the trademarks at the time the Complaint was filed."[13] As such, the lawsuit has been dropped.[14]


A colony is started by adding the contents of a packet labelled "Water Purifier" to a tank of water. This packet contains salt, water conditioner, and some brine shrimp eggs. After 24 hours, this is augmented with the contents of a packet labeled "Instant Life Eggs," containing more eggs, yeast, borax, soda, salt, some food and sometimes a dye.[7] Shortly thereafter, Sea-Monkeys hatch from the eggs that were in the "Water Purifier" packet. "Growth Food" containing yeast and spirulina is then added every few days. The best temperature for hatching is 24–27 °C (75–81 °F).[7] Extra and supplementary pouches can be purchased on the official website,[15] though these are not required for the well-being of the shrimp.


The animals sold as Sea-Monkeys are claimed to be an artificial breed known as Artemia NYOS, formed by hybridising different species of Artemia.[6] They are also claimed to live longer and grow bigger than ordinary brine shrimp; however, there are no references to these claims outside marketing material from the manufacturer.[5] They undergo cryptobiosis or anhydrobiosis, a condition of apparent lifelessness which allows them to survive the desiccation of the temporary pools in which they live.[3]

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.[7] However, earlier experiments on Apollo 16 and Apollo 17, where the eggs (along with other biological systems in a state of rest, such as spores, seeds and cysts) traveled to the Moon and back and were exposed to significant cosmic rays, observed a high sensitivity to cosmic radiation in the Artemia salina eggs; only 10% of the embryos which were induced to develop from eggs survived to adulthood. The most common mutations found during the developmental stages of the irradiated eggs were deformations of the abdomen or deformations on the swimming appendages and naupliar eye of the nauplius.[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Official Sea Monkeys Website".
  2. ^ a b Hitt, Jack (April 15, 2016). "The Battle Over the Sea-Monkey Fortune". The New York Times. Retrieved April 16, 2016.
  3. ^ a b c Berenbaum, May (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.
  4. ^ Coopee, Todd (12 May 2015). "Sea-Monkeys".
  5. ^ a b Walsh, Walsh. "Official Sea Monkeys Website Cite".
  6. ^ a b c d e Walsh, Tim (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.
  7. ^ a b c d Scott, Sharon M. (2010). "Sea-Monkeys". Toys and American Culture: an Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. pp. 282–284. ISBN 978-0-313-34798-6.
  8. ^ "Transcience Corp. v. Big Time Toys, LLC, 13 Civ. 6642 (ER), 2 (S.D.N.Y. Dec. 30, 2016) ("("Transcience-MD")")".
  9. ^ "Transcience Corp. v. Big Time Toys, LLC, 13 Civ. 6642 (ER), 2 (S.D.N.Y. Dec. 30, 2016) ("("Transcience-NY")")".
  10. ^ "TRANSCIENCE CORPORATION and Yolanda Von Braunhut, Plaintiffs, v. BIG TIME TOYS, LLC, Defendant". Caselaw Access Project, Harvard University Law. September 23, 2014. Retrieved 2020-04-05.
  11. ^ ""In December 2012, Defendant informed Plaintiffs of its intention to forgo its monthly royalty payment and breach the parties' agreements. Id. ¶¶ 53, 54. Defendant did not make the scheduled royalty payment on December 10, 2012, and similarly ceased making laboratory fee payments at the end of 2012. Id. ¶¶ 56, 57. Under the 2009 Agreement, in the event of a failure to make a royalty payment, Big Time Toys would have 15 days from the receipt of notice of its failure to cure the default." Transcience Corp. v. Big Time Toys, LLC, 50 F. Supp. 3d 441 (2014)".
  12. ^ ""However, Defendant would procure and otherwise produce the other parts of the final Sea-Monkeys product from outside sources" Transcience Corp. v. Big Time Toys, LLC, 50 F. Supp. 3d 441 (2014)".
  13. ^ "Transcience Corp. v. Big Time Toys, LLC, 13 Civ. 6642 (ER), 2 (S.D.N.Y. Apr. 24, 2017) ("Plaintiff failed to adequately show that she was the owner of the trademarks at the time the Complaint was filed.")".
  14. ^ "Transcience Corp. v. Big Time Toys, LLC, 13 Civ. 6642 (ER), 2 (S.D.N.Y. Apr. 24, 2017) ("The Clerk of the Court is respectfully directed to terminate the motions, Docs. 195, 197. ")".
  15. ^ "Order - The Original Sea Monkeys".
  16. ^ Bücker, H.; Horneck G. (1975). "The biological effectiveness of HZE-particles of cosmic radiation studied in the Apollo 16 and 17 Biostack experiments". Acta Astronautica. 2 (3–4): 247–264. doi:10.1016/0094-5765(75)90095-8. PMID 11887916.